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The Ending Of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Explained

It's time to don a vintage dress and step into the spotlight as the final season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" hits Amazon Prime. Season 5 of the period dramedy wraps up the story of Miriam "Midge" Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a Jewish woman living in the upper crust of New York society who finds her true passion in stand-up comedy.

During a time when misogyny rules America in every aspect, including the home lives and professions of women, Midge Maisel breaks the mold by pursuing a career as a comedienne who speaks her mind and shares her personal experiences. She's joined by her manager and friend Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) as the two navigate the treacherous waters of a male-dominated industry.

Season 5 of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" finally has Midge catching her big break, as she begins working for late-night TV host Gordon Ford (Reid Scott). The show also gives glimpses into Miriam's future and her road to stardom, although she does suffer some pitfalls along the way. So what happens at the end of the series, and how does the show wrap everything up in a neat pink bow? Let's dive in.

What you need to remember about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Let's go back and take a quick look at what happened in the first four seasons of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." The series begins in the year 1958, with housewife and mother Miriam Maisel living a glamorous life in New York City. Midge's seemingly perfect life is turned upside-down when her husband, Joel, leaves her for his secretary. In an alcohol-induced rant on stage at the Gaslight Cafe, Midge gets the attention of Susie Myerson, who encourages her to pursue a career in stand-up. There's resistance at the clubs and with her family, who can't fathom a "lady comic" having a real career. Yet between Midge's gumption and Susie's persistence, they get further than they ever imagined. After impressing the right people during a TV telethon, Miriam is offered a gig to go on tour with Motown singer Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain) in Season 3. Unfortunately, she ends up getting the axe thanks to a slip of the tongue on stage about Shy's personal life.

There's a long struggle before Midge finally gets another huge opportunity, working as a writer on "The Gordon Ford Show" in Season 5. She and Susie are hoping that the job will lead to a stand-up spot on Gordon's show. Unfortunately, he has a strict rule against staff members being featured on camera. Meanwhile, Susie has made a name for herself in the biz, bringing on more clients than ever. Things get tense, however, when nice-guy mob brothers Frank (Eric Palladino) and Nicky (John Scurti) start getting more involved in Susie's dealings and expect big favors in return. With working for Gordon Ford, honing her comedy act, and trying to keep her neurotically-inclined family together, Midge has her hands full in the show's final season.

What happened at the end of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Although Miriam finds her place in the writer's room at "The Gordon Ford Show," she still has a long way to go. After all, as she reiterates several times in Season 5, she's a comic, not a writer. When she finds out that Gordon's wife Hedy (Nina Arienda) was friends with Susie in college, she pleads with Susie to call in a favor. Little does she realize that Susie and Hedy were once more than just friends. However, Susie swallows her pride and her heartbreak to ask Hedy for her help, and Hedy agrees to talk to her husband.

Begrudgingly, Gordon agrees to put Midge in front of the camera. Unfortunately, her moment in the spotlight isn't what she thinks. Instead of performing stand-up, Gordon plans to interview Miriam as a writer. At first, Miriam tries to suck it up, but her drive and stubbornness lead to her taking a huge risk. As the show goes live, Midge candidly announces on camera that she is actually a stand-up comedian, and she claims the mic despite Gordon's insistence on keeping her from it. Of course, her act blows everyone away, including Gordon, who invites her to a seat on the couch before whispering that she's fired, followed by a wink.

The final episode of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" wraps up in the year 2005, with an older Midge enjoying a life of luxury after decades of a successful stand-up career. She calls her longtime friend and former manager, Susie, who also appears to be doing well for herself, enjoying retirement in Hawaii. While on speaker phone, the two women settle back and enjoy a recorded episode of "Jeopardy" together, sharing wisecracks and belly laughs before the end credits roll for the last time.

Miriam's rise to fame

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" Season 5, Episode 2 ("It's a Man, Man, Man, Man World") begins with the iconic opening from the popular news show, "60 Minutes." The fictional episode is a looking-back piece on Miriam Maisel's legendary career. With the magic of makeup and prosthetics, Midge looks to have aged by about 20 years. She banters with the show's host, and treats the camera to an exclusive look at her wardrobe, which is being auctioned off for charity. Old photos show her hobnobbing with the likes of Andy Warhol, Carol Burnett, and Sammy Davis, Jr., as well as clips of her performing with Bob Hope at one of his USO shows (via special effects). They also bring up Midge's dating life, and her failed relationships with celebrities Paul Simon, Robert Evans, and Quincy Jones.

Like her good friend Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), it seems that Midge also had her share of public controversy. Stock photos and audio from a live Carnegie Hall performance in 1971 have the famous comedian cursing out the audience and being escorted off stage by police officers. There are also hints of Miriam and Susie's fallout, with a piece in Variety mentioned in which Susie apparently had a few choice words about her former client. Despite her hardships, Miriam has fought long and hard to achieve success as a stand-up comedian, and the show's final season confirms that she continued doing that and more.

