‘The Marvelous Mrs Maisel’ Season 3 tells Shy Baldwin’s story as Midge hits the road to earn and learn show business
The most important story of all told in season 3 is of the star Shy Baldwin himself who Midge Maisel opens for. On tour, Midge and Shy become friends who he trusts with a secret. It is a trust that Midge, unknowingly, betrays
Spoilers ahead for season 3 of 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'
When 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' first aired, there was nothing like it on TV. It had a fresh premise, giddy energy and a cast, especially the lead, Rachel Brosnahan, who could pull off the rat-ta-tat dialogue and looked ravishing in the period costumes.
The color, the costumes, the lavish sets, the energy, and the verve are all still there in season 3. Some storylines do retread old ground, like the on-again, off-again dynamic between Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) and Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen) or even the bickering in-laws.
But there is enough of a new spin on the old material and some fresh material as well, with Midge going on tour with Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain), to hook the viewer. While the first five episodes are a little light on substance, focussing on what Midge would call "atmosphere", it is a fun enough ride.
The threads from previous seasons are carried over like Sophie Lennon's (Jane Lynch) rivalry with Midge which becomes even more complicated with Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) becoming the manager for the demanding Sophie, who needs to have her ego stroked every five minutes. Susie is also battling a serious gambling problem that is slowly explored bit by bit, episode by episode, which comes to a head when she loses some of Midge's money.
Knowing that she is a gambling addict, she entrusts Joel with Midge's money instead because he will always "love her" and never harm her. When her abusive mother dies, she also burns the house down for the insurance money to pay back what she owes Midge.
She and her sister Tess watch the flames from a boat, drinking beers, savoring the moment when they get rid of the house that symbolizes their demons. Susie becomes a fully-fleshed character this season rather than the comic foil.
Another big development is the Weissmans losing their home as Abe becomes unemployed, forcing them to shift in with their loud and annoying in-laws, the Maisels. It is a concept that works on paper.
Who wouldn't like to see the clash between the sarcastic, intellectual Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub) and the thick-skinned, boorish Moishe Maisel (Kevin Pollack)? Who wouldn't like to see how the prim and delicate Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle) is affected by the overbearing, loud-mouthed Shirley Maisel (Caroline Aaron)?
But in reality, the scenes translate as just a lot of screaming, arguments and fight scenes that seem repetitive. In the process, the very important story of Abe finding his way from being unemployed to becoming a theater critic is lost in all the mayhem.
Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) is a little gem centered like a diamond on a ring in Episode 5, bringing a frisson of romance in the single existence of Mrs. Maisel's life on tour. Sure, she sleeps with (and remarries) her ex-husband Joel too but that leaves a more bitter taste in the mouth than sweet.
Joel has a type -- he likes women who are "conductors" rather than demure specimens who "play the triangle". He starts falling in love with Mei, a Chinese girl, who seems like Midge part two while he successfully opens his own night club with a little help from her.
But these narratives are only the surface-level razzle-dazzle of the show. The most important story of all told in season 3 is of the star Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) himself. In the first few episodes, Shy is a distant celebrity figure.
But as the tour takes them from Las Vegas to Florida, Midge and Shy become friends, even as his band despises him for his diva-like behavior. On one such occasion, Midge in her fix-it zeal stumbles on Shy alone on his boat bleeding.
Turns out Shy is closeted and when he seeks out lovers (defying his manager Reggie played by Sterling K. Brown), the encounters don't always end well. It is a powerful moment when Shy, being patched by Midge so that he can appear on stage, tells her his real name -- "Dwayne".
It is a pact of trust. A trust that is unthinkingly (and unknowingly) destroyed by Midge when she opens for Shy in Harlem with jokes that hit a little too close too home. Season 3 ends with Reggie telling Midge that Shy doesn't want her on the European leg of the tour.
No amount of begging and pleading can restore the trust that has been lost. It couldn't come at a worse time for Midge who has just made a downpayment on the old apartment she grew up in that she, the children and her parents are moving into. Unlike the upbeat finale of season 2, the season 3 finale shows it's not all rainbows and sunshine in show business.
'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' is available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video from December 6 onward.