Watchmen Catch-Up continues! One of my favorite TV writers tackles an episode focusing on my favorite new character. How am I not going to love “Little Fear of Lightning”?
A radio tells us that the Doomsday Clock is set at one minute to midnight, and then we’re in Hoboken, 1985. That one minute should let you know where we are in the original story, but let’s see how this plays out. A group of young men arrives on a bus. They stop to pray for their souls before they head into an amusement part to pass out copies of The Watchtower. One of them is named Wade, so we know we’ve got Li’l Looking Glass here. Some toughs hassle him but a cool girl pulls him away to hear more about it.
She leads him to the Hall of Mirrors and she flirts while he talks about the afterlife. He claims not to be afraid and then she starts to take off his clothes. She asks if he’s ever had sex and tells him this is his last chance if they’re all going to die. She strips him and then steals all his clothes and runs away, leaving Wade naked in the Hall of Mirrors. He berates himself and then there’s a horrible noise like an earthquake of metal. And this is the moment when Adrian Veidt teleported a fake extradimensional invader into Times Square. The mirrors shatter and Wade passes out. When he wakes up, his ears are ringing and he’s bleeding from the glass. He makes his way outside to find that everybody is dead. Of the whole fair, we see maybe only two people left alive. Wade screams as the camera pulls farther and farther back to show more devastation until we actually see the dead giant squid.
In the present, we see a tourism video aimed at convincing people it’s safe to move back to New York (which includes an appearance by Michael Imperioli). There’s a focus group watching and Wade is watching them from behind a two-way mirror. Later the executives go over the results. The focus group seemed to like it, but Wade said they hated it. “They told you they liked it, because what hot-blooded Oklahoma male is going to admit he’s scared”. Wade says he saw only fear as they watched the video – it just reminded them that three million people died horribly.
He stops off at a storage unit to get his Looking Glass mask. Cut to Laurie addressing the cops and sending them after the Seventh Kavalry. Later, Panda and Red Scare argue about the difference between Catholics and Baptists, and Wade realizes Red Scare put lettuce from the truck driven by the guy who tried to kill the cop in the first episode on his sandwich. It’s a little labored, but they really need to remind us of the lettuce. Angela asks him what his ex found about the pills, but he hasn’t heard back from her. And then Laurie calls on “Mirror Guy”.
She’s just going through his file and notes that he was in the blast zone on 11/2. She asks if he still wakes up screaming, and he claims to be fine. We also learn that he joined the force right after the White Night and his mask is made of a material that protects against psychic blasts. Man, you just know Adrian Veidt invented that and had it on the market immediately. Then she dismisses him, and he’s not at all sure why she even asked him in. But then she pulls a Columbo. She bugged his desk and wants to know what pills Angela was asking about. He won’t tell her anything.
He arrives back home as Wade. As he checks his mail, we see one piece addressed to Cynthia Tillman. There’s also an EDS catalog – their company logo appears on most of his prepper stuff. Including a safe where he has another Looking Glass mask. He takes off his cap, which is lined with the same material, and then pulls the mask on. He eats cold beans out of the can while watching American Hero Story, which features a pretty explicit sex scene between Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis. In the footage, Justice refuses to take off his mask, which I note because I’m behind on recaps and I know what happens in the next episode.
There’s an alarm and Wade leaves his house and heads for the bunker we saw last week. He determines that it’s a false alarm, but he can’t shut it off. He has to tear the main breaker out of the wall and stomp it to death. Later, he’s on the phone to EDS about their faulty equipment, and here we learn that he’s obsessively running drills and that’s probably what’s wearing it down. He demands a new unit overnight at considerable cost. He settles down in the bunker, presumably because his house isn’t safe enough without the alarm. Wade pulls his mask over his face as he lays down to sleep.
Another focus test, this one with kids trying out Smiley-Os cereal. But Wade leaves when he gets a page from Cynthia about his pills. Cut to a pet cloning business that appears to be staffed by pairs of twins. They let her in to see Cynthia. He brings her his mail as she clones some puppies. He notes that one is a little smaller and Cynthia puts it in an appliance and let’s not speculate as to what that does. She tells Wade the pills are Nostalgia. They’re illegal – memories in pill form. Taking them can result in psychosis. We also learn that Wade has a hard time trusting people, which is the least surprising thing we’ve learned on this show.
