Friday, February 25, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' - Midge and Susie Mourn the Loss of a Friend Who Admired Them in 'Everything Is Bellmore'

Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Episode 4.03 "Everything Is Bellmore"

Midge runs into an old friend at work. Susie finds out she has a close friend. Abe's job gets personal. Rose's matchmaking business draws attention.

"Everything Is Bellmore" was written by Amy Sherman-Palladino & Daniel Palladino and directed by Daniel Palladino

In November 2019, Brian Tarantina died. That was a month before the third season debuted. And now, the series has its first opportunity to mourn the loss of Jackie. He was reliably used to fill out the world at The Gaslight. He provided Susie with a friendship beyond Midge. And yet, it's still apparent that this episode feels compelled to fill in crucial details that inform who Jackie was. It tells a compelling story in death instead of in life. It's tragic and forced as a result of real-life circumstances. Susie is hit hardest by Jackie's death. That would be expected. It also sets up a strong dichotomy between death and the fear that professional lives have grown stagnant. Midge isn't confident as a comedian anymore. She has the places where she is comfortable. She can work out material there. That doesn't allow for growth. She lacks access because the current comedy system doesn't want her to thrive after being dropped by Shy Baldwin's tour. She has inflicted some of that onto herself. It shouldn't necessarily take an appearance from Lenny Bruce to convince her doing the work onstage is the only way to bounce back. It doesn't matter that she is the new emcee at a strip club. She was inspired by the venue. She has joined the rotation of performers even though she isn't what the audience is expecting. She doesn't quite know how to handle the crowd. Then, Lenny shows up and offers a lesson. It's not revelatory. She simply needs the reassurance. She isn't questioning her life and career in an existential way. That too comes from the rest of her life being relatively stable. Sure, she is selling plastic tupperware to earn some money. That's about it. Susie is the one going through this mournful period. Midge is along for that journey as well. The story is never centered around her. As such, the show treats all of this as an episodic flourish. Something to distract Susie instead of offering some profound character shift in her story. The death doesn't function in that way. She may vow to look out for the Jackie's of the world. Those who are often overlooked. She won't ever take them for granted again. Her eulogy after hijacking a different funeral service is a great moment. It's simply not cohesive with the other elements of the storytelling. It's a moment of greatness surrounded by a bunch of bland, broad swatches of comedy.

That has become an unfortunate consistency of the show lately. It's sense of ambition is out of whack. The narrative views it as good enough to simply spend time with these characters and their wild eccentricities. And yes, it is good for a laugh in the moment. When looking at the larger picture, it's become more difficult to see the point. It's not building to anything. It's the characters being stagnant with their growth. It all happens in extremes too. All it takes is one review for Abe to be hated amongst his entire community. They certainly don't speak for every Jewish New Yorker. The isolation is palpable for the family because this is where they feel accepted and loved. Of course, Abe's problems extend far beyond one bad review. He reveals too much about his past. That makes it easy for the FBI to identify him and Asher as suspects in a decades-old arson. That's insane. It presents as neither Abe nor his editor being aware of the repercussions that come from their profession. The only advice is offering some personal insight. That's a lazy way to offer criticism while trying to pull out something great. It just gets Abe into trouble. Many of these characters are selfish. They don't see how their actions could possibly have an impact on others. Joel views any woman in his vicinity as a potential setup from Shirley and Rose. He doesn't want that. He projects it everywhere. That makes his life a joke where he is in the wrong. That's a familiar position for him. But that clashes with the show's aspiration to offer him redemption. The narrative wants Joel to be seen as a responsible and necessary member of this family. The focus on family and their perceptions of one another is ultimately the most important thing about the entire series. That shouldn't come as a massive surprise. It's not some astonishing revelation after four seasons. It does distract from some sense of overarching narrative. Midge's career as a comedian is simply something she does while off on her own. Her family's lives are just as present and time consuming. They have equal standing. That mix is off. Yes, everyone can aspire for more. They don't have to conform to what has always been. The show just feels stuck in offering the illusion of happiness and essentially confusing it for the real thing. Lenny certainly adds a spark that's necessary. Hopefully, his presence activates something new. That's also just a cheap way to use him that voids out character in order to inspire something better for Midge after getting stuck.