Foregoing the usual format of presenting clips, moderated discussions, and a question and answer session, “The Middleman” creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach opted instead for an unusual and rare presentation last Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
With nary a mention of the upcoming DVD release of “The Middleman” or its new graphic novel from Viper Comics, Grillo-Marxuach went straight to the table read of the final missing episode of “The Middleman” television show.
Present to add their acting skills to the process were Matt Keeslar (The Middleman, AKA “MM”), Natalie Morales (Wendy Watson, AKA “WW”), Brit Morgan (Lacey Thornfield), Mary Pat Gleason (Ida), Jake Smollett (Noser), Mark Sheppard (Manservant Neville), Brendan Hines (Tyler Ford), as well as Sarah Watson (co-producer), Jordan Rosenberg (writer), Margaret Dunlap (writer), and Andy Reaser (editor).
You’ll have to buy the comic to read the complete story. But here, CBR presents an abbreviated summary version of this very special table read.
“Middleman” Episode 13: “The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse.”
Grillo-Marxuach, reading as commentator, with producers, editors, and writers filling in any role of missing actors.
The Steve-Jobs-like figure of Manservant Neville is madly selling YouMaster devices across the world.
Tyler and WW discuss the allure of the YouMaster, a device whose function apparently remains a mystery.
Enter Lacey, infatuated with her newest date, “The Perfect Warren,” an all around vegan, environmentalist, and swell guy.
Later, WW confronts The Middleman himself (“MM”) about MM’s lack of action concerning his romantic interests for Lacey.
Interrupting the conversation, to the relief of MM, is a distress call from Roxy Wasserman (actress Elaine Hendrix not being present, producer Sarah Watson filled in the role), an ally from the Succubus house. “Someone’s Kidnapping my girls…and cutting them up” she exclaims!
Grillo-Marxuach took this moment to play the Middleman theme music from a tiny recorder into the mic -- while he danced a little jig. At the appropriate moment, the audience yelled “Middleman!” to complete the theme song and carry the story forward past the imagined opening title.
Grillo-Marxuach then briefly and rapidly mentioned to the audience how you can do more in a comic than a low budget show, like showing a succubus’s horns and fangs appear and then disappear quickly with emotion.
Back to the episode action, the team discovers that, due to the fact that the mauled models are missing their pineal glands -- apparently in an attempt to acquire supernatural powers -- a talisman from the Middleman vault related to a Mayan god Chalk Maul (which requires the cryptic “ultimate sacrifice” to use) may be necessary in this mission. Or maybe not. That would be a last resort, of course.
Back to the topic of Roxy, WW harasses the Middleman again about his romantic life. WW accuses the Middleman of having feelings for Roxy, as well as Lacey, and implies his heart may be torn between the two! MM denies the accusation, with emphasis on his non-interest in Roxy.
Romantic life aside, WW and MM investigate a seemingly abandoned lab to seek a clue to the model-mauling fiend. To their surprise, they discover a machine gun powered giant robot! After a valiant fight, complete with descriptive text from Grillo-Marxuach, WW gets knocked out by gas. MM dons a gas mask, which he conveniently has equipment on his utility belt. Defeating the robot on his own, MM pulls WW from the lab and retreats to reviver her and discuss the situation.
The two speculate on how they knew the Middleman was coming. “I pooped the woobie, Dubie,” says MM, distressed by his walking into a trap. MM can only conclude that he’s been distracted, and decides it’s time to put an end to the distraction to save himself and the Middleman group itself.
The Middleman runs to Lacey’s flat. There, he confronts Lacey, sweeps her off her feet, and at last plants a firm Middleman kiss on her. The moment is perfect, until interrupted by a wristwatch call from WW.
WW finds that she’s been bugged. Putting the pieces together, she discovers the bug is hidden within the diamond bracelet given her by none other than boyfriend Tyler! Telling this to MM, the two meet up to seek out Tyler.
Capturing Tyler turns out to be fairly simple, and they question him about the bugged bracelet. Where did he get it? He clams from Manservant Neville.
During the course of the interrogation, Tyler starts to put together the fact that WW may not be the temp she claims to be, and questions her about this “Middleman” group she keeps mentioning.
WW isn’t buying it at first, and continues to accuse Tyler of nefarious intent. MM, however, convinces her finally that Tyler is not capable of making such a device in the bracelet. Relieved, WW reveals to Tyler the full extent of her participation in the Middleman organization, and the implications of that participation. Astonished, Tyler speculates that Manservant Neville likely only hired Tyler for the sole purpose of getting the bugged bracelet to her in a non-suspicious manner.
But what is the rest of Neville’s plan? The three consider the facts, and theorize that Neville is using the YouMasters, powered by the superpowered pineal glands and advanced technology, in a way that allows Manservant Neville to control reality and take over the world!
