From the first words of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” season four, the titular character knows what she wants.
“Revenge,” Midge Maisel muses in a crowded bar. “Revenge. I want it. Oh, do I want it. I need it. I crave it. I am completely consumed by the need for it. Revenge.”
Not exactly a standard opening for a comedy.
“Mrs. Maisel” has walked the line between drama and comedy since its first season aired on Amazon Prime Video in 2017. If the first two episodes of season four are any indication, the show will rise to new heights this year.
Episode one catches everyone’s favorite ’60s female Jewish comedian Maisel, played by Rachel Brosnahan, fresh off getting fired from a world tour with iconic singer Shy Baldwin. Now, she’s back in New York City dealing with the financial and social consequences of her fall from grace. Meanwhile her manager Susie, portrayed with an Emmy-winning performance by Alex Borstein, has to scrounge up Maisel’s money after gambling it away.
I’ll be honest, it’s been two years since I watched season three. I forgot every plotline aside from those two.
Imagine my surprise at relearning that Maisel’s ex-husband Joel started a bar in Chinatown with an underground gambling ring, her father moved in with Joel’s parents and joined a counter-culture newspaper after losing his apartment.
Oh, and Susie has a sister who she partnered with to burn down their childhood home and collect insurance money.
And Jane Lynch shows up.
The show clearly has a lot of moving parts.
And yet within minutes, I was caught up and laughing at every new plot development. I’m not a very reactive person – I was deadpan for most of my second favorite comedy, “Parks and Recreation.”
“Mrs. Maisel,” though, never has a dull minute.
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Whether we’re following Joel as his landlords extort him for money or Susie as she encourages her sister to flirt with the insurance company president, I found it impossible to divide my focus between the show and anything else, a rare feat for me these days.
And then there’s Abe Weissman, Midge’s father, portrayed by Tony Shalhoub. He’s been nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the past three seasons and won it once – for good reason. He steals the show every time he’s on the screen.
Shalhoub has the perfect combination of chemistry and anti-chemistry with everyone on screen. His daughter goes back and forth between wanting to throttle him and riffing off his own sense of humor.
In one early fight, Abe gives the best line of the first two episodes when Midge questions his decision-making skills. “This is not a knee jerk reaction,” he yells. “I heard your offer and I instantly knew it was stupid.”
And then there’s the carousel. I won’t spoil it all, but just imagine what happens when you put every major family member and in-law a hundred feet in the air before letting them have it out. Gold.
The only duds “Mrs. Maisel” has this season so far are, ironically, the comedy sets. It’s not a new problem for the show, but Midge is the least funny when she’s in front of a crowd and we’re supposed to laugh. Give me her arguing with her parents and her ex any day.
Rough in-universe performances aside, I’m excited to see where the show goes from here. If the first two episodes are any indication, season four may be my favorite yet.