A number of superlatives can be attached to Mrs Maisel’s name. She’s certainly marvelous, as the title for the Amazon Prime Video show declares. She’s also charming, hilarious, heartwarming and feisty. It’s that character and her rendition by Rachel Brosnahan that make The Marvelous Mrs Maisel pleasing even when it lags and has won the show acclaim as well as adoration.
The second season of of Amy Sherman Palladino’s Emmy and Golden-Globe winning show, however, is about a lot more than its headlining commedienne – and therein lies its strength. The 10-part second instalment was released on Prime Video on December 5.
Season one introduced Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a wealthy Jewish housewife in 1950s New York who has to pick up the pieces after her husband, Joel, abruptly leaves her for his much-younger secretary. The setback leads her to discover her talent for stand-up comedy and she tries to reclaim herself by entering the male-dominated and profane world.
Having shown Miriam’s reinvention in season one, the second instalment turns its attention to the ensemble cast. With an eye on the long-run, the season seems to exit chiefly to broaden and enrich The Marvelous Mrs Maisel’s canvas.
One of the beneficiaries of this is Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle), seen in the first season mostly in the role of Midge’s anxious and obsessive mother. Season two, which briefly travels to Paris, reveals another side to Rose, who adopts a joie de vivre to match her new land. Another revelation is Miriam’s father, Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub). The always-surly Abe of season one gets broader shades and a comic twist that better suit Shalhoub’s potential.
There’s something in store for Michael Zegen’s Joel too, who is now working to build his life back after realising the mistake he made by walking out on Miriam and their two children. From a textbook jerk in season one, Joel evolves into someone trying to make amends and the effect is both disconcerting and clever.
The most winsome character remains Alex Borstein’s Susie, who in season one had decided to become Miriam’s manager and launch her career. The gender non-conforming Susie, who does not come from privilege that Miriam does, seems to be the foil to Brosnahan’s character and together, they make a great if dysfunctional team. Her character is perhaps the real liberated woman of the show, whose potential is yet to be explored.
Miriam, meanwhile, now swimming in (slightly) bigger shores, faces sexism in the industry in a more tangible form, giving the show a broader platform to explore the empowerment theme at the core of its premise. Sherman-Palladino, known for her rapid and witty dialogue style from the hit show Gilmore Girls, finds in Miriam an ideal mouthpiece, one who can rat-a-tat both off the stage and on.
The show’s comedy is less laugh-out-loud and more constantly pleasing, unfolding through witty one-liners, people talking at cross-purposes, general dysfunction and clever camera angles. There’s also a whole lot of Jewish humour which, along with some of the cultural references, may not resonate with Indian viewers. However, the show’s nostalgic charm, beautiful set design, unique voice and on-pitch performances help it speak to a diverse audience.