Wow. OK, this is kind of a big one that introduces/confirms a couple of major Watchmen characters. Also, there’s that bit that everybody is talking about. There’s a lot and this is late, so let’s get into “She Was Killed by Space Junk”.
Just a quick thing to note – Damon Lindelof always devotes the third episode of his shows to characters who’ve received minimal or no screen time previously. LOST gave us the John Locke-centered “Walkabout”, and The Leftovers‘ “Two Boats and a Helicopter” dug into Matt Jamison. And given the joke framing sequence of this episode, it’s interesting that the Leftovers title is the punchline to a joke that’s implied throughout the episode. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
We open with Jean Smart in a Dr. Manhattan-themed broadcasting station. The idea is you can actually send a message to Manhattan. I feel like he’s probably not acknowledging messages, but we’ll see how this plays out. Jean says “it’s me again” and starts to tell a joke. It’s about an amazing bricklayer who tries to train his daughter. At this point, we start to see Jean on the street, headed for a bank, but it’s still cut with the call. In the joke, he tries to show his daughter how to build a barbecue, but there’s a brick left over. The daughter throws the brick into the air and then Jean says she told the joke wrong and wants to do another one.
And then she walks into the bank, approaches the teller, and fires a handgun into the air and announces she’s robbing the place. Some other guys pull guns and turn out to be part of her gang. A hero in black drops in and starts taking out the gang. He is clearly Batman-inspired and actually looks almost exactly like the Midnighter. Jean Smart grabs a hostage. Then she asks how he knew to be there, and tells him that vigilantism is illegal and the whole thing was a setup. The hostage, the gang, everybody was in on this FBI sting. He runs for it and Jean shoots him in the back. Man, Jean Smart is having this late career renaissance that started with 24 and continued through Fargo and Legion and I am extremely into it. Also, the hero is played by Lee Tergesen, who’s been in a million things but will always be Tobias Beecher from Oz in my heart.
The FBI takes the hero to an ambulance and one agent asks how she knew his body armor would stop the bullets. She didn’t answer because it’s clear that she didn’t care. Also, he calls her “Blake”, which is a very big deal. People boo as she cuffs the barely conscious hero, but she seems used to it. She goes home, feeds a mouse to something in a cage that we don’t see, and opens a briefcase, staring at the contents. There’s a knock at her door. We should note that she has an Alexa-style digital assistant that plays music based on her voice command, and that tech does not seem to fit this world.
Senator Keene is at her door, after not reaching her at her office. He congratulates her on catching Mr. Shadow. She’s kind of icy toward him, but she lets him in. Keene checks out her mystery pet – an owl named “Who”, or “Hoo”, I suppose. He tells Blake that they need her in Tulsa to investigate Crawford’s murder. We learn about his presidential aspirations and he mentions that the President can pardon anybody… even “your owl”. There was a bit on the website about this – Dan Dreiberg (the second Nite-Owl) was arrested for vigilantism. Looks like the government seized all his technology, too. Also, behind Blake is an Andy Warhol-style four panel print of heroes. We see Nite-Owl, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, and her head blocks the fourth panel for the moment. But we already have two big clues as to who she is. But just to drive it home, the camera moves to show the fourth panel – Silk Spectre.
Agent Laurie Blake, formerly known as Laurie Jupiter, is the second Silk Spectre. (Played by Malin Akerman in the movie.) She’s using her father’s name now (Eddie Blake, the Comedian). So now we’ve suddenly got a lot of information about her and just who she is to Dr. Manhattan. I’ll elaborate later just in case you’re new to Watchmen, but this is cool.
We cut to Laurie in the broadcast station, telling her second joke. It’s about three heroes going to Heaven and facing God. They’re not named in the joke, but the one who is clearly Nite-Owl is condemned to hell for being too soft. And then we break from the joke.
Laurie arrives at a briefing about the Seventh Kavalry. We get some more background – Tulsa is full of people who received benefits from the Victims of Racial Violence Act, presumably what people called “Redfordations” in previous episodes. That freaked out the local racists, and we have this situation. An agent named “Petey”, the character who put together the supplemental material on the HBO website, brings up Rorschach’s journal, and this is our first confirmation that it was published. His superior lectures him because nobody cares about Rorschach. He moves on to taking about the White Night and how Senator Keene Jr. created the Defense of Police Act that allows cops to hide their faces. This all sort of implies that the Seventh Kavalry is specific to Tulsa and what we’re seeing is not exactly a microcosm of the nation as a whole. The man in charge tries to assign a team and Laurie insists she’s going in alone. She finally agrees to bring Petey along. On the plane, Petey explains that he brought a mask of his own along because “When in Rome”, and Laurie can’t cut him down fast enough.
