Praise be to Tony Shaloub and get out your jello molds, we’re back! From the opening scene, we viewers are peering into an extravagant department store display window. With a nod, the attendant urges us to to come in and take a look around, welcoming us back into their mid-century world. With that, we’re catapulted right back into the bright lights, warm pops of color, glamorous fashions, and dulcet tones of Barbara. There’s no choice but to fully succumb to the atmosphere, one that shifts precariously between musicals, stage play, and Amazon TV show. The twirling shoppers and rhythmic, peppy speech leave us no doubt—we’re now transported into the farcical, stylized world of Amy Sherman Palladino and Midge Maisel (Weissman now?).
Much of the Season Two opener is aimed at catching us up on what our characters have been up to over break, reorienting us into the atmosphere, and shaking off the cobwebs so we can get back to business as usual.
First things first, our energizer-bunny Midge. We find she’s still working at B. Altman, now banished to the basement as a phone operator (due to the whole defamatory Penny Pan incident in Season One). Of course she’s thriving in her new position, consoling the other young women when they get overwhelmed…and basically doing their jobs on top of her own. Is there any job Midge sucks at? Anything? I know she bombed a couple times in Season 1 and didn’t get that elevator operator job, but why does she have to be so great all the time? I root for her to fail sometimes. I’ll admit it.
Meanwhile, Susie is booking new gigs for Maisel and gives a rocky newspaper interview. We come to find that Midge’s act is gaining momentum, and Susie’s goal is for Maisel to become a household name. One step at a time, people! She just got through one decent gig in the Season One finale. If you were hoping to see how Midge’s stand-up act had been shaping up, not so fast…just when we start feeling comfortable, we are launched straight into a family trip to Paris.
After missing many—oh so many—signs, Abe realizes that Rose has moved to Paris because she doesn’t feel like she has her own life in New York. (Like…literal signs taped to the wall—“Has this been here the whole time?”) I oscillated on whether Rose’s “Reese Witherspoon in Wild” move was self-centered or brave. It seems like a very Midge thing to do, which makes me think it’s self-absorbed. When Midge hypocritically tells her mother she can’t just run away from her family, Rose does call her out, saying, “Well look who’s talking.” These women in Amy Sherman-Palladino dramadies—they’re always trying to throw the lowest punches.
Showing off that shiny Amazon budget, Palladino has Abe and Midge go to Paris to retrieve Rose back to their life. We get to see what a young Rose was like, and it draws surprising comparisons to Midge. Abe tries to be “sweet” but fails – he wasn’t bothered by her absence for…an indeterminate amount of time (do we ever find out how long she’s been gone?), but through his frantic, rapid-fire Abe speeches it becomes clearer and clearer that he does seem to care for her. Whether out of familiarity or love, it’s TBD.
Rose is reluctant to leave her new lifestyle and acts pretty cavalier—even manic—that her family has flown across the world to see her. However, her cold demeanor is likely all an act to prompt a reaction from her family, reinforced with her speech that Abe has not said he’s sorry in “either language” that she speaks. Rose seems to be seeking some retribution, as well as fleeing her uptight old life as she has reverted back to her truest, more bohemian college self. She did get a dog, so maybe it’s not all vengeance. At some point, I begin rooting for Rose to stay in Paris and claim this newfound confidence and refreshing, carefree attitude. Give ’em hell. I know it won’t last forever, and is perhaps a little privileged, but I enjoy seeing this side of her come out. Abe, shocked that Rose isn’t coming home and unable to recognize her personality, decides he’s not leaving Paris without her. Midge is frustrated, and in a more vulnerable moment admits she needed her back home. She goes to explore the city on her own, testing out her newfound divorcee independence.
[Also, how neat is it that the Parisians put their butter outside to cool it?! They’ve always been so advanced.]
[And another question – what did Rose mean by this line? “She’s not a nazi, she’s just flexible”?]
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Joel and his friend Archie day-drink and commiserate. Joel has just quit his office job and is currently living with his parents (so fulfilling the stereotype of a 30-something millennial these days). He’s searching for his own place and a new job. If I was supposed to be feeling pity for him, I just wasn’t picking up what Amy was laying down. Take me back to Midge’s story, please!
