Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Middleman, "The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome": I maim nine more hero-men in Miami

Spoilers for the season (and hopefully not series) finale of "The Middleman" coming up just as soon as I see how this beard of bees looks in the mirror...

Well, if you're going to go out, might as well do it all guns a'blazing. "The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome" didn't provide much in the way of closure (not that this is necessarily a show that needs closure), but it did give us "The Middleman" on something other than a shoe-string budget, and in a way that didn't sacrifice the series' homespun charms.

Mirror-Middle-verse looked relatively big and scary, but this was still an episode of "The Middleman," which meant mirror universe signifiers like Noser's lyric-quoting suddenly having life-or-death consequences, or a sexy, bikini-clad version of Ida who still talked (and sounded) like the one we knew. And it meant that, even in this dark and twisted place, the series' fundamental belief in the goodness of humanity applied, as Dubby was able to inspire the Snake Plissken-esque Mirror-Middleman to lose the beard and get back to helping people. (His reformation only goes so far, of course; he shaves and turns Ida back to normal, but he sure doesn't have a problem with Mirror-Lacey's hot pants version of the Middle-uniform. And why should he?)

(In case you're scratching your head at who Snake Plissken is, get thee to The Middleblog for the usual rundown of pop culture references, plus a tribute to Neil Levin, in whose memory the episode was dedicated. Plus, it's where I got the picture of Mirror-Middleman.)

Original recipe Middleman continues to be one of the most quotable TV characters I've ever encountered. Among my favorites this time: "My Little Pony!," "This is a sack full of eels and coat hangers," "Dang skippy" and the line about "Come puppet blood monkey fudge or terra cotta." But really, the entire Middle-verse (both versions of it) is awash with wonderful sillyness, from Ivan N. Avi getting his psychic powers after a freak accident at his bar mitzvah to the chyrons referring to the Mirror-apartment as "an evil loft in a parallel universe."

My only complaint is a minor one: they didn't do enough to change the look for Mirror-Dubby. Of course, had they changed her too much, it would have made it harder for our Dub-Dub to try and impersonate her, plus it might have distracted from what turned out to be a strong personal storyline for Wendy. After all, it's only after she's confronted with a version of herself who became so twisted by her father's disappearance that Wendy finally lets go of most of that angst and sounds truly happy when talking to her mom.

If this is it, I will purely miss this show. Such an unexpected surprise, and such a burst of concentrated joy for the entire summer of '08.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Boy, I really hope that wasn't the last episode. This show was a perfect summer lark, and if they'd just give me a a few months to push a dvd set on everyone I know (and I will!) I can promise that a second season would do better than the first...

and i really liked the aerosol soup lines...

Jon88 said...

I watched the 10 p.m. feed on Time Warner NYC in slightly time-shifted real time. Twice, coming back from commercials, we were jumped into the story "already in progress" -- for instance, I saw none of the rescue at the end, only the aftermath. WTF?

Anonymous said...

Jon, I thought I was losing my mind. Thank you for verifying I wasn't the only one confounded by the feed.

What a great episode, by the way. I look forward to seeing the whole thing!

Nicole said...

Matt Keslar was fantastic as Snake Middleman and I was glad that he wasn't the completely evil one in mirror world. It was surprising to use Wendy because she was the visitor and I didn't expect that she would be behind the evil Fatboy empire.

They really need to bring this back because it is better than just a summer fling... it's a long term relationship.

Figgsrock2 said...


Since we all seem resigned to the fact that this was the last ever episode, what do you think the chances are for a DVD release? If you think its iffy, I may have to buy all the eps on iTunes this week just to make sure I have them for the future.

pgillan said...

I really liked this episode, and if are going to go out, at least it's on a high note. For an evil-mirror universe, though, I thought it was kind of weak. The only ones who were fundamentally different were Dubbie and Pip. Other than that, everyone else was, in essence, the same in both universes. I spent half the episode doing math, and was disappointed to find that even though evil-Tyler turned out to be good, it didn't mean that good-Tyler would turn out to be evil. In other words, I thought there was potential for her to learn something about another character by observing them in backwards world.

Then again, there's probably not a lot of point to discussing the plot in what is likely to become a eulogy-only thread.

Myles said...

pgillan, I can understand that feeling: it REALLY felt that a lot of this was setup for the 13th episode and that the tacked on "happy" ending felt like not enough resolution.