Wade heads to church for his support group. It’s for people with extradimensional anxiety. Squid survivors, basically We learn that they’re called “Friends of Nemo” and the trauma was so great that if affected children of survivors born long after the incident. And then Trixie from Deadwood saunters in. Wade welcomes the newcomer to the meeting. He tells the group he’s been where all those people are, but he learned not to be afraid. Except for how he totally is. “Does it ever end? Of course it does. Because we are all in a tunnel, and every tunnel ends. It ends with light.” In the parking lot, he makes conversation with the new woman, Renee. She says she doesn’t believe him and there is no light. He asks her to come to the next meeting and share. Renee isn’t coming back, but she wants him to follow her.
They go to a bar and we catch up with them talking about Wade’s job. He explains that he can tell when people are lying and to prove it, she lies when he asks about her job and he knows when she’s lying. She claims to be a waitress and work in foreclosures, but he doesn’t believe her until she admits she’s a radiologist. Wade asks for her squid story. She references a movie that Steven Spielberg made in 1992 called Pale Horse. (Named after the band playing in Madison Square Garden when the squid arrived.) Basically, in this world, Schindler’s List was about a fake squid from another dimension and I love these beautiful lunatics so much. A detail that seems pertinent – there’s a girl in a red coat. The rest of the movie is black and white, so the color really pops. Let’s see if that comes up again! And Renee is haunted by the image of that little girl in the movie. She’s scared all the time now and doesn’t know why everybody isn’t petrified.
She’s too drunk to drive home. Wade offers her a rid, but she figures he’s also too drunk. They wait outside for her friend. There’s a kiss, and then somebody in a pickup truck comes for her. A head of lettuce falls out as they drive away, and that’s enough for Wade to tail them.
He calls for backup follows Renee and the Rohrschach-masked driver into a building. It appears to be a church, though the actual sanctuary makes up a pretty small part of the space. And then a ball falls from the sky. Wade hides behind a pew while a Kavalryman shows up to take note of the coordinates. He finds a room where a whole bunch of Seventh Kavalry are throwing balls into a portal. He pulls a gun and tells everybody to freeze instead of waiting for backup. He demands answers and Renee says they went to a lot of trouble to get him here. Also, the gun is loaded with blanks and they were spoofing the radio signal so there’s no backup coming. A couple of big Rohrschachs strap him to a chair in front of a wall of TV screens. A Rohrschach sits down and talks to him about the lining in his hat as another ball falls from the sky. He tells Wade he knows he’s Looking Glass, and Wade says he knows the guy is Senator Keane. Oh, dang.
Keane says he and Judd were working together to maintain the peace – he’s keeping the Seventh Kavalry in check. Basketballs keep falling out of portals. Wade thinks they’re building these portals to “drop another squid” on Tulsa, but Keane has something to show him that’s going to change his life. But he asks for a, and I am not making this up, squid pro quo. He says either Angela killed Crawford or knows who did and he needs Wade to bust her. That’s going to be better than sending white supremacists to her house. Cool threat from the guy who claims he’s only a member of the Seventh Kavalry to keep them in line.
And now Keane has a video to show Wade. It’s Adrian Veidt’s instructions to Robert Redford. He recorded it years before Redford was elected and had it delivered to him on inauguration day. In fact, he recorded in 1985 and Redford took office in 1993, and he’s only President because Veidt planned it. He explains that, in 24 hours, a monster will appear in Manhattan and kill millions of people, but it’ll save the world and he’s the one who did it. I like the way they’re handling this because for people who’ve read Watchmen, this is old hat, but for people who are just coming in with the TV show, it’s news. And so they’re focusing instead on how Wade reacts, so it’s not just exposition. And Tim Blake Nelson is killing it here. There’s so much confusion and pain on his face.
Veidt explains that he’s going to occasionally drop small flurries of squid just to keep people on their toes, but now he needs President Redford to become his partner in building a utopia. He offers to give some answers over the next few hours and we cut to the manor house. A group of Phillips and Crookshanks are mixing vats of liquid while Veidt dons a steampunk spacesuit and climbs into the catapult. He’s flung into the air with a long cord anchoring him to Earth, and then he disappears. And like that, he’s in space. On what appears to be Jupiter’s moon. (I’m bad at astronomy.) All the dead Phillips and Crookshanks litter the ground. And Veidt just starts moving them around, snapping off limbs and heads where necessary, and he piles them very deliberately. Pull back a little, and we see he’s making shapes. A satellite passes and records the image of the words “Save Me D” spelled out in corpses on the moon. Veidt celebrates until the cord snaps back and pulls him back through the portal. He returns to Earth to find the Game Warden waiting for him.
