Amazon’s comedy juggernaut, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, isn’t just about Midge Maisel projecting her life through a microphone on stage. Her manager, Susie Myerson, is going through a transformation of her own, and she gets her biggest tests in this fourth season. As Midge tries to find the next avenue to pursue, Susie is laser-focused on expanding Susie Myerson and Associates into the future. Alex Borstein makes it look so easy, and she is deserving of a third Emmy.
Once the dust settles after the Shy Baldwin fiasco, Midge is determined to only do headlining gigs. She lays this demand at Susie’s feet, and then she suggests that they need to change showbusiness entirely in order for this plan to work. Borstein reminded me that while Susie is amazing at cultivating talent, she also needs guidance since she is still navigating the ins and outs.
“Susie doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing–we have to remember that. She is definitely making it up as she goes along, but she has the ability to recognize talent. Curating talent at the Gaslight is one thing, but she doesn’t know what she’s going to do next. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. A manager is someone who you hire to carve our a long-term career. To make better choices than you would make yourself as an artist. As an artist, you are reacting out of fear because you want to create. A manager is supposed to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa…this is where you want to go. Yes, it will feel good in the interim, but it’s not the direction you want to go in.’ It’s like going out with a jerk when your goal is to find someone to marry. That’s really the job of a manager. In some ways, Midge asking this ridiculous thing might have been a really good set of brakes for Susie. Is opening for Tony Bennett right for Midge? Is that the best audience? Maybe Susie wasn’t thinking big enough? It might have been the best call to help Susie as well even though Susie doesn’t have the money or family to fall back on.”
Much like Rose’s new matchmaking business, Borstein views managing a client as a romantic venture. “It is a bit like a matchmaking gig,” she said. “It’s not about money but about finding the right person. You sometimes wants to say, ‘Fuck! You’re going to die alone!'”
How Susie kept it together on the cab ride back to the city, I’ll never know. Borstein did remind me that Midge and Susie, like most relationships, allow one another to have their explosive moments and the other is there to receive and listen. If Susie and Midge were freaking out at the same time, your television would fall off the wall.
“In any relationship, you role reversal at the drop of a hat. When someone is losing their mind like she is, the other person is, for some reason, way more calm. And then it switches. Maybe they will have road rage later. I think that happens in families and in relationships. If someone is already freaking out, you instinctively go the other way. What good would it have done if Susie put her fist through the glass of that cab–which is what she wanted to. There is a very maternal feeling that she feels with Midge. She is pulling in these children with Alfie and James. Midge is her first-born, and she feels a responsibility to fix this.”
In previous seasons, Susie would carefully watch Midge on stage and provide notes on how to improve the rhythm or take not as to how the crowd responded to a new joke. At the Wolford, Midge is in training, and Susie knows that her client needs time on stage to keep her motivated and sharp. Midge has battled misogyny at almost every bar or club she’s worked for, but the Wolford affords her the chance to only work on her act. With mostly women backstage, she can focus on the words.
“Susie wanted to see Midge on stage with a flashier place. This is a workout and not playing the big game. Susie sees greater things, but she sees the value of it. If you think about it, Midge hasn’t actually had that much time on stage. She will find herself the more she performs, and the more in command of the audience Midge will be. Susie does have a love-hate relationship with the Wolford. The world of comedy was designed by and for men. You sit in the wings or at the bar and have drinks before it’s your chance to perform. Midge, in some way, found a safe place for women at the Wolford, and she’s not dealing with leering eyes. Other male comics tend to make her feel small or cut her down, but she can hone in on her confidence since she doesn’t have to worry about that. Midge has created an all-female gym to make herself strong for the big bout.”
Midge has always had a curiosity into Susie’s personal life, but she takes it one step too far in season four. Midge assumes that Susie is a lesbian, because she never talks about men (“I just said ‘Eat me!’ really loud!”). We tend to assume that any form of entertainment needs to address prominent social issues through the lens of the time period we are currently living, but that’s not true. Season four The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a pseudo-time capsule of the early 1960s, and Susie is more offended that Midge has the gall to stick her nose in another person’s business. It’s one of the best scenes Midge and Susie share in season four, and it reminds us that we know too much about everyone’s business.
“It’s interesting to see people having 2022 reactions to this show set in the early 1960s. It’s such a different time. People didn’t have therapists that they can go to if they have a question about their mental health, and kids can select their pronouns. We know have the luxury of finding out who we are and expressing it at a very early age. Susie didn’t have that, and she doesn’t want to talk about it. Look at the relationship between Midge and Imogene–they don’t talk about sex. The audacity that Midge has to poke her nose in, and it speaks volumes of her privilege and how she hasn’t had to worry about a lot of things in her life. I find it refreshing, and I love how Amy made Midge our audience. So many journalists and audience members ask that, and I think Susie’s answer is Amy’s answer. That was such fun to have a window that Midge was trying to open but Susie has glued it shut.”
You cannot talk about Susie Myerson’s trajectory without discussing Borstein’s powerful eulogy to Jackie in episode three, ‘Everything is Bellmore.’ Actor Brian Tarantina passed in 2019, and the show writes his death into this new season. Susie finds out that she had a close friend in Jackie, but it’s how Borstein slides into tragedy and aggressive comedy in that scene that makes the entire season. It’s raw, honest, and beautifully performed.
“I was so terrified, and it’s so well-written. My fear of failing Amy was there, and it was a time that I lost a dear friend and Amy knew that. Brian and I knew each other from Gilmore Girls, but I didn’t really know him then. A lot of that rang true for Amy’s piece with this loss of my friend and my grandmother, too. This feeling of being invisible in this world. With COVID, we were losing hundreds of thousands of people, and it didn’t feel like it mattered. Like we were numb from loss. It was so hard to do that scene. I begged Amy to let me use a teleprompter, and she looked at me like I was crazy. You couldn’t have used it for that scene. I told myself that if I could deliver that scene that I could have McDonald’s that day. That was my prize. We shot the first half when Susie leaves the space, and when we picked up with all of those extras in the other room. It was so scary with all of those eyes on me. And I kind of forgot what acting was, because I had to do it about ten more times. But I did it. I got my McDonald’s.”
Since Midge has placed such harsh restrictions on her own performance schedule, Susie can only find a headlining gig in Prague for a show titled, ‘Making Laugh, Showing Teeth.’ How would Borstein fare at such an internationally prestige event?
“The current comedy show I am working on right now and shooting in July relies a lot on the musical number. Music transcends language, so I’d say that. The rhythm of comedy is pretty international. It runs through everyone’s blood.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is streaming now on Amazon