‘Marvelous Mrs Maisel’ Explicitly Confirms That Susie Is Gay Just in Time for the Show To End

Throughout The Marvelous Mrs Maisel‘s uneven five season run of punchy, colorful, quippy feminist-lite Jewish comedy performed mainly by gentiles that I watch regardless of its vacillating quality because I am exactly that desperate for culturally Jewish content, I have found myself returning time and again to the issue of Susie Myerson and the show’s four-season refusal to explicitly acknowledge her lesbianism.

In Make Susie Gay You Cowards, written after the show’s first two seasons, I addressed the historical context of the era (namely, that despite it being the 1960s, Susie would’ve been surrounded by queer community in the West Village and also nobody in that era dressed butch unless they were prepared to be clocked as gay) and the Sherman-Palladinos’ disappointing interviews on the topic of Susie’s sexuality.

In “Marvelous Mrs Maisel” Finally Addresses Susie’s Sexuality, Sort Of, I recapped a Season Four episode in which Midge attempts to get Susie to come out to her and, just like me, fails. What was most remarkable about that episode was how expertly they danced around Susie explicitly acknowledging her queerness when simply doing the gay dance would’ve been so much easier, and made so much more sense. Still, for many, that episode was the confirmation they needed that Susie is a homosexual. Unfortunately, Alex Borstein had something else in mind, suggesting to reporters that the episode was intended to squelch the conversation around her sexuality, not start it. Borstein described Susie as a “40-year-old virgin” still unaware of her own sexuality, who is in love with Midge, but also would sleep with Lenny Bruce?

susie in a lesbian bar being mad at Midge

Episode 404: “Interesting People on Christopher Street”

But, bless us all everyone: Season Five, in addition to being notably better than Season Four (which got off to a rough f*cking start with the Midge/Shy Baldwin situation that kind of made me hate her forever), finally went for the gold with Susie’s sexuality.

In Episode 504, Susie has an unexpected reunion with the stunner who turns out to be her college girlfriend, Hedy (Nina Arianda), who is now married to Midge’s boss, Gordon Ford. Early in the episode, Gordon’s trying to get Midge to go on a date with him and reveals that his marriage is “flexible” — he and Hedy love and respect each other but they have their own lives and can do what they wish with their own desires on their own time.

Shortly thereafter, Midge has Susie on the horn and asks what she knows about Gordon’s wife, Hedy.

Midge on the phone saying "they have a weird relationship"

Like, it feels like maybe she’s a lesbian and he wants to sleep with his employees

Susie flinches at the name and insists she knows nothing, and furthermore rejects the entire concept of wives.

Later in the episode, Susie’s stalking around the set of The Gordon Ford Show when who should appear but Hedy Ford herself. Hedy is delighted to see “Susan.” Susie is horrified to see Hedy. Hedy chases her, regarding squabbles of yore, like the one they had after that party where Susie dressed up as Lady Macbeth.

Hedy chasing Susie saying there's a reason we ran into each other

I have a magical amulet in my pocket that I must deliver to you or else the entire fate of the world will hang forever in the balance

As predicted by noted Former Lacrosse Player Hedy, Susie’s unable to outrun her. They face off on a busy street.

Hedy: Wow, Susan Myerson! I can’t believe I’m talking to you it’s been—
Susie: Do not stand there and pretend this is a touching reunion.

Hedy tells Susie she looks really good. She loves the hat. She’d love to have a drink. Mrs Gordon Ford, Susie notes. That’s quite an accomplishment. It is abundantly and immediately clear that these two did not simply attend costume parties together but also scissored and presumably fell in love. In the time since, Hedy has gone forth and lived a life of abundance and nice coats while Susie perhaps decided to never have another relationship ever again. Hedy again implores Susie to consider a drinky drink together just the two of them like old times. They can sit down. Susie can ask her everything she’s wanted to ask her for the past fifteen years.

Hedy: Please let’s talk. Let me find out about you.
Susie: I’m the same. I am what I always was. You?
Hedy: Well let me –
Susie: What? explain, apologize?
Hedy: Apologize for what?
Susie: For I don’t know, making plans and promises—

Hedy says 22-year-olds can’t make plans or promises, which means she has never seen the heterosexual season of The Ultimatum, but if what Susie wants is an apology, she will deliver it. Susie insists she wants nothing from Hedy. Hedy once again remarks that it was college! Nothing mattered! I was a redhead! She adds. That was a mistake too! 

Susie and Hedy on the street

[gay sigh]

Hedy immediately realizes what she just implied and stumbles, now, insisting Susie herself was not also a mistake. But Susie’s done. She’s tearing up. She chokes out that Hedy looks good as a blonde while the dulcet tones of legendary bicon Joan Jett tears us into the credits: I hate myself for loving you.

