Placing a fictional character within the context of established history can be a challenging sell, especially when it’s necessary to wrap that story up in a neat and satisfying way. But, throughout its first four seasons, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has always succeeded at infusing real-like figures like John F. Kennedy and Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) into its storyline while following the otherwise entirely fabricated saga of a female stand-up comic making a go of it in the late 1950s. Its fifth and final season smartly straddles the line between truth and fiction, elevating invented characters to prominence as Midge Maisel prepares to walk off the stage for the last time.
Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) is still struggling to find the right venue for her particular brand of comedy, and it’s hard for her to erase the sign that was shining brightly even in the harsh blizzard of the season four finale, attracting her to talk show host Gordon Ford (Reid Scott). Her parents Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle) find new personal and professional antics over which to obsess, while her ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegen) navigates his own evolving romantic relationship as his parents Moishe (Kevin Pollak) and Shirley (Caroline Aaron) add plenty of drama and stress to his life. And as she gets closer to making it to the big time, Midge’s manager Susie (Alex Borstein) still has to deal with irritating tasks, like convincing another client that he needs to get over his fear of flying in order to show up for a gig that could represent his big break.
There is a distinct rhythm and rapid-fire speed to creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing that keeps every actor on their toes and ensures that each episode is a dizzying and captivating experience. Large ensemble scenes with extended family or a group of coworkers are a particular delight since they involve plenty of choreographed interruptions and people fighting to have the last word, and the longer they are, the more entertaining and worthwhile they tend to be. There’s no shortage of them even in just the season’s opening episodes, and though they’re intense and energetic, they never feel like too much.
This season carefully navigates a sense of preparative nostalgia, aware that this is the last we’ll see of these characters, with a purposeful evolution of its storyline, taking them to new heights and in new directions. There’s also a deliberate focus on showcasing the future and placing Midge within an imagined historical framework, offering teases of her legacy without opting to set the entire story decades in the future. Midge and Susie have no idea what’s in store for them, and it’s just as fun as ever to watch them become flustered and panicked when a new obstacle is put in their way only for surprising, if slow, success to be ultimately unveiled.
This show knows how to best utilize every member of its ensemble, and it’s particularly enjoyable to watch the latest trajectories for the older generation. While their stories are still tied to their adult children, Abe, Rose, Moishe, and Shirley still have their own relationships and lives, and getting to see more of them is a delight. Alfie Fuller receives a welcome promotion to series regular as Susie’s on-the-ball receptionist Dinah, who often has a better handle on things than her boss. Scott and Jason Ralph are also enticing additions who factor in to Midge’s storyline and fit the style of the show perfectly.
For its final round, Prime Video is giving The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel its slowest rollout yet. The first three seasons released episodes all at once, while season four dropped two episodes a week. Now, the first three episodes of season five all premiere at the same time, with each of the successive episodes debuting once per week after that. It’s a wondrous way to say goodbye to this marvelous character played by the incomparable Brosnahan, who infuses Midge with a very flappable controlled chaos that makes for entirely enthralling television.
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Season five of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premieres with three new episodes on Friday, April 14th on Prime Video.