TV

Watching The ‘Watchmen’: Questions We Have After The Radical Hooded Justice Twist

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.

Remember how I got all hung up last week on the identity of Hooded Justice and the theory that he’s actually Will Reeves, the grandfather of Sister Night/Angela Abar? It seemed like an unlikely reality, given that Reeves is 105 years old and had already claimed to be Doctor Manhattan and the person responsible for hanging Tulsa Police Chief Judd Crawford from a wheelchair. Not only that, but on Watchmen‘s series-inside-a-series, American Hero Story, Justice had been portrayed by a white actor. This week, that actor fully unmasks himself during a police interrogation.

HBO

Well, we soon find out — through flashbacks that Angela sees after swallowing Will’s “Nostalgia” pills — that the use of a white actor indeed helped to throw the HBO audience off the scent of Justice’s identity. In addition, Will (an NYPD officer who endured racism within the force) applied light makeup around his eyes to help conceal his true identity. He transformed into a vigilante (thereby masking himself) after a near-fatal hanging by his fellow officers, followed by him stumbling upon a crime in process.

HBO

So yes, this episode confirms that Louis Gossett Jr. has been portraying the first costumed vigilante, who inspired the New Minutemen. That’s huge not only from a TV series standpoint but because Justice (marginalized not for his race in the comics but for his homosexuality) was never formally identified by Alan Moore. Despite only being discussed in the supplemental pages of the graphic novel, he’s a vital character in the grand scheme of the comics. And Justice is a perfect character for Damon Lindelof to weave into his continuation series that began by depicting the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Honestly, the reveal radically recontexualizes the source material and further transcends what Moore accomplished while critiquing the superhero realm.

To further hammer home the pinpointing of Will as Justice, this sixth Watchmen episode takes its title, “This Extraordinary Being,” from Watchmen lore on the vigilante:

“A supermarket stick-up had been prevented thanks to the intervention of ‘a tall man, built like a wrestler, who wore a black hood and cape and also wore a noose around his neck.’ This extraordinary being had crashed in through the window of the supermarket while the robbery was in progress and attacked the man responsible with such intensity and savagery that those not disabled immediately were only too willing to drop their guns and surrender.”

The episode performs a callback to this paragraph that plays out slightly differently — Will crashes out of a supermarket window while fleeing gunfire from the store owner after infiltrating a Cyclops facility. Yes, earlier in the series, we saw Justice thwarting a robbery, but now, the source material is being rewritten, just like Lindelof (obviously a white man) is showrunning a series that’s writing a Black character into history, rather than the other way around, which is how it’s usually done, and particularly how it was done with the Tulsa Race Massacre.) Not incidentally, the resulting visual is a stunning one.

HBO

Beyond the identity-fueled revelation, we’ve got more mysteries afoot. Adrian Veidt took the week off, and Lube Man is still in the wind, but let’s unravel other lingering questions.

HBO

What’s The Cyclops/Seventh Kavalry Connection? There’s a lot going on here. At Will’s cadet graduation, he received a warning to “beware of Cyclops.” He began investigating the group as a racist underground criminal enterprise that had infiltrated the NYPD. By episode’s end, he discovered that Cyclops had been “using film projectors to turn Negros against each other” as a form of mind control. Will apparently used this technology against Judd while instructing him to hang himself and after making that Cyclops gesture — a very unsubtle suggestion that Cyclops and Seventh Kavalry are directly related. This also ties into Senator Keane hoaxing up Judd’s funeral that ended with a Kavalry member blowing himself up after pretending to take Keane hostage. Oh, and Wade accused Keane of plotting to open another portal in Tulsa for a second squid attack, but Keene (right before showing Wade that his life was a PTSD reaction to Adrian Veidt’s squid hoax) insisted that Kavalry had an original idea.

We still don’t know what Keane and the Kavalry are planning, but all of this suggests a connection to the Watchmen comic through Judd, even though his character is a TV series creation. We can probably assume that Judd, at the very least, was aware of what the Kavalry is planning, and perhaps he accidentally uncovered it? This sort-of ties back into how, in the graphic novel, The Comedian/Eddie Blake (father to Jean Smart’s Laurie) uncovered a secret that resembles the “vast and insidious conspiracy” spoken of during this episode by Will about Cyclops. A few episodes ago, Will also tried to warn Angela using the same “vast and insidious conspiracy” language. It was easy then to believe that he was talking about the Kavalry, but now, it’s a Kalvary-Cyclops matter.

HBO

What Did That Robe In Judd’s Closet Really Mean? In 2019, Hooded Justice still manages to do the vigilante thing, given that he used Cyclops-inspired technology to make Judd hang himself. Judd had insisted to Will that he had every right to keep that Klan robe in his closet because it belonged to his grandfather, and “it’s my legacy.” Will, of course, countered that he can’t possibly be proud of that legacy because he was hiding it. It’s difficult to imagine exactly why Judd would want that robe in his house at all. Wade previously insisted to Angela that his boss wasn’t a racist but simply “a white man in Oklahoma,” and it’s entirely possible that Judd actually kept the robe around to remind himself not to fall in line with mistakes from the past.

Further, Judd’s ambiguous situation has found more fuel in HBO’s Watchmen companion site called PeteyPedia, which contains memos written by Laurie Blake and her fellow FBI Anti-Vigilante Task Force Agent, Dale Petey. One of those documents discusses a painting in Judd’s house that was handed down to Grand Wizards, so there’s certainly the suggestion that Judd was connected to the Kavalry in some way. And last week, Senator Keene revealed himself to be part of the Kavalry and seemed to implicate Judd as well. Whether or not Judd was actually Kavalry, that’s what Will definitely believed was the case when he set “Justice” into motion.

HBO

Seriously, What Is Lady Trieu Up To? The mysterious trillionaire clockmaker surfaced at Angela’s bedside during the episode’s final moments. This is all getting very circular, so I need to talk it out. The last time we saw Trieu was in a scene with Will. Earlier in the series, Will mentioned to Angela that the pills were medicine he used to help his memory. Then Angela took the pills to Looking Glass, who had his ex figure out that they’re indeed Nostalgia and outlawed by the U.S. government because folks would overdose on them, etc. In this episode, Laurie urges Angela — who doesn’t trust Laurie at all — to get her stomach pumped before the pills kick in, or she’ll end up a vegetable. And Laurie reveals that Lady Trieu owns the company that makes these pills. Well, these details appear to have been planned by Trieu and Will, although perhaps Will wasn’t aware of the risks? He clearly wanted Angela to learn about his history, but what was Trieu’s intention? We know she was inspired by Adrien Veidt and appears to be the same variety of sociopathic meglomaniac, so I’m not placing any trust in her.

HBO

What Happened To Looking Glass? It’s not looking good for Wade. In the final moments of last week’s episode, Tim Blake Nelson’s character was seen entering his home, and he was followed by gun-toting Seventh Kavalry members. What happened next was left unseen, but I’m (sadly) assuming that he’s deceased because it feels almost tragically fitting for his traumatized character. If that’s true, at least we received a hell of an origin story for Wade’s alter ego, along with learning about Adrian Veidt’s execution and continued perpetuation of the squid hoax. Even though we didn’t see Ozymandias in this episode either, there’s little doubt that there will be more followup for him — about both his Jupiter-adjacent imprisonment and his Doctor Manhattan obsession — to come.

HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ airs on Sunday nights at 9pm EST.

×