"Look, he's made a hat" commemorates Midge's one-year anniversary of going on stage the night her husband left her for her secretary. Although this episode has the most forward-looking action of the entire season so far, it is also an episode that stubbornly refuses the reflection, a strange choice considering that Midge's debut on stage took place on Yom Kippur, the most important of the entire Jewish year and one centered entirely on introspection.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this episode for me was the way in which Jewish culture is presented as part of the scenario, rather than being engaged in a more meaningful way. Of course, we see the Maisel and the Weissman crossing the festive motions: they beat their breasts in a temple; invite the rabbi to dinner; their meal when the fast is broken is full of Hebrew Ashkenazite bruises: liver, leg of lamb, donkey breast. However, the mood of everything was felt to me, from the strange insistence in saying "Happy New Year" in English, to the obsession of confessing one's sins, rather than apologizing for the wrong deeds (a central part of Yom Kippur is actively trying to make amends for your mistakes, not simply wallowing in your own sin). These strange cultural incursions also occurred in the first season (a number of Jewish spectators were baffled by the fact that the Miriam butcher sold pork chops!) But they bothered me more in an episode where there is so so much potential to use holiday as a time to probe deeper into the character.
Instead, Midge's reflection comes in the form of a conversation with a drunken and rude artist named Declan Howell, who sits on tables in bars and enjoys making fun of the establishment (there are artists introverts in the world of the years 50 in New York?). Midge clearly feels something similar to him after seeing him behave in an exhilarating and rebellious way and insists that she and Benjamin present themselves immediately.
Benjamin is a charming boy who is clearly falling in love with the fantastic Mrs. Maisel, but their relationship is, I dare say, even boring. Benjamin is in love with Midge's little moves, from his fascinating observations and from his extravagant outfits to his extreme intrusiveness and self-absorption. His obsession with getting Benjamin a painting from Declan is more than a little odd, considering the fact that Benjamin does not seem all this in the idea. I was also stunned by the strange mixture of street smart and ingenuity of Midge: on the one hand he manages to give Benjamin a bit of comedy about his strategies to deal with sexual assault, yet at the same time he is willing to be alone with the artist a little unhinged who tells her directly that he is very interested in getting in his pants. When Declan opens the back door of his back room, I wondered at first if the incident would take a brief foray into horror!
However, Midge's conversation with Declan is certainly the most interesting aspect of this episode, since he shares with her his most private painting, one that the public learns is beautiful, but that we are not allowed to actually see. Declan reflects on the importance of this painting is his life, as well as giving a little history of subdued artistic sacrifice:
"If you want to do something exceptional, if you want to bring something to the end, you can not have it all … You lose the family, the sense of home, but then look what exists."
At the end of the episode, when Midge confesses her career to her incredibly hungry family, we can see how Midge has already embraced Declan's ethos. "I want to be great," she tells Susie, "I want to be the biggest thing out there."
"Look, he made a hat" is, in his best, about the power of sight. When Midge enters the back room of the art exhibition and buys an inexpensive picture from an unknown artist (the kind of woman his mother would be so sorry for), she sees something special to cherish and hold back, regardless of whether someone else around you sees it as significant or important. Likewise, the episode offers little glimpses of the way Joel is mourning the death of her marriage a year later, both getting drunk and dating a lot, and also fully supporting Midge in his quest for comedy, even talking to her family at the Yom Kippur dining table.
However, I was disappointed that this episode only seemed to touch the surface, relying on stereotypes about what it means to be an artist and a Jew, rather than delving deeply into the way Midge is evolving as an artist and as a woman walking with one foot in a world of tradition and the other in a world of modern sensibility. Instead, the episode ends with a much-loved tagline. "Tits up!" She and Susie toast the night of their anniversary, the impenetrable future like the painting that Declan never lets the spectator see.