There is so much to say about “Midnight at the Concord” but the most obvious place to begin is the ending. It’s a stomach-churning, gasp-inducing, hilarious piece of drama that will have you going to the next episode immediately, regardless of how late in the evening your viewing of it is. This reviewer is talking from personal experience.
“Are we in trouble?” asks Susie as we get ready to smash cut to the end credits of the episode. After spending last season and the first half of this season keeping her stand up a secret, Midge’s secret is discovered by Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and to be honest, we should have seen it coming.
Abe has been far too happy this season; having fun in Paris, enjoying his twin jobs as lecturer at Columbia University and researcher at Bell Labs, being on great terms with Rose after their marital problems at the start of the season and having the time of his life at Steiner Mountain Resort, especially given the amount of tomato juice he has been consuming and how much he loves wearing that callisthenics romper. The arrival of Joel’s parents really should have been seen as a warning shot by Abe that his period of happiness and contentment was not going to last.
An Amy Sherman-Palladino script, along with her work as a director, the episode at first makes one concerned because we’re staying put at the Catskills and sees Midge heading back to New York and a recurring joke involving Susie and a plunger. These things should give one pause for concern but in fact, the episode is so damn good that it makes one forgive any questions one has as to why the series has seen a reason to spend time at a mountain resort when it could have done these things on home turf. Even the ongoing joke about Susie and the plunger, amazingly, never gets annoying or old. It keeps being funny which really shouldn’t be the case but is.
We get more of Zachary Levi as Benjamin and it has to be said that both he and Brosnahan share wonderful chemistry throughout, especially when they go to see a play about Lizzie Borden, argue about its merits, ditch it before the intermission is over and decide to go see Lenny Bruce instead. One is waiting for Benjamin to be a prude about Lenny’s style of comedy, but he and Midge find common ground and have a great time to the extent that she reveals her secret life of comedy to him. It’s a wonderful moment when he points out it’s not much of a secret because Susie, Lenny and Joel all know about it, and a lovely bit of foreshadowing because by the end Abe is going to know too.
The moment it happens is one of the most brilliant gasp-inducing moments the series has done. Booking a midnight gig at the prestigious Concorde Club, and allowed to be “blue” with her jokes, Midge takes the gig, is making a killing on stage with some incredibly obscene jokes, but gets the shock of her life when she sees Abe there.
As entertaining as the second season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel has been, it’s great to see the series attempt to shake itself up halfway through its second season in this way. How long Abe will keep the secret we’ll have to see; at this rate, it could end up being a half season of drama before Rose finds out for herself and we know how upset she might be if she finds out that something like this will be kept from her. Whether the series will go that way we’ll have to see, but then again the series might wrong foot us as it did here. The signs were all there; Abe didn’t go to dinner with Rose and it gave us every clue possible that it was coming, but television logic sometimes dictates that we be comfortable with the paradigm until a finale at least, but not here. Palladino goes there and is all the better for it.
What makes the whole discovery better/worse are the jokes that Midge tells while Abe looks on in the audience; Midge’s routine is as filthy as it comes, probably her filthiest yet, making jokes about her parents sex life, even though she knows he’s there early on, her flustered nature becomes almost part of her act and just makes the whole thing funnier to the audience even though the reasoning is unknown to them. It marks the moment that Midge has made it in a way; the sceptical owner of the Concorde doesn’t want her there at first but is begging her to come back even as she begins to spiral over what has happened. It’s a brilliant moment and the absolute best the season has been since the season two premiere.
It would have been so easy to be concerned over the season deciding to spend time at the resort (and we have another week of it to go) but it’s managed to mine itself into a great piece of drama that might actually allow the series to inflict some game-changing courses of storytelling for the remainder of the season, while the episode itself will legitimately leave you foaming at the mouth to see what happens next. Best of all, it comes at the end of a really great episode. If the episode had just been made up of Midge and Benjamin’s date, the Lenny Bruce appearance, Susie’s plunger and Abe’s anger at Joel’s parents at the resort it would have been better than fine, but the last ten minutes pushes this into one of the season’s very best episodes for sure and one of Amy Sherman Palladino’s best teleplays and directorial episodes; funny, painful, and a great side dish of cringe for good measure.
The series has done cringe before, just look at “The Punishment Room” and the wedding speech, but where before it’s was to knock Midge down a peg or two, here she’s managed to deliver one of her best ever routines, but in doing so has inflicted real damage on someone she cares for. Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby, always welcome anytime he appears) calls it the dark side of the mic. Here, it’s laid bare for our lead character.
Where the series goes from here will be incredibly interesting to see.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel: Season 2 is now available on Amazon Prime in the UK.