Friday, April 21, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' - Midge and Susie Grow Defeated Over the Limitations in Their Careers in 'Susan'

Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Episode 5.04 "Susan"

Susie ropes Midge into performing in an industrial musical.

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

Susie recognized a look from Midge. She saw her top client ready to quit. She knew she only had a few months remaining to jumpstart Midge's stand-up career. Working on The Gordon Ford Show was a step in the right direction. It was a move Midge accepted. She acknowledged the wisdom of her manager. Susie knew what needed to be done. And yet, both of them are held back by forces that seek to dampen their lights. Part of that is their refusal to acknowledge the truth of who they are. The majority comes from external factors that seek to take advantage of them for their own financial gain. Most of the staff at Midge's job is hungover following the celebration of being the top show in the business. That only further exaggerates the clash between their style and Midge's quirky personality. Conversations still continue as normal. Gordon maintains romantic interest in Midge. He alludes to an arrangement he has with his wife, Hedy. That receives more clarity later. Midge doesn't receive that context. Instead, she is dealt the devastating blow by a long-standing policy at the show. Gordon is more than willing to indulge her fantasies when he desperately wants her to accept a date. However, he insists that no one who works on the show can be on the show. He has those clear boundaries. They can never be crossed. He remains firm to that belief even when a comedian bails at the last minute. He's furious around the office. The entire staff scrambles for a solution. Midge proudly proclaims herself as available. This is her moment to shine. This is when her life will change forever. All it takes is a few minutes in the spotlight on the number one show in the country. That doesn't occur. Her hopes and dreams are crushed instead. It was humiliating enough when she had to perform a terrible musical as a favor to Frank and Nicky at the New York Expo. She is capable of being a professional. She recites the lines. It's an impressive showcase. It's the kind of number this show loves to produce. It plays into the period details while also just having a blast showing off the many talents of the people involved. It's made even sillier as the production is promoting private demolition and waste management. It's not appealing whatsoever. The performance creates these intense stakes. The world is only functional when the trash is collected and disposed of properly. Midge sells it. She doesn't have to sing at all. She would be the first to say what a bad idea that would be. This job is expected of her. Susie learns that the hard way. They can never escape the mob. Frank and Nicky take a percentage of their careers no matter what. Midge and Susie are then asked to demean themselves in this way. It's not building to a bold and exciting career. Instead, it's a crushing blow to reality that makes everything seem completely worthless.

That's the mentality Midge showcases during the second performance. She still isn't off book. That's annoying to the mobsters. Moreover though, she is deliberately blowing it. She disrupts every scene. She is no longer committed to the bit. She completely forgets she invited her kids to the show. She rationalized that it would be the rare performance of hers they could actually see. She recognizes the hard life they will inevitably endure as a result of what she does. That clarity is refreshing. It doesn't prevent her from making the mistakes though. This family is so often caught up in their egos. They can't see how their actions affect others. Susie is on the receiving end of the shakedown from Frank and Nicky. They have a standard that must be upheld. If Midge can't deliver, then she is no longer a viable part of their business. That story ends with death. Joel is understandably concerned. However, Susie has always managed the job by herself. Her world has expanded. She has an office now. This pressure is still overwhelming. She would love to throw the blame onto other people for failing to properly communicate the truth. That breakdown delivers so many crushing blows. It leaves Midge feeling certain that her career as a stand-up comedian is impossible. She simply writes jobs. She can't expect anything more. She's just like every other writer in the room. They work behind-the-scenes for the benefit of someone else. Gordon needs saving. Sophie Lennon pops up to offer that desperately needed reprieve. It's a huge favor. One that produces playful banter. It doesn't have to be more than a momentary delight. The fantasy is maintained. The illusion is kept between Gordon and the audience. He sees that magic. He knows how it works. It's not important for everyone else to do so. Abe is expected to dig deeper into the plays he reviews. He's employed as a theater critic. It's still misplaced when he projects meaning onto a story where it simply doesn't exist. He demeans Rose for not getting it. However, he's the one without much clarity. He doesn't know how to behave. He's performative and will go the extra mile to make himself seem smart. That doesn't necessarily line up with how the rest of the world views the same material. He's struggling and can't admit it. Meanwhile, Susie runs into Hedy. They share a complicated past. It's one Susie isn't comfortable talking about with Midge. She's forced into a dialogue though. It's something Hedy actively wants to explore. Susie has many things she wants. She doesn't know how to express them. She's forced to confront what she wants when she is so used to wearing her armor as she goes into battle for other people. She's asked to be vulnerable and that frightens her. She wasn't expecting it. She flees instead of addressing them. That behavior won't benefit anyone. As such, the show finally provides a hook for the final season as the characters must confront these insecurities to achieve the fates already written for them. Not everything will work out. That's sobering as well. It will at least be a more enlightening journey along the way.