In the second episode of Watchmen we learn a lot more about Judd Crawford and Will Reeves, meet a seemingly minor character played by somebody who makes me think it’ll be a much bigger character, and Hooded Justice gets more dialogue than he got in the comics and the movie combined. Also? Things get weird. It’s “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”!

We open in Germany, World War I. It’s the creation of a real piece of German propaganda called “To the Colored Soldiers of the U.S. Army”, which was a leaflet drop that tried to test the loyalties of black service members by noting how much better they’re treated in Germany than America. And from what we see here, it seems pretty effective. We watch a soldier ready it and bring it home. Lou Gossett Jr. reads it in the present and that’s what’s on the other side of the “Watch Over This Boy” letter. Then we see the end of last week from his perspective. He’s the one shining the light on Angela and there’s no indication that anybody else was involved with Judd’s death.

Angela loads him and his wheelchair into her car and brings him to her bakery with a secret room. He’s got pills and the note on him and that’s about it. Angela goes to another room to let herself cry and yell. She puts on her costume, offers the man a cop of coffee and then starts asking questions. He says he’s 105 years old and he hung Crawford all by himself with his psychic powers. He even claims to be Dr. Manhattan, but she says he can’t make himself look like other people. Which…. yeah, I guess he can’t. Then he needs her to give him his pills and he has to admit he’s not Dr. Manhattan. He says there’s a conspiracy at play and Crawford has skeletons in his close. And he’s going to give her information in pieces because that’s the only way she can handle it. Ha! He’s Damon Lindelof! And then he finally tells her his name… Will. We learned that from IMDB, but now I can call him that for real. Angela gets a page and pretends to be surprised by the news she receives. She takes the coffee mug and bags it before she leaves.

She passes a newsstand where the headline on the New Frontiersman reads “Global Squidfalls Baffle Scientists”. A couple of guys swap conspiracy theories and then young girl who reads multiple newspapers stops by for her order. That feels like something but it’s not anything yet. Angela returns to the scene of the crime, which is now swarming with cops and reporters. She acts like she just found out and it feels like Looking Glass doesn’t believe her. He says the Kavalry is the obvious culprit. She asks “Did he suffer” and Glass answers: “Yup… he was alive the whole time. Until he wasn’t.” There are some brutal details in there that I’m skipping over. But it’s pretty clear that Will couldn’t have one all that. Glass asks about the evening she spent with the Crawfords and it has the air of an interrogation and they both know it. Though that also seems to be how he talks to everybody all the time. And then a mad with mechanical wings crashes onto the hood of the car. Red Scare beats the hell out of him and somebody tazes one who’s still in the air – these are reporters. Oh, I like that. The heroes take the body down and it cuts to Christmas.

It’s Angela and Cal dancing and being romantic and adorable. It’s two minutes to midnight, which is a very big Watchmen thing and the audible “tick tock” should be worrying us by now. There’s a thump and a member of the Seventh Kavalry breaks in and starts shooting. Angela gets Cal to safety and then goes after the guy. She knocks him out but another one shotguns her. This is the White Night we heard about. Angela wakes up in the hospital to see Crawford. He assures her that Cal is safe and he just went home after three days of watching over her. Crawford’s got a broken arm and he tells her that they came for everybody – hitting forty police at home simultaneously. But most of their friends died – we learn specifically about the Doyles, who were killed in their beds. Their boy, Christopher, hid his sisters. And then she calls him “Topher” and well, we know why Angela and Cal have three white kids now. Crawford tell her there’s nobody left – everybody who wasn’t killed resigned. It’s just the two of them now. This is a really good scene that is probably going to change in our minds the more we learn about these people, but for now it’s a heartbreaking moment between two friends. And then we return to the present to watch the body bag closing from Crawford’s perspective.

Red Scare wants to go after the Kavalry. Angela suggests taking a breath and thinking about it, but Red Scare is ready to go bust some heads. Cut to Nixonville. The cops and heroes are assembled in force while Red Scare issues threats into a megaphone. I should note that while Sister Knight has a really cool costume and Looking Glass has that rad mask, Red Scare is wearing a jogging suit with a balaclava. I’m fascinated by this low budget hero. When nobody comes forward, the cops prepare to tear down a statue of Richard Nixon. But then somebody throws a bottle at Red Scare and all hell breaks loose. Looking Glass and Sister Knight hang back, until somebody takes a swing at Angela and she beats him to a pulp. And then she locks herself in the car to breathe and process and remind us that she still has a coffee mug.

Later, out of costume, she takes that mug to the Greenwood Center for Cultural Heritage, passing protestors. Some of them are against reparations and I think maybe there’s a group of counter protestors, but their signs are too elaborate for me to make out in the brief shot. Inside, it’s a museum devoted to the massacre in Tulsa. Angela approaches a machine where a digital Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (as himself) asks her name, and she introduces herself as Will. It’s a machine designed to check a person’s eligibility for reparations for Greenwood – it’s meant to test their DNA with a cotton swab. But Angela swabs the mug that Will used. She leaves the sample and a phone number.

