Watchmen switched gears and swapped perspectives this week. In the first two episodes we were very much in the pocket of small town police work, but in episode three we got a cynical outsider’s look at the case of the hanged police chief. Angela Abar aka Sister Night was pushed to the periphery, with Laurie Blake aka Silk Spectre taking centre stage, a reformed vigilante now working high up in the FBI, who was dispatched to Tulsa to investigate Crawford’s death.
This was the episode that really started to convey the satire at the heart of Alan Moore‘s Watchmen comics, Blake ridiculing masked vigilantes big and small, notorious and amateur. Checking her teeth for errant fragments of food in Looking Glass’ reflective hood and relentlessly mocking the superhero-enamoured assistant she was sent to Tulsa with, it was a cathartic watch after more than a decade of superhero content that expects you to take its premise deadly seriously (here’s looking at you, Marvel).
Will ‘Watchmen’ makes sense if you haven’t read the comics?
‘She Was Killed by Space Junk’ was another incredibly tightly packed episode in terms of plot information. Creator Damon Lindelof maintains that you can enjoy the show without having read the comics. But honestly, I can only imagine what a cluster-fuck this series must be if you’re viewing with zero familiarity. Watching a woman send an interplanetary voicemail to her ex-boyfriend, a large, blue man living on Mars, makes complete sense if you have prior knowledge of the universe’s characters. But you have to remember that little backstory has been fleshed out explicitly so far. Honestly, I might get my mum to start watching this show, bringing her into reviews as the puzzled control subject.
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Blake’s message to Dr Manhattan was threaded through this week’s episode, a jaded Blake telling her ex a ‘joke’ which was set at the pearly gates of heaven. Making fun of the legacies of Nite Owl, Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan, the purpose of the pseudo-joke seemed to be: ‘while you guys are fooling around with showy acts of heroism, I’m quietly getting stuff done.’ But there was still a sense of longing in the voice of Blake, who clearly still misses Dr Manhattan hugely. In case this wasn’t clear, the point was reiterated in a later scene in her motel room – certain to become a meme – where she opens a briefcase and extracts an enormous blue dildo.
What went wrong at Crawford’s funeral?
Disrupting a local police force like only a black coffee-sipping FBI agent can, Blake ultimately wound up at Crawford’s funeral, which was interrupted by a Seventh Cavalry member wearing a suicide bomb vest to be triggered by the failure of his heartbeat. That Blake assumed he was lying about this trigger system, promptly shooting him in the head, and that Angela put her life in danger to save the mourners at the funeral, dragging the corpse into Crawford’s grave, said it all about these two characters and the different ways they operate. Using Crawford’s coffin/body to suppress the blast felt a little odd and illogical to me, but hey, it was a nice metaphor.
What is Adrian Veidt building?
The other main plot strand this week was Adrian Viedt’s continuing vaguely Wes Anderson-esque exploits in wherever the hell he is. With clones, Restoration-era scenery and tomatoes growing on trees, we could be in a different time period, on another planet or in a different dimension for these scenes – possibly all three. We did learn tonight however that Veidt is in soft captivity, a ‘game warden’ allowing Veidt to remain in his castle so long as he doesn’t cause any trouble. The vigilante formerly known as Ozymandias is course troubling though, of course, and here we saw him building a rudimentary suit and testing it out on his clones. We didn’t get to see what the test actually was, but the clone’s frozen, oxygen-deprived end was consistent with how we often see ‘death by space’ depicted in TV and film. Perhaps Veidt is trying to build a spacesuit and escape whatever planet his gilded prison is located on?
Will the Cold War return to ‘Watchmen’?
There was another mystery set up this week, though more subtly slipped into proceedings: the reporter quizzing Keene Jr. about the “Russians building an extrinsic field generator”. Is this a sign that the Cold War angle will return to Watchmen?
Watchmen is a demanding show, requiring your undivided attention lest you miss crucial pieces of information (which often comes at you in tandem) but it’s also fun and quite enthralling in its sheer wackiness. More of Blake, please, who was a welcome addition tonight, often poking fun at the show itself and proving that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
‘Watchmen’ premieres on Sky Atlantic in the UK at 2am each week and is repeated at 9pm on Mondays