In Episode 506, “The Testi-Rosial,” Midge is doing stand-up in a 1985 flash-forward and is telling the audience about her friendship breakup with a woman who is obviously Susie. (The mob-related Joel-related cause of their fallout is revealed later in the episode.) Midge quips that it was just like a marriage: “it started with a contract, it ended with a lawsuit, and we never had sex.” She jokes: “Except once, there really isn’t much to do in Pennsacola.”

"We always fought over that word, 'friend.'"

Say more

Episode 506 is primarily consumed by a1990 flash-forward roast of Manager to the Stars Susie Myerson, in which one roaster asks the question on everybody’s lips:

"Is she gay? Is she straight? Who can tell?"

Me I can tell

In Episode 508 of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, “The Princess and the Pea,” which debuted this week, Hedy saddles up next to Midge at the bar after a show in which Hedy secured Princess Margaret as a guest. She introduces herself to Gordon’s “first lady writer” and complements Midge on the weather segment she wrote for the Princess. Hedy then asks how long Midge has known “Susan.” Hedy tells Midge that her and Susan were roommates at Pembroke, class of ’48. (Pembroke was the women’s college at Brown before they merged in 1971.) Midge is shocked — Susie never mentioned it.

"Oh, hey, how long have you been working with Susan?"

wink wink

“With Susan in your corner, I’d say you’re going places, cutie,” Hedy flirts because this bitch loves to poke the bear before leaving Midge to go banter with her husband and his man friends.

Shortly thereafter, our unsuspecting pocket lesbian returns from a business trip to Baltimore into a bustling Grand Central Station and is shocked to see Midge there, waiting for her in a stunning little turquoise number. Midge is also shocked: shocked that Susie never told her about her former “friendship” with Hedy Ford. Susie is immediately defensive.

Midge: She came up to me at the bar, told me you were friends in college.
Susie: We weren’t friends.
Midge: She says you were roommates.
Susie: Maybe.
Midge: “Maybe” you were roommates? You didn’t notice?
Susie: There were like, 10, 20 to a room!
Midge: Susie.
Susie: College is big, okay? You can’t know everyone you went to college with.
Midge: She called you Susan. Nobody calls you Susan.

Midge would’ve loved to know earlier that Susie knew her boss’s “very influential wife,” because Susie could’ve used that connection to get Gordon to book Midge as a comic. (Back in Episode 504, Gordon implored his writers to hire “any loser comic” with a pulse to fill an empty spot on the program but refused to hire Midge because nobody who works on the show can be on the show.)

Susie resists Midge’s requests to use her connections to get her booked. Midge demands that Susie “fight for her.” Susie gets desperate — is this really how she wants to get her big break, by exploiting a connection Susie has to “some chick she went to college with?” This is the best Susie can summon when it’s clear there’s a very gay reason she doesn’t want to lean on Hedy for a favor. Midge insists that yes, this is a perfectly acceptable way for her to get her big break. Susie’s gotta swallow her pride and go for it.

Susie asking "was she bad mouthing me?"

Specifically did she mention a missing strap-on harness because I swear to G-d I did not take that with me when I left

When Susie arrives on set to see Hedy, the tense dynamic is immediately clear. Hedy’s dripping with that suggestive, well my my my look who’s here thing — but respectfully. This is someone who knows Susie well, or did, maybe almost as well as Midge does now. Someone who knows that Susie is a bundle of boundaries. Susie cuts to the chase, no personal stuff, they’re still not getting their drink — she’s “got business for Mrs. Gordon Ford.” Mrs Gordon Ford. She’s clearly been walking around with that particular name and everything it means in her head since their fight on the street. This is how, in 1961, you address your ex-girlfriend from college who’s managed to escape the uncouth lesbian lifestyle in favor of a societally sanctioned marriage to a well-employed man.

Susie asks Hedy to get “her girl” onto the show, and to do it as a favor to her, and this is hard for Susie, really hard. Both this scene and the 504 scene really made me lament how the shows determination to sideline Susie’s sexuality has given Borstein so few opportunities to do this type of work, these kinds of scenes, the ones that happen between two people who have been involved intimately and carry the entire weight of their broken selves into every future conversation they have.

Susie insists that Midge is ready, that she’s good, that it’s her time. Hedy notes that Susie really believes in this girl, and then asks, “Is it more than that?” (This echoes a line from Aaron in 506, in which he describes Susie’s loyalty to Midge as “more than that — it was a kind of love.”)

Susie can’t say anything. She almost shrugs, but gives up on that. This is Hedy. Hedy knows her. Maybe Hedy knows that it’s unrequited but maybe she doesn’t know that at all — Midge looks and dresses like Hedy does and if Hedy once had a secret relationship with Susie, maybe Midge is having one now. But maybe she could tell by the way Susie reacted to their reunion that there’s no f*cking way Susie’s actually gotten into another relationship after theirs.

Hedy looking at Susie asking "Is it more than that?"

♪ Tell me does she love you like the way I love you? ♪
♪ Does she stimulate you, attract and captivate you ♪

But Susie doesn’t wanna get into that, Susie is all business — can Hedy ask him tonight?