We cut to Angela’s house where a hostile white guy is waiting. It’s Jim Beaver, who is the greatest. He demands to see the kids since he has visitation rights and it’s his day. I’m not clear on who he is to them, since their parents were killed – is he a grandparent that has court-supported visitation rights? The point is, he’s really just trying to shake Angela down for money. I don’t like when Jim Beaver is a dirtbag. He uses the term “Redfordations” and Angela bristles. Inside, the girls are costumed as an owl and a pirate and playing with Cal. He asks about the old man and it’s clear from the level of detail in his questions that she tells him everything. I really like that. She asks if they’re safe and she answers “I would tell you if we weren’t”. He says Jane Crawford is having people over – he’ll stay home with the kids so Angela can go.

In his room, Topher makes an elaborate castle out of magnetic building blocks. Angela sits down to tell him about what happened to Crawford – she even calls him “Uncle Judd”. Topher has a hard time processing and asks her not to tell the girls yet – he’ll handle it tomorrow. We already know this kid has been through some serious stuff. He swipes at his castle and it collapses.

It’s time for the premiere of American Hero Story, playing in the background as Angela leaves. There are a truly ludicrous number of warnings before the show. We see Looking Glass watching it, and then members of the Seventh Kavalry building a suicide vest. The narration of the show has a man talking about a circus strongman named Rolf Muller who washed up dead – “But that’s not me. I just need them to think it is so they’ll stop looking.” The narrator says he can’t tell you who he really is because then you won’t keep watching. The show depicts a newsboy selling papers with headlines about War of the Worlds as a gang of toughs rob a grocery store. And when they start threatening innocents, Hooded Justice bursts in and just wrecks them in a hilariously pulpy action sequence. Like, he actually crushes a guy’s head with the cash register. The narrator continues talking about how he used to see a stranger staring back at him in the mirror and that stranger was just full of anger.

Angela arrives at the Crawford home and seeks out Jane. She extends her sympathies and meets Senator Joe Keane, played by James Wolk from Mad Men. You know, the Bob of “Not great, Bob!” And all of a sudden, Angela passes out. Jane gets her to a bedroom and brings her a glass of water. She assures Angela “He loved you. He really did” before rejoining the rest of the mourners. And… this was all a ruse on Angela’s part!

With a set of goggles that look like Nite Owl tech, she x-rays the bedroom and sees a human shape behind the closet. Once she finds the secret panel, it turns out to be a Ku Klux Klan outfit with a sheriff star.

And then we return to what appears to be England where Jeremy Irons rides a horse and enjoys an apple. Phillips and Crookshanks celebrate another anniversary the same way they did last time with the same weird cake. He gets impatient and reminds Crookshanks he wants real tears tonight. Phillips asks for the watch back because he needs it as a prop. Jeremy calls them dimwits and declares it’s time for the show. And then we see a presentation of his play starring Phillips and Crookshanks and it is indeed a retelling of Dr. Manhattan’s origin. As Jonathan Ostermann, Phillips steps into the “intrinsic field generator” to retrieve a watch. The door slams, and where Ostermann was bombarded with radiation, real fire consumes Phillips. Nobody but Jeremy Irons was expecting that, and he tells a shocked Crookshanks that he wants those real tears. And then there’s an actor portraying Dr. Manhattan with a full head mask. The play ends to Jeremy’s satisfaction. Then Manhattan takes off his mask and it’s Phillips. Some more Phillips come to take Phillips body to the cellar with the others. He appoints a Phillips named “Montrose” to be the new Phillips and says they’ll have a use for the dead one before too long. He retrieves the undamaged watch from Phillips’ body and these scenes are very weird.

From the watch, we cut to another ticking clock – this one in Angela’s secret room. She returns and Will is still there, making some eggs. He not only got out of the handcuffs, but he got out of the building, went to the grocery story and came back. Angela shows him the robes she found in Crawford’s closet – remember, he told her that her friend had skeletons in his closet – and she accuses him of planting the robes. He reminds her he can’t go up stairs but he somehow still managed to hang Crawford on his own. And then the phone rings. It’s the DNA analysis – Will is eligible for reparations and they found two descendants. The recording says that if “Will” says a name, they can confirm their relationship. She says “Angela Abar” and… yes, she’s Will’s granddaughter. She doesn’t tell Will what she learned, but asks why he’s here. He says he wanted to meet her and show her where she came from. Angela responds by arresting him.

