In the fourth episode of The Middleman, it’s clear I haven’t seen Back To The Future in like 20 years because I missed about a thousand references to it when I watched this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Middleman.
WELL THAT HAPPENED.
- I think this show is fun, but it hasn’t quite struck me yet. It could take a while! That’s fine, I’m always willing to give narratives time to develop. Like I said in the end of the video commission for this episode, I also realize that calling any episode of this show “weird” is just a pointless exercise. It’s the point. It’s strange. It’s surreal.
- Sometimes, though, the oddness is in the pacing, and this episode kind of trudges along for a while. It’s also super unsettling for a number of reasons, namely all the bizarre stuff about plastic surgery and THOSE FACES.
- Did anyone else feel like this was an unintentional companion to a Doctor Who episode? I got a super Doctor Who vibe from “The Manicoid Teleportation Conundrum.” Aliens who blend in with the human race! They’re actually not evil! I half expected a TARDIS to show up at some point.
- Here’s one thing I want to praise off the bat: the writers always portray Ben’s behavior as negative. At no point do they make him sympathetic or even give him a voice in the narrative. He’s just perpetually an asshole who ruined Wendy’s day and who is also a HUGE MISOGYNIST. Look at the way he framed Wendy in his pitch, even though he was the one who ruined the relationship.
- Anyway, nice job on the whole Dr. Phil joke! Dr. Gil was both a parody of that man, but he also served to bring about the emotional catharsis that Wendy actually needed. Over the course of this episode, The Middleman tests Wendy on a number of issues. (And we get to see more of the headquarters! Which I greatly appreciated.)
- The problem is that Wendy is overwhelmed, and the constant tests exacerbate her existing issues with self-esteem. Everyone hovers over her – her friends and the Middleman – expecting something from her, and it’s clearly way too much to deal with at once. This affects her job performance in some ways; she’s quick to behead the robot used for the interrogation test, and then she offends the Manicoids after she pulls a gun on them.
- I was worried, though, that the story was trying to say that Wendy’s emotional issues were distracting. (Especially after that one line from Dr. Newleaf, holy shit.) (Oh my god, is Patrick Fischler in everything? Bless that man, he’s played so many iconic characters in his career. PHIL on LOST and Dan in Mulholland Drive and he was on Veronica Mars and Angel and Bones and EVERYTHING EVER.) But you know, the show has done such a great job respecting the fact that Wendy has her own life outside of The Middleman, and I thought that the resolution of this arc showed us that she was allowed to have a freakout over Ben. It didn’t make her weak because of it, and if anything, the constant pressure from everyone around her was what made it hard for her to have a moment to process what Ben had done to her. If Lacey hadn’t been so insistent that Wendy have an outburst on cue (which isn’t how those things work), perhaps Wendy could have worked through her shit sooner.
- All of this is rooted in a rather sincere scene towards the end where, after numerous things in her life have gone utterly wrong, Wendy just feels like giving up. AND SHE CONFESSES HER FEELINGS TO THE SUPERVILLAIN. It’s so funny, yes, but I love that Wendy is finally able to name the reason why Ben hurt her so much: the men in her life have left her over and over again, from her father at age 14 to the four boyfriends she had after that.
- So Dr. Gil promises that he won’t leave her before killing her AND IS THEN PROMPTLY VAPORIZED, WHICH IS SUPER HILARIOUS.
- Dr. Gil may have helped Wendy have an epiphany, but he was still incredibly creepy. I mean, it was technically his father’s own fault that he died, right? HE SHOT AT A UFO AND IT CRASHED ON TOP OF HIM. And because of this, Dr. Gil fostered a grudge against the Manicoid race that resulted in him mounting their heads in his study. EW. Ew!
- So yeah, I don’t feel bad about him.
- Does this episode mean that The Middleman is going to start trusting Wendy more? It’s been a gradual thing so far, and I actually appreciate that they didn’t immediately rush to have perfect faith in one another. This is all training to make sure that Wendy is ready to take over for The Middleman, so I do expect it to be a slow process. She’s definitely demonstrated that she’s learning!
- And yes, I didn’t catch a single reference to Back to the Future. Lord, the TV station was literally called KBTTF. IT’S SO OBVIOUS.
The video for “The Manicoid Teleportation Conundrum” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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