While Midge and Joel deal with their issues, Susie gets kidnapped by Harry Drake’s hired thugs, who intended to rough her up; however, she ends up befriending the goons and their families, eating dinner and reminiscing about her upbringing in the Rockaways. They warn her that other thugs may not be as nice in the future, and may not be afraid to rough up a woman. It’s a cute cutesy diversion creating thug characters with hearts of gold, but leaves me craving more for Susie. Yes, we do learn a bit about Susie’s upbringing and that her badass leather jacket came from her uncle. And I’ll admit the line about a hit man named Salvador (“he does thumbs”) made me lol; however, I was yearning for more integration of Susie into the overall plot, and it seemed like she could be used in a better way than this distracting side-story. It was also a tad disappointing to see that we’re still relying on “she looks like a guy” jokes.
While out on the town in Paris, Midge visits a French nightclub and (naturally) gets pulled on stage for trying to zip the performer’s dress up. In one of the most entitled moves we’ve seen thus far, she decides to perform a routine and has an American audience member translate jokes for her. The gag was a little funny but a lot stressful as both women deliver the jokes at the same time, and it felt like some good material was missed because it was nearly impossible to make out what they were saying. Midge’s naïveté about men in drag and her assumption that they don’t do that in America felt a little off, but maybe true to her character for the time.
Inexplicably, Midge turns the captive audience into her therapist and recounts how her performance from the Season 1 finale was the final nail in the coffin for her marriage. Maybe it’s to keep testing her comedy chops, maybe it’s cathartic. She does admit that the “power of [the] microphone is intoxicating. Dangerous too.” We are taken back to that night to let the rest of that scene unfold. (Side question – did they already have that filmed from Season One and just decided to cut it short to end on a high note?) After seeing Midge’s performance, Joel gave her his wedding ring and walked away. She keeps her stage-name as Maisel for irony, and thus concludes her sad story. The audience is less than enthused, saying they “prefer Jerry Lewis.” There’s a decent joke in there where the American woman hands Midge a card for “Sylvia Plath’s therapist” – ha! Her sadness is understandable….but…confusing….since we left Midge finding her voice and moving forward with her life as a comic without Joel.
Midge’s Comedy Performance Score (based on my zero qualifications or experience): C-
Taking yet another step backward in her new independent streak, Midge calls Joel after she sees couples enjoy a romantic evening along the romantic river in romantic France (don’t relapse so quickly, Midge!) Frustratingly, she tells him she wants to work things out, and that she’s still in love with him. He explains that he can’t be with someone doing standup routines about him or his failures, and that for them to be together she’d have to give comedy up. They both don’t want her to quit, so they realize they’re at an impasse.
His support for her career is admirable and sweet—it’s touching when he asks to hear the story of why she’s in France someday—but his insecurity is stifling and an extreme turn-off (even with them being in a different time). Joel isn’t hate-able, and he is taking her career seriously now, but I’m not rooting for the Maisels to get back together by any measure. Especially because being apart allows Midge’s stand-up to thrive. In the final scene, we see Midge walking away and gathering strength and speed as she walks, just as (I hope) her resolve to follow her career choice is strengthening.
- Most of the plots in this episode have isolated the characters without the others—perhaps this was an intentional choice to show how they react on their own, or to show they’re all alone (a theme we’ll revisit in later episodes).
- The new season seems a bit more Wes Anderson and errs on the more whimsical side. The dancing and quirk-level seems amped up this year.
- The dialogue seems a little inauthentic, but it’s a new season and the first episode is always bound to have a few bumps.
- As always, the set is a visual feast for the eyes.
- Jackie, the bartender at the Gaslight, is always a delight.
- Much of this episode centers around living in the moment.
- Where is Kevin Pollak?? I miss him.
- “Everyone here has murdered at least 3 people in their lifetime”
- “She’s drafting us”
- “Fuck sweet, she got a dog!”
- “The butter’s hanging from a windowsill”
- “I’ve missed me too”
- “Is this a girl?” “Not sure what best answer is here”
- “You can’t have it all. You can’t run the world and have pretty underwear too”
- “When you hear collect, you get your tuchas out here”
- “We have to see each other until we’re dead. And then for four to six months after”
- Escaping to Europe to find oneself (In Gilmore Girls, Emily does the same when she gets fed up with Richard)
- Coldness toward children
- “Norman Mailer in a cocktail dress” (In Gilmore Girls, Mailer visits Lorelai’s inn)
- Sylvia Plath references
What were your thoughts on the episode?