Mark Watches ‘The Middleman’: Episode 2

In the second episode of The Middleman, a case takes Wendy to the Underworld, where she’s tempted by a secret. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Middleman.

Well, this is neat!

  • I’m interested in seeing more, but I wouldn’t say I’ve totally fallen for The Middleman. I like it so far, but it’s such an odd show, and I’m trying to do my best to wrap my head around it. Like the pilot episode, “The Accidental Occidental Conception” toys with parody and sincerity at the same time. Thankfully, with a look into Wendy’s past and her relationship with Lacey, I found this episode a lot more appealing to me.
  • It’s also always weird for me to see depictions of animal rights protestors because I’ve got such a weird history with it. I never was much of one myself, but I was vegan for over a decade. I never participated in a protest or boycott or anything like that, but a lot of my friends did. I also never found myself particularly upset with stereotypical depictions of vegans because… well, frankly, most of the people I knew were as ridiculous as the portrayals. Plus, there’s a lot of baggage that comes with the dietary choice, namely that a lot of vegans believe they are being truly revolutionary and that they’re the only solution to all the problems in the world.
  • In one sense, Lacey is very singular. She pursues her goal of animal liberation without thinking of the ramifications for other people. It’s why Wendy is so upset at the opening of this episode. Lacey can’t fathom how her protests are affecting Wendy at all. Not only that, but she makes a very familiar argument: she’s the one who truly knows how to change the world.
  • The frustrating thing is that Wendy wants to be supportive of her friend’s passions, even if she doesn’t necessarily agree with them herself. How do you balance the two? How do you be a best friend and a constructive critic at the same time?
  • She’s also got to deal with a second issue. How does she balance the problems in her personal life with the demands of her job with The Middleman?
  • Just because it’s on my mind lately, can we talk about how in two episodes, The Middleman has presented a fictionalized version of Los Angeles and Southern California that is already more racially diverse than the entirety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I WENT THERE, I DON’T CARE.
  • I mean, there’s that really odd moment where somehow, Duncan’s mother had an affair with a Chinese man and produced a child that doesn’t look mixed at all? That was weird. I mean, I get the visual gag, but it’s weird.
  • And so is watching The Middleman and Wendy interact throughout this story. He really is one of the most continuously proper characters I’ve ever seen, and it’s one of the reasons he’s such a stickler about separating his work and his self. But Wendy is so fascinating because she openly compartmentalizes the two. She’s able, by the end of this episode, to deal with a multitude of conflicting realities and still get her job done. Barely, yes, but as The Middleman says, she did do what she needed to.
  • Even Lacey’s story, which initially intersects with Roxy’s in stereotypical ways, rises above expectations. Where the writers refuse to discredit Wendy’s problems, they also give Lacey a story that is about her understanding why her protesting can be ineffective. If what she does only creates destruction and chaos in her wake, is it really worth it?
  • Of course, the show doesn’t stray far from The Devil Wears Prada-lite in portraying Roxy Wasserman. But then they re-invent the succubus myth and make the fashion house a HOME FOR REFORMED SUCCUBI. WHICH IS SO COOL, Y’ALL.
  • I just wish we spent more time on that and less on faithfully replicating fashion industry tropes. Like, they’re so spot-on they don’t feel like the playful parody of other moments in these first two episodes.
  • Still, I like how this acts as a learning opportunity for Lacey. She actually readjusts her approach to animal rights and makes sure her activism actually helps other people. I mean, she admits that the animals killed for the furs that Roxy used are already dead; she can’t change that. So why not use them to help people in need? YO, THAT’S SO GREAT.
  • Meanwhile, Wendy is struggling with her own issues with her best friend, the least of which is Lacey’s growing attraction to The Middleman. I don’t think is the last time we’ve seen this, y’all. THEIR LOVE IS TOO POWERFUL.
  • But as Wendy spends time on her second case, which is somehow even more surreal and dangerous than mind-control apes, she worries that she may have pushed her best friend too far. And the thing that’s so great about watching this is that the show doesn’t say Wendy was silly for expressing concern for Lacey’s behavior. No, Lacey even comes to admit that her risky actions had physical implications for Wendy.
  • So how is she supposed to balance these every day occurrences and her emotional needs with the job? For me, this story was about trust. The Middleman ultimately understood that Wendy’s life wasn’t anything like his, and that she had specific issues that she had to deal with.
  • One of the best ways this is dealt with is through the use of the Underworld. Which, first of all, has the BEST set design because of course the modern Underworld looks like a nondescript office building. I LOVE THE INFORMATION DESK GUY SO MUCH. THE BEST. How many heroes on quests does he have to deal with? Probably too many.
  • Wendy becomes tempted by knowledge. She bonds with Duncan earlier in the episode because they both share mysterious fathers. I assume that because the computer Ida and The Middleman used to locate the Qin heir chose Duncan, that means Duncan’s biological father has to be dead, right? Or else Duncan’s father would have been the closest heir.
  • ANYWAY, Wendy hasn’t seen her father since she was 14. Even worse, no one knows what happened to him. Did he abandon the family or did he die mysteriously? So when she’s faced with the records of everyone who has died ever, the temptation is too great. She can finally get closure on a secret that’s haunted her for years.
  • But in the end, she chooses the responsibility of her job over her own personal need for closure. And that is why The Middleman trusts Wendy. He appreciates and respects that Wendy really can multitask, that she isn’t him and she doesn’t need to be him. She can still do the job and have his back, and isn’t that all that matters? Gods, y’all, I love so much that the show doesn’t demonize her for wanting to resolve her own emotional tension!
  • These are the things that make me want to see more of the show. I thought the story this episode was fairly goofy, but the worldbuilding was VERY WONDERFUL. Now I want to know more about The Middleman’s past, though. Ann Arbor???? TELL ME MORE PLEASE.

The video for “The Accidental Occidental Conception” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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