DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Episode 9, “Four Minutes,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Tits up! It’s the series finale of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and I’m not okay emotionally. “Four Minutes” chronicles the four minutes that alter Midge Maisel’s life for the better. With those four minutes, our go-getter titular comic launches her career into the stratosphere. This outing, written by Amy Sherman-Palladino, is the perfect sendoff for Midge and Susie. Their deep friendship is the crux of this series. I think Midge had three loves of her life: Susie, her career and Joel. But, ultimately, Susie’s love was the most fulfilling. Ending on a scene with them laughing as old ladies is so heartwarming.
“Four Minutes” beautifully ties loose ends and satisfactorily brings Midge’s narrative to a close. My heart is full.
Ready to delve into “Four Minutes”? Let’s get to it.
We open in San Francisco in 1965, with Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) taking to the stage. However, he’s in his PJs and reading court documents, as one does during a stand-up routine. He’s not in the best place. The real-life Lenny passed away in 1966, so we’re at most a year away from his end. While the audience boos him and starts to leave, we see Susie (Alex Borstein) in the crowd, looking disappointed. She tracks him down after the show and reintroduces herself. Initially, he doesn’t remember her, but it clicks later — The Gaslight. Where it all started for Midge and Susie.
Susie asks him if he wants to get food and talk about his future. She can help him get his career back on track. She tells him point-blank that his act was terrible. It’s not of the caliber Lenny Bruce usually delivers. Lenny rejects Susie’s offer of representation. Before departing, he asks if Midge is there. Susie says no, even though she reunites with Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) outside the club. Midge looks worried. Susie confirms Midge’s fears — Lenny’s not doing well. Midge’s eyes fill with tears as Susie suggests they go somewhere to drink. Oof. So, the airport scene in the season premiere was the last time Midge and Lenny saw each other.
Now, we return to New York City in 1961. Susie gets arrested for fighting police officers after they find her snoozing in the park. Midge bails her out. That’s why Midge hurriedly left work at the end of episode eight. Susie probably contacted Midge for her one phone call. Midge takes Susie out for coffee and cake. She asks Susie what’s wrong. Susie reveals she asked Hedy to convince Gordon to get Midge on the show. Then, we learn why the act sent Susie spiraling. We already know about her past relationship with Hedy, but Midge doesn’t.
Susie finally acknowledges her romance with Hedy, and Midge takes it well. Yay for not being a homophobe in 1961. She talks about how they met in college and how quickly they took to each other. Susie reveals she and Hedy even vowed to adopt four ugly kids and raise them to be snobs to confuse the hell out of people. God, I love Susie. Unfortunately, Hedy returned from Paris one year with an engagement ring, so Susie ended it, dropped out of college and moved to NYC. Alex Borstein deserves an Emmy for this scene alone. What a force of nature she is.
Susie claims it was the only time she’d ever been in love and asserts it won’t happen again. Midge isn’t so sure about that last part. Susie asks Midge if she was ever a blonde, to which the latter responds that she was in college. I’ve seen some internet rumblings about Susie being in love with Midge. I can see it, but I also think their love transcends romance. They’re soulmates on a fundamental level.
Meanwhile, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) complains to Rose (Marin Hinkle) about their grandchildren. They faked being sick so they could stay home. Then, they had the gall to mock their grandparents behind their backs. The insolence. Rose is preparing for her matchmaking event, so she isn’t quite as invested in this as Abe. Midge arrives home to change. Rose informs her about her work calling her incessantly. Later, Midge storms into the writers’ room to give them a piece of her mind. That’s when Mike (Jason Ralph) pokes his head in to reveal he was calling her home. Gordon wants to see her. Uh-oh.
Gordon (Reid Scott) is the bearer of glad tidings: Midge will be on his show. Midge is almost too shocked to respond. See, bullying works! However, Gordon isn’t happy about it. He knows Midge used her connections to get Hedy to twist his arm. That’s showbiz, bro. After telling her fellow writers about her delightful surprise, Midge heads home to change into her show dress. (Sorry, Mel.) At Susie Myerson and Associates, Susie and Dinah (Alfie Fuller) try to receive mail from Maggie (Julie Klausner), with the latter using the pulley system to deliver it between the two buildings.