The real question that should have been asked is that Tyler, if good in the parallel universe, must be headed towards evil in the normal one. Characters that support Wendy are all fundamentally good at heart, not changing much as has been noted, but Tyler doesn't: why? It seemed like there was something very interesting to be found there, no question, and it's a pity we won't get to it until next season.

Yes, that was a last grasp at optimism. And, as for the DVDs, I'd expect a release: ABC Family has a ton of stuff just sitting around, most one-season shows (If it goes that way) get releases these days to milk out as much money as possible), and Javi and the crew sound really, really excited about doing it. It'll be there.

Sarah said...

I love this show and I really hope that wasn't the last episode. The world they've created is rich and fun to spend time in. I can't say the same for a lot of current tv shows. And will try to include "My Little Pony!" in my daily speech.

Anonymous said...

This show turned out to be so much fun - count me among those who hope they make us some more.

So it's a given that evil universe guys have goatees, and evil twins/dopplegangers of blond women are brunettes (like on Bewitched or I Dream of Jeanie), but what could they have done with WW? Maybe give her an outfit with her midriff exposed, which happens alot in Star Trek evil universes. Or a scar? Is there an evil universe goatee equivalent for the ladies?

Toby O'B said...

Okay, for those of us in the NYC area who lost that key scene near the end, can we get somebody to recap what happened after the second Wendy showed up with the ID card and before Wendy and Mirror Middleman made their goodbyes to each other? Or will that constitute spoilers for everybody else?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's fine, Toby. The episode's aired, and we're talking about it. Anyone who wants to recap that specific part (which I'm fuzzy on now), go right ahead.

Anonymous said...

Basically, the scene started up with Snake-Middleman racing in on his MiddleHog and got into a short gunfight with Alterna-Wendy before he, Wendy and Lacey were able to run away to safe ground (leaving the MiddleHog behind). Hence Wendy's apology to SnakeMiddle-Man about his bike.

Anyone who can remember more details, feel free to chime in.

arrabbiata said...

I too was doing the mental math on the good/evil equations, wondering if this meant that Manservant Neville and Tyler from the home universe were actually evil, and feeling like we're one episode short of finding out.

In the alternate universe, Snake Middleman and Lacey ending up together- good for them.

This has been a thoroughly enjoyable series and I hope that someone somewhere finds a way to bring it back. Like all good art, there's the impression that everyone involved in this show cares more about making something good than cranking out a profitable product.

Basic cable tv (albeit now mostly stations owned by the major networks), seems to be finally living up to the promises made 25 years ago. Sure it's almost all crap, but there are real gems to found, familiar to the regular readers of this blog.

barefootjim said...

I truly hope that it isn't it: if so, than it's my favorite one-off series since Andy Richter Controls The Universe. So clever. So fun.

My wife, who normally resists something this silly but liked it from the start, also noticed what Myles did about Tyler. (She also really liked Evil Shirtless Boss Man.)

If anybody from ABC Family reads this: we will buy the DVDs. And if there is a second season, will continue to foist this upon everybody we possibly can.

I know this: I'll take a show where they save the world week after week with good humour over a ponderous show like Heroes, which acts like it's the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER.

Anonymous said...

So if Other-Tyler was really good, does this mean that Normal Tyler is really bad?

Perhaps a path to take in *knocks wood* Season 2.

pgillan said...

So if Other-Tyler was really good, does this mean that Normal Tyler is really bad?

That's what I was thought at first, but after reading through the responses, and pondering it a little bit more, I think maybe they got their wires crossed when they were plotting this (or it was a deliberate fakeout).

There are typically two types of "common" parallel universes. One is the good vs. evil kind, where everyone who's good becomes evil, and vice versa. Then there's the "alternate history" parallel universe, where one thing changes, and suddenly Hitler's won the war and the Cubs win der verld seriez.

This started off as the first kind, but then morphed into the second kind, once it's established that most of the characters are fundamentally the same. The key difference in the alter-world is that WW made the decision to embrace her bitterness regarding her father's disappearance (or something).

The only thing I can't decide is if mixing the two types of universes was intentional, or it was just one of those things that happens to scripts sometimes.

Also, Teev: If they made blondes brunette, they could have just made the brunette blonde. That would have been interesting.

Anonymous said...