Petey talks about the rumor that Adrian Veidt got plastic surgery and is living incognito. It’s clear that it’s common knowledge just who Laurie Blake is and he wants to know things about Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan. She just says she’s not a fan of Veidt. Also, they pronounce it to rhyme with “white” and I always pronounced it to rhyme with “wheat”, so I’ve had that wrong for thirty years.
Back in the broadcast station, Laurie continue her joke. Ozymandias is the second hero trying to get into Heaven but God deems him a monster for killing three million people and sends him to hell. Laurie arrives at the Crawford home and we don’t see her talk with Judd’s widow, but next time we see her, she and Petey are staking out a warehouse. Red Scare and Pirate Jenny drive up and pull a captive out of their van. Laurie interrupts them and asks if his civil rights are being violated. He says they are and she responds that she doesn’t care and she would like to talk to Looking Glass. They take her to our guy and I am very excited about this.
Laurie heads to the Pod and immediately starts playing with the clicker. She calls it a “racist detector”, which he believes is an oversimplification. She asks him to take the mask off and we find out she knows his name – Wade Tillman. Laurie asks about Crawford’s autopsy, and how they knew the location of the ranch. She really gets under his skin but he remains very careful in his language. Then she asks about Sister Night and he says she took a personal day to work on her eulogy – Crawford’s funeral is in a couple of hours.
Cut back to Laurie’s joke, and now it’s about Dr. Manhattan facing judgment. As this goes on, we see her and Petey check into their hotel rooms. She has the mystery briefcase packed inside her luggage, taking up most of the available room. In the joke, God sends Dr. Manhattan to hell.
Crawford’s funeral. It’s a media event, surrounded by pro-gun protestors. Laurie pulls Angela aside to talk to her and that doesn’t go over well. Her people skills are not great. There’s a 21 gun salute and then a still conflicted Angela has to give a eulogy. We hear the ticking clock as she explains that they made a pact where they told one another what to say at their funerals, and he wanted her to sing “The Last Round Up”. A Rorschach tunnels up through a crypt and put on a suicide vest. He emerges, declaring that the bomb is wired to his heartbeat and that he’s here for “race traitor” Keene. Keene goes to turn himself over and then Laurie, who knows this man has a bomb that will go off if his heart stops, shoots Rorschach in the head. There’s a bit of a panic. Angela pushes the body into the open grave and then shoves Crawford’s coffin in on top of him and the Kavalry guy and Crawford’s corpse just explode into a shower of meat, which is crazy.
Hey, let’s go back to the Manor where there’s a bust wearing a purple mask. Jeremy Irons is working on something, sketching plans and preparing fabric. And then he’s outside with a Phillips, who he’s put in a homemade space suit that repurposes parts of a knight’s armor. It’s kind of steampunk and a really neat design. We zoom in on Phillips while Jeremy does something that we don’t get to see and then we pull out from his grim rictus. He’s dead on the ground, frozen solid. Jeremy just starts stomping his corpse and swearing gloriously in frustration. Another Phillips asks what’s wrong and Jeremy collects himself and says “I think we’re going to need a thicker skin”. He rides his horse out to a field where there’s a herd of… buffalo? Is that even possible? He shoots one with an arrow, killing it and scattering the others. As he approaches the corpse with a knife, somebody on a horse fires a warning shot. We don’t get a good look at this person, but Jeremy immediately backs off. He returns home where a Phillips and Crookshanks are celebrating his anniversary again and this time he swats the cake to the floor. He sits in a yoga pose to calm himself and eventually Crookshanks brings a letter from “The Game Warden”. He asks her to read the letter from his “adversary” and she reads “Dear…” before he cuts her off and gets to the meat of it. They are prolonging the reveal of his identity for as long as they can. Essentially, there are terms to his captivity and he appears to be in the process of breaking those terms. If this continues, there will be grave consequences. Also, thanks for the tomatoes. HA!
