‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Creators Explain Ending a Show on Their Terms — for the First Time

[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 “Succession” come to their undoubtedly grisly conclusions, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” finale is the perfect antidote. Amy Sherman-Palladino’s comedy ends a five-season run with a joyous and gratifying conclusion, the culmination of Season 5’s daring flash-forwards and the future teased for Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) all those years ago.

Officially, “Maisel” premiered in November 2017, but the first episode was one of several contenders in Prime Video’s spring pilot season that March, where viewer feedback was taken into account before the streamer greenlit further episodes. Over five seasons and six years, “Maisel” amassed 20 Emmys with 66 nominations, pop ups all over New York City, and an honorary star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The finale sees Midge take the stage at “The Gordon Ford Show,” the fictitious late-night staple where she cuts her teeth as a writer while urging Gordon (Reid Scott) to bring her on as a comic. It’s an expertly paced hour (the traditional length of a “Maisel” episode) in which Midge swaps out jokes and dresses while her family scrambles to attend what everyone knows will be a big break. After besting Gordon in a battle of egos, Midge performs her set, and as the flash-forwards suggested, the rest is history. The show ends with two more time jumps; one to the past and the night Midge spent 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 up 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 series pitch at the very, very beginning, before they picked up the pilot. We knew what her trajectory was, and pretty much Susie by design because they’re linked.”

That link turns out to be Midge’s North Star, stronger than any professional bond or romantic connection. Comedy can be a lonely profession, Sherman-Palladino pointed out, and Susie was the one at Midge’s side while she built a career. Though the final scene wasn’t always planned, it came into focus as Sherman-Palladino and co-creator Dan Palladino started “flirting with” time jumps and wanting to show Susie and Midge repairing their friendship after a dramatic rift. It was inspired partially by Sherman-Palladino’s observation of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, who stayed close as they grew older (also watching “Jeopardy!”).

“We wanted something very comfortable, almost mundane, and normal,” she said. “That’s the whole point of the series, the two of them and their shared journey, and that for all the things that maybe Midge gave up or didn’t give up, she had that. At the end of the day, it’s that friendship that sustains her.”

As for the other kind of love, Dan Palladino said they left it open ended for the viewer — or did they? “We don’t know that she wasn’t married or was now a widow,” he said.

“I know that she wasn’t married and not a widow,” Sherman-Palladino interjected. Part of that was the nature of standup and fame, but part of it also stemmed from Midge’s deeply personal comedic act.

“Joel (Michael Zegen) said it right away: ‘I can’t have my wife up there making fun of me on stage. I can’t do it,’” she said. “It was evolved enough of him to realize that, but she’s also like, ‘Well, I can’t not talk about what is important to me if I’m angry or if I’m hurting or I’m upset. That is what my act is. That’s what people want to hear.’ And that makes it very difficult to sort of combine the two.”

Alex Borstein and Rachel Brosnahan in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” finale.Philippe Antonello/Prime Video

Palladino told IndieWire that Joel was “the guy who won her heart,” and that it would be hard for Midge to love like that again. Though the showrunners were tempted to bring Midge and Joel back together (“Every other day,” Sherman-Palladino said, “Because Michael Zegen’s so damn good.”), they preferred to leave that relationship open-ended as well and not sweep their history under the rug. (Also: Joel is in jail.)

“The tragedy of the show is these two people were immature and childish when they got together, and they lived a sort of fantasy,” Sherman-Palladino said. “And actually, the thing that he loved about her — that independence and that ambition — is the very thing that he couldn’t deal with once it came out, once it’s not just her giving a toast at the wedding, or talking in synagogue, or getting the best wine or pork chops or whatever. When it actually becomes a thing that defines her, he couldn’t deal with that.”

During premiere week, Sherman-Palladino and her cast were emotional. The finality was still setting in, a finality reinforced by Episode 9’s release and continuing into a final Emmys season. As she reflected on wrapping production, the creator couldn’t help defusing some of that sadness with humor, just as her heroine would.

“That whole last week on stage everybody was there — mostly because I wrote them there because I wanted them there — so every day I could see them because I was really having separation anxiety, which I have not gotten over yet. But we’re hoping the dosage kicks in soon.”

“It’s a very unusual bunch of people that had been gathered together here,” she said fondly. “It was the ultimate super-group, and yet, they never stopped being a unit. They never stopped taking care of each other or caring about each other or being supportive of each other. We started this together and we are ending this together. I don’t know if it’s like that when you end other shows, because we’ve never experienced it, but this was pretty great.”

It’s a rare first for the Palladinos despite their indelible mark on modern television; the creators were famously ousted from the final season of “Gilmore Girls” before getting to end it on their own terms nine years later at Netflix, and their Freeform series “Bunheads” was awaiting another season when it got cancelled in 2013. “Maisel” is the first time they got to land the plane on their own terms, and it shows.

“This was really the first time that either one of us have been involved in something that either one of us created — to the very, very end,” Palladino said.

“I’ve been on shows where I wished it would end,” Sherman-Palladino deadpanned. “I was like ‘Please, God put it out of my misery.’”

With “Maisel,” they celebrate not only bringing a project full circle, but knowing they did a marvelous job.

All five seasons of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are now streaming on Prime Video.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *