In the ninth episode of The Middleman, a long-lost supervillain returns, prompting Ida to take drastic measures by unfreezing one of the past Middlemen. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Middleman.
Trigger Warning: For talk of misogyny and issues surrounding self-esteem.
“The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown”
- Holy shit, that’s one clever episode title.
- And I know I just said the previous episode was my favorite so far, BUT I WAS WRONG. Y’all, THIS IS GREAT.
- Look, if this had been forty-three minutes of Wendy and Tyler ordering food from Batter of the Bulge and playing Gut Wrencher 1, I would not have been disappointed. THERE ARE MORE PUNS IN THE FIRST THREE MINUTES OF THIS EPISODE THAN MOST SHOWS HAVE IN A LIFETIME.
- But then I watch as this show addresses the concept of self-sabotaging relationships and IT’S ALL TOO REAL. Seriously, y’all, Wendy’s struggle in this episode is me until I was like… 27? At least. AT LEAST. And there are a whole host of issues that could lead a person to believe that they either don’t deserve happiness in a relationship or to believe that no one can truly enjoy their company. There were complex problems at work with me during my twenties that led to EXACTLY WHAT YOU SEE HERE. Every time I started to date a guy, I knew exactly what flaw in them would lead to the demise of our relationship or would inspire me to never call or text them again. The problem is that I actually was just picking a flaw (even if it was legitimate) and I’d magnify it until it was a legitimate reason.
- I missed out on a couple of potentially fulfilling relationships because of this. And shit, I know it was my fault. But I didn’t value myself, plain and simple. I was so used to not being on the receiving end of affection and love that when it happened, it terrified me. I thought something was wrong with any guy who actually enjoyed my company.
- It’s a ruthless beast, and I’m so impressed that this show was able to give us a story like this through Wendy. Everything seems perfect as she learns more about Tyler. He has extremely similar interests with her. He’s a sweetheart – genuinely so! – and he wants to impress her. Not in a cynical way, though. He’s sincere about wanting to make her laugh and to please her, and you can tell that she’s never really experienced this. So she freaks out. She’s worried that her inability to see how this relationship will end means that something worse is waiting for her around the corner.
- But why only think of the ending? Why not enjoy the journey?
- I think that the Middleman’s advice in this episode is incredibly relevant for Wendy. Simplistic advice doesn’t always work, but I loved the idea that love fails when it’s delusional or when it’s self-sabotage. For Wendy, she knows that what she feels for Tyler isn’t a delusion. So, is she really setting herself up to sabotage things with Tyler?
- For now, she’ll go along with the thrill of new love. And y’all, this show’s deliberate optimism is so goddamn refreshing. Even though the main story here deals with some dark shit, the Middleman purposely gives Middleman ’69 a happy ending. And that’s intentional! I don’t know if Grillo-Marxuach wanted to counter the gritty nature of the much of the comic book world, but I’m so onboard with this.
- I suppose this is also because I’m so bored by the recent trend in media that being good is a shitty thing? Like, the whole idea that all our heroes need to be jaded and realistic and violently pragmatic… there are good stories there. I admit that. But how much apathy do we really need when the world is already pretty damn apathetic as it is. It reminds me of people who cheer for Walter White, or like when Alan Moore was flabbergasted by nerds loving Rorschach in Watchmen when he specifically wrote that character to be unlikable/a jerk, which I now can’t find a source for because OF COURSE I CAN’T. Anyway, I hope that makes sense!
- My point is that Middleman ’69 represents a different time in the world, one where it was socially acceptable to hold a dichotomous view of the world, splitting things into good and evil. He lived in a world where sexually harassing the women you work with is expected. (Which isn’t to suggest that this has gone away because it hasn’t at all.) He lived in a world where villains defined the superheroes to the point that it was all they stood for. So when the Candle is back to his evildoing (which is remarkably stereotypical), it’s time to unleash the stereotypical superhero to save the day.
- Who, as you’ll note, isn’t really relevant anymore.
- And that’s what this episode felt like to me. It was a commentary on how men like Middleman ’69 were now obsolete. You can’t go around beating up suspects with impunity and expect to be moral. You can’t sexually objectify women and expect that this is how the workplace environment is supposed to be. And even the techniques he uses to catch the Candle end up catching a copycat because THE CANDLE RETIRED AND ISN’T EVEN ALIVE ANYMORE.
- So Middleman ’69 has a meltdown.
- It doesn’t technically happen until after the game of Shabumi, which is the most hilariously ridiculous thing I’ve seen…. oh, who the fuck am I kidding? You can’t even hyperbolically refer to anything on this show as being more ridiculous than anything else because HAVE YOU SEEN THE MIDDLEMAN? Zombie fish rabies. Secret tyrant boy bands. MUTUAL OF OMAHA. (Still my reigning champion.)
- Please tell me that Grillo-Marxuach and company based that card game on some tabletop disaster or that it is at least a parody of it. Oh, my friends, how I have tried to play tabletop games, but the learning curve is almost always way too steep for me. I’m balancing four to six fictional worlds in my head at any given moment. I can’t learn forty new rules and fit them in my brain!
- WAS THAT THE REAL MISSING 18-AND-A-HALF MINUTES? Oh gods, it probably was.
- I felt like Steve Rogers when I understood the Star Trek joke. I GOT IT, I UNDERSTOOD THAT REFERENCE.
- I just love that this episode takes such a huge turn by having Middleman ’69 BECOME THE ACTUAL VILLAIN. And he did it because he was so worried about his terrible legacy, the one that ONLY HE CARED ABOUT. No one else cared! He inflated his sense of self-importance, and he fed straight into his own ego, and he was willing to kill the real Middleman and Wendy in order to come off as a “hero.”
- Even after all this? The Middleman still gives Middleman ’69 a proper history. He didn’t have to do that at all, and I would have understood if he recorded history so that it would show Guy Goddard for who he was… well, at one moment. I think the Middleman understood that what Guy did at the end was misguided and terrible, but it didn’t define his whole life.
- And definitions are important to the Middlemen! Which is why I was so happy that at the end of “The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown,” the Middleman allows Wendy to define herself by designing her own uniform. What works for the Middleman is specific to him, and it was only fair that she get to choose how she best represents herself.
- KEVIN SORBO, Y’ALL.
The video for “The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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