We have come to the end.
On The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Episode 9 – the series finale — Midge Maisel finally gets her big break, performing her stand-up act live on The Gordon Ford Show.
It was a super-sized finale with plenty of excitement, heartbreaking moments, and, as always, laughs.
This episode saw the return of many characters, some we haven’t seen much of (or at all) this season. We had Mrs. Moskowitz (hard-working as always), Alfie (in a cute little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment), Imogene (we’ve missed you!), and of course, Lenny Bruce.
The episode starts off with Lenny’s infamous Basin Street West performance. He would die the following year.
I was born famous.
The heartbreaking thing is, and this is a strange “reality” to think about, but if Midge had been able to go in, she probably would have been able to save him in a way Susie alone could not.
Midge likely knows this and will carry that knowledge with her for her whole life.
Remember in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 4 Episode 8, after they have sex, he tells her they will go out for Chinese food? Well, the Wo Hop scene shows us that meal.
It’s the fortune he “reads” that she tucks into her bra before going on Gordon Ford, so Lenny is with her, in a way, when she gets her break.
It’s in this scene that Midge tells Lenny she loves him.
God, I love a man who steals my food.
Miriam “Midge” Maisel
It goes by so quickly that he doesn’t register it, or maybe he does, but watch Brosnahan’s face — Midge realizes she has said it. It’s such a beautiful moment because she lets her guard down, and he doesn’t acknowledge it because she says it in a joke.
But then, how else would one comedian confess her love to another?
Speaking of the significant men in Midge’s life, they are a mixed bag.
Joel continues to be a stand-up guy (not in the comedic sense). He and Midge are finally square, and it’s so satisfying to see him so proud of her success instead of feeling emasculated by her.
Theirs is a complicated relationship, but they both will clearly always love each other. Mei who?
Gordon Ford, on the other hand, is so threatened by Midge’s talent that he cuts to the commercial the moment she gets a laugh. What is he scared of? Her taking his job? (The Johnny Carson/Joan Rivers similarities are certainly deliberate).
Perhaps he was just sore that he had to kowtow to his wife’s “rule-breaking” demand. It makes his and Hedy’s relationship all the more intriguing — I’d watch a spinoff of that!
However, Gordon’s petty about-face served as an obstacle and an incredible source of dramatic tension throughout the latter part of the episode. It was nail-biting, heart-racing, and the payoff of five seasons was immensely satisfying.
Mike Carr: I can feel your eyes burning a hole through my head.
Susie Myerson: You’re lucky I’m not staring at your balls.
We know Midge has to succeed. She has to overcome this obstacle somehow — we just didn’t know how she would do it. But with the help of Susie and Mike, she turned it around on Gordon, earning his respect and an interview on the couch in the process.
Reid Scott even got the honor of saying the show’s title.
Ladies and gentlemen, making her first but definitely not last appearance on The Gordon Ford Show, may I present the magnificent, the magical, the marvelous Mrs. Maisel!
Then, there’s Abe. Abe, who had his poignant epiphany in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Episode 8, was true to his word and told Midge how proud he was of her. At last, he saw her for who she was, not who he wanted her to be.
Rose, on the other hand, took a bit more convincing. She was convinced Miriam didn’t think of her, but when she received no less than four telephone calls in a hilarious, fun sequence, that was the proof she needed.
Her genuine belief in her daughter at her “big night” definitely gave Midge that extra fuel she needed. It’s not often she receives such heartfelt validation from her parents.
This entire episode was a masterclass in classic comedy styles.
Sometimes it takes falling in the shower for everything to become very clear.
There was Rose and Abe’s cabbie-questioning that led to madcap running through the cabs. We got slapstick with Moishe and Shirley’s accident, leading to a retirement-in-Florida decision that’s pretty spot-on for these characters.
There were silly sound effects in the writer’s room. The zoom-in on Mike as Susie screamed at him was priceless.
This whole episode played within the comedy zany, heightened reality.
And, of course, there was Midge’s set.
Look, you started your career by getting up on a stage that no one told you to get up on, saying a bunch of shit no one wanted you to say. So, tits up.
We’ve been woefully low on Midge doing stand-up this season (except for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Episode 5 on the boat and a little bit at the Wolford for Gordon to see), so it was great to hear the entire set that jump-started her incredible career.
