Mark Watches ‘The Middleman’: Episode 12

In the twelfth episode of The Middleman, THIS IS THE BEST EPISODE. THE BEST. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch The Middleman.


  • This was made for me. IT WAS MADE FOR ME.
  • This is just unreal. It’s hilarious, it’s super disturbing at times, and it brilliantly summarizes why this show is written the way it is.
  • Let’s start off with this: I would watch the fuck out of a movie where Nikola Tesla avenged himself by resurrecting himself and Edison. Please, someone fucking make this movie right now.
  • So I only just realized that the beginning of this episode foreshadows what’s about to happen. “The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome” opens with Tyler arriving late to his Hot Pocket date with Wendy, so he apologizes with a garish gift: a cruelty-free diamond tennis bracelet. It’s a sweet gesture, but certainly out of character for Tyler. Which is the point! He’s never done anything like it, and Wendy wonders aloud to Lacey if this is what’s in store for her. Will Tyler be ruined by his job working for Fatboy Industries? Or is he still the same person?
  • IT’S A STUDY OF IDENTITY AND THIS WHOLE EPISODE THEN EXPLORES THE SAME CONCEPT. Are we all the same person, even if the circumstances change? I thought it was neat that Lacey pointed out that Wendy was still the same person after getting her “temp” job, and then I assumed we wouldn’t see much of this theme over the course of the episode. That’s because the writers deliberately distract us with The Palindrome, a mysterious villain who’s stealing various items in order to construct a Quantum Singularity Machine.
  • When that was revealed, I was 100% onboard with this episode. YES. PARALLEL UNIVERSE. YES.
  • Of course, any show that pokes fun at villain monologues is my best friend.
  • Seriously, this felt like any ol’ episode of The Middleman right up until the point that Wendy is sucked through the portal. It’s not that The Middleman changed its tone or aim or anything like that. It took me a while after finishing the episode to put my finger on why this episode felt so different for me.
  • The parallel universe is quite literally the polar opposite of everything The Middleman’s universe is.
  • I’ve commented a few times about the deliberately optimistic way in which everything unfolds in this show. Some may see it as cheesy, but I think it’s earnest and charming. In a world where gritty realism is often touted as the most “pure” form of storytelling, The Middleman flouts expectations for the genre and is openly happy. The good guys win, the bad guys are always brought to justice, people and property aren’t willfully destroyed, and Ida’s always got a wonderful quip ready to fling at her human companions. There is always hope. And sure, some of the logic that this world operates on is nonsensical. But it’s the point, and I think that viewing the show through this lens explains a lot.
  • So as Wendy begins to explore this parallel world, it’s not that there aren’t any jokes or that any of this isn’t funny. The show clearly exploited the humor of the situation. (LOOK AT NOSER’S HAIR OH MY GOD.) But there are so many disturbing details revealed over the course of “The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome.) Most people are homeless; food is liquified and distributed by guards who are quick to violence; there’s a national ID system that’s used to subjugate humanity.
  • And then Wendy finds out that she betrayed her best friend. For me, that was the most fucked-up moment of the episode. In this parallel world, somehow, Wendy sold out her friends. And it speaks to the issue of identity because how could there be a world where Wendy wasn’t loyal to the best people in her life? What does that say about her?
  • The first hint (that I actually didn’t catch during my initial watch) that this wasn’t merely about the parallel world being completely evil was when Wendy was saved by Pip. Excuse me – Father Pip. WHO IS THIS WORLD’S QUIET HERO. Wendy can’t even fathom that this is the case, but because of “The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation,” we know that Pip has it within him to be kind and considerate. At the core, Pip is the same person in both worlds. How that manifests, though, depends on other factors and outside influences.
  • The same goes for Ida, and bless the universe for the actress playing Parallel Universe Ida, because HOLY SHIT, she was able to perfectly match Ida’s accent. But does this hold up for this world’s version of The Middleman?
  • Initially? No. Oh my gods, NO. NO NO NO NO. IT’S INCREDIBLE. Of course this version of The Middleman would be foul-mouthed, crude, inconsiderate, and selfish. Sort of. The show goes to great lengths to give us the most ridiculous and hilarious version of The Middleman, and Matt Keeslar is brilliant here.
  • And yet, as funny as it was to watch this, there’s also an undercurrent of unease to what we see. The Middleman is so far gone into this world of cynicism and violence that he only acts in his own interest. He doesn’t help Wendy until she hands over the bracelet Tyler gave her. He’s rude to Wendy in virtually every interaction with her. He has no interest in saving the day or rescuing anyone or taking any sort of risk at all. How is this The Middleman? How did he get to this point?
  • No scene best exemplifies how fucked up Alternate!Middleman is than the interrogation scene. First of all, though, let me just say that I love the explanation using Ivan Avi and his pineal gland and IT’S TOO BRILLIANT. Oh god, they were born in THE WRONG UNIVERSES. Admittedly, the whole sequence was super hilarious, especially when the camera constantly cut to the other universe. But I sensed something was wrong when it was revealed that Sensei Ping took out The Middleman’s eye. That had to have been years ago, and that didn’t sound like Sensei Ping at all! Is that how this Middleman was trained?
  • And then the Alternate!Middleman shoots and kills Ivan.
  • You know, the Middleman is like The Doctor in this sense. He doesn’t kill when he doesn’t have to, and he would never shoot someone he was interrogating.
  • It’s here that Ida gives us some backstory, and this was yet another hint that maybe these two Middlemen weren’t so different. It was only after Tyler, this world’s Middleboy, was killed on the duty that the Middleman began his descent into… well, his weird biker motif. And potty mouth.
  • So it was comforting that Lacey was kind of exactly the same person. Her circumstances might have changed, but she believed in her Dub Dub, and she believed in taking a risk to fight for what was right. Maybe these people weren’t so different here.
  • OH MY GOD.
  • oh my god she looks so great in all black.
  • I found it fascinating that both Wendys shared an identical history, namely that they both lost their father under mysterious circumstances at age fourteen. Here, though, they followed drastically different paths to end up where they were. It’s kind of eerie to think about this because Wendy essentially viewed who she could have become if she’d made different choices.
  • I also realized how brilliant it was that we were meant to believe that Manservant Neville was evil in this world, but as it turns out, he’s good in BOTH universes.
  • And so is The Middleman, who shows up to rescue Wendy, proving that deep down, he’s really not all that different from his counterpart.
  • This whole episode was The Middleman firing on all cylinders. I love that we get a glimpse of the world changing in the parallel universe. I love that in terms of an ending, Wendy is merely happy. There’s no closure, there’s no hint of the future. It’s a state of joy that we see, and despite that I’ve still got the “final” episode left to watch, I was comforted by the positive note on which the regular series itself ended.

The video for “The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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