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'The Marvelous Mrs Maisel' Season 3 review: Trying a bit too hard

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The new season of the show seems to be weighed down by the formula that made it endearing in the first place

Spoilers Ahead

The second season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, which aired in 2018, was a thing of beauty. The show exhibited the best qualities of its creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s previous work: rhythmic, fast-paced dialogue, witty observations and riveting drama punctuated by unexpected humour.

All those elements make their way into the latest season of the show, too. The various departments — writing, acting, direction, etc — feel like well-oiled machines that are now operating in top-gear, doling out more of what made the show loveable in the first place. However, much like Sherman-Palladino’s earlier hit, Gilmore Girls, this season seems to be weighed down by the formula that made it endearing in the first place.

Is there such a thing as too many witty one-liners? Or too much humour? Season 3 feels like it is trying a bit too hard, in contrast to the effortless energy the show exuded previously. It is still a whole lot of fun, and Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein remain enigmatic as ever. But the show sacrifices any real depth for laughs, leaving the drama feeling a bit stagnant.

Some of it has got to do with the importance the ensemble has gained over time. Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle and Michael Zegen have had such wonderful character arcs previously, it is understandable that they get a lot more screen time now. However, the quality of the sub-tracks don’t quite match up to their talent.

Abe and Rose Weismann (Shalhoub and Hinkle) find themselves uprooted: Abe is without a job, Rose has (conveniently) lost her family trust fund, and their New York apartment is gone. They are forced to live with the Maisels, resulting in some expectedly rough interactions that don’t seem as funny anymore. Joel (Zegen), on the other hand, has purchased a property in Chinatown for his foray into the nightclub business. Turns out: there’s an illegal gambling den in the basement. Most of these storylines eat into the more exciting material: Midge and Susie’s time on the road with musician Shy Baldwin.

A lot of the new season has to do with the trappings of showbiz, like Midge staying away from her kids for lengthy periods while pursuing a career in comedy, and the stunts Susie must pull to ensure her two clients, Midge and the legendary Sophie Lennon, stay happy. A lot of it is enjoyable to watch, but the writers are so firmly committed to keeping things light-hearted all the time, the show feels robbed of any emotional conflict.

The only time I felt truly connected to a character this season was when Susie, finding herself under a mountain of debt due to a gambling addiction, breaks down. Borstein is the only actor whose character, as well as performance, sees an upswing (I’m still wondering why the show’s title hasn’t been changed to ‘The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and The Super-awesome Susie’ yet), and it is the kind of evolution that’s missing in the other departments.

TV viewing is a lot about comfort and familiarity, and the new season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel provides both. Next time around, hopefully, the show will offer a little bit more.

All three seasons of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel are now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 7:20:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/on-the-marvelous-mrs-maisels-season-3/article30266334.ece

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