He dictates a response to Crookshanks. He says he’s not up to anything dastardly but he’s not a “Republic serial villain” and we all know what’s coming. He assures the Game Warden that his activities are purely recreational and he will not transgress their agreed upon terms. Also, he’s glad the Warden enjoyed the tomatoes.
And then. “All best wishes and encouragement, Adrian Veidt.”
Oh, hell, yes.
He vows to hunt again at midnight and then Jeremy Irons puts on the exact Ozymandias costume from the comics and I can’t believe this is happening on TV.
Also, it’s just occurring to me that Zack Snyder directed the Watchmen movie and Jeremy Irons appeared in another Snyder superhero movie when he played Alfred in Batman v. Superman. And I didn’t think of that earlier because I hated Batman v. Superman and have done my best to block it from my mind.
Keene gives a press conference about how law enforcement saved the day. In response to a question, he says he’s not worried about Russia because the Seventh Kavalry is the real threat to America right now. There is a reference to Russia developing an intrinsic field generator, which is the device that created Dr. Manhattan, so maybe let’s not take our eyes off the ball.
At night, Laurie checks out the tunnel and finds Angela already in there. She reports that it’s about 300 meters long. Laurie tells her she didn’t believe the guy when he said the bomb was wired to his heart. Still a big roll of the dice there. I also like that Angela says of the explosion, “Crawford jumped on the grenade. I just gave him a little push.” Laurie says she can’t exhume him now and says they were going to dig him up for a full autopsy. She feels they’ve been a little hasty in their police work and notes the wheelchair tracks at the base of the tree. Also, there was a secret compartment in his closet. She figured to look there because her dad had a secret compartment in his closet. Laurie is also sure that Angela knew about the compartment and she would like to know what had been in it, because when she got there, there was just a bust. She figures there was something on it and she knows that Angela knows what it is.
“Men who end up hanging in trees with secret compartments in their closets tend to think of themselves as good guys. And those who protect them think they’re good guys, too. But here’s the thing about me, Sister Night, I eat good guys for breakfast.”
Note that Angela probably wouldn’t expect Laurie to know about Sister Night, but she still mocks Laurie and leaves.
Laurie returns to her hotel and this is cut with her finishing the joke. There’s a woman in line behind the heroes. God doesn’t know why she’s there and isn’t sure who she is. She says she’s the little girl who threw the brick, you know, from the first joke that she claimed she screwed up. And then the brick falls on God and kills Him and sends Him to hell. It’s not much of a joke, but the misdirect is actually really amazing. Her transmission time is almost up and she admits she doesn’t know why she keeps doing this but she likes to pretend that he still cares even if they’re not worth it. Time’s up.
While this is happening, we see her finally open that briefcase and reveal an enormous Dr. Manhattan-themed vibrator. But after looking at it for a bit, she instead goes to Petey’s room. Next we see, they’re in bed together. He’s fallen asleep wearing his mask (HA!), but Laurie is still awake.
And it seems to be that she got up at this point to use the Blue Booth Network to send a message to Manhattan, so we’re all caught up now. As she walks back, Angela’s car plummets from the sky and crashes, narrowly missing her. There’s the tiniest blue flare in the sky, and it seems Dr. Manhattan liked her joke. She sees it too and all she can do is laugh.
**So, rather than get all granular this week, I’m going to do something of a primer. This is the first time where it feels like you really need to be familiar with the original Watchmen to follow what’s happening. So in the event that you’re not, let’s talk about Laurie Blake and Adrian Veidt. This section is full of spoilees for the original, but it’s all stuff that seems to be pertinent to the show.
Laurie Jupiter (or Juspeczyk if you’re not into stage names) is the daughter of Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre. Sally was a member of the original Minutemen, though she hasn’t really been mentioned in this series yet. (Laurie’s father was Eddie Blake, the hero/monster known as The Comedian. His murder kicked off the plot of the original Watchmen. We’ll maybe talk more about him if he comes up. And he was referenced in the American Hero Story promo, so he probably will.) Her daughter took up the mantle in the Eighties, as documented in the comic. Initially, she was in a relationship with Dr. Manhattan and I feel like we’re throwing his name around a lot and he might also be confusing. So it’s time for a sidebar.
