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The titular housewife-turned-comedienne returns for a fourth season, and struggles to figure out a second act
For fans of the Emmy-winning Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, two years has been a long time to wait to find out what happens after the 1960s standup comic (Rachel Brosnahan) was left standing abandoned on a tarmac at the end of season three. The fans are rabid, says Alex Borstein, who plays Midge Maisel’s manager Susie. There’s a lot of people at every turn going, ‘Where is it? When is it?’ And for the longest time we didn’t even know. But people are hungry for their Midge, I’ll tell you that.
Well, Midge & co. are finally back, so let’s rewind to prepare for what’s next. Reaping the benefits of an upcoming world tour and Christmas special with music superstar Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain), Midge bought back her old apartment for her father-in-law Moishe (Kevin Pollak), unaware that Susie, who was supposed to guard Midge’s savings, had gambled away her money. While Susie scrambled to make things right, Midge got up on stage for one last set before the big tour, but her commentary hit a little too close to home for Shy’s liking. To prevent her from doing more damage, Midge was dropped from the lineup, and left standing on the runway as the plane took off. And that’s where we find Midge and Susie in season four—luggage and all. They’re a broken mess, but Susie’s last words are, ‘We’re going to be OK,’ says Borstein. Now she’s tasked with making it OK. The two of them have to rebuild.
The incident rouses all kinds of feelings in Midge, who on some level has to accept that she made her own bed before moving forward. The first emotion is all the stages of grief: Fury, desperation, humiliation, sadness and a whirlwind of that, which propels them into this next chapter, says Brosnahan. But these two are kind of at their best when they’re at the bottom and they have to claw their way up. It’s an opportunity for them to reprioritize and figure out, ‘If there’s nothing to lose, who do we want to be?’
Despite the repercussions of Midge’s performance at the Apollo, there is one silver lining. I think Midge is coming to the realization that her superpower is when she says exactly what she wants, and when she is unapologetically herself, Brosnahan reflects. It can get her into trouble sometimes, but it’s also the thing that makes her magical.
Midge isn’t the only one experiencing a season of rebirth. Her father Abe (Tony Shalhoub) is finding his footing as a theatre critic, while Rose (Marin Hinkle) is expanding what she informally set in motion at the end of last season. She’s going to become a matchmaker, reveals Hinkle. That idea is such a thrilling one. It was never anything I could have predicted, but I love that for her.
Rose’s professional services will likely not extend to Midge and Joel, and that suits Michael Zegen, who plays Midge’s soon-to-be ex-husband, just fine. Obviously there’s still love there. They’re always going to have that connection and they have kids together. But she’s gone her way, he’s gone his way, and it turned out to be great for both of them, Zegen explains. Everybody always asks me, ‘Are they getting back together?’ And it’s like, ‘Do you really want that?’ They’ve figured out that they’re better off alone.
The fourth season was filmed in early 2021, around a year after the third season aired. For the actors, the return to set was like rejoining a gym after a year-long break. The first month-and-a-half, I felt like garbage, admits Zegen. I felt like I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Especially coming into Maisel, which is so specific, and has so much dialogue and needs to be word-perfect. The whole thing is like a ballet. Brosnahan concurs that it felt like a dance number she’d forgotten the steps to. I don’t even think we realized at first how slow we were until Amy [Sherman-Palladino, series creator] was going, ‘Stay on the pace, Stay on the pace,’ she recalls. We were like, ‘I can’t talk any faster.’ And then you can.
While finding out what happens next was as exciting for the cast as it will be for the viewers, the actors were thrilled just to reunite after a difficult year apart. It is a lemonade stand in the desert, says Caroline Aaron, who plays Joel’s mother Shirley. I hope we all remember how joyful it is, to be able to be together again. And despite the lengthy hiatus, that chemistry continues to crackle both on- and off-screen. We feed off of each other in ways that go beyond even these characters, and we’re all a second family, says Hinkle. When we all got to be back on set together and rehearse and laugh, there was this combustive joy that comes when we’re together. It clicked right into place.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel streams Fridays on Prime Video starting on February 18th