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Monday, 28 October 2019

REVIEW: Watchman delivers again.

Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends.”

This line comes at about the ⅔ point of Watchmen’s second episode, but long before that, they were the final words that Dr Manhattan (The dude attached to the big glowing blue penis) says to Ozymandias in the graphic novel. Ozymandias, aka Adrian Veight (aka that weird British dude in the castle played by Jeremy Irons), has just pulled off a cataclysmic event and united the human race against a common enemy. He wants desperately to know that Dr. Manhattan, a figure as close to God as you can imagine, approves — to know that what he did was right in the end.

But there is no end. Nothing ever ends. The world continues to spin and every action leads to something else.


The episode, titled “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” does not pick up right where we left Angela (Regina King) and our dearly-departed, coke-snorting police chief (Don Johnson). Instead, it gives us another window into the past. Just as the pilot opened with the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot to provide us the context of the setting of the show, this week pushes us even further back, into World War I-era Germany.

Indeed, race violence escalated right after WWI, when African-American soldiers returned from war in Europe with a resolve to continue fighting for their own rights. The letter we see the Germans dropping on Americans is a word-for-word recreation of the real thing, and in fact is the piece of paper Will (Louis Gossett Jr.) holds — the one on which his father scrawled the words “Watch Over This Boy” before he died. The throughline of history is clear: World War I to race riots to Will’s actions.

And when we pick up our story back in 2019, we likewise see the fallout of the police chief’s murder. Red Scare (Andrew Howard) whips the police into a frenzy and leads them to a raid in Nixonville, a trailer park known for its racist tenants. The raid is a violent violation of due process, attacking everyone in sight in an act of vigilante justice.


Even Angela is unnerved, whose love for recreational beatings of white supremicists LG (Tim Blake Nelson) calls “indisputable.” The people of Nixonville are being antagonized because of the history of where they live. Red Scare even yells through his megaphone that he knows not all of them are members of The Seventh Cavalry. Some I assume, are good people.

As for the suspect Angela has in her custody, she finds out that Will Reeves was not only at the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot through testing his DNA, but also that he’s her grandfather. After offering condolences to Judd’s wife and appropriately answering Senator Bob Benson’s “How are you?”, She also checks up Judd Crawford’s closet and finds not a skeleton but the ghostly KKK robe. Not great!

When Will is whisked away at the end of the episode by some kind of magnet, he leaves Angela the letter from the German soldiers. The question he’s asking her is clear: Why are you fighting for these people?

It’s hard to understate how much the idea of history and the momentum of time looms over this story. Obviously, there’s that throughline of racial history from 1921 and the KKK to the Seventh Cavalry of today, but the past influences everything on Watchmen.

American Hero Story, the show-within-a-show that puts the entire episode on pause (the most unrealistic part of Watchmen is that everyone in 2019 would watch the same television show), focuses on Hooded Justice, the original vigilante of the Watchmen universe.


Hooded Justice is a complicated and terrifying figure (and possible Nazi sympathizer) in the graphic novel, and American Hero Story represents that well, after all of the relevant content warnings. He’s a violent man searching for some kind of outlet for his rage that will be somewhat socially acceptable, setting the stage for other vigilantes, whether they be Red Scare or The Seventh Cavalry, acting out their violent urges under the guise of justice.

In our weekly, “what the fuck is going on with Jeremy Irons” segment of the episode, we can tell that the past weights heavily on Adrian Veight. He can’t help but try to recreate the birth of Dr Manhattan over and over again with an assortment of clones. Veight is known in the comic as “the smartest man on Earth” and, as such, saw himself as a tier from the other heroes, closer to Dr Manhattan than other humans. This is probably why he sought Manhattan’s approval, although he never received it.

The past feels heavy even on our main character Angela. We don’t yet know what happened to her parents, but we do know that she adopted Topher because he was her deceased partner’s son. The racist father of her white children also makes an appearance, (although he doesn’t seem to be an ex-husband due to his obvious racism and Sister Night’s stance on racists), accepting a rain check and instead insisting on a real one.

We even get a window into the White Night, the coordinated attack on 40 police homes that drove them into wearing masks, an intersection of two timelines of history, of racial violence and of vigilante justice. Angela’s story is no less impossible to separate from her history as it is from the history of Tulsa or from the history of vigilante superheroes. Nothing ever ends.

But the question now becomes, what will Angela do at this crossroads of history, and who will she turn the wrath of Sister Night upon?

STRAY OBSERVATIONS
  1. Lingering White Night thoughts. We’ve only gotten this quick peek into one of the most defining historical events of the show so I still have a lot of questions and observations that aren’t coherent enough to put in the proper review:
  2. Angela is about to have sex with Calvin right when the co-ordinated attack starts. Last time we saw her having sex was while Judd was being killed. Talk about a mood killer.
  3. How did Cal survive and who saved Angela from the shotgun pointed at her face?
  4. Judd notes in the hospital that she “got her guy” but there were two shooters. Did the other one get away?
  5. In light of Judd’s KKK past, is it possible that he was, in part, behind this attack? It would explain how he survived when so many others did not and how he was able to continue on without wearing a mask.
  6. It’s a fairly quick scene, but the newspaper stand scene is a great window into the world beyond the story. In it, we hear the idea that the raining squid phenomenon is a hoax. The other time we see a newspaper in the episode? In American Hero Story, explaining that Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds was just a radio story.
  7. Looking Glass has a mask so cool, he doesn’t take it off to eat nuts OR TV dinners. You’re a cold motherfucker, Glass.
  8. Angela takes the DNA sample to the Greenwood Cultural Center which is a real place! In the world of Watchmen, it is now a place where you can test your eligibility for reparations, and is overseen by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Louis Gates Jr., a literary critic in our world famous for, among other things, a controversial op-ed on reparations.
  9. We got a better look at this new American flag in this episode, and Reddit’s flag study subreddit (there really is a sub for everything isn’t there) seems to have an image that shows it as a 51 star flag. I assume the 51st star is for Vietnam.
  10. I love the show’s use of synth music to shift gears. A character will portray some intense emotional beat, which will breathe for a minute, before the synthetic beat comes in. Case in point, when Angela mourns the death of her friend Judd (great performance by King of someone trying to vent while holding back because there’s someone in the next room), takes a deep breath and turns into Sister Night. Chef’s kiss.
  11. When Angela comes home, her kids are dressed up as a pirate and an owl, references to Nite Owl and the Black Freighter.
  12. While everyone is going to focus on how Adrian created a bunch of clones to burn alive for his entertainment, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this dude just casually genetically engineered a tree to carry tomatoes like apples.
Watchmen continues Monday at 9.00pm on Sky Atlantic.
                                           Contributed by Jackson  From Skip  Intro 

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