Midge interrupts the mail fiasco to inform Susie about her upcoming appearance on The Gordon Ford Show. She heads into Susie’s office to make the phone call rounds. Meanwhile, Joel (Michael Zegen) and Archie (Joel Johnstone) enter Moishe’s garment factory to retrieve clothes for the supper club. They run into Moishe (Kevin Pollak) and Shirley (Caroline Aaron), who hobble over to them while leaning on canes. Moishe appears to have a broken arm. They tell the fellas about Moishe’s shower accident. He slipped while attempting to grab a bar of soap. Shirley, who was naked in bed when it happened, put on a fur coat to help him. Unfortunately, she slipped, too.
So, Shirley and Moishe aired their grievances on the shower floor. They decided to forgo divorce and sell the garment factory. Once they’re healed of their injuries, the Maisels will move to Boca Raton to enjoy retirement. It’s not like Joel plans to inherit the factory, anyway. Aw, it’s nice that we’re getting closure for their storyline. Midge calls Joel to tell him about her spot on Gordon’s show. He’s thrilled for her. Joel encourages her to sh*t talk him if that’s what it takes. I can’t believe I’m leaving this series a Joel fan.
After her chat, Midge realizes she has pigeon poop on her dress sleeve. Now she has to change a third time. Susie insists Midge doesn’t have time to shop. Thankfully, Dinah saves the day, reassuring Midge that she’ll pick up new dresses for Midge and send them to the studio. Later, we see Midge in her dressing room with the makeup artist while she jots down her set for that night. Susie brainstorms alongside her. Midge tries to “backseat driver” the makeup artist, who eventually gives up and lets Midge do her own makeup. Dinah arrives with Midge’s dresses. It’s all free, so long as Midge throws in an endorsement on national TV.
Then, Midge calls Abe, who’s at work. She claims she’s been trying to contact Rose for hours. She excitedly tells her dad about her big TV spot. He’s thrilled for her. Abe’s reaction is so sweet here. Abe enters his home to find Rose still at it with the matchmaking event preparations. He urges Rose to get ready. They have to be at the studio by 8:30. Rose claims she won’t attend because Midge didn’t call to invite her. Oh, don’t be petty. Abe and Rose discover the phone’s been off the hook all day, explaining why Midge couldn’t get through. Once Rose puts it back on the hook, she’s inundated with calls from Joel, Shirley, Zelda (Matilda Szydagis) and the Gordon Ford writers. They all want to ensure she knows she’s invited to the show. That spurs Rose into action.
Later, the Weissmans encounter a roadblock while en route to the studio. There’s a massive traffic jam, and they’re running the risk of being late. They spot a horde of taxicabs in said jam, weaving their way between the cars and asking if the drivers will give them a lift to their destination. However, the taxi drivers all claim it’s time for the shift change, so no dice. Finally, after nearly sacrificing a wedding ring and arithmetic lessons, the Weissmans flag down a bus to take them to the studio.
Meanwhile, Midge learns from Gordon that there’s been a misunderstanding: she won’t be on the show as a performer. Gordon’s inviting her on as a writer. He plans to interview her as part of a human interest piece. Admittedly, the way he offered her initially sounded like she was performing, especially given how they’ve been butting heads over it all season. Methinks homeboy changed his mind because of his inflated ego. Susie tries to talk Gordon out of his decision. Then, Susie finds the next best person to annoy — Mike. I love the horror movie vibes in this next scene, how the camera zooms in on Mike’s face. Side note: does Susie incessantly calling out Mike’s name feel like a nod to the “mom, momma, mommy” scene in Family Guy?
Susie explains to Mike what Gordon did, and he’s on the case. Gordon urges Mike not to get involved, but as the producer, Mike should know what’s going on. Rose and Abe arrive on time, and they sit behind Shirley. Joel and Archie are sitting across from them. As the shoe begins, Midge hears that she’s being introduced as a writer for the show. Carol Burnett (Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer) performs a musical number for the audience. Fun fact: Once Upon a Mattress was the Broadway debut of Burnett, and last week’s episode was titled “The Princess and the Plea.” Once Upon a Mattress is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Princess and the Pea.
Anyway, Kritzer does an absolutely spot-on impression of Burnett. Afterward, Midge is led to the stage for her interview with Gordon. She sits on a stool in front of the studio audience. Rose and Abe wave at her in excitement. Gordon asks her some BS questions. When she starts making him look “bad” by being her naturally witty self, he cuts to commercial. However, they don’t have a commercial lined up. Mike asks Gordon what he plans to do with four minutes of empty airtime. The host claims he’ll merely vamp to fill the time.
