HBO’s Watchmen delivers new mysteries each week while showrunner Damon Lindelof delivers his ambitious continuation of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel. So far, we’ve seen a retelling of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, which the series used as a launching point to jump into 2019, where the white supremacist Seventh Kavalry spreads terror as generational trauma unfolds on multiple fronts. Meanwhile, the series’ plentiful comic-book references, including squid rain and blue penises, were joined by Lube Man, and weekly mysteries still unfold. It’s time to break it all down.
Watchmen‘s fifth episode title, “Little Fear Of Lighting,” references a Jules Verne quote — “if there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning” — from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Yep, it’s that classic novel where Captain Nemo and his crew were antagonized by giant sea squid. Of course, we’ve been seeing transdimensional squid rain throughout this series, which refers back to the alien squid that Adrien Veidt/Ozymandias dropped on Manhattan in Moore’s graphic novel. This week, we also meet a support group called “Friends of Nemo,” led by Tim Blake Nelson’s Wade, who gets derailed by a new attendee named Renee (the fantastic Paula Malcomson of Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, and Ray Donovan). She’s a gravity magnet (that’s a pattern for him, as we learn) for poor Wade as he’s still sorting through his trauma.
Oh, that trauma! Tim Blake Nelson told us that we’d learn more about his character, and we received one hell of an origin story for his alter ego, Looking Glass.
No Lube Man this week! Lots of other mysteries, though:
1. What Happens To Looking Glass And The Kavalry?
Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake (Silk Spectre II, now leading the FBI’s anti-vigilante task force) is looking more perceptive by the week after telling Angela/Sister Night that people wear masks to deal with trauma. And when it comes to Looking Glass (who she brashly refers to as “Mirror Guy”), it’s no wonder that he’s wearing the ultimate magic-tinfoil hat. Not only does his mask look like a mirror, but it’s also apparently made of “reflectatine,” believed to guard against repeat psychic blasts.
Wade hails from the sort-of Tulsa area (further south in Hugo), but he happened to be in Hoboken, NJ in on “11/2” in 1985. Not only was the poor guy tricked by a woman who left him mortified and naked, but while he’s freaking out, Veidt dropped the squid, killing 3 million people. Those who survived the incident were left traumatized by the psychic blast, and Wade bears those scars after mirrors crashed around him, and he stepped out to wonder whether the Doomsday Clock had truly struck midnight. By the end of this episode, though, we learn that Veidt had actually pulled off an elaborate hoax (which he’s still maintaining, so yep, he’s responsible for pulling those squid-rain strings). It wasn’t a transdimensional alien at all, merely a creation of Veidt, who claimed to be unifying mankind and halting nuclear war, and so on.
Where Wade ends up next is left ambiguous. We see armed Seventh Kalvary members approach his house at episode’s end. Is Renee one of them? Did Senator Keene, who’s also apparently part of the group, order a hit? Wade performed the requested “Squid Pro Quo” duty, but even if the Kavalry’s only making a “friendly” visit, Wade’s gonna be even more messed up now. Imagine learning that your decades of trauma, including wearing a mirrored mask as psychic protection, and all the alarms and everything else, was all the result of a hoax. Not only that, but Wade’s ex-wife gave him a hard time about not trusting women, and so, he let his guard down around Renee, only to watch his carefully constructed defenses crumble.
2. Will The Pale Horse Connection Continue?
Not only does Renee manipulate the heck out of Wade, but her squid story leads down a few rabbit holes, namely to refashion Steven Spielberg’s Schindlier’s List as Pale Horse, the movie. In this alternate reality, Spielberg apparently decided that his 1992 movie should revolve around 11/2, rather than the Holocaust, which speaks volumes about the generational trauma and horror associated with Veidt’s actions. Renee recounts how the film took its title from the name of the band that was playing in Madison Square Garden at squid-time, and the iconic girl-in-a-red-coat scene features Herald Square and dead bodies strewn among the tentacles. Renee continues to rewatch the movie, she claims, because it makes her feel calm, but there’s another connection here.
