Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5, Midge, and Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Bad, Funny Ladies

TV Features The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5, Midge, and Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Bad, Funny Ladies

Miriam “Midge” Maisel does not tread lightly in life. She stomps in three-inch heels. Can we blame her? Her husband leaves her for another woman. She lives with her two young children in her parents’ apartment and doesn’t have a stable income. But the formidable and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has let nothing stop her from barreling through comedy clubs… and the lives of others. 

Midge has certainly not become easier to empathize with over time, nor does she seem to take into consideration that what happens to her also happens to others. Season 5 is laying bare what has long been implied: Miriam Maisel is not the victim of this story. She’s the antiheroine. 

It’s no secret that series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (ASP) writes tricky and largely flawed female characters, not only in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel but also in her magnum opus, Gilmore Girls. Midge Maisel’s life choices parallel Rory Gilmore’s at times, especially seeing as neither one has ever cleared a path for themselves without leaving destruction in their wake. They’re both willing to go the distance for their careers, even (or especially) at the expense of others. 

This quality truly rears its nasty head for Midge in the show’s fifth and final season. Each episode begins with a time jump to the future, with two of the most poignant flash-forwards coming from Midge’s children, Esther and Ethan, as young adults. Both are detached from their mother, blatantly bitter with how she was selfishly absent for most of their adolescence, and how she has used their lives for comedy. 

What is most peculiar about this selfishness is that, while neither Midge (nor her long-time manager Susie) are particularly likable, we can’t help but tune in each week to watch more. Part of this willingness to continue rooting for Susie and Midge, despite their mean spirits, likely has to do with the show’s 1960s setting. We want to see them beat the odds, flawed as they are.

When comparing the Gilmore ladies’ churlishness in a time when everything is becoming easier on the whole “women having equal rights” front, the Mrs. Maisel women start to make more sense. So often, go-getters—and antiheroes—like Midge and Susie are men. For instance, Mad Men’s Don Draper: Also in 1960, he is callously unrelenting in his quest to bolster his status. No one would ask him to go above and beyond just to prove himself. He’s a man. He is allowed to be inflexible without further disrupting his chances at success. 

Meanwhile, Susie and Midge find it all the more difficult to rise above gender norms with their tactlessness, as women have traditionally been expected to be gentle and soft-spoken to be listened to at all. Most female viewers can likely relate to dulling parts of their personalities in order to be taken seriously, and so it is gratifying to watch Midge and Susie unabashedly be themselves. Those of us with short tempers can live vicariously through them. 

As noted, Susie is no walk in the park, either, but that’s why she and Midge have always worked. In writing Susie and Midge’s friendship dynamic, it feels like ASP is paying homage to the original pair of frenemies: Gilmore Girls’ Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller. In the Palladino Cinematic Universe, female friendships aren’t giggles and hair-braiding. Rather, these women may scorn each other harshly at times, but would kill for the other in the same breath (we don’t need on-screen confirmation to know Paris Geller would). ASP possesses an exceptional talent for making the best love stories in her shows between the women: Rory and Lane, Midge and Susie, and Lorelai and Sookie. 

No matter how complicated Midge and Rory get or how much they mess up previous and future relationships in the process, there will always be a girlfriend to fall back on, waiting, welcoming them with open arms. Or, in Susie’s case, letting Midge fall (safely, she says!) into a paper-mache structure of trash manufactured by the mob. 

Despite her flaws, Midge has shown growth over the course of the show—albeit often in ways that ultimately serve to only benefit her. The one thing Midge hasn’t yet completely run off the rails this season is her new job as a joke writer at the Gordon Ford Show, where she is the only woman, which courts prejudice from the male writers who think her jokes aren’t good enough for the show. 

At one point, Gordon Ford even pursues her romantically; although she’s interested, she refuses. She knows that, as a female comedian, if she dated him and then earned a spot on the show, people would call favoritism and diminish her accomplishments. Although Midge has always put her career first, that has never stopped her from making the wrong decision. Choosing to turn down Gordon is anything but. 

Don’t get it twisted, though: raised with ultra privilege, Midge is still the entitled antiheroine whose messiness we watch with bated breath, anxious to see what chaotic move she’ll pull next. For instance, who remembers a few seasons ago when she outed Shy Baldwin to his hometown crowd and then threw a temper tantrum not only in the car ride home from being fired, but also at his wedding ultimately forced by her hand? 

While it hasn’t bitten Midge in the behind quite yet this season—not in her decade, at least!—it’s only a matter of time. Since landing her Gordon Ford gig, she has been gunning pretty hard for a spot on the show, something no one who works on the show has ever been allowed to do. It’s a back-and-forth that is becoming a little repetitive, even for Midge: she begs for a spot. They say no. And so on the cycle goes.

It will likely go like this until she either gets her way, or until she’s fired. Now, I’m not saying I want Midge to get fired… but maybe it would be nice to see her face a real comeuppance. In the past, ASP has been reluctant to give her bad and funny women the “bad” end of the stick. Despite their flaws though—or perhaps because of them—they still resonate with us. Perhaps that is why ASP writes her female characters this way; women aren’t always prim and proper, and while characters like Midge and Rory can sometimes take things a little too far, it’s ultimately refreshing to watch a woman be reckless in the same way as a man can—and maybe it’s a little inspiring, too. 

Gillian Bennett is a writer and editor who has been featured in Strike Magazine, Her Campus, and now Paste Magazine. She enjoys watching copious reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and fantasizing about living in London. You can find more of her neverending inner monologue and online diary on her Twitter or her blog.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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