As you gear up for season 2 of the Emmy-sweeping series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, there may be a few details you’ve forgotten since season 1 premiered in March 2017. From creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), this comedy about comedy is a can’t-miss delight with compelling plotlines, 1950s style, and, of course, lightning-fast dialogue. Watch the trailer for season 2, which premieres Dec. 5 on Amazon Prime, below, and read on for recaps on the first eight episodes (But if you only remember one thing, remember this: Tits up!).
Episode 1 — “Pilot”
From the first moments of Maisel’s pilot, we get a sense of our protagonist — Miriam “Midge” Maisel, played by a radiant Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) — and her demeanor. From the first scene, in which Midge gives a toast at her own wedding to declare her luck and love for her new husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), she’s confident, witty, porcelain doll-gorgeous, unapologetically Jewish, and has an innate sense of comedic timing (foreshadowing!). In the next scene, we jump to Midge’s life four years later in 1958, comfortably settled on the Upper West Side with Joel, now an executive at a generic firm, and two cute albeit peripheral children. Happily a homemaker, Midge supports her husband’s side hustle as a stand-up comedian at a beatnik open mic café called the Gaslight, where we first meet Gaslight emcee Susie Myerson (an endearingly gruff Alex Borstein, whose first line of the series is, notably, “F——–!” I wanted to applaud when she first swaggered into view). Myerson rolls her eyes at Joel’s entirely unoriginal set and doting housewife, who, always observing and analyzing, notices.
Back at home, we begin to understand the ridiculously high standard Midge pursues to keep up appearances: she waits until Joel’s asleep to take off her makeup and records her measurements daily, but her picture-perfect life soon starts to implode. After calling Joel out for ripping off a Bob Newhart act, Midge and her uptown friends watch Joel bomb on stage at the Gaslight, and it spirals from there. Joel packs his, well, Midge’s, suitcase and abandons his marriage, blaming Midge for not supporting his dream and admitting he’s sleeping with his dullard secretary, Penny (Holly Curran). Shocked, chided by her parents who live downstairs (Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub), and drunk off the Yom Kippur Manischewitz, Midge heads downtown to the Gaslight, where she stumbles onto the stage and delivers a totally improvised, totally bad-ass set of her own. After her hilarity (and public nudity) gets her thrown in the back of a cop car alongside legendary comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), Susie, who sees what Midge could accomplish as a professional, bails her out, and the two agree to work together on Midge’s new life as a comedienne.
Episode 2 — “Ya Shivu v Bolshom Dome Na Kholme”
What a difference a day makes. After Midge pays Susie’s generosity forward and bails Lenny out of jail the morning following her first foray into the stand-up world, she explores downtown in daylight and processes the drastic changes in her life. She wanders into a café, and we get a flashback of her and Joel as newlyweds, spending the morning after their wedding at the same diner. We also get an insight into Joel’s character: he’s never cherished their “perfect” image as much as Midge, and he wants to live in a scrappy apartment in the Village, experiencing the gritty nightlife and exploring his creativity, rather than the pristine, high-class world he and Midge inhabit. But alas, he truly loves Midge, so he follows her uptown.
Back in 1958, after Midge tells Susie that last night’s performance was a one-time misstep, Midge and Joel separately break the news of their separation to their friends and families, and everyone’s (hilariously) distraught. Midge’s father Abe, a professor at Columbia University, gets a little too personal during a lecture, her mother Rose seeks spiritual guidance from a pretty sketchy psychic, and Joel’s parents (Kevin Pollak, Caroline Aaron) think the best thing to do is to organize a dinner with the two families. What could possibly go wrong? The dinner, of course, goes horrendously. After Joel’s father Moishe reveals that everything Joel provided for Midge — her gigantic apartment, her beautiful possessions, the income from Joel’s job — all came straight out of Daddy’s pocket, Midge repeats last episode’s mistakes (read: triumphs): She performs her second drunken set at the Gaslight and once again gets arrested, all to the sweet tune of roaring applause.
Episode 3 — “Because You Left”
The third episode begins with a flashback (Midge with bleached hair = college years) to a party before Joel and Midge got together, where Joel genuinely charms Midge with his charisma and wit. Cut to Midge in the second jail cell of her 26 years, and we see that she’s able to make friends in even the most unfriendly situations. The who-bails-out-whom bit continues — Lenny buys Midge’s freedom this time — and the two comedians meet Susie, who’s hilariously frazzled and starstruck by Lenny, at a nearby café, where Lenny invites Midge to a show at the Vanguard jazz club later that week.
As Abe and Rose begin to grow suspicious about their daughter’s late-night excursions, Midge and Susie meet with a lawyer to argue Midge’s case in court. The scene is painful to watch, as the judge derides Midge for her “unladylike” behavior and then promptly compliments her on her looks. Yikes. Midge defends herself, which lands her in jail once again, and she sends her lawyer to collect bail money from her last resort: Joel. Confused and beginning to regret leaving his wife, Joel hands over the money, and later dodges calls from Penny.
As promised, Midge attends the show at the Vanguard, where she smokes a joint with Lenny and a jazz trio before giving the band a funny but very stoned introduction on stage. Elsewhere, Susie struts into the stuffy Friar’s Club to have an impromptu lunch with her old friend, famous talent agent Harry Drake (David Paymer). Borstein once again adds to Susie’s complexity with subtle, emotional nuance, as Susie humbles herself to Harry and asks for advice on how to take Midge to the next level in her career. Flashbacks bookend this episode: Toward the end, Joel daydreams about one instance of Midge’s consistent support and loving silliness. Midge returns home from her pot-filled night at the Vanguard and Joel is there waiting for her. He begs for her back, but she refuses him. Why? Well, the episode’s title says it all.
(Recaps continued on next page…)