The Snake Plissken refs totally cracked me up. I love the obvious joy they take in throwing out the pop culture refs, too (and I especially like that they don't feel gratuitous/pointless the way the refs do on Family Guy).

I thought this was a great ep; not only do I hope the show comes back, but I hope Tyler stays good. He doesn't have to be perfect, but fundamentally good would be...well, good.

Anonymous said...

Loved the logo with the dagger through the Fatboy.


LoopyChew said...

Damn, I'm now seriously hoping for a Season 2. This show is too good to pass up.

I have to say I'm enjoying the subversion of Tyler-the-bohemian-musician turning into Tyler-the-Bluetooth-talking-suit. He hasn't done a personality 180, and in fact is completely worried about that happening.

Will be buying the DVDs when they come out, for certain.

Jon88 said...

http://community.abcfamily.go.com/watch/middleman/palindrome-reversal-palindrome *should* be a link to the complete episode. If not, start here: http://community.abcfamily.go.com/watch/middleman

Also, I'm told that the midnight feed in NYC was uncut. So one way or another, we can see the rescue and "when Wendy met evil Noser."

Anonymous said...

... and if you can't find the episode on ABC Family's site, the entire season is on BitTorrent. The ep is still on my DVR (which has a high-speed playback mode), so if anybody would like a detailed summary of the ending, I can post that later this evening.

I dunno... was I the only one who was a bit disappointed by this episode? There were a lot of really good bits and pieces, but they never quite gelled for me.

A few personal favorite bits:

Loved sexy Ida. Was that actress doing a dead-on impersonation of Mary Pat Gleason, or did Mary Pat Gleason do the voice? I couldn't tell, and that in itself is an impressive accomplishment (either the acting was superb or the dubbing was).

Love the mirror-imaged chyron in the mirror universe.

I hope everyone noticed that the name Ivan Avi is a palindrome. And I'm impressed with the palindrome in your title, Alan!

Pip refers to Star Trek as the series starring George Takei, which WW takes as a sure sign of an evil universe. Aww... that's not a nice thing to say about George! But it was very funny.

It looked wonderful, but let's face it: I grew up on classic Trek and classic Doctor Who; I don't need flashy images if I've got a good story, and Middleman has always had a good story.

The mispronunciation of "bubbe" made my teeth hurt. It doesn't rhyme with "Dubbie", folks; it's "bookie" with a "b" where the "k" is.

I certainly hope this is not the end of the series, because I found it a bit disappointing as a series ender. There were things set up in the previous episode (particularly in relation to Tyler and Fatboy Industries) that didn't really play out here. It was not clear whether Fatboy was supposed to be evil (yeah, I know, it's evil in the comics), not clear if Tyler would turn evil by being with them. In the mirror universe, Manservant Neville and Tyler are both apparently good, and Fatboy is evil only because WW took it over ... but as several have already noted, this ep seemed more like a Sliders parallel universe (different, not necessarily opposite) than a Mirror/Mirror parallel universe (opposite), so we still don't know if Fatboy and Tyler are good or evil.

The episode also introduced an interesting new tension to the WW-Tyler relationship (the demands of their respective jobs) that never went anywhere in the episode, so it turns into more of a waste of time if there is no next season.

So ABC Family, listen up: DON'T CANCEL MIDDLEMAN! I want to see where all that stuff goes! (grin)

Anonymous said...

OK: Here's what happened after that last commercial break, where evil WW shows her ID:

Our WW tries to talk her out of it and WW seems persuaded. Psych. Evil WW has her guards ready to fire. Lacey is willing to die because, "at least I got my Dub-Dub back." Good WW and Lacey hug... and in rides MM on his Middlehog, knocks down a few guards, throws a device (the stun thing used before?) that knocks out more, grabs a gun and the McGuffin and breaks out guns ablazing. Lacey wants to know who MM is, saying that he's "kinda hot."

Back at HQ, WW comments on the fact that MM has lost his hog, but he says he's not going to go back for it, doesn't want to keep fighting Fatboy. Says he just wants to hotwire a car and leave town. Lacey comes in, says she's glad her old Dub-Dub still exists somewhere. Another hug. Singularity opens. Ww tells MM: "Stay. Fight. You're the Middleman. If you don't, who will?" She crosses over and the MMs salute each other.

Does that catch you up?

Anonymous said...

Forgot another pop culture ref they threw in that I loved (from Mirror Ida): "They're real, and they're spectacular!" HEE!