Friday, February 18, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' - Midge Tries to Pick Up the Pieces of Her Shattered Career in 'Rumble on the Wonder Wheel'

Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Episode 4.01 "Rumble on the Wonder Wheel"

Midge returns with a new game plan after getting kicked off Shy Baldwin's tour. Joel is too successful for his own good. Susie finds a creative way to get the cash she needs.

"Rumble on the Wonder Wheel" was written by Amy Sherman-Palladino and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino

It's been a little over two years since the series released its third season. As a result, this premiere feels more like a recap episode instead of setting the stage for a new season of drama and comedy. Its main purpose is simply to remind the audience of what happened to these characters. Sure, premieres typically function in such a way. They are table-setting episodes that establish what's going on and what stories will maintain intrigue in the season to come. But nothing has changed for these characters because the story picks up from the moment Midge was dropped from Shy Baldwin's tour on the tarmac. The first scene may be her back onstage talking about revenge. The actual story that dominates this hour is about her picking up the pieces of her life after this stunning drop in her career. She may reach an inspiring place of clarity by the end of the episode that suggests that she can still be a rising star. It doesn't exactly connect strongly with the episode that preceded it. When Midge and Susie are back in the diner talking about the future, that's the show operating with a sense of what's to come next. In that moment, Midge realizes that she wants to be the one setting the terms for what she does onstage. She has produced some great shows. She has gotten into trouble before for what she has said to a crowd of people. Part of it is nothing more than bruised egos. That's a part of the business though. It's not something she wishes to condone or encourage. She wants to change the business. That scene being positioned at the end with her finishing her story about the revenge she will take basically serves as the show declaring that she can't be counted out yet. She will return stronger and funnier than ever before. Her reputation isn't ruined. Her career isn't over. She has the determination to thrive and succeed. That's the thesis for the season. It's stated at the end. It takes awhile getting to that point because again the premiere is focused on the sudden shift in fate that she endures right after so many big decisions were made. She was planning to leave for Europe. She was going to be on tour abroad for months. Purchases were made. Goodbyes were said. And then, she's back the next day with nothing to show for it. That has the potential to be a fascinating character dynamic. Midge can never be depressed or unsure of herself for too long though. The show made that creative decision because it disrupts too much of its natural rhythms that demand zooming full speed ahead at all times.

And so, Midge shares with her family what happened to her while riding different parts of the wonder wheel on Coney Island. It's still amusing to see Abe in a place like that. He is very particular with the standards he expects in his posh, privileged life. Him living with Moishe and Shirley only further confirmed what he wants. It wasn't exactly a story done with the intent to evolve these characters. It revealed who they were. The show loves operating in that space. It allows the characters to continually offer the same beats and jokes across several seasons. It's simply hard to maintain that energy without growing stale and one-note after awhile. The parents can often feel like they are living in a completely different show. Meanwhile, a lot of attention is still paid on Joel and his business which is doing surprisingly well. That leaves him being seen as the responsible one while Susie is reckless with money. People keep telling her that she is terrible at managing Midge. Of course, Midge is demanding as a client. The third season showcased Susie having to juggle the demands of her career with being an anchor for Midge. That caused stress. It mostly leaves Susie flailing around here as she tries to get enough money to pay back Midge so she can provide Moishe with the money he used to get back her old apartment. This show loves a circular argument. That too is on perfect display in that wonder wheel scene. Everyone is trying to make sense of Midge disrupting the plans they all bought into. What they thought was true is now shattered with her presence here. She explains. It affirms Moishe's belief that she isn't funny at all and shouldn't be making a career in comedy. He still feels taken advantage of. The argument goes around and around. It hits comedic bits. It's funny as well. But again, it's showing what the show operates as without immediately throwing the audience into something new. Midge is still getting her bearings in this new world. It's not exactly challenging for her. She hasn't struggled to forge herself into something stronger and better. She has had adversities she had to overcome. It's always done with a wink and a laugh though. That has its charms. Right now, the storytelling feels stuck. Hopefully, this is just a result of the long delay in between seasons. The show had to remind the audience what it was doing. And now, the true story can start. That simply has to become immediately apparent in the next episode.