Joel's sacrifice

One of the many things that "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" does well is portray a divorced couple who aren't constantly at each other's throats. Joel's unwavering support for Miriam and her dream of making it big has us rooting for him throughout the series. That being said, it's quite a shock to see an older Joel in prison in the show's final season. 

Joel discovers Susie's shady dealings with brothers Nicky and Frank, and he's not happy about it one bit. He approaches the mobsters and offers up The Button Club as a front for their business. In exchange, the brothers have to wipe the slate clean for Susie and Miriam. Unfortunately, though his actions are well-intentioned, Joel's involvement with Frank and Nicky winds up with him behind bars.

Joel is arrested by the FBI –- in front of his family in Temple, no less. He also takes full responsibility for the charges, making certain that he alone would see jail time. Midge visits Joel in prison, and they seem to be as close as ever. The series doesn't give any details as to how long Joel serves his sentence, but we're willing to bet that he gets time shaved off for good behavior — and good lawyers.

Susie hits the big time

There is no one quite like Susie Myerson. The tough-as-nails talent manager worked her way to being one of the most famous managers in show business. Season 5 of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" gives a showcase of Susie's career via Episode 5, "The Testi-Roastial." It's the year 1990, and several show-biz elites gather together at the infamous Friar's Club to pay Susie respect as well as dish out some playful razzing. They tell a story about how Susie landed a "triple crown" by convincing backers to invest in three big-time projects all in the same day, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar" and William Friedkin's "The French Connection."

There are scenes throughout the final season that give us hints about Susie's future success, as well as some of her most famous clients. Her roster includes Eartha Kitt, Phyllis Diller, George Carlin, Liza Minelli, and Barbra Streisand. It was established early on in the series that Susie knows how to spot talent and will go to the ends of the Earth for her clients. In the end, her perseverance and unflinching loyalty made her an industry legend. She certainly has come a long way from carrying around that plunger!

Abe and Rose finally learn to accept and to rejoice in their daughter's success

Midge's parents, Abe and Rose Weissmann (played brilliantly by actors Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle, respectively) have only ever wanted the best for their daughter. But while their intentions may have been good, they've often failed to understand her choices. After Miriam announces to her family that she's pursuing a career in stand-up, they are none too pleased with her decision. It isn't until closer to the end of the series that Abe and Rose finally begin to see just how talented their daughter is and to be happy for her success.

In the Season 5 episode "The Princess and the Plea," Abe gives a heart-wrenching speech about his regret for neglecting Miriam's potential even when she was a child. He confesses that he'd been so focused on his son, Noah (Will Brill), and since he assumed that his daughter would have a traditional life as a wife and mother, he realized that he had never really known Miriam at all. When Miriam finally gets her big debut on "The Gordon Ford Show," Rose and Abe rush over to the studio to see their daughter perform and show their support from the audience. Both Abe and Rose evolve into proud parents by the end of the series.

Lenny hits rock bottom

Some fans of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" may not realize that the character of Lenny Bruce (played by Luke Kirby) is based on a legendary real-life comedian. Although the version of Lenny Bruce on the show is fictionalized, he does share several things in common with the real Lenny Bruce, including his very controversial stand-up routines. The real Bruce was also arrested on a number of occasions for obscenity and was blacklisted from clubs all over the U.S.

When we see Lenny again in the final season, he's in a sad state. Performing on stage in San Francisco, Lenny has been blackballed in the eastern United States. His act has been reduced to him reading from police reports of his arrests and giving accounts of his time in court. He then performs an awkward dance on stage, leading members of the audience to walk out.

At the end of the bombed performance, we see Susie watching Lenny from the audience with a pained expression. She speaks to him backstage afterward and tries to convince him to let her be his manager, but he refuses. Susie then meets with Midge behind the club to tell her the bad news, but promises to try again in the future. This is where Lenny's story ends in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," though the true story is even sadder. In 1966, Bruce was found dead of a morphine overdose in his home in Hollywood Hills.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The problems of having a mother in show business

Miriam and Joel have two children, Ethan and Esther, who appear periodically throughout the series. The divorced parents share custody of their children, although their grandparents, Abe and Rose, also help raise them. Midge's career has her so preoccupied that she even pokes fun at herself for neglecting her kids, pretending to forget their names during her routine on "The Gordon Ford Show."

Sadly, there is some truth to Midge's words. In Season 5 of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," we see what happens to Ethan and Esther as adults. A grown-up Esther (Alexandra Socha), appearing to be in her early 20s, is in therapy. In 1984, Ethan is doing missionary work in Israel on the path to becoming a rabbi. He gets engaged to a woman named Chava (Yael Chanukov) whom he meets there, and the two are later seen in the episode "The Testi-Roastial" with their baby.

