Friday, May 26, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' - One Performance Is All Midge Needs to Launch Her Comedy Career in 'Four Minutes'

Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Episode 5.09 "Four Minutes"

The very last episode of the series.

"Four Minutes" was written by Amy Sherman-Palladino and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino

One performance on The Gordon Ford Show is all it takes to catapult Midge to stardom. The final season established that expectation early on. However, that moment doesn't come until the series finale. It defines a large portion of the action as well. Midge was furious Susie wouldn't use her personal connection to Hedy to get her on the show. Susie was more than willing to overcome a number of obstacles in support of her client. Confronting her past was a scary prospect. It leads to her spending a few hours in jail. That doesn't derail the momentum Midge and Susie have obtained. It's still required that they're completely vulnerable with each other. Midge has always respected Susie's reluctance to talk about her personal life. It's not something Susie is comfortable sharing. Meanwhile, Midge involves Susie in every aspect of her life. She is incredibly open in that way. She is there for Susie when the time comes to bail her out. Midge was right to call Susie out for her behavior. She couldn't let her ego stand in the way of her client. When Midges learns she is going to be on the show, she immediately wants to tell Susie. That's her first instinct. She then reaches out to all her loved ones to ensure they are in the crowd. In this moment, no one can deny that this is the career path for her. Abe already marvels at her strength. He came to that realization recently. He had that big moment of seeing life change right before his eyes. He should be proud of Midge because of the courage she has shown on this path. He is no longer embarrassed of her. That's always been more difficult for Rose. She's now willing to accept the observations Midge makes during her routine. In fact, she appreciates the effort Midge put into trying to get her mother to the studio. Midge reached out to everyone she knew who could possibly deliver the message to Rose. This magical moment couldn't be denied by the person always the most difficult to please. Abe and Rose are even willing to subject themselves to a public bus to support their daughter. Everyone gets to the studio on time. That's a hurdle in that it provides resolution to those various characters who are just supporting players to Midge's story. It's obviously not the conclusion of their lives. The season has revealed what happens to each of them in the years after this event. The finale expresses its power by remaining grounded in one moment in time for as long as possible. It still jumps back and forth to depict crucial events. But the storytelling established the weight of this moment. As such, the show needed to deliver on all that potential.

The biggest obstacle Midge and Susie must overcome is Gordon's own ego. He doesn't appreciate them going around him in order to book Midge on the show. He is the one with all the power. He has the final say on every decision. He changes the segment at the last second. It's a power move to keep Midge in her place. He talks over her. He shares the spotlight with all of the writers. Midge was ready to be on camera. It's an unexpected move for the rest of the writers. They don't receive the spotlight for very long. Gordon doesn't want that for Midge either. And yet, he has a certain amount of time he must fill. That's his obligation to the network and the advertisers. He can only bear this segment forced onto him for a few brief minutes. He has to cut away even though he has nothing to promote. That affords Midge enough time to find one more rule to break. She has always forged her own path. She has never let someone else dictate the terms of her career. It's been inspiring throughout the entire series. It makes her an aspirational figure across her decades-long career. It doesn't ensure the best relationships. But Midge found her passion. She pursued it no matter the cost. Gordon is amazed at the performance but still has to fire Midge for breaking the order of his set. He acknowledges the greatness. The brilliance of her comedy shines through. Midge still decides to go rogue. She consults Susie before doing it. She sees four minutes laid out for her. This is her opportunity. She has to take it. She can't allow someone else to steal the spotlight from her. The segment ultimately runs much longer than four minutes. It's still perfectly crafted. Midge and Susie agonized over the set list. They figured out the perfect routine. Just like always though, Midge was at her best when she was simply spontaneous. She has material she can reliably perform. It's still magical to see her get inspired in the heat of the moment. The storytelling allows moments to ebb and flow. Characters react in the crowd. However, this is Midge's moment. It ultimately leads to the spotlight drowning everyone else out. It's just Midge on the stage performing. She kills. She knew she had the capacity to do so. She just needed the right moment. Susie knew she only had a few months left to make things happen for Midge. She swallowed her pride to make this work. She wasn't above threatening Mike over and over again to give Midge the chance to do what she does best. Mike saw the opportunity as well. This is something Midge deserves. It changes everything.

Power comes from that moment as it transcends everything else that has happened in Midge's career. And yet, the finale still devotes crucial time to two significant relationships in Midge's life. Lenny Bruce feared Midge was going to blow it. He too saw the potential for fame. He worried she wouldn't take ahold of the situation when it presented itself perfectly. Real life plagued any kind of future Midge and Lenny could have possibly had. The final years of his life are plagued by arrests for obscenity and drug use. Midge and Susie see one of his tragic final shows. He's reacting in astonishment at his arrests. He's baffled by them. The law stole his comedic wit. The brilliance was taken away. Midge and Susie want so much more for him. And yet, he's ultimately responsible for whether or not he gets out of that tragic spiral. He doesn't. That isn't depicted onscreen though. That's simply the inevitable path laid out for him. The industry was cruel to him. That sucked the life out of him long before his untimely and tragic death. Meanwhile, Midge and Susie prosper for many years to come. Of course, that has already been amply demonstrated throughout the season. Yes, that time has carried its own fair share of tragedies. Midge and Susie weren't talking for several years. They felt betrayed by the path this career took for both of them. They both received ton of acclaim. Fame didn't change who they always were. They simply got to operate on a much larger stage. One where so many opportunities were afforded to them. That was true whether they were in each other's lives or not. By 2005, their friendship matters more than any joke or deal does. Sure, Midge still needs to be working every single day. She can't handle any kind of time to relax. She struggles adapting to the world. She sees no need to learn how to text. She has a team to manage her life. And yet, she still makes an effort to maintain her friendship with Susie. It's something as simple as watching Jeopardy together every single day. It's so sweet. Susie has retired. She still has the willingness to make some calls to ensure her presence is felt. The two are older. The world is passing them by just like it was for Abe in the 1960s. He found a way to adapt and find a new path for himself. He was still an inspiration for his grandchildren. In the end, Midge and Susie only have each other. That's sad to a certain extent. But they make each other laugh. That has always understandably been the most valuable thing they've ever wanted. They found it. They nourish that bond. It's something to be cherished and forever remembered no matter how fleeting and cruel the passage of time can be.