Joel confronts Susie, asking why Midge isn’t performing. Midge chats with her parents, who support her wholeheartedly. You can feel the pride radiating off them. Imogene (Bailey De Young) finally arrives, taking her place beside Archie. This is the first time we’ve seen her in person all season. Before returning to the stool, where Gordon plans to ask her more questions, Midge pulls Susie aside. She has an idea, one that could potentially tank their careers. Midge will take control of the microphone in the middle of the sound stage and perform her set. Susie reminds her that her career started with a risk.
Midge tells Gordon she was never good at following the rules. She turns to the crowd and informs them that she’s not a writer but a comic. As she gets up to perform, Gordon grabs her arm. Thankfully, he doesn’t stop her. Midge brings down the house with her set. Even Gordon laughs his way through it despite his initial anger. The lines about taking chances profoundly resonate with me. It reminds me I must cast aside my fear and go for what I want, like Midge. After her set, she receives thunderous applause. Alfie (Gideon Glick) inexplicably materializes next to Susie. He might actually have magic.
Gordon invites her to sit down for a legitimate interview as a stand-up comic. He references Midge by the title of the show: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Then, he expresses his hope that she’ll perform on his show again in the future. He covers his mic and tells her she’s fired while winking.
Next, we flash back six months earlier. Midge is at a Chinese restaurant with Lenny. This is on the night they escaped The Wolford and had sex. Lenny is tutoring Midge in the art of the signature. He urges her to make sure her signature is illegible. He also instructs her on how to ignore people she knows. He reads the fortune in her fortune cookie, inserting some friendly flirtation in there while stating what we all know — Midge will be famous. If you recall, Midge held onto that fortune from her night with Lenny. She looks at it fondly before going on The Gordon Ford Show and slips it into her dress. God, Brosnahan’s chemistry with Kirby is electrifying.
Now, we fast forward 44 years to 2005. Midge sits with her team while they inform her about her touring schedule. She’s still going hard after all these years. One of her assistants shows her how to text on a flip phone. Oh, those were the days. Midge refuses to learn. Later that evening, she changes clothes. We see her move through her lavish home. She gazes lovingly at a framed photo of her and Joel from their wedding. She faces it outward. Then, she sits alone in her kitchen and eats.
Next, Midge arrives in her living room and picks up the phone. Looking at the wall behind her, you’ll find newspaper clippings and photos chronicling her career. The one clipping looks to feature Midge and Carol Burnett (a nice nod to her Gordon Ford performance). There’s also artwork of her wearing the black dress she donned in the Season 1 finale when she performed at The Gaslight. Midge calls Susie, who lives somewhere tropical with her many birds. She’s in retirement mode.
They pop in a VHS tape of Jeopardy!, which they watch together despite being in different time zones. Our besties make jokes and giggle like school girls. They talk about reincarnation and goatees. The episode ends with them laughing their asses off, which feels fitting. My heart. Be sure to watch the credits, which feature familiar locations from the entire show. Fun fact: Tegan and Sara perform a cover of “Girls Talk” in the credits, while the original is featured in the end credits of the pilot episode. Full circle, folks.
“Four Minutes” boasts show-best performances from Alex Borstein, Rachel Brosnahan and a hard-hitting guest turn from Luke Kirby. I’m glad we didn’t see Lenny’s death onscreen, but the series hinting at where he’s headed is heartbreaking. That’s more powerful narratively than “killing him off” on the show. I’m curious about those final moments. I’m assuming Joel passed away before 2005 — possibly late ’90s or early 2000s — which would explain Midge’s expression and her moment with their wedding photo. We know her parents probably passed in the ’80s, while the Maisels most likely did as well.
This outing is as bitingly funny, exuberant and deeply poignant as you’d expect from Maisel. Amy Sherman-Palladino strikes a nice balance tonally here. I’m going to miss this show so much. Thank the comedy gods; I can rewatch it as many times as I want.
I might whip up a farewell piece at some point. But for now, I love you, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Season 5 took me a few watches to really enjoy (thank you, screeners). The flash-forwards are a massive creative swing that pays off in spades. Reid Scott and Jason Ralph are wonderful additions to the cast as Gordon and Mike. Watching Midge get her big break is a delight.
Thank you, Mrs. Maisel, and goodnight.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Seasons 1-5 are now streaming on Prime Video.