It’s not easy to pull off marvelous a second time around.
Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” returns for its second season Wednesday, fresh from winning eight Emmy Awards, including outstanding comedy and actress in a comedy, for star Rachel Brosnahan.
That’s a lot of hype to live up to, and, thankfully, in its second season, “Maisel” (★★★½ out of four) manages to avoid getting weighed down by its own pretentiousness. Nor does it fail to meet all those high expectations. After a false start of a Parisian season premiere, the new season is as sunny as its eventual Catskills resort setting, even if there’s just a hint of dark sky on the horizon.
For those just jumping on board the “Maisel” train, the dramedy, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Gilmore Girls”), made its way to Emmy glory with the story of a 1950s housewife-turned-comedienne, Midge Maisel (Brosnahan). Midge falls into comedy when her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) abruptly leaves her and their idyllic Upper West Side life for his young secretary. The first season mostly deals with Midge’s cannonball into comedy, with the help of her manager Susie (Alex Borstein, another Emmy winner), and also the fallout from Midge and Joel’s separation, as Midge moves back in with her parents Rose (Marin Hinkle) and Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub).
The new season starts off less about Midge’s comedy career and more about how she, her parents and Joel are forming new lives that defy the expectations of their era, both to themselves and to other people. The series expertly shows how even minor steps outside the norm make giant waves and lead to giant consequences. And these are small deviations, like Midge and Joel’s divorce or Rose’s desire to get an education. Stand-up comedy is less a deviation and more an act of transformation of Midge into someone completely unrecognizable to her friends and family, a peril she faces nearly every night onstage.
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