At last, we got four whole minutes of Midge doing what she goes best. It was tight. She was poised and confident. She had her moment of clarity.
Midge, and we as viewers, felt the parallel to the Gaslight, with the lighting and that orbit camera shot, as she spoke of Mary Martin and fame. Midge manifested her “big life” in that moment. She will get everything she wants, which we see later in the episode.
Almost everyone who meant something to her could say they were there (except Lenny, of course, but he was there in spirit. And Moishe, because of painkillers. And Ethan and Esther, because they are children — who is watching those kids while this is happening, by the way?!)
Miriam “Midge” Maisel: We’re a Jewish household, so my son was circumcised a week after he was born. My daughter’s trauma will have to wait until she’s old enough to go clothes shopping with my mother.
Rose Weissman: Well, that’s fair.
The whole sequence was joyous, with the writers bowing to her, her loved ones cheering for her, Gordon having her on the couch, and all the female staff members sneaking in to watch one of their own succeed.
It was a long time coming, and it felt earned. She didn’t just do a comedy set; it was a manifesto, a glass ceiling shattering, history in the making.
Incidentally, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer killed it as Carol Burnett. My jaw dropped. Watch the original for yourself here.
We got a hint at Midge’s “friendship” with Burnett in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Episode 2 on the “60 Minutes” bit. It’s fun to speculate that their friendship developed from this appearance “together” on The Gordon Ford Show.
Burnett sang “Shy” from Once Upon A Mattress, a song about a woman claiming to be introverted and covering it up with a loud, funny personality. If that’s not a perfect segue to Midge, I don’t know what is.
The music this entire season has been on point, but this episode really sang. Blossom Dearie’s voice over Midge and Lenny’s dinner was fitting since Dearie has been a consistent underscoring throughout the series.
Barbra Streisand’s “I Stayed Too Long At The Fair” added a haunting melancholy to Midge’s glamourous golden years.
Capping it off with Tegan and Sara covering “Girls Talk” (the original by Dave Edmunds played over the end credits of the pilot episode) was the cherry on top.
You go on with your life. File shit away, you don’t expect to ever have to deal with it again, and there they are, you know? Walking right back into your life, uninvited, just standing there. And they don’t even have the decency to get fat or unattractive or stupid or dull. And now they’re blonde! Fuckin’ blonde!
I didn’t think we would get the whole Hedy backstory, but Susie laid it all out for Midge. It gave us some real insight into Susie’s feelings about love, and it showed Midge what Susie was willing to do for her.
It was important for Midge to know what it took for Susie to go to Hedy and recognize the significance of that act.
Though we didn’t get the reconciliation scene hinted at in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Episode 6, it’s clearly all water under the bridge as they watch Jeopardy! together across separate continents.
Their estrangement lasted only about five years (the same amount of time Joel was in jail). Also, how great was it that Susie’s love of pigeons got significantly upgraded into a collection of tropical birds, including peacocks?
Miriam “Midge” Maisel: Any animal — what would you be?
Susie Myerson: Skunk.
Miriam “Midge” Maisel: Why?
Susie Myerson: Great fur, cute face, and your ass is a weapon!
Midge and Susie have one of the most heartfelt and entertaining female friendships we’ve seen on television. Borstein and Brosnahan’s chemistry is comedy gold. Midge and Susie chatting and laughing together was a lovely, low-key way to end the series.
Susie Myerson: Are you serious?
Miriam “Midge” Maisel: I’m Antigone without the laughs.
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has given us a wonderful, flawed heroine we could root for, despite often being frustrated by her.
If anything, Mrs. Maisel proved what many of us have known for a while now — women can be funny, and they can do it backward and in heels.
Not everyone has Midge’s tenacity, but she’s an inspiration. Women like her — Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, and Elayne Boosler, to name a few — have paved the way and helped make stand-up careers more viable for women. This show is a tribute to them as much as anyone.
Share all your thoughts and feelings about the finale in the comments. Kvetch, celebrate, compliment, mourn, it’s all valid!
Thank you, and goodnight.
Mary Littlejohn Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She loves television, cinema, and theatre (especially musicals!), particularly when it champions inclusivity, diversity, and social justice. Follow her on Twitter.