The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel swept through the Emmy awards this year, winning a whopping eight for its freshman season, including outstanding comedy series. So, how will the hit show follow up such a successful first year? The creative team of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, famous for Gilmore Girls, has been hard at work alongside star Rachel Brosnahan and the rest of the cast to put together a new season that creates a wider world while still bringing the comedy and drama that made season one such a smash. Amazon had plenty of faith that they’ll succeed — the streaming service ordered the second season of the show when they first saw the pilot, and they’ve already approved it for a third.
In need of a refresher? Maisel’s inaugural season took place in 1958 New York City, where Miriam (Midge) Maisel lived with her husband, Joel, on the posh Upper West Side. After a crisis of confidence about his stand-up comedy dreams, Joel decided to leave Midge for his secretary, an act that prompted her to go out, get drunk and perform an impulsive comedy set. She nailed it, which set her off on a budding comedy career.
Here are all the details you need to know to get ready for season 2.
Who is the marvelous Mrs. Maisel?
Midge is a housewife in the 1950s who is indeed marvelous in every sense of the word. She’s naturally beautiful but committed to her appearance in a way that lines up with the exhausting expectations of the era. She measures her body every day and goes to aerobics. She also sneaks out of bed in the morning to fix her makeup and hair before her husband wakes up. She’s a devoted housewife who supports her husband’s career as a businessman and also his dream of being a stand-up comic. She even cooked pot roast for the club booking agents to try and get a better time slot for her husband’s performances. She’s delightful in every way, and she might be that girl you can’t help be jealous of, except she’s so lovable.
Despite all of that, her husband, in a fit of self-pity after a bad comedy set, decided to tell her he’d been cheating on her with his secretary, Penny Pann. As a newly single woman, Midge was forced to move back into her parents’ apartment with her two children.
How did she get into comedy?
It’s decidedly bold for a woman of Midge’s station in life to be dabbling in the world of stand-up. She should be much too refined for what’s considered lowbrow to those in her circle, except that Midge’s refinement is all on the surface. Deep down, she’s bawdy and shockingly honest, finding the funniest ways to communicate events that are painful and life-changing.
She took up comedy on the night her husband left when, drunk on red wine, she went back to the club where he had just bombed. Dressed in her nightgown and a coat, she took the stage and recounted the events that just happened with drama and humor that had the crowd in stitches. Emboldened, she flashed the crowd — which led to her arrest. Also arrested that night was the legendary comic Lenny Bruce, just starting his comedy career, who she met in the back of the squad car. The club’s assistant manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), bailed Midge out, talked her into seriously considering comedy and became her manager. Importantly, Midge hid her budding comedy career from her parents, who were concerned about all the late nights without a clue where she was going.
But she’s more than a comic
Midge was forced to move back in with her parents when her father-in-law, the landlord of the apartment she shared with her husband, decided to sell the unit. She secured employment as a cosmetics girl at chic department store B. Altman to make her own money. The ladies she met there provide not only friendship but also more fodder for her comedy act.
In addition to being a working woman, Midge also still filled the roles of daughter, mother and pseudo-wife. She bucked her parents’ desire to know where she was going at night, did her best to parent her two kids pretty much solo and dealt with the emotional fallout of a marital separation. A favorite, defining moment last season was when Joel met her outside the apartment and told her he was thinking of giving things another go. Firmly, she said no. When he asked why, she simply responded, “Because you left.” She may still be Mrs. Maisel, but she’s no shrinking violet.
Where did things leave off?
The first season found Midge meeting beloved and successful comedienne Sophie Lennon, played by Jane Lynch. Lennon’s schtick was more suited to 1950s comedy, as she wore a fat suit and joked about being a frumpy housewife. But when Midge met Sophie at her luxe home, Sophie was sleek and sophisticated, which bowled Midge over in its hypocrisy. Susie had managed to secure an audience with Lennon’s manager to see if Midge was capable of being an opening act, but when Midge took the stage at the Gaslight Café for the performance, she decided to skewer Lennon, thus skewering her own career in the process. The angry manager promised she’d never work in this town again.
Luckily, Midge had decided to perform under the name Amanda Gleason, so when the papers came out the next morning, that’s who they took down. But this didn’t really help Midge and Susie as they tried to figure out how to resurrect her career.
Meanwhile, Joel stumbled upon a bootleg recording of Midge’s set in a record store he visited, which led to the realization that his wife was the talented one in the family. He also stumbled his way back into Midge’s bed for a night of bliss, which ended with him being forced out the window in the morning. That bootleg recording? It so devastated Joel that he also walked in and quit his job.
Midge was blacklisted all over town, but Lenny Bruce came to the rescue and did a charitable set at the Gaslight with the agreement that she also got a set. She killed it once again, while Joel watched, drunk as can be, from behind a pillar. Closing the set, she triumphantly announced, “That’s it for me, my name is Mrs. Maisel!” and her true identity was born.
Hints from season two show that the Maisel clan will head out on lots of travel — to Paris and the Catskills — where Midge will continue her performing career. At some point, her father will find out about her secret life, which might just lead to exploring her parents’ ideas about what a woman should be, as well as her own identity as Mrs. Maisel: daughter, wife, working woman and now, comic.
Look for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s second season Dec. 5 on Amazon Prime Video.