HBO’s Watchmen continues to justify its existence with a fourth episode that’s entitled, “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own.” My imagined translation: “In Case You Forgot Who’s Running This Thing, It Is I, Damon Lindelof, Master Of Strangeness.” Made-Up Subtitle: “And If You Thought I’d Waste Your Time With A Near-Literal Replication Of The Source Material Like Zack Snyder Did, Then You’re Hereby Invited To Have Yourself A Reckoning.” That last clause refers to a line uttered by Tim Blake Nelson’s character, but there’s so much to chew on with this episode’s mysteries, and we’ll get to Looking Glass eventually because he’s worth it.
This episode was the most bonkers one so far, and that’s saying something. The egg-references are picking up steam (we first saw them as a nod to the comic-book smiley face in the pilot), and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack continues to kick in at the most badass moments (mainly involving Regina King‘s Sister Night).
A few notes before we breeze through this episode’s mysteries:
– It’s worth reiterating that the pilot launched with a retelling of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and ended with the hanging of Don Johnson’s police chief, Judd Crawford, who just so happened to be hiding a KKK robe/skeleton in his closet. A few short weeks later, and we’ve seen squid rain and multiple blue penis references and an entire episode framed by joke-monologues from Jean Smart‘s updated version of Laurie Blake/Silk-Spectre II, who essentially gave a graphic novel primer. This week gets even weirder, but it feels relevant to mention that this episode was written by Christal Henry, an ex-Chicago cop (and Black female) who’s certainly brought a valuable perspective to this Watchmen continuation.
– I’m being glib about the whole episode-title thing because this week’s installment is easily traceable. “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” points toward a quote attributed to Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian author whose masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, can be spotted in the hands of Cal Abar at one point during the episode. Then Angela walks in and spoils how the main character of this book, Okonkwo, killed himself by hanging, which is undoubtedly a reference to Judd’s death.
When Yahya-Abdul Mateen II confirmed to us that Cal Abar is a “patient” man, he really wasn’t joking. The guy calmly puts up with spoilers! Now, onto the series’ mysteries that continued to unfold this week.
Mystery #1: Who is this mysterious trillionaire benefactor?
As if this series wasn’t complex enough and full of unfamiliar characters already, this episode introduces the reclusive Lady Trieu. She swoops into an unsuspecting married couple’s home and offers them their very own baby (biologically theirs), which she’s constructed in exchange for their property, where she wants to keep adding to her Millennium Clock project that’s not really about a clock. Legacy isn’t in land, she tells them, but in blood. And this ties into a later discussion of trauma, and the idea that genes aren’t the only thing that can be passed between generations — trauma can also be bestowed in such a manner. Certainly, all of the family-tree discovery by Angela in this episode continues this theme, given that she’s the granddaughter of Will, a 105-year-old survivor of the race massacre.
We later see that Will has taken up some degree of residence with Lady Thieu, which puts a further wrinkle into his habit of disappearing, first after the massacre, later from the NYPD, and most recently, from Angela’s life. Will and Lady Thieu bicker a little bit about a deal and some “passive-aggressive exposition” pills that Angela discovered, and those topics seem to promise more. But what does Lady Thieu want? We don’t know much about her true intentions yet. We do know, however, that the other than the Millennium Clock is considered the first wonder of the new world (we saw a birdseye view from Laurie’s flight last week), and that she purchased Adrien Veidt’s company. She’s inspired by Veidt, too, and he’s also doing weird things with babies…
Mystery #2: Why is Adrian Veidt launching dead bodies into the sky?
This older version of Ozymandias keeps proving that he’s the same dude who dropped an alien squid onto Manhattan in the late 1980s, thereby killing millions under the guise of saving mankind from nuclear holocaust. More to the point, though, why is he now launching the bodies of his dead-replica servants toward the moon? And he’s clearly not in Tulsa and is removed from the rest of the action, but where, exactly, is he? We get more hints here. Veidt clarifies that he’s been condemned to this paradise-prison for about four years so far. We’ve gathered that he’s still fixated on Doctor Manhattan, and the suggestion here is that — because the bodies pop out of sight after a few seconds — that he may not simply be in another country or on another planet but in a different dimension. More on that last detail later, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Doctor Manhattan’s the one who condemned Veidt to this prison, where he’s continually birthing new servants from a baby swamp, speed-growing them to adulthood, and then killing countless iterations whenever he’s having “a rough night.” And ultimately, Adrian’s trying to figure out how to bust out of there.
Mystery #3: Will Angela or Laurie win their ongoing showdown?
Last week, Angela showed that she wasn’t going to immediately cave to FBI Agent Laurie Blake’s intimidation tactics, but Laurie seems to gain the upper hand in this round. As Jean Smart told us, Laurie’s pulling a Columbo by making strange, inappropriate jokes while actually manipulating people. She’s criticizing masks and how people use them to “hide the pain” after trauma, possibly sourcing from injustice. And Laurie utters these zingers while making light of her own painful past (including how her father, Edward Blake/The Comedian, sexually assaulted her mother, Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre). This flip-style of Laurie’s tends to unsettle those around her, and Angela appears to actually be a bit rattled here. That might be because she can’t understand why the FBI cares about her stolen car, and this agent is rattling on about her ex, who “was distracted by fucking quarks.” In this scene, Laurie further attempts to disarm Angela by revealing her own vigilante past (“I used to dress up and fight bad guys, too”), even though she’s leading the FBI’s anti-vigilante task force. This dynamic has a lot of push and pull, and I can’t even begin to guess who’ll come out on top.
Mystery #4: Who the hell is Looking Glass, really?
Clearly, Angela sees an ally in the Tulsa Police Force’s lead interrogator (who also had a marvelous interaction with Laurie while she made fun of his “racist detector” last week). However, Looking Glass/Wade remains an ambiguous figure, one who happens to be analyzing photos of alien-squid rainfall when Angela shows up at the door of what’s presumably his tornado shelter. He’s pseudo-sympathizing with the squid, who are trans-dimensional — there’s more evidence that Veidt might still be pulling some strings — creatures, and when quizzed on whether Judd was racist, he answers that the guy was “a white man in Oklahoma.” This leads to the KKK robe coming out and Wade declaring, “It looks like we have ourselves a reckoning.”
Although Wade’s take here (he wonders if the robe is only a family keepsake) seems plausible, and he promises to research the bottle of pills discovered by Angela, he’s still a cagey guy. The pair refers to Wade’s ex, who’s an ex for a reason, even if it was amicable, but Wade remains an ambiguous figure for now. As Tim Blake Nelson told us, Looking Glass is indeed dealing with his own trauma and withholds himself not only behind his Hugo-based drawl but through the profession he’s chosen. Nelson promised that we’d learn more about that trauma, so we’ll see how deep that mystery extends.
Mystery #5: Lube. Man.
Where did this guy come from, what does he want, and does it matter? We’ve got a costumed vigilante whose sole “superpower” is the ability to spray himself down with lube and evade capture by sliding into the sewer. (I don’t know, it kind-of feels like this could be an alter-ego of Laurie’s FBI sidekick, Petey, but is that too obvious?) Not only does Angela have to deal with this BS, she has to follow this scene up with a visit to James Wolk‘s smarmy senator and then tolerate Laurie’s shenanigans. I don’t envy her plight, but I do dig Lube Man. I also love that the Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe-winning Trent Reznor composed music for a Lube Man scene. Watchmen is a very good TV show!
HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ airs on Sunday nights at 9:00pm EST.