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Let's Talk About the Perfect Ending to 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 30, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 30, 2023 |


the-marvelous-mrs-maisel-season-5.jpeg

I wasn’t going to write about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel because the series finale was so perfect that I literally had no notes. However, I do think it’s worth talking about how the final season was framed and why it was so successful. [Spoilers for the entirety of Mrs. Maisel].

The final episode of the series centers on Midge’s big break, the moment the entire series has been building toward. She appears on The Gordon Ford Show — this universe’s version of the late-night Ed Sullivan Show. Susie pulled a lot of strings to put Midge in the show’s writers’ room and called in a huge favor from Ford’s wife — an old roommate/lover of Susie’s — to force Gordon to disregard a show rule about not allowing writers to appear on the program. Gordon does so, but only under the duress of his wife (Ford appears to be her beard, and Ford’s career owes a lot to her family’s money and influence).

But just because he agreed to let her on the show doesn’t mean he’s going to let her do her act. He agrees to have her on not as a comedian but as a writer, so he can ask her questions about what it’s like to be the only lady in the writers’ room. As soon as Midge steals focus from Gordon, however, he goes to commercial. When they return, Midge forces her way into her act by manipulating the live audience. She gets “four minutes” (the title of the episode) to do her act, and though Gordon Ford fires her as a writer (even though he loved her act), it launches her career into superstardom.

We know it launches her career into superstardom because, throughout the season, we’ve been given glimpses of her future. Mrs. Maisel probably could’ve ended after Midge’s big break. We would have been left with a lot of unanswered questions, but we could have imagined what happened. Instead, Mrs. Maisel essentially doles out the epilogue in a series of flash-forwards over the course of the season — allowing Amy Sherman-Palladino to eat her cake and have it, too.

It’s brilliant because it emphasizes how important those “four minutes” are to Midge Maisel’s career. In the future, she’s obscenely wealthy, insanely successful, and hugely famous — the kind of famous that can be lonely and alienating — because of what happens after that “Gordon Ford” appearance. It puts a lot of pressure on the moment, and on the jokes that Midge ultimately delivers, but to the show’s credit, it meets our raised expectations.

More importantly, the flash-forwards answer most of the questions we might have otherwise had if the series had ended after her Gordon Ford appearance. We know, for instance, what happens to Joel: He goes to prison because he talked two made men into transferring Susie and Midge’s debt onto him, and eventually, working with the mob caught up to him. Midge visits him often in prison, and they remain close for their entire lives. Though divorced, they are obviously each other’s person — the one, so to speak. He was at The Gordon Ford Show cheering her on, even as Midge mocked him in her star-making act.

The big thing we learn about Abe is that he regrets not giving the attention to Midge that he gave his firstborn son because it took him too long to recognize and appreciate that Midge was more than just a mother and a wife. She was a hugely successful comedian despite how little attention he gave her. He didn’t make that mistake with his grandchildren; he connected with his granddaughter, who would grow up to become a physicist like Abe himself (she was also somewhat estranged from Midge). Midge’s son would grow up to become some anti-capitalist hippie who lives in a commune. Nice kid. Midge’s mom Rose, meanwhile, threw herself into money-losing businesses that Midge was all too happy to bankroll after Abe’s death.

Lenny Bruce? He dies in 1966, but we don’t see it. We see him once in 1965, rambling and incoherent, clearly out of his mind on the drugs that would eventually kill him. Midge and Susie make an attempt to save him before it’s too late, but he doesn’t accept their help. It’s bittersweet.

We also learn that, though Susie would become a huge talent manager, she and Midge have a falling out that lasts for two decades. I’m glad we didn’t have to experience their separation on the show itself since their chemistry is 50 percent of why the show works so well. They made up when Midge sent in a video to a roast of Susie at the end of her career, where all of her successful clients insulted the hell out of her. Not only do Susie and Midge reconcile, but they become best friends again. As old successful women in their cavernous estates, they record Jeopardy on their VCRs and watch it every night from thousands of miles away from each other.

That’s the last scene, right after Midge’s successful four minutes on The Gordon Ford Show in the 1960s: Midge and Susie as old women laughing on the phone together in 2003. It’s perfect. Five stars — the second-best series finale of the weekend.