But, not if they can stop the upgrade of the software in the YouMasters first. Duh duh DUH!
Tyler leads them into the Manservant Neville lair, seeking the key component to the YouMaster’s power. There, they find what WW describes as “a Glandnato,” which is “Like a tornado made of glands.” The crowd laughs in approval.
Manservant Neville then presents himself, and based on the audience reaction, Mark Sheppard’s interpretation of the role steals the show every time he opens his mouth, hamming it up and adding some additional acting flair to the role. Neville explains that he predicted everything that has happened thus far. The Middleman, undaunted, lobs a grenade at the deadly machine. However, the grenade amazingly turns into a block of cheese!
Yes, the YouMasters are shockingly already online, the upgrade has already happened, and the team seems to be too late!
Outside, the YouMasters across the world rise up and link together. Manservant Neville explains his diabolic plan to alter all reality on the planet, with a long rendition of how he will transform the environment, the plants, the objects, and the very people of the planet, all at his whim.
Tyler whispers that he has a plan and knows where the off switch for the machine is located. But despite the attempted distractions of WW and MM, Tyler is noticed by Neville, and zapped into oblivion in a lighting attack by Neville not entirely dissimilar to that seen by Emperor Palpatine in “Return of the Jedi,” or so says Grillo-Marxuach.
Distraught, the duo have little time to contemplate the death of Tyler, as they are teleported away by Neville to Lacy’s flat. There, they find Noser has been sunk into a massive diamond. Upstairs, they find Lacey in bed. To the Middleman’s horror, she is dying of cancer! The Middleman tries to console her, promising that everything is going to be okay, and that he loves her.
The Middleman then explains to WW that he now knows the meaning of Lacey’s illness. Long ago, a woman named Ravina Rao died of the same cancer that Lacey now has. And who is Ravina Rao? Why, the Middleman’s former Middleman. The Middleman now admits that their only and best hope is with the talisman he previously described, which lays buried in the Middleman vault. Knowing this means “the ultimate sacrifice,” WW is astonished!
Meanwhile, newscasters around the world describe the bizarre chaos that is occurring everywhere, all amplified by Grillo-Marxuach’s animated descriptions.
Making their way to the Middleman base of operations, the duo are pursued by the stormtroopers of Neville. Briefly, Ida manages to fight them off as she appears immune to their weapons (though her skin is not, and her robotic skeleton is exposed). Mary Pat Gleason’s portrayal of Ida is loudly applauded at this point by the enthusiastic crowd.
Fighting their way down the hallways, WW is taken by the stormtroopers, leaving MM to fight on to the vault.
Fortunately, we think, MM reaches the vault, and pulls forth the talisman that looks much like a black panther.
Triggering the idol, the Middleman finds himself in the underworld, as seen in a prior episode, where time and space have no meaning. There, the Middleman is greeted by Rao, his former Middleman. “Hello, Clarence Colton.” Yes, we now know the Middleman’s real name!
Meanwhile, WW is transformed into a Princess Leia slave girl costume and chained to the wall in front of Neville.
After hearing of Neville’s diabolic plans some more, The Middleman and Rao show up in an elevator that crashes into a crystal powering the YouMasters.
It’s not enough to stop the machines. But, perhaps dozens more elevators are?
Dozens of elevators appear, crashing into the crystals. Their doors open, revealing Middlemen from countless ages! Caveman MM, Amazon MM, Middle Ages MM, every Middleman of the past. The Middleman Army all fire at once at Neville, engulfing him and all his minions in a flaming power of retribution. Neville dies, painfully.
“The day is ours” scream the other Midlemen, raising their weapons in triumph.
Rao reveals that the Middleman must take up the mantle of Neville’s power, leaving to take control of it. Is this the ultimate sacrifice spoken of?
All the YouMasters un-network and fall back down to earth. A single tear drips down WW’s face, as she realizes he is leaving her to the Middleman mantle.
But what’s this? The Middleman and WW appear back in WW’s building. The Middleman is still there?
“But, you’re here, what about the ultimate sacrifice?” she asks.
“That’s all been taken care of,” says the Middleman.
Tyler is there, alive and smiling. WW, shocked, throws her arms around him.
Lacey is there too, healthy as could be. But, she is anticipating the arrival of Perfect Warren, not the Middleman.
Confused, WW finds that Lacey no longer recognizes The Middleman at all, thinking this is the first time she’s ever met him.
WW turns back to look at her boss, knowing all he had to give up for them. This, then, is the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his true love to set the world right once more.
“He is her hero, he is our hero, and that is the end of the saga of the Middlemen,” intones Grillo-Marxuach in conclusion.