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‘Watchmen’ episode 6 review: Was Judd Crawford really a closet racist?

*Spoilers for 'Watchmen' episode six 'This Extraordinary Being'*.

Watchmen gave us a break from all the sub-plot racketball this week, instead focusing entirely on one story. 

What happened in Watchmen episode 6?

After Angela unwisely boshed all of the ‘Nostalgia’ memory pills in one go at the end of episode five, a whole, uninterrupted episode allowed us to fully witness her psychotropic trip down memory lane. In a significant reveal, it turned out her grandfather William Reeves was not, in fact, Dr. Manhattan in disguise, nor any other supernatural being for that matter. Instead, she learned her relative was the masked vigilante Hooded Justice, a key member of the Minutemen (the premier group of superheroes throughout the 1940s).

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Episode six, ‘This Extraordinary Being’, was a real feat of camerawork and colour grading, with trippy scene transitions conveying that what we were watching was all a hallucination, and the black and white palette occasionally and dramatically having colour bleed into it (often quite literally). The fluid shots, in which the camera circled characters and drifted between them, were undoubtedly effective, but could leave more queasy viewers feeling a bit sick. You have been warned.

Who is William Reeves aka Hooded Justice?

Doped up on Nostalgia, Angela (aka Sister Night) was transported back to the 1920s and stepped into her grandfather Williams Reeves’ body. His story, it transpires, sort of resembles a reverse version of dark, neo-Nazi-featuring drama American History X (1999). The young cadet was initially trusting of people of other races, but slowly learned that – at least in Tulsa – they were out to get him. It was a brutal education, one that saw him go through a mock lynching, witness black people’s bloody corpses getting dragged down the road behind police cars, and discover that a secret group of white supremacists were using mind control to cause suicides. As Reeves shouted down the phone in one of those classically surreal Watchmen lines: “Cyclops is using film projectors to turn negroes against each other!”

‘Watchmen’ episode six ‘This Extraordinary Being’. Credit: HBO

Racism drove Reeves to become Hooded Justice, we found out this episode, and lust caused him to join the Minutemen. A foolish decision, perhaps, because closeted homosexual Reeves appeared to overlook Captain Metropolis’ terrible pitch for him to join in favour of the distraction of his good looks. In the end, Reeves paid for this, as the Minutemen showed themselves to be corporate shills and took little interest in Tulsa’s insidious Cyclops gang, forcing Hooded Justice to go it alone once more.

Was Judd Crawford really a racist?

After a barrage of plot points that were ploughed through in fittingly comic book style, we eventually returned to the present day and found Reeves (now elderly) – still hunting racists after all these years – hypnotising police chief Crawford before hanging him. It’s a shocking scene, which seemed to be in support of the old adage “an eye for an eye”. Maybe subsequent episodes will suggest otherwise, but you’d suspect Reeves had it wrong about Crawford. Yes, he had his father’s Klan robes in his wardrobe, but when Crawford insisted “you don’t know me” as he pleaded with Reeves not to kill him, it felt plausible to think there may be more to Crawford’s story than just ‘closet racist’.

Watchmen ep 6
Regina King in ‘Watchmen’. Credit: HBO

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This was an episode all about how trauma can be passed down through generations, with Reeves’ son witnessing the mental toll racism took on his father, and Angela’s Sister Knight vigilante outfit mirroring her grandfather’s in several ways (though she very intentionally makes no effort to hide the black skin around her eyes).

At the episode’s close, Angela awoke from her drug-induced coma in Lady Trieu’s care, having presumably been liberated from police custody just as an elderly Reeves was in episode one. But will she now be out for Seventh Kavalry blood, or is she more merciful than her grandfather?

‘This Extraordinary Being’ was hardly the most subtle examination of institutional racism, but it was an interesting and stylish side-step for the show, that proves showrunner Damon Lindelof certainly has a vision for this series, even if it’s a vision not everyone will be a fan of.

Watchmen episode 6 premieres on Sky Atlantic in the UK at 2am on Monday 25 November and is repeated at 9pm

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