‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Season 5 Episode 7 Review: Lame Horses Abound

May 12, 2023

Before The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s final season decided to use haphazard flashforwards to fill in the blanks for the future, rather than focusing on the present, the series had—on rare occasions—used flashbacks to help piece things together. Most of these flashbacks focused on the early days of Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and Joel’s (Michael Zegen) relationship, complete with her bottle-blonde days and proposals. These flashbacks were never as jarring as the time jumps and they always felt connected to the larger themes playing out in each episode. The flashforwards in Season 5 simply fail to deliver that sort of cohesive story and are a hindrance to what is otherwise a fun season.

With only three episodes remaining in the series, Episode 7 feels like a lame horse limping towards the finish line, which is funny considering the title is quite literally “A House Full of Extremely Lame Horses.” In reality, the episode title is supposed to connect to a subplot playing out throughout the episode, which basically plays into this idea that Midge and Joel’s kids are lame. With Zelda out of the picture (sort of) and Midge occupied with work at The Gordon Ford Show, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) finds himself becoming more involved in the lives of his grandchildren Ethan (Colin Keane) and Esther (Ireland and Sedona Carvajal).

Towards the top of the episode, during a parent-teacher meeting at Ethan’s school, Abe learns that Ethan isn’t very bright—but he is happy. Which is unacceptable. Naturally, this sends Abe spiraling out of control, because he firmly believes that every firstborn Weissman is a genius. Of course, Ethan is a Maisel, not a Weissman… and we’ve all met Joel’s parents. This subplot does allow for a brief flashback to an interaction that Abe and Joel had before he and Midge got married. In 1953, Abe laid out a set of rules for Joel to ensure that their firstborn son would be a genius, like every single Weissman that came before him, but one of these rules includes dissuading Joel from speaking to his son until he’s at least six years old, which—given the rare moments that Joel actually parents his kids—wasn’t a rule he followed.

Image via Prime Video

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The real point of this subplot is that while Abe is hyperfocused on the fact that Ethan is happy, instead of being smart, he completely overlooks the fact that his other grandchild may have the aptitude he’s hoping for in the continuation of the Weissman line. In fact, that’s the whole joke in the midst of this arc. Ethan won’t amount to anything because he’s happy, and we already know that because we’ve seen him live a peaceful life as a lettuce farmer, while Esther is clearly troubled and talented—if her mommy issues therapy session is any indicator. Essentially, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is trying to say that emotionally troubled folks are hidden geniuses, while happy people are just simple. I certainly can’t imagine how having Midge and Joel as parents and the Weissmans and Maisels as grandparents could’ve played a part in this nature vs. nurture scenario.

That may seem like a lot of focus on this seemingly minor subplot, but that’s because once again Prime Video has ever-so-kindly asked for certain plot points to be withheld from reviews. Unfortunately, those plot points make up a large part of the episode. In broad strokes, Midge’s plotline once again relies on the fact that she’s a woman in a man’s world. Every time she is given an opportunity to get ahead, some man wrecks her plans. In this case, thanks to Susie’s (Alex Borstein) constant glad-handing, she finds an unlikely ally in Mike (Jason Ralph), but that goodwill can only go so far. Especially when she has Gordon Ford (Reid Scott) taking a little too much ownership over Midge and squashing her potential due to his own tiny ego. Of course, with the flashforwards that have been spread across the previous six episodes—we know she eventually makes it. The flashforwards show rather than tell, which is a big cardinal rule in the storytelling realm. There’s no emotional investment in her struggle, now that we know she becomes a mega-star who is still pining for her incarcerated cheating ex-husband.

There is a bit towards the very end of the episode that does connect neatly to the flashforwards that eat into the episode’s runtime. After another devastating blow to Midge’s dreams of moving her career forward, she comes home to her mother (Marin Hinkle) fussing over the fact that no one cares about her matchmaking business, least of all Midge. It’s a great little line that should have been given more time to develop across the season, rather than relegating proof of Midge’s devotion to her mother to a flashforward.

Image via Prime Video 

Somewhere in the haze of all of these loosely connected plots, the Zelda (Matilda Szydagis) story continues to play out. The Weissmans are unable to function without Zelda in their lives and, much to the chagrin of her new husband Janusz (Alexander Gemignani) she just can’t quit showing up to save the day. It’s a running theme throughout the episode, and while it’s clearly meant to be played for laughs—it just makes the Weissmans seem like absolute “lame horses.” It also seems very inconsistent with past plot lines (particularly when Rose ran away to Paris) that Rose is completely incapable of figuring out how to turn on a stove, or simply read the book that Zelda left for them to use to figure things out. Hopefully, they pay this off in the remaining episodes, but it seems unlikely.

In addition to the flashforwards, Amy Sherman-Palladino seems intent on concocting irrelevant musicals and half-hearted in-world television episodes to eat into the fleeting time audiences have left with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The trashy musical a few episodes back was fun enough, but it went on far too long and felt very self-aggrandizing, and once again Episode 7 finds something new to waste time with. Sutton Foster, like a number of other beloved musical theater stars, is a favorite collaborator of Sherman-Palladino’s, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise to see her pop up at the top of the episode in Shirley (​​Caroline Aaron) and Moishe’s (Kevin Pollak) favorite black-and-white sitcom. It’s a fun little scene that introduces Danny Stevens (Hank Azaria) into the story (since he appears on The Gordon Ford Show later on) but then the “episode” returns as the credits play at the end of Episode 7—dragging on for almost four minutes. It’s almost as though Sherman-Palladino saw WandaVision and thought “I want to try my hand at that!” and forgot about the show that she was actually making.

Perhaps if The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had invested the energy it put into the fake sitcom and the musical number into the actual show, it wouldn’t have become such a lackluster final season. In between the heavy-handed flashforwards and the repetitive story beats, there are glimmers of what made this show one of Prime Video’s best series. Midge Maisel’s star may be on the rise, but it feels like the sun has set on this series and the final episode hasn’t even played yet.

Rating: C+

The first seven episodes in the final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are streaming now on Prime Video.

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