Editor’s Note: the following is a review of the first eight episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 5. The ninth and final episode was not provided for review.
At the end of Season 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, we left Miriam Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) in the snow, walking out of Carnegie Hall and looking at a billboard that she imagined read “Go Forward.” It really said “The Gordon Ford Show,” a clever foreshadowing of things to come. Regardless, we shall go forward. This fifth and final season kicks off at a different time, but it gets us laughing in under a minute. Though we left off on a maudlin minute, we are reminded that Season 5 is going to be a fresh start following a complex, moody and surprising fourth season. However, one thing that is continued from the previous season? The show will continue to reward diehard fans.
If you’re excited about the fifth season of Maisel, you should be. If you’re sad about the end of Maisel, you should be. Because for five seasons, flawed though it may be, it’s one of the most refreshing shows to grace television in some time. Amy Sherman-Palladino wants you to miss it, too. She wants you to wish that you gave the show more credit for being a heavyweight in the pilot season and every season since. She wants you to realize that it always filled a hole that you took for granted.
Soon there won’t be any new stories about Midge, Susie, Joel, the Weissmans or the Maisels, making bigger, broader, sometimes more charming mistakes than you make; ones that make you laugh and make you feel better about your own. You won’t miss it because it’s the most original, because few things really are. But you will miss that it was more original than most. Because it’s an homage to the late, great Joan Rivers, whose career and life blazed a trail that could be seen from space. Midge seems familiar whether you know Joan or not (I implore you to revisit Joan Rivers’s early work; even the stuff you think is dated is great, and you’ll realize how much people owe her), and if Maisel made that connection to her, then that is enough of a gift.
In 2017, Rachel Brosnahan ended the freshman season with a “tight ten,” and if you didn’t know what that was when you started, you knew before you got to Season 2, and it was exhilarating. Watching the show in Season 5 is still wanting to feel the rush that Midge Maisel and Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) get from doing what they love, and there is nothing sexier than people who are great at what they do. It is a sort of “competency porn,” really, and this is a show for grownups, after all.
The show continues to be delightfully crass. The language stays committed to the liberal use of four-letter words. Maisel is as wholesome as the time it is set in, and yet contains grownups who speak like grownups, in an intentional way that is not tied to the censorship of the time. We see the behind-the-scenes of how that business is handled, with comedians at that. Even those who work clean still like to play in the mud with their dirtier peers.
That broadness of language is still very present on the show, and not only in Palladino’s signature chaotic, fast-talking energy, the patter reminiscent of predecessors Gilmore Girls and Bun Heads. We still get the familiar, theatrical singsong, farcical Broadway quality we’ve come to love. We’re whisked away within a New York minute, submerged in the bright rainbow-centric decadence of the production. The fashion this season delivers as usual, chock-full of intricate styles and patterns, and the continued bold colour in the dresses and the paint on the walls matches the boldness and colour of the characters’ personalities. Even the music is bright, and used as a great storytelling tool, with the confidence of a comedic version of Mad Men.
Though, on the surface, the period is downright unrecognizable today, it also reminds us of how little we’ve changed over time. We have come leaps and bounds, and yet Maisel works, because no matter how far we’ve come we still have the same desires. The fifth season reminds us of that more than any of the previous seasons. As the show rolls out you realize that, along with the belly laughs it continues to provide, it has fearlessly told the story of a unique character in the great tradition of Mary Tyler Moore. The way Mary made you think in the 1970s is how Mrs. Maisel does in the 2010s and ’20s.
These women have ambition and tenacity, to be sure. We love the bravado of how Brosnahan and Borstein play their characters. We love that they try and lead with integrity. We love that their love story is their work; not love interests, not friendships, nor even their families. Their love for each other is rooted in mutual respect and the bond they’ve built on their journey to success. Some may say that’s selfish. It’s actually inspiring, and what the show has been hammering since its inception. These women shouldn’t have to fit into some sort of contrived sacrificial love that pleases the other people in their orbit, who are often a distraction from their path. Their devotion is to each other. What a marvelous idea.
The fifth and final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premieres three episodes April 14 with new episodes following weekly, exclusively on Prime Video.