Who Watches The Watchmen? Part Two: Episodes 4-6
By Chris M.
“I’m in. All the way! Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…”
– Will Reeves, Episode Four
- Episode 4: “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own.” Written by Damon Lindelof and Christal, Directed by Andrij Parekh.
- Episode 5: “Little Fear of Lightning.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Carly Wray, Directed by Steph Green.
- Episode 6: “This Extraordinary Being.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Cord Jefferson, Directed by Stephen Williams.
As I entered
the middle passage of the Watchmen mini-series, I was literally on pins
and needles wondering if Damon Lindelof and company were going to serve up more
narrative curve balls. Needless to say, I was NOT disappointed…
In the fourth
episode, we are introduced to Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), the mysterious
Viet-American billionaire who swept up Adrian Veidt’s assets after his
disappearance. In the opening moments, she commits a rather shocking piece of
extortion (that was chillingly reminiscent of some of the shenanigans they used
to pull on J.J. Abrams’ Fox series, Fringe) just before a spacecraft
crash lands on their property.
Angela (Regina King) finds her hijacked car but unfortunately for her, so does
Laurie (Jean Smart), who impounds it and finds her grandfather’s fingerprints
inside. What Laurie doesn’t find are a bottle of pills in the glove compartment
that he apparently left for Angela to find. Angela takes them to the only
person she truly trusts, Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson), so they can be
independently analyzed by his ex-wife.
of the evidence of her grandfather’s stay in her police hideout, Angela spies a
masked vigilante tailing her. She gives chase but her prey proves to be a bit
too slippery for her to catch.
It turns out
there’s another connection with the car that leads Laurie, Petey and Sister
Night directly to the immense Millenium Clock project complex. They meet with
the mysterious Lady Trieu and her daughter, Bian, who both pledge their full
cooperation in the investigation. Trieu also passes along a message to Night from
her grandfather in Vietnanese, which she coldly deflects.
Trieu and Will
have a plan in motion; they want Angela to be a part of it, but Will insists
that his granddaughter must figure out what’s going on on her own. Otherwise,
he reasons, she won’t accept the truth directly from him. Trieu disagrees,
saying family entanglements may endanger their agenda. Will reaffirms that he
is in, no matter what may come.
Adrian Veidt continues to test the limits of his virtual prison by catapulting
the corpses of his clones slaves up in the air to an unknown void…
gave us the inside story on how Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson) became the
sardonic Looking Glass, the human lie detector. When the infamous giant squid
was teleported into New York City in 1985, Tillman was a teenager working as a
Jehovah’s Witness in neighboring Hoboken, New Jersey amusement park when it
happened. While he survived the attack, he was psychologically traumatized.
As a Tulsa cop,
he uses his keen powers of observation to interrogate suspects and solve
crimes. But those powers are of little use in his personal life; he’s divorced,
lives alone, has trouble connecting with people on a personal level and seems
to spend a great deal of time studying and/or living in fear of the next “squid
attack’ from another dimension.
Wade is also
under pressure at work; Chief Crawford’s murder remains unsolved and Laurie
Blake has taken control of the force for the forseeable future. She is also
pressuring Wade for information about Angela, whom she strongly suspects knows
more about the murder than she’s telling.
One of those
things is a bottle of pills that Angela desperately wanted analyzed. His ex-wife Cynthia informs Wade that the pills
are Nostalgia, a pharmaceutical memory aid that has been outlawed due to its
dangerous side effects. (It also turns out to be a drug that was invented and
marketed by Lady Trieu’s corporation!)
identity is market research consultant and his public service hobby is helping
people who are still traumatized by the 1985 attack or the infrequent “squid
drops” that keeps the populous on edge.
When Wade meets
Renee (Paula Malcolmson), a new member of the support group, he is initially
smitten with her until he spots a clue that indicates she may be a member of
the 7th Kalvary. He trails her to a warehouse but turns out to be a trap; Wade
is confronted by Senator Joe Keen, Jr. (James Wolk) who is seemingly using the
7th Kalvary as a front for his presidential aspirations. He offers Wade a
choice, either watch a video revealing the truth about the ‘alien invasion” or
have his life ruined by his operatives.
Keen also wants
Angela served up to Laurie and out of the way while the 7th Kavalry’s plan,
involving an elaborate teleportation system, goes operational.
In deep despair
over his newfound knowledge, Wade tells Angela about Nostalgia in the presence
of one of Laurie’s surveillance bugs and she openly admits her grandfather’s
involvement in Crawford’s death. When Laurie immediately moves in to arrest
her, Angela swallows all of Will’s pills…
powerful trebuchet and wearing a primitive pressure suite, Adrian is launched
into the air…and onto an airless moon. He rearranges the numerous corpses of
his clone servants into a distress message that may (or may not) be observed by
an orbiting satellite. But just as he rejoices in triumph, he is pulled back
into his virtual prison by the Game Warden, who arrests him, promising “no
mercy” in violation of the rules of confinement.
