[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 5, Episode 9, “Four Minutes.”]
In the same week that “Barry” and “Inheritance” come to their undoubtedly terrifying conclusions, the finale of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is the perfect antidote. Amy Sherman-Palladino’s comedy wraps up a five-season run with a happy and satisfying ending, the culmination of Season 5’s daring glimpses and the future teased for Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) all those years ago.
“Maisel” officially premiered in November 2017, but the first episode was one of several contenders in Prime Video’s spring pilot season in March, where viewer feedback was taken into account before the streamer greenlit subsequent episodes . Over five seasons and six years, “Meisel” has amassed 20 Emmys with 66 nominations, pop-ups all over New York and an honorary star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The finale sees Midge take the stage at The Gordon Ford Show, the fictitious evening show where she cuts her teeth as a writer while insisting that Gordon (Reed Scott) bring her on board as a comic. It’s a professionally paced hour (the traditional length of a “Maisel” episode) in which Midge trades jokes and dresses as her family scrambles to attend what everyone knows will be a big break. After defeating Gordon in a battle of egos, Midge performs her set and, as the references suggested, the rest is history. The show ends with two more time jumps; one to the past and Midge’s night with Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) as he predicts her rise, and another to the future (2005) where Midge and Susie (Alex Borstein) call each other to watch “Jeopardy!” and laugh themselves to sleep.
“We knew where Midge was going to end up,” Sherman-Palladino told IndieWire in April, ahead of the season premiere. “We knew that from the pitch of the series at the very, very beginning, before they picked up the pilot. We knew what her trajectory was and pretty much Susie’s by design because they’re connected.
This relationship turns out to be Midge’s North Star, stronger than any professional or romantic relationship. Comedy can be a lonely profession, Sherman-Palladino pointed out, and Susie was by Midge’s side as she built a career. Although the final scene wasn’t always planned, it came into focus when Sherman-Palladino and co-creator Dan Palladino began to “flirt” with time jumps and wanted to show Susie and Midge rebuilding their friendship after a dramatic breakup . It was inspired in part by Sherman-Palladino’s observation of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner remaining close growing up (also watching “Jeopardy!”).
“We wanted something very comfortable, almost mundane and normal,” she said. “That’s the whole point of the show, the two of them and their journey together, and that despite all the things that Midge may or may not have given up, she had this. After all, friendship is what keeps her going.
As for the other kind of love, Dan Palladino said they left it open to the viewer — or did they? “We don’t know if she was unmarried or if she was already a widow,” he said.
“I know she wasn’t married and she wasn’t a widow,” Sherman-Palladino interjected. Part of it was the nature of stand-up and fame, but part of it also stemmed from Midge’s deeply personal comedy act.
“Joel (Michael Zegen) said it right away: ‘I can’t let my wife make fun of me on stage. I can’t do it,” she said. “It was evolved enough on his part to realize that, but she also says, ‘Well, I can’t not talk about what’s important to me if I’m angry, hurt or upset. That’s my act. That’s what people want to hear. And that makes it very difficult to combine the two.”
Palladino told IndieWire that Joel was “the man who won her heart” and that it would be difficult for Midge to love like that again. Although the showrunners were tempted to get Midge and Joel back together (“Every day,” said Sherman-Palladino, “Because Michael Zegen is so damn good.”), they chose to leave this relationship open-ended and not sweep a story under the rug. (More: Joel is in jail.)
“The tragedy of the show is that these two people were immature and childish when they got together and lived out something of a fantasy,” Sherman-Palladino said. “And actually the thing he loved about her—that independence and that ambition—is what he couldn’t deal with once she got out, once she wasn’t just giving a toast at a wedding or speaking at a synagogue. or getting the best wine or pork chops or whatever. When it actually became something that defined her, he couldn’t deal with it.
During the premiere week, Sherman-Palladino and her cast were emotional. The finale was still coming, a finale reinforced by the release of Episode 9 and continuing into the final season of the Emmys. As she reflected on the production’s packaging, the creator couldn’t help but diffuse some of that sadness with humor, just as her character would.
“The whole last week on stage, everyone was there – mostly because I wrote them there, because I wanted them there – so every day I could see them because I really had separation anxiety that I still haven’t gotten over. But we hope the dose will take effect soon.”
“This is a very unusual group of people who have gathered here,” she said gently. “It was the ultimate supergroup and yet they never stopped being one. They never stopped caring for each other or caring for each other or supporting each other. We started this together and we are finishing this together. I don’t know if it’s like that when you end other shows because we’ve never experienced that, but that was great.”
This is a rare first for Paladinos despite their indelible mark on modern television; creators were famously fired from the final season of Gilmore Girls before ending it on their own terms nine years later at Netflix, and their Freeform series Bunheads was waiting for another season when it was canceled in 2013. Maisel is the first time they’ve had to land the plane on their own terms, and it shows.
“It was really the first time either of us was involved in something that one of us created — right up to the very, very end,” Palladino said.
“I’ve been on shows where I’ve wanted it to be over,” Sherman-Palladino said deadpan. “I said to myself, ‘Please God put him out of my misery.’
With “Maisel” they celebrate not only the completion of the project, but also the knowledge that they have done a great job.
All five seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ are now streaming on Prime Video.