“He’s out tonight, and I might not see him till morning,” Hedy is curt.

“Hmm. Quite the fairy tale, you too,” Susie digs. Hedy purses her lips.

“This was hard, wasn’t it? What you just did?” Hedy asks, like someone who knows very well how deeply Susie hates putting herself out there for potential rejection under any circumstances. Susie, in her never-ending battle against the slings and arrows of potential emotional vulnerability, says nothing, and leaves.

The next time Hedy sees Midge, she greets her with a kind of knowing — like maybe she thinks Midge and her share a secret. Midge is taken aback, isn’t sure how to react to Hedy’s dressing-down. And then Hedy walks into her husband’s office and convinces her to book Midge.

I like this better, to tell you the truth: I like this better than all the ways they explained away Susie in the past. That maybe she’s just a girl who got her heart broken in the late 1940s and after that she closed up shop forever, you know? That makes sense. That fits. That’s gay as fuck.

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3223 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. Thank you, Riese! The push-and-pull between Hedy, Midge and Susie in this episode was the first time I thought Susie’s character arc made any sense. It’s not ideal, but I feel like whatever happened between “Susan” and Hedy explains some of her cynicism, her emotional detachment and yet her doggedness at doing whatever she has to for Midge (to keep her and keep her happy). It also makes sense why the giant falling out left them both broken, in a way (from what we can tell of the jumps forward).

    • yes absolutely 100%, i feel like this little bit gave us more insight into susie’s emotional reality than we’ve gotten before. they’re really showing us here how deeply their strategy to treat susie like a non-entity romantically/sexually did her character a disservice. (if she was actually an asexual/aromantic character, that would be different, of course! because then they could actually address that instead of just avoiding the topics of sex and romance around susie)

  2. Riese! The second I finished this episode I came to Autostraddle for commentary and you delivered 💜 (timing was perfect to with it being the first article). I’m so glad the show finally listened to you and while I would have loved to see more of Suzie’s backstory (and queerstory) over the last five seasons, I love her character and this addition.

  3. Riese, I say this in all sincerity, did you miss episode 504, appropriately titled “Susan”? Because based on the way this article is written if kind of sounds like maybe you did? Because I think the Hedy/Susie scene that ended that episode gave a lot more than what we got here. For me, that was the scene that clarifies once and for all.

    And mark me as one of the queer Jews who doesn’t really care whether Susie ever comes out officially or not. I fucking love this show. From the moment Midge said “It’s Yom Kippur, no one is happy”, I’ve been 100% on board.

    • I came here to ask the same question. Hedy and Susie had an explicit argument on the street about their college relationship back in 504.

      I’ve been enjoying this season, including the peeks into the future, but especially that we’ve gotten more backstory on the evolution of Susan into Susie.

  4. Okay I didn’t read the article because I didn’t get to watching this season yet-but I just caught the headline and I came here to say-really?! After all this?!? Now?!?

  5. Bits of episodes of ‘Friends’ have started to appearing on Tik Tok. There was one episode where Chandler is tricked into to going to a One person Feminist play. Realising he is the only one who has turned up he is immediately picked on by the ‘Angry’ woman. “Why Don’t you Like Me!” She shouts at him. Guess who is playing the part? …nothing changes.

  6. I used to love this show but the arc where they turned Shy Baldwin into a villain after she outed him — I just couldn’t handle Midge after that. She made it all about herself instead of recognizing the harm she could have caused — the early 1960s and a black man gets outed like that? But no. She was the wronged party.

    I kept watching but then Midge made Sue’s sexuality all about her too. And now I’m not sure I want to watch the new season.

  7. Damn, the final episode finally delivered the full flavour of the show I had been waiting on for five seasons. Yikes!

    So much of my brain has been spent puzzling out how and by whose intention this show ended up so closeted. Was the show always intended to be queer but then got told to tone it down until the very last episode? Was it unintentionally queer and just cherrypicking period aesthetics not realizing there is more to being a butch woman than just folksy flavour and a cute hat? Did it only realize its missteps later on and then last minute course correct as an apologia? Was the writer discovering and processing their own queerness?! It is such an evenly balanced optical illusion. It drives me crazy.

    The final season heavily hints that Susie and Midge’s relationship was romantic all along?! It ends with Susie making Midge laugh, her reason for ducking out of her pending marriage. Or were they just going for a Sex and The City just girl power besties type thing? Was there more to Midge’s parents’ insistence that Susie return the apartment key and her triumphant refusal?! I do think one of the best jokes of the show was Susie’s menagerie of parrots. She loves flamboyant well-dressed femmes who won’t ever shut up.

    I am ashamed to be scrambling after these crumbs.

  8. You should be ashamed of yourself Riese. Not for this article, that was fine? But for destroying the sanctity of my mom, aunt, and grandma’s favorite website! Wtf dude! Why do 3 generations of lesbians have to pay for your ineptitude at maintaining this public resource for the gays?

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