In Episode Six
we take a deep dive into the life of Angela’s grandfather, William Reeves
(Jovan Adepo) via the Nostalgia pills she ingested during her arrest. He was
the little boy who rescued a child from the Tulsa massacre. In 1938 New York,
that child grows up to be his wife, June (Danielle Deadwyler).
inspired by watching silent movies a distant relative, the famed US Marshal
Bass Reeves, to become a policeman. But, unlike the movies, life proves to be
more complicated. Hired in a move to mollify black activists, he encounters
racism from his fellow officers and the public at large.
catches wind of a conspiracy run by the KKK and some NYPD officers in his own
precinct, he’s nearly lynched and warned not to “mess in white people’s
dons a dark hood and becomes Hooded Justice, the first of the many masked
vigilantes of the Watchmen universe.
himself with white makeup (in a similar manner as Angela does with her Sister
Night identity), he continues to investigate the Klan and their insidious plans
to kill or destroy the lives of African-Americans.
Will heeds a
call to join the Minutemen, a group of masked adventurers sanctioned by the
authorities, but is disheartened when their leader, Captain Metropolis (Jake
McDorman) belittles his pursuit of racists in favor of criminal masterminds.
later into his police career, Will discovers that the Klan is testing a mind
control device on black movie audiences in order to cause widespread riots and
mayhem. When he discovers their warehouse, he brutally murders the Klansmen,
takes a prototype of the device and burns the base to the ground. In doing so,
he becomes the very antithesis of the fictional movie version of Bass Reeves,
who once intoned, “There will be no
lynching today! Trust The Law!” to moviegoers.
efforts have a price; June, bitterly aware of his vigilante activities, leaves
him and takes their young son back to Tulsa.
shows Angela exactly how Chief Crawford was killed; Will, using a modified
version of the mind control device, forces him to hang himself…
And when Angela
awakes from her coma, she is surprised to be in the company of, and treatment,
of Lady Trieu…
of re-watching HBO’s Watchmen (and what will make it eminently so in the
future) is seeing the various references to the past of the origin comic AND
our own past intertwined with narrative. I can pluck three from Episode Six
Bass Reeves was quite real, the first black deputy U.S.
marshal west of the Mississippi. His exploits were so remarkable that they may
have inspired Fran Striker and George W. Trendle in the creation of the Lone
Ranger in 1933. In a fairer, better world, Bass
Reeves would be a better known and loved than a fictional white character.
newsstand owner recounts the origin of Superman in Action Comics to Will
Reeves, who almost instantly connects with the tale of an alien baby sent to
another world to escape his planet’s destruction.
Fred T., the
racist grocery owner who clashes with Will early on in his policing life, could
be modeled on the life of Fred Trump, the father of our current chief
executive, who was also known to be a not very pleasant person.
Another thing I
found admirable about Watchmen was Damon Lindelof’s dedication to making
this production as diverse as possible. A majority of the writers (ten of the
fourteen) were people of color and three women directed episodes.
Besides being a
top-flight piece of entertainment, Watchmen is also a reaction against
the willful erasure of the more violent aspects of American history, race
relations, colonialism, political hegemony and policing. Heady stuff, to be
sure. But so was Alan Moore’s source material.
clear to me after six episodes that the narrative strands of the main
characters; Angela Abar, Laurie Blake and Adrian Veidt, are slowly being drawn
Of the three, I
feel emotionally invested in Angela’s story the most; she is learning about her
family legacy in a very hard way. Her neat and tidy life of black and white,
good and evil has been upended in the most unusual manner. And while she has
acted in her own self interests in the protection of her family and herself, we
can see the toll it’s taking on her through the sheer acting prowess of Regina
King. Jean Smart and Jeremy Irons may delight us by chewing the scenery around
the edges of the story but Ms. King’s performance is the living, beating heart
of this epic. And I hope the Emmy Award nominators remember that going into the
Also, I must
highly commend the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which I
neglected in my previous review of the first three episodes. It’s a
fantastical, electronic wonderland that invokes thrills, whimsy and dread in
all the right places.
Watchmen also features a remarkable number of
period pieces from several musical eras, from the Inks Spots, Eartha Kitt and
Billie Holiday to Devo, Howard Jones and the Beastie Boys. A weekly updated
list of the music being used can be found at:
As for me, I
don’t know how Damon Lindelof and company are going to pull off this feat of
narrative derring-do in the final three episodes.
In an interview published online in Gen Mag (which can be read here) before Watchmen’s
premeire, Damon Lindelof made the following statement: “I envision myself
holding two stacks of plates each in my outstretched arms and we’re putting
plates on both sides to find the perfect balance, but in finding that balance,
plates are fucking breaking, man. You can’t play this game and not break stuff.
But I hope when plates break, it’s not irreparable. Talk to me in a few months
and then we’ll have a conversation about whether it was worth it.”
In three more
weeks we’re all going to find out if this ambitious, audacious and totally
unauthorized endeavor is going to pay off. Stay tuned…