The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns for its third season on Amazon Prime this Friday with Midge taking her act on the road.
It's a pretty big change for the series that has managed to remain grounded in Midge's chaotic home life despite her seemingly crazy decision to pursue a life of stand-up comedy.
Instead of juggling her family with her burgeoning career, Midge will now take center stage in all areas of her life.
With only two seasons behind us and the title of the show focusing squarely on Mrs. Maisel, it's always been a fairly easy juggling act with the large and admirable cast.
When Midge and her faithful manager Susie separate from what has become a winning ensemble, the transition isn't as smooth as they anticipated, but it's still utterly charming for viewers.
Rachel Brosnahan continues to shine as Miriam "Midge" Maisel, and she does an excellent job shifting Midge from a woman torn between her home life and her career aspirations to a woman who embraces the enormity of the opportunity she's pretty much stumbled into on the back of her husband's dream.
After a short detour in the Catskills and after severing the ties with her fiance, Benjamin, Midge arranges for the care of her children in her absence with great care, but once she's gone, looking back doesn't derail her from chasing her dream.
That doesn't mean that her sudden rise to the opening act of a traveling show is without its challenges, though. The more obstacles that get thrown into Midge's way, the more she thrives. With Susie at her side, it seems the two can conquer anything, even as their growing association hits a few speedbumps.
Brosnahan's ability to validate the difficulties comedians face when trying to rule a room gets heightened as Midge takes to a larger stage. Midge often looks a lot less flustered than she is, and she turns to what she left behind to calm her nerves when they threaten to get the better of her.
Once a wife and mother, always a wife and mother? Well, not exactly, but Midge uses what she knows best to connect with her new traveling ensemble and to get her mind back on track.
As her world moves beyond the typical housewife and mother, though, it leaves her larger family generally fending for themselves in her wake, and without her, their arcs aren't as clear.
At the end of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2, Midge and Joel rekindled the waning flames of their marriage. We never knew them to be happily married (pre-affairs and whatnot), so getting to know them as individuals and again as a couple provided a lot of context for what made their marriage work in the first place.
Now, Joel is getting a crash course in fatherhood on a different level as he becomes the sole caregiver for the children while also trying to grab some satisfaction for himself by opening a club.
Opening a nightclub is a natural progression for Joel, especially after his comedic failure and Midge's roaring success chasing his dream.
It's always seemed as if Michael Zegen enjoyed exploring Joel's life away from his family and the business he's set to inherit, and the new season is no exception.
Through the first five episodes sent to critics for review, Joel is still supportive of his wife in ways few husbands of the era ever were, and he doesn't show a sign of weakening resolve that could come with as much as he has on his plate.
Joel out of his suit and tackling little unexpected adventures suits Zegan, and it's almost hard to remember that Joel once stepped out on the beloved Midge.
He's also sharing caregiving duties with his parents and in-laws, though, which gives him a lot of time to explore.
After a bit of an existential crisis at the end of the last season, Abe and Rose Weissman are undergoing a lot of stressful changes in their lives, and they're not exactly handling it with aplomb.
Tony Shaloub and Marin Hinkle have been divine in the roles, but their latest endeavors have them practically clawing at the walls to make their stories resonate. It's funny. Watching the series evokes all kinds of loving feelings, but when you begin to break down the characters, they can be less than pleasant.
The Weissmans need to find a path in the second half of the season that offers them and the audience some fulfillment and Shaloub and Hinkle something a little more joyful to play with.
The same can be said for Kevin Pollack and Caroline Aaron as Moishe and Shirley Maisel. A string of good fortune somehow makes them even more insufferable as a result.
None of that is to say that the actors aren't entirely engaged, though. It's their dogged commitment to their characters' eccentricities that elicits reactions in the first place. Altogether, their scenes prove why in-laws get such a bad rap!
But the fight to keep their stories interesting will probably only increase as Midge, and even Joel in her absence stray farther from their parents' purview.
Not surprisingly, it's Susie who bridges the divide between the road and New York as she attempts to grow her business after Midge's success.
Alex Borstein is at the top of her game running Susie through the paces as she keeps Midge on the straight and narrow on the road.
As you can probably guess, leaving New York City and its boroughs wasn't something Susie often did if ever, and Borstein ensures that every new circumstance Susie encounters is utterly delightful.
More than ever before, the relationship between Midge and Susie get put through the paces. Being on the road is hard, and the women have plenty of time to unwrap what it means to be both in a business relationship and become friends.
The farther away they are from their comfort zones, the more they need to rely on one another and trust that they have each other's backs. For Midge, that means she has to have faith that Susie can explore other talent while still fully supporting Midge and her career.
On Susie's part, she gains self-esteem and learns to enjoy the unexpected with Midge's help. There is a scene in which Midge helps Susie learn to swim that is not only a lot of fun but speaks to the strengthening of their bond.
Since Midge is on the road opening for Shy Baldwin, it's surprising how little Leroy McClain has to do throughout the first five episodes. He's almost entirely on the sidelines acting like a celebrity or singing on stage.
Sterling K. Brown gets introduced through Shy, and his limited engagement gets a meatier arc than McClain.
Now, I understand Brown's appeal, and his award-winning status adds a fun layer to an already appealing cast, but I hope that as the season progresses, we get to know more about what makes Shy Baldwin such a smashing success.
There is a line from Susie, "We are the whitest people in the world," that seems to address the lack of integration within the storyline, but then again, does any opening act ever truly get close with the star performer?
And if you're as much of a fan of Luke Kirby's portrayal of Lenny Bruce as I am, then you'll be happy to know that he's still a part of the ensemble and making the most of his scenes.
Fast-paced and witty dialogue provided by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino manages to escape Kirby as he saunters into and out of scenes almost as if he's an entirely different production, but with every entrance and exit he adds a lot to the realism of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
At one point while watching, I found myself wondering what year it was not because I cared for any particular reason other than concern over Bruce's inevitable passing in 1966.
Lenny's scenes offer a unique spark, obviously because of the real man behind the character, but also because of Kirby's attention to keeping the character on a slightly different level than all of the others.
Another fun addition to the cast is Liza Weil as a member of Shy Baldwin's traveling band. Weil is almost unrecognizable in her mid-century getup, and that makes her appearance all the more appealing.
There isn't a hint of Paris Geller nor Bonnie Winterbottom in Carole Keen, and Carole's presence offers for Midge a new avenue to explore her girly side, especially since it's not an easy task with Susie.
Still, I'm not sure that the schtick that Susie is a man can run for much longer than it has already, and it does continue well into the third season. Her ambivalent sexuality remains with, but a few sneeze-and-you-miss-it references.
As for the writing this season, the creative split between the Palladinos by episodes feels a little more jarring than it did previously. I found myself paying closer attention to the credits as they rolled than I have in the past trying to discern what was driving me to do it.
They're all very well done, but the tone can vary widely from episode to episode. It's an interesting point of conversation.
The set design continues to stun, and their vision of Las Vegas and Miami are decadent and scrumptious. The use of color and lighting has been breathtaking as we've explored the indoors scenes of New York and the outdoors scenery of the Catskills, and now the indoors and outdoors scenery of Las Vegas and Miami are equally as thrilling.
Altogether, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel remains one of the most satisfying and entertaining series in this gluttonous streaming era of television. The cast is superb and even their more annoying storylines are buffered by the talent to get under your skin.
Do yourself a favor, and tune in when The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 3 premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, December 6.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.