There’s only one man who stands between the world and the various forces trying to take it over – The Middleman. And here I thought I made a lot of pop culture references.
The show opens with our heroine, struggling artist Wendy Watson, temping at A.N.D. Laboratories where a DNA experiment goes awry resulting in a multi-eyed, tentacled mutant runs amok. It captures Wendy who, instead of panicking, grabs a letter opener off the floor and stabs its "arm" repeatedly. Suddenly, a square-jawed man in a suit, The Middleman, appears, shoots off its tentacle then tasers the creature and gives Wendy a choice: cover it up and disavow knowledge of the whole event or suffer and bad fate. Naturally she goes with Option A.
After getting blacklisted at every temp agency in town (since the cops think her lighter, the last memento from her father gave her, caused the "gas line explosion"), she gets called into the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Employment Agency. Jolly Fats is really a cover company for The Middleman, who planted the lighter as a recruitment tactic. He was impressed by the way she handled herself and wants her to work with/for him (after she passes a multitude of test, of course). Essentially, The Middleman is an "independent contractor" that helps save the world from villains trying to take over the world.
Originally she tells him to shove it, but after her film school boyfriend Ben (whom everyone thinks is gay) breaks up with her for a class project, she changes her mind. The first mission is tracking down a super-smart gorilla that’s murdering entire crime families to take over as the Big Boss.
They visit the Simonics Animal Research Laboratory where Dr. Gibbs (played by 24‘s Mary Lynn Rajskub) is experimenting with gorilla intelligence utilizing super-computers (Wendy makes a Gorilla Grodd reference – nice). The gorilla in question is Spanky and he, somehow, is obsessed with mobster movies. So he escaped and started her grand plan. But clearly, Spanky isn’t the mastermind behind the scheme, it’s Dr. Gibbs. She needs the money to continue her research and thereby create an army or hyper-intelligent simians to take over the world. Wendy gets captured and The Middleman tricks Spanky into shooting the super-computer which reverts Spanky and the others back to normal gorillas.
Assorted Info & Observations:
- There’s a lot of pop culture references crammed in this pilot. A lot. And the dialog can go by very fast. While there may have been borderline too much info smushed in here, there definitely a lot of potential. Also, I must note that there’s all kinds of sarcasm flying about, which I appreciate. Be duly warned, the show has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek – sort of like Get Smart 4.0 meets the 60’s Batman series with a splash of Torchwood.
- Wendy, on top of being an artist and reading comics, also plays a lot of first person shooter video games with a light gun. This is important for the future because it establishes that she’s already a good shot without having to be trained.
- The Middleman is a very old-school, square-jawed, "gosh" and "gee willikers" kind of guy – all Dudley Do-Right/Captain America like. He used to be a Navy SEAL but he doesn’t cuss (well, extremely rarely). A part like this is hard to pull off but Matt Keeslar manages it very well. He calls Wendy "Dubby," which she hates.
- This Middleman is only the latest in a long line of Middlemen. He doesn’t know who started the company/service, who bankrolls it, or how long its been around.
- Ida is the "secretary" of sorts at Jolly Fats. She’s really a android from another planet and the only person who knows about past Middlemen. She like Gladys from Reaper only amped up a bit.
- Other people in Wendy’s life include her nagging mother (phone calls only), Lacey (her activist/artist roommate), Noser (her neighbor who sits in the hallway and trades pop culture references with her), and, unfortunately, Ben the film school boyfriend (whom Wendy stupidly takes back).
- One thing I appreciate is that, after the first mission, Wendy says that she doesn’t want to become "Robin the Boy Hostage" – and I agree.
- Wendy’s father was on a plane that "crashed under as of yet unexplained and mysterious circumstances," so I’m guessing those circumstances will come into play at some point during the season.
- The long list of comics she reads includes Mouse Guard, Powers, The Spirit, Astro City and The Flash. When The Middleman asks Barry Allen or Wally West Flash, she replies, "Do you want me to leave?" I’m not arguing that Barry Allen isn’t The Flash, I’m just saying that Wally has some definite strong points.
- Lastly, big ups to Mary Lynn for her take on Dr. Gibbs. It was a great villain parody.
What did you think? Did you like the quick paced dialogue? Was there much too much in this first episode? Do you like its cheeky feel? Any favorite parts?