She lifts him into her van and as soon as she gets him inside and closes the door, some flying vehicle lowers a magnet and takes the car and Will away. Because this show is rad, that’s why. The “Watch Over This Boy” note falls and Angela grabs it. And that’s the show!

–As I noted, the propaganda in the opening scene is real. And just the other day I heard an interview with Levar Burton where he talks about how much better he was treated overseas than in America, and specifically noted Germany as a place where “they didn’t have a problem with me”. I’m not sure where this fits into the story, but it’s interesting and it maybe sets us up for the idea that we might see some minority characters who aren’t entirely sympathetic to the people who are ostensibly trying to help. And it clearly made an impact on Will’s father, who held onto it for years. And we’re on board with Will being the boy from Tulsa and not the baby, right? His stated age works for the boy.

I think I might believe Will that he’s the one who hung Crawford, but I don’t know that I can buy that he laid the spike strip and attacked him on the road and tortured him. And, jumping ahead a little, what about those Klan robes? We don’t know Crawford well, but he seemed genuine. But keeping those robes on display in a secret room isn’t nothing. If he had a bad past or maybe an undercover op, that’s not something you keep on a mannequin for years. It’s a lot and it’s at odds with everything we know about him.

The newsstand we see in this episode resembles the one that appeared frequently in the comics, and The New Frontiersman was the right wing conspiracy rag that published Rorschach’s journal. It seems to have a little more clout now judging just by the number of copies on display. And the reporters with the mechanical wings seem to be using Moth Man technology – he was one of the Minutemen who was only referenced briefly in the comic.

The flashback to the White Night answered some questions but given what we learn about Crawford in this episode, it seems suspicious that he was one of two survivors. If he was in on it and Angela was the only real survivor, he’s definitely working some kind of long game. Angela may be hugely important in ways we don’t know quite yet.

Topher smashing his magnetic castle is a reference to Dr. Manhattan destroying his intricate structures on Mars with a wave of his hand, which he did in the comic and in the premiere. Also, the girls wearing owl and pirate costumes are references to Nite Owl and the Tales from the Black Freighter pirate comic within the comic.

What we see of American Hero Story matches what we know of Hooded Justice from the comic – he only appears briefly in the comic, but the backmatter had more details. Dan Dreiberg speculated that Hooded Justice was actually a circus strongman named Rolf Muller and according to the Under the Hood pages from the comic, Muller washed up dead right when Hooded Justice disappeared from the public eye. This is referenced here but the narration indicates that Muller wasn’t really Hooded Justice.

Here are some other things we know about Hooded Justice from the comic – he was the one who stopped the Comedian from raping the original Silk Spectre. Also, he was apparently gay and in a secret relationship with Captain Metropolis. Of note to us right now is that the character was going to be called “Brother Knight” and now we have a hooded woman named “Sister Night”, so that’s a nice deep cut reference. It seems like Hooded Justice might be very important to this series. He’s not getting all this screen time for nothing.

By the way, I should note that one of the Before Watchmen prequels heavily features Hooded Justice but also makes him a possible child murderer who was executed by the Comedian. In general, the prequels aren’t good and lack internal consistency. Unless I see compelling evidence otherwise, I’m going to assume Damon Lindelof doesn’t consider them canon, which is the only stance a reasonable person can take. Also, the “sequel” Doomsday Clock is at least partly premised on the idea that the New Frontiersman published Rorschach’s journal in which he revealed that Veidt created the interdimensional threat. But Rorschach sent his journal off before he knew anything about the fake threat, and he died immediately after learning about it, so you can’t fudge the timeline at all. (It should be clear that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons aren’t involved with the side projects at all. Moore didn’t allow the movie or the TV show to credit him as the original writer. But Dave Gibbons bought a house from his cut of the movie, and the man deserved it.)

It’s clear now that Veidt, or whoever Jeremy Irons is, really is cloning or creating his servants from scratch. He’s got Phillips to spare! And I have to say that if he is Adrian Veidt, it’s a little surprising that the Smartest Man in the World’s project is a literal retelling of Dr. Manhattan’s origin. Maybe Veidt isn’t what he used to be? Or maybe he’s a not quite as good clone?

Will is Angela’s grandfather but that asks as many questions as it answers. What is he doing? And he’s certainly not alone given the magnet rescue. I think that might have been another Owlship, but it was too cloudy to say for sure. I feel like we’ve only seen the edges of what this show is about, and I’m fascinated.

I didn’t manage to get my review of the supplementary material on the HBO website done, but I’ll be covering that shortly. Also, I’d like to reach out. I am a white man and Damon Lindelof is a white man. (Though not all of the writing staff is.) So I’m processing a white guy telling a story that is largely about racism through my own white guy filter. If you’re black or a member of any minority group, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the show so far and maybe talk about what either I or Lindelof might be missing. Leave a note in the comments or hit me up on Twitter so we can talk.

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