Ever since its first, Emmy-award-winning episode dropped in March of 2017, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has thrived on timing. As has been mentioned on numerous occasions, the show moves at a speed that can only be described as “really fast.” Scenes transition like they’re stuck on LaGuardia’s moving walkway and characters speak at a tempo that could spin a windmill. It’s everything a high school drama director tells their students they should strive for, landing beat after beat in a tight, functioning hour. This exquisite meter is the series’ trademark, and its greatest secret weapon, as the writers seem to remember something the rest of us may have forgotten. In Maisel’s latest batch of episodes, Amy Sherman-Palladino reminds everyone that timing is sometimes most effective when slowed down.
“Everything is Bellmore”, the first of this week’s two new installments, is the show’s official tribute to Brian Tarantina. The actor, known for playing lovable Gaslight emcee Jackie, passed away unexpectedly in 2019. While Tarantina was undoubtedly a cornerstone for the series, one of those little unsung pieces that make the whole thing tick, it never felt like a surefire bet he’d get an entire episode made in his honor. One may have expected a line inserted quickly into an early-season episode, commenting on his absence with a little dedication card appearing after the credits. What one may not have expected was for the writers to take his death and turn it into one of the most poignant moments in Maisel’s entire run.
Bellmore is a showcase for Alex Borstein, who steps up to deliver an unforgettable bit of acting during the episode’s climactic minutes. A lot of shows have a lot of scenes, where performers stand up to produce tears and spit out dramatic monologues, it’s simply par for the course. However, very few manage to achieve the raw authenticity that Borstein displays during her big moment. While the leads of Maisel may be wealthy Upper West Siders, the series always has truly been about the little guys. Jackie, and by extension Tarantina himself, was one of the little guys. As Susie points out, the man was a hard worker and lived a life full of immense ups and staggering downs. Like any person, he was simply out there trying his best. And yet, it never seemed good enough. No matter how hard he worked, or how many minor successes he had pulled off, his life still ended in a dirty, cramped, one-room apartment. Why? Because, as Maisel has always made apparent, timing is everything.
Rachel Brosnahan, while magnificent as usual, has taken a back seat to her supporting cast, but it is still her storyline that thematically threads everything together. Now working at a strip club, the resolute protagonist makes it her mission in life to take an otherwise discount presentation and get it off the ground. Though production value does increase, at the end of the day, it’s still a strip club. Try as she might, Midge isn’t yet able to achieve the sort of fulfillment that she desires. Whether or not the club itself is part of the problem remains to be seen, but in the end it boils down to the commentary Bellmont and its follow-up “Interesting People on Christopher Street” are trying to make. Life is short, and sometimes the timing just doesn’t work out. Whether it’s whatever boat Jackie missed, Midge’s dependence on low-rent venues for creative freedom, or Susie’s refusal to do anything about her romantic life until she gets her business afloat, the idea of timing is ever looming.
The other character who shoulders this theme, and who gets a little extra spotlight this week, is Tony Shalhoub‘s Abe Weissman. A personal favorite member of the cast, as his comedic timing is consistently top-notch, the former Monk star navigates two separate b-plots with sublime expertise. In both, Abe deals with the consequences of not knowing when he should and shouldn’t open his mouth. He publishes a devastating review of a play written by a family friend, resulting in the social exile of the Weissman couple from their community. His frets about the romantic history between his wife and best friend get Jason Alexander‘s Asher and himself in trouble with the federal government. It’s a lesson in balancing truth with timing, done with the mix of comedy and dramatics that only Maisel can pull off.
Ultimately, this week’s duo of episodes is dedicated to the element that helps the show stand out in more ways than one. Pacing, music, production design, costumes, and everything in between are up to their usual snuff. From a filmmaking standpoint, the show only continues to prove the importance of timing. Only now, the story is starting to as well. Just remember, even if Midge is able to get the technical aspects of that strip to show up and ticking, she still finds a way to fall in the pit at the end.