The first volume (of the three that will be released) of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ Watchmen soundtrack is called VOL: 1: Sons Of Pale Horse, The Book Of Rorschach. Here’s a photo of the copy I received in the mail, shortly after the series debut. Reznor’s packaging game is still strong (even if this isn’t as elaborate as his Year Zero escapade) — the album cover is clearly framed around Rorschach’s aesthetic, and there are some quotes from the comic book character inside, along with the actual record album. (No codes or secrets lurk inside, only music, or so it seems.)
Perhaps we’ll learn more about a Sons Of Pale Horse band as the series progresses, and if so, I imagine there will be a strong Seventh Kavalry connection, given their appropriation of the Rorschach masks.
3. What Is Senator Keene Planning?
Speaking of the Kavalry, guess who’s on the team? Senator Joe Keene, surprise, surprise. Portrayed by Peak TV royalty James Wolk, Keene already seemed shady, but apparently, he’s capable of some serious stunting. The implications are huge, especially after a Kavalry member ended up dead while supposedly trying to take Keene hostage and blowing up Judd’s funeral. Wade likely doesn’t truly trust Keene, even after learning about the pseudo-transdimensional basketball-conjuring trick and watching Veidt’s recordings. Yet he has no choice but to trick Angela into implicating her role in covering up Will’s presence at Judd’s hanging site.
Keene is planning something, but what? Wade accuses him of plotting to open another portal in Tulsa for a second squid attack, but Keene says nope, it’s “something new.” And yes, he did formerly offer a “squid pro quo” (Brian Grubb’s recent joke to that effect has paid off handsomely) to Wade, who’s forced to save Angela’s life by orchestrating her arrest. We’re also now left to wonder what will happen with those “Nostalgia” pills, along with what’s coming from Senator Keene, who seems to realize that the Kavalry’s up to no good, but he’s certainly along for the ride.
4. Where Is Adrian Veidt Being Imprisoned?
By this point in the episode, we’ve already seen Veidt’s recording, in which he admits that the squid isn’t really from another dimension but is “an elaborate, meticulously engineered hoax to save the world.” Now the so-called smartest man in the world and the architect of fear is attempting to break free — my god, his face! — and we see that he’s imprisoned on one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons. He touches down, sees the piles of frozen dead bodies (his cloned servants) that he’s been catapulting into the sky, and he’s thrilled at the sight of a satellite. Aaaand then he’s yanked back down to his prison-paradise grounds, where the warden arrests him. Does that satellite have anything to do with the manufacturing of “small-scale extradimensional events” in the form of squid rain? Also, and even though we know his likely whereabouts now, we still don’t know who imprisoned him — was it Doctor Manhattan or even Lady Trieu?
5. Hooded Justice Gets A Sex Scene, But Who is He?
Before Renee and the Seventh Kavalry turned Wade’s world upside down (yet again), it briefly appeared as if he was watching porn at home. However, this is simply an episode of the show inside the show, American Hero Story (which Petey declared was a “garbage” series last week). One of the Minutemen characters, Hooded Justice, was having sex with another male costumed vigilante (Captain Metropolis, with whom he had a relationship that was mainly discussed in the graphic novel’s supplementary pages), and Wade’s viewing of the scene gets interrupted by an errant squid alarm. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Hooded Justice make an appearance on Watchmen‘s AHS, and it’s notable that his true identity was never revealed in the comic books. He wasn’t actually a huge character, either, but it makes sense that the HBO series would weave him into the fold somehow, given that his costume includes a hangman’s mask and a noose around his own neck. How significant he’ll be remains unclear, but one theory argues that he’s actually Will, the grandfather of Angela, who was last seen with Lady Trieu.
In the AHS series, his physicality does not resemble Will at all, but the show does really look like garbage, so who knows? No leap is too large in a series with a Lube Man.
6. Will You Ever Hear “Careless Whisper” The Same Way Again? Absolutely not.
HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ airs on Sunday nights at 9pm EST.