Wednesday, December 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' - Midge and Her Parents Find Themselves in a New World in 'Simone'

Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Episode 2.01 "Simone"

Midge takes the stage for a foreign audience, while Abe and Rose find themselves in a new world. Susie experiences the repercussions of having a bad reputation in the business, as Joel regroups after quitting his job.

In 2018, it makes no sense to provide full-length reviews of each individual episode for shows released all at once on the streaming services. Sure, there are some shows out there that value the power of the episode. They do make a point in differentiating each episode to ensure it's not just one big slog to the finish. However, the ability to watch the entire season at one's own viewing pace has largely changed the way we consume and discuss these shows. So, some brief summary thoughts are really all that's actually necessary with these seasons. As such, here are my latest thoughts on the next episode of Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

"Simone" was written by Amy Sherman-Palladino and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino

The Emmy winner for Best Comedy Series starts off its second season with a trip to Paris. That shows just how proud Amazon is of this show. It takes half of its cast across the world to tell a story. It's still deeply personal to them though. It further builds on the stress between Abe and Rose. They were growing apart from each other in the first season. And now, it seems like they are destined to follow the same pattern as Midge and Joel. Abe doesn't even realize that his wife has left him and moved to Paris. It's only in explaining everything to Midge that she tells him what it all means. It's stunning for both of them because they never believed that Rose could walk away from this happy life. She has a successful family in New York. But she felt distant from them as well because they weren't including her in their lives. Abe had his life in academia while Midge was going out every night to stand-up clubs. Those worlds were completely separate. Rose didn't have the same kind of escape. And so, she now retreats to the last place where she was truly happy and felt independent. It's startling and striking to see the person she has quickly become during these last few days in Paris. This premiere only picks up a little while after the finale. It's enough for some big changes to occur while everyone is still mostly dealing with the fallout of what happened. Plus, Midge can't even try to talk some sense to her mother about honoring her marriage vows because that would make her so hypocritical. In fact, this trip to Paris only sends her back to the city to try and figure out the current state of her relationship with Joel. She wants her parents together and living in the city. She wants a happy life as a family. Joel will always be a part of that. His corner of the show is still the least exciting component. And yet, it's still meaningful when this premiere closes with that phone call between Midge and Joel talking about their future as a couple. The first season ended with them seeming like they could work things out. Then, everything changed when he saw her performing on stage and talking about their life together. He was betrayed. This story even flashes back to reveal to the audience the discussion that Midge and Joel had in the immediate aftermath of that moment. That was when Joel finally decided to stop wearing his wedding ring. When that happens, it feels like he walks away from their marriage once more because he feels betrayed. But in the concluding phone call, it instead becomes profoundly clear that he can't commit to this relationship anymore because he can't stand to have it all being talked about on a public platform. He doesn't try to destroy Midge's career. He sees how talented she is. He doesn't want her to give it up. It just means that they have to give up their marriage because he is too proud to see it as anything more than a punching bag for jokes that she can use on stage.

Of course, it's still very powerful to watch Midge and the other characters simply perform in this world. There is the central performance of Midge getting up on the stage at a French drag club. In fact, it's amusing that she is so ignorant to the fact that drag performers exist throughout the entire world and not just in France. It's something she has never experienced before. She is quickly able to make the adjustment and perform on the stage though. It's also quite impressive how she is able to pull a translator out of the audience who happens to be just as quick in her delivery as she is. It's so impressive while still confirming the tragedy of it all. Midge is slowly learning about the way that the French view the world. She adjusts her act accordingly. But this isn't building to some big, broad joke. It's building to her summing up her tragic life and then just walking off the stage. Everyone in the room is still griped by her story though. The entire audience is captivated. That's the same energy that is present throughout so much of this premiere. It's the same energy that punctuates the opening sequence where the familiar environment of B. Altman makes way for the new workplace Midge finds herself in. She is no longer on the sales floor. She is down in the bowels of the building as a switchboard operator. It's a position that is even more crazy and chaotic. And yet, the precise camera movements make it all feel like a beautifully choreographed number where everyone is so in sync with one another. They can rely on Midge here as well. She has picked up on this job more quickly than any of them even though it is tiring and they all aspire to more within this company. And finally, it's just so amusing to see Susie talk her way out of a dangerous situation. She is picked up by two guys hired by Harry Drake to rough her up because of Midge's take down of Sophie Lennon. She survives only because she is able to form some camaraderie with them. That too is very impressive. But it also sets a ticking time bomb where Susie will remain in danger even though Midge continues to move on up in her career.