Miriam has a big personality and an undeniable presence, which is all part of her charm. Still, it's understandable that her children would feel overshadowed by her. When adult Esther is interviewed by "60 Minutes," it's clear that everything — from her dress to her scripted response — has been carefully chosen for the camera. Esther complains about her mother to her therapist, blaming her for the majority of her issues. Ethan is embarrassed by Miriam's actions when a private helicopter brings her to the middle of a crop field in Israel to visit him. While Miriam clearly loves her children, there's no denying the effect that her fame has had on their upbringing.

Midge and Susie's falling out

Of all the relationships that Midge has had throughout the series, the best one is inarguably her friendship and partnership with Susie Myerson. This unlikely pair have stuck together through thick and thin, good and bad, roach motels and Vegas suites. Wherever Miriam goes, Susie is there right behind her giving her encouragement and advice.

It isn't all wine and roses for the two women, however, as we learn in the final season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." When Joel is arrested, he leaves a note for Miriam that explains everything. Midge learns about Susie's gambling issues, as well as her ties to the mob. When she confronts her manager, Susie confesses everything but insists that she did it all for Midge to further her career. This causes a rift between them, ending both their relationship and their partnership for many years.

In "The Testi-Roastial," the comedians running the show are warned not to mention Miriam Maisel's name, which is a sore spot for the famous talent manager. However, Midge makes a surprise appearance at the Friar's Club in the form of a video recording. She recalls the good times they had together, and gives Susie credit for making her a star. The video brings Susie to tears, and creates a bridge that allows the two to bury the hatchet and rekindle their friendship.

Sometimes love just isn't enough

The relationship between Miriam and Joel Maisel is complicated, to say the least. At the start of the series, Joel's affair with his secretary causes Midge to have a mental breakdown, but it also inspires the start of her love for stand-up. In fact, Miriam adapts quite well to life without Joel and comes out all the stronger. At first, Joel is horrified that his ex-wife mentions his infidelity in her act, but in time, he comes to terms with it. The two even remain close friends, with Joel supporting her efforts in her comedy career.

The two have moments throughout the series where it's clear that they still have feelings for one another. On a few occasions, they almost get back together, but their divorce finally goes through and they start seeing other people. Still, the chemistry between them is magnetic as they are constantly pulled back together. In the end, Joel's affection for Miriam leads to him making the ultimate sacrifice to keep her safe, even when they are no longer romantically linked. As for Miriam, she goes on to have a string of love affairs with many celebrity men, though none of them ever stick.

So why didn't Joel and Miriam end up together at the end of the series (other than the fact that Joel is behind bars for a very long time)? It could be because they have chosen very different lifepaths, or that they were simply better as friends. Still, we can't help but look at these two with a lot of fondness and hope.

Midge gets everything she wants, but loses in the process

The final moments of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" take place in 2005 in Midge's New York City home. The luxurious penthouse is extravagant and huge, and Miriam clearly paid top dollar for the best in home décor. There's a long staircase, a grand piano, chandeliers on the ceilings, and high-end artwork of various types.

The thing that stands out, even above Midge's lavish surroundings, is how empty the place feels. Although a large dining room table has been set up with fine dishes and several seats, Miriam instead eats a meal alone in the kitchen with the staff cleaning up behind her. She walks through the house looking at various photographs of her family and friends, yet it appears that there is no one living with her.

There's an alluded sadness to Miriam's loneliness despite all of her success. She worked hard and long to earn her fame and fortune, but in the end, she has no one to share her life with. While in a work meeting, Miriam insists on filling up her weekly schedule without taking time to rest. It makes sense that she would want to keep herself busy rather than spend time alone in a big empty house. 

What has the cast said about the ending of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and its future?

With the final season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" coming to a close, stars Alex Borstein and Rachel Brosnahan have a lot to say about the series and beloved characters. Saying farewell to almost six years of love and laughter is a tough thing to do, but both actors have stated that they feel happy with how everything turned out.

Borstein and Brosnahan sat down to talk about the show's fifth season and the evolution of their characters. "You get to see them join forces and be stronger than they've ever been," Brosnahan told Extra. "Their journey hasn't been a linear one. They have great successes and they've failed together."

"When you have something that's this high quality, [you could] live with this forever," gushed Borstein. "I could live with Susie for a long, long time. But I think it's going to be a very satisfying end to our journey."

When asked about the possibility of a spin-off movie or sequel series, Borstein said she would do it "in a heartbeat." Of course, no word from Amazon or anyone else has claimed anything officially, but we'll keep our fingers crossed.