The Warden says he has to face the consequences and arrests him, with the “may God have mercy on your soul” line. Veidt gloats that their god abandoned them, and the Warden admits that’s true. And thus, there’s no mercy for him.
Cut to a woman spraying a perfume labeled “Mercy”. It’s another focus group test with Wade watching from behind the glass, but we see in his eyes that he’s not really there anymore. He gets his mask and heads to the station where Red Scare and Panda argue about whether Doctor Manhattan was Hooded Justice. Angela asks him about the pills and he wants to know if anything is true. He gives in and hands her the Nostalgia. She knows what that drug does and assumes they must be her grandfather’s memories. Wade offers to help as we’re reminded that his desk is bugged. She admits that her grandfather claims to have killed Crawford, but she doesn’t believe him so she covered it up. And that’s all Blake needs to move in to arrest her. Angela has just enough time to realize Wade betrayed her before she chugs an entire bottle of Nostalgia. Uniformed officers take her away as Wade covers his face again.
He arrives home and seems kind of surprised to realize he stopped wearing his hat. On the doorstep is his new alarm from EDS, which he puts in the trash can. There’s a beat and he comes back for it. He goes back inside and after a few seconds, an SUV full of Seventh Kavalry screeches to a stop in his driveway. They’re heavily armed and the episode ends with them heading for his front door.
**Dang, guys. Since I’m behind on recaps, we already know the next few episodes are absolutely wild, but I thought this one was great. I really love Looking Glass, and I’ve been looking forward to this episode all season. Especially since I saw that Carly Wray was going to be co-writing this one. Wray wrote the best episode of Westworld (the 2018 Spunky Award winner for Best Episode – Drama), some of the best Leftovers, and a few top-level Mad Men. She’s the best, and I believe she’s going to be the showrunner on the Game of Thrones prequel.
I loved this episode. I think I talked about a lot of the connections in the actual recap, so let me just note that Nostalgia was a perfume line that Veidt put out in the original Watchmen timeframe. It’s been indicated that Trieu bought up most of his operation, and given that she’s working with Will, she definitely produced these pills. And what exactly is Veidt doing? This gave a lot more context to all the weird stuff he’s been doing with handmade spacesuits, even if we’re not sure why there’s a portal there or how he knew about it yet. And what does “Same Me D” mean? Clearly he’s held at the Manor against his will, but who does he thing is going to help him?
I don’t think “D” refers to Doctor Manhattan, simply because Veidt usually called him “Jon”. The only prominent “D” I can think of is Dan Dreiberg, the second Nite-Owl and the only major Watchmen character to not be represented in this series so far. We know he’s in jail for treason, but if we assume the Veidt timeline doesn’t match up with the rest of the show, maybe helping Veidt is why he was arrested. I can’t imagine Dreiberg would want to help Veidt, but maybe he’s as confused as I am as to why Veidt reached out to him. This is a lot to process.
It’s worth noting, I think, that this episode really frames Looking Glass as a counterpart to the original Rorschach. There have been little nods to that, but here we see they’re both paranoid weirdos who hide their faces and eat cold beans straight out of the can. But the big difference is that while Wade struggles with his trauma, it’s not an excuse. Rorschach used his terrible childhood as a justification for brutality and Wade just turned into a guy who’s apparently hard to live with, but is just searching for truth. I feel so much of this show is a response to the portion of the fanbase who insists, as a guy I know once did, that Rorschach is the only real hero in Watchmen. No, he isn’t. He was a monster who mostly focused his cruelty and sociopathy on people who were worse than he was, but he is explicitly not the hero of Watchmen.
By the way, I know I said I was going to review the Peteypedia stuff on HBO’s website every week, and that didn’t happen. I think I’ll wait until the end of the series and then take a look at it and see what it illuminates. But for now, I hope to have the next episode up in a couple of days. That’s the one that kicked off a series of “holy crap!” revelations, so it is going to be a ride.