If “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy” was a pitch perfect episode, “All Alone” is a strangely uneven season finale, one where Midge seems especially capricious and where we are left with an overwhelming number of cliff hangers, some of which don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense with what we learned about characters earlier this season.
Let’s start with what’s working: the flashback to Joel’s marriage proposal back when they were in college and Midge was still a blonde is incredibly romantic and charming. Joel may not be funny on the stage, but he has a great sense of comedic timing in real life and he has always been able to exchange clever and charming banter with Midge. He doesn’t just keep up with her; he impresses her. He’s also a bit more modern than we’ve been led to believe. He asks Midge first if she wants to be his bride, rather than following the tradition of asking her father for her hand in marriage. At the end of the proposal scene, we see Midge put on the engagement ring that we have seen her wear in every single scene this season, whether she is on the stage or even going back to Benjamin’s place.
Was Benjamin’s mild comment last episode about whether or not Midge would allow him to meet the kids intended to be a proposal? If so, it is the least romantic proposal I have ever seen! It’s completely logistical, which is exactly how Benjamin treats the prospect of asking Abe for Midge’s hand, providing assurances that Midge and the kids will be taken care of. For his part, Abe requests that Benjamin submit forms as if he were filing taxes, which seems silly at the time, but, by the time we get to the end of the episode, I’m much more sympathetic to his methods.
But more on that later! For now, let’s just note how surprising it is when Midge overhears Benjamin talking to her dad and she seems giddy with joy. She is already shopping for wedding dresses with her mom, which Rose wants to be a dignified and subtle affair (I laughed out loud when her Rose suggested a champagne colored dress, and Midge retorted that champagne is “what happens when white gets sad.” Midge probably would hate shopping for gowns in the 21stcentury, what with all the champagne and blush and multi-colored dresses, which are now a symbol of more offbeat brides, rather than subdued second weddings!)
Did Midge and Joel ever even get officially divorced? It’s hard to tell. When they were up in the Catskills, they told everyone that they were separated, but they’ve also always said that they were technically still married, and just last episode Joel referred to Midge as his wife. The fact that the audience still doesn’t know these types of details makes it feel as though we are rushing through plot points, rather than really seeing genuine decisions that characters are making. We have a similar strange shift in emotional perspective when Midge expresses her exhaustion at doing comedy when she is booted off the stage at a mid-town club for mentioning pregnancy. While it’s understandable that Midge would be frustrated by this flagrant misogyny, she also just had an exceptionally impressive T.V. debut. The idea that a moment like this would suddenly make her rethink her career is really odd to me.
Another thing: Midge is strangely influenced by drunk artistic men like Declan and Lenny. We now have two episodes where Midge considers her own life goals when listening to the regrets and hopes and dreams of guys who are broken down and sad, all the while yelling at her own manager, who is doing everything possible to try and help Midge succeed. Why on earth would Midge suddenly assume that she will spend her entire life alone, especially when we already know that Benjamin is completely supportive of her career as a comic? Benjamin might be a little robotic, but I’m not at all convinced that he wouldn’t encourage Midge to pursue a six month life on the road and then get married when they get back (heck, maybe this would be the necessary time frame for those divorce papers to go through!). He loves weird girls! Maybe he wouldn’t even be put off that Midge would be touring with and opening for Shy Baldwin.
Perhaps due to Midge’s erratic behavior this episode, I was especially gratified to see Susie getting some love from her once nemesis Sophie, who is so inspired by the way that Susie fights for Midge, that she wants her to be her own manager. I hope Susie sells that fur coat and gets something nice for herself, and I hope she expands her managing beyond Midge, whose capriciousness makes her incredibly difficult to work with.
My suspicions about what both Joel and Midge want turned out to be right—they are still crazy about each other, but neither seems to be cut out for a life of 50s domestic bliss. They want romance and adventure and the ability to color outside the lines. Their marriage was stifling both of them, and I wonder if now they are both at the place where they could make a more modern type of marriage work. And hey, someone has to take care of the kids when Midge goes on her 6-month tour!
Finally, the plot line involving Abe just seemed to come out of nowhere to me. Had we ever gotten even a hint before that he was an activist? In fact, Abe has always come across as a buttoned-up snob, from his disdain of comedy, to the fact that he treats subordinates and students like crap. Maybe next season, we’ll get a bit of a further glimpse into his youth, but I wonder how that will even fit with episodes showcasing Midge’s international tour.
At the start of the season, I commended The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for tackling characters beyond Midge and Joel, but I do think the heart of the show is about their relationship and how we find true love in a world of stifling social rules. At the end of the season finale, Midge may claim that she wants just one night with someone who loves her, but she has also never been the type of woman who would settle for a subtle affair. Luckily, the viewer now knows that Joel is also the kind of person who craves a life outside the lines. Maybe now that he has his own career goals, his ego can take the fact that the woman he loves is a better comic than he is.
Lastly: okay, seriously, WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THE KIDS??