‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Season 4 Review: Midge Returns With Even More Fizzy Energy

Our heroine has no time for soul-searching in new season of Amazon Prime’s hit comedy

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 4 Trailer
Amazon Prime Video

When we last saw Midge Maisel, she’d been left on an airport tarmac with her copious luggage, fired from a world tour with pop singer Shy Baldwin after she told jokes at the Apollo that all but outed him as gay. It was her worst fall yet, from her highest high to a humiliating low — and that’s a great place for her to start the fourth season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

It’s June of 1960, which, astonishingly, means a mere two years have passed in the show’s timeline — the same amount of time that has passed in our world since we’ve last seen new episodes of the celebrated Amazon Prime series. The show has weathered the break well, served by being set in the past (no COVID worries here!) and blowing back into our lives with a refreshing blast of fizzy energy. Amazon has also made the decision to parcel out the new season two episodes per week over four weeks, rather than as a binge dump — probably wise, given the sheer tonnage of dialogue it asks viewers to process with each outing.

Writer-producdr Amy Sherman-Palladino’s confectionery creation is back and firing on all sensory cylinders: hyperverbal dialogue, beautiful (and hilarious) set pieces, gorgeous people in gorgeous wardrobes. There’s a tour de force family argument that has the Maisels and Midge’s parents, the Weissmans, yelling at each other from their respective cars on the Coney Island Wonder Wheel. There’s a scene that enfolds almost entirely in Chinese that doesn’t miss a beat in the Sherman-Palladino patter rhythm. There’s also the fantastic return of Jane Lynch as Sophie Lennon, now happily ensconced in a posh mental institution after her disastrous Broadway debut. “Darkness enveloped me like an old meat coat,” she explains. “So I met with my lawyer, my press agent, my business manager and my investment broker, and we all decided that I should have a nervous breakdown.”

Rachel Brosnahan imbues Midge with as much blinding charisma as ever. This is crucial, not only because she’s the lead, but because this series loves its lead even more than most series love their leads. So much of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has literally been about how marvelous she is — she’s a comedic genius! And gorgeous! And dresses perfectly! And wins all the games at the Catskills resort! That’s why it’s so helpful to start this season at her first real low. The setup gives her someplace new to go this season: She has purchased her former apartment — the one she shared with ex-husband, Joel (Michael Zegen) — for herself and moved her parents in with her. Now she must rebuild her career with this added responsibility.

The series still seems extraordinarily enamored with its star. Midge does no soul-searching, at least in the first two episodes available for review, when it comes to what she did to Shy. Maybe this is realistic for the times, but it feels pretty crummy from a 2022 perspective. In fact, she is shown to have righteous anger over what happened to her, which she channels into a new image and act: She swears, and she wears pants! And flats! Then she demands that her manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), help her change the comedy game from mere relatable setups and punchlines to a vehicle for authentic expression: “I wanna be me every time I go out on that stage!” she says. When Susie balks that the business doesn’t work that way, Midge declares a season 4 mission statement: “Let’s change the business!” It’s a rousing idea, as long as she — and the show — don’t veer into overly Self-Important Comic territory.

None of these quibbles change the fact that “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” remains wildly watchable, at least for those of us who enjoy the frenetic, screwball quality at its core. Every member of the sprawling cast nails Sherman-Palladino’s dense dialogue and makes their characters feel distinctive. Borstein as Susie, Zegen as Joel and Marin Hinkle and Tony Shalhoub as Midge’s parents are all impeccable. It will be fun to see how Milo Ventimiglia — an alumnus of Sherman-Palladino’s “Gilmore Girls,” cast as a new love interest for Midge later in the season — fits in, especially since Luke Kirby will also be returning as Lenny Bruce, a real-life figure who has himself been something of a love interest for our fictional heroine.

Midge also confronts sexism in a direct way we haven’t quite seen before in the series. Her parents casually suggest they tell people that they bought her apartment back for her, rather than revealing that she bought it on her own: “What man is going to want a woman who owns her own apartment?” She’s denied a line of credit with the milkman because she has no record with him — the record she had under her ex-husband’s name doesn’t count. She shows up to do a set at a club, but the owner won’t let her go on: “I had a girl comic last week,” he says. Angered, she takes over the set of a guy who stepped out to smoke — and whose sexist routine she’s seen so much she knows it by heart. She kills delivering a few minutes of his take-my-wife-please material before she’s kicked out. It’s pretty hard to resist her in moments like that.

Once in a while, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” kicks off its candy-colored high heels, peels off its fake eyelashes and calms down for a real moment of connection. In the second episode, Midge’s father, Abe, tells her about his new job as a critic for The Village Voice, which he loves, but which pays almost nothing. “Are you sure you can handle all this?” he asks about supporting the whole family. We see that she’s not sure, and that’s more interesting than all of her perfection and bravado. Hopefully, we’ll see more of that Mrs. Maisel this season.