Dr. Manhattan (Jon Ostermann) was, well, we saw a recap of his origin in Veidt’s play. As Dr. Manhattan, he’s immensely powerful but also kind of omniscient. He knows everything that’s going to happen because he experiences all of time at once. In the comic, he served as the reader, in a way. You can flip through the pages backward or forward as fast or as slow as you want. You can open to a random page. But you can’t change the events because they’ve already been put in the book. Dr. Manhattan knew what he was going to do but couldn’t change it because he already did it.
It should also be noted that Manhattan was blue and frequently naked. He became increasingly divorced from humanity and the series ends with him deciding he kind of likes humans and maybe he’ll try to create some before leaving Earth. We know he’s on Mars now and there is a system set up to transmit messages to him but not necessarily a way for him to reply. We can talk more about him when he shows up in person.
Back to Laurie. She was in a relationship with Manhattan but he was cold and weird and omniscient and did some unwelcome things like making multiple duplicates of himself to have sex with her at the same time. Laurie left him and became involved with the second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg. We learned in this episode that he’s in prison for illegal vigilantism, and we’ve been seeing the cops use his tech since the first episodes. The implication at the end is that these two, at least, will be OK.
As for that vibrator…. It is clearly a reference to Dr. Manhattan and his famous blue dong. This seems like something that would exist as a gag gift in the world of Watchmen. And when your ex went to Mars, you can’t exactly text “You up?” Now, my knowledge of vibrators is limited at best. I mean, it seemed huge but maybe that’s the size they are. So I checked in with a friend of mine who works in the adult product industry, and they had some really good insights. They said they didn’t want credit, which I took to mean “please don’t use my name”, so I will honor that. But check this out:
“The design is very questionable… In terms of a dildos, its just okay. Dildos sizes do run pretty expansive. But that size is quite extreme. Definitely not a starter dildo. I would recommend communication if I sold that to anyone. And lots of lube! The lack of curve at the tip or a bulbous head rule out proper G-spot stimulation. Which may be allegorical? A large smooth shaft that’s too big for most people to enjoy and doesn’t really satisfy the person being penetrated?
When she attaches the balls, that seems to suggest it’s a vibrator. Which is a very different story. For a vibrator it’s wayyy to big. Plus, the motor required to vibrate that thing and the material it seems to be made from would make it very heavy and very hard to use. More allegory?
There are massagers that big but they are meant for external use only. (Most vibrators are used externally, ala the Magic Wand) So… The idea of Laurie inserting a super large, heavy, vibrating, metallic vibrator seems a tad unrealistic, but… She did date Dr Manhattan so… What do I know?”
So there you go. Huge thanks to my nameless friend for giving us that context.
And now we know that Jeremy Irons is Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt. Everybody suspected this from the beginning but they were so determined not to confirm it until he actually says his name in this episode. And again, if you’re not familiar with the original, this may not be clear why that’s a big deal. We’ve heard references in the show to Veidt being declared dead.
Ozymandias was a second-generation hero, and his whole thing was being the smartest man in the world and the peak of physical perfection. He was Tony Stark and Captain America. He retired from the hero game to become an incredibly successful businessman with numerous product lines while staying involved in scientific research. The big deal, and this is the spoilee for the comic and movie, is that he was the one who figured out how to prevent imminent nuclear war. In the comic specifically, he rounded up a bunch of scientists and creatives and they made a squid-like monster. They teleported that monster into the middle of New York where it instantly died and the psychic backlash killed three million people. But now Earth believed it was under attack from another dimension, which united humanity. And that’s how Adrian Veidt saved the world.
It’s worth noting, since it’s already been alluded to in this episode, that he explains this plan to Nite Owl and Rorschach. Nite Owl tries to talk him out of it and we get this iconic response:
“Dan, I’m not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I’d explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.”
Nite Owl know he has to keep the secret because it’s the only thing preventing the world from destroying itself. Rorschach refuses because that would be compromise, and Dr. Manhattan kills him. It’s amazing, frankly.
We don’t know anything about how Veidt got from there to living under the watchful eye of the Game Warden. We know he was into genetics (he created his pet, Bubastis) and that tracks with the multiple Phillps and Crookshanks. It seems to me that he’s obsessed with Dr. Manhattan, to the extent that he wrote a play about him. It also seems that Manhattan hasn’t managed to create life, but Veidt has. And I assume he’s trying to send various Phillips into space to maybe make contact with Dr. Manhattan? I’m not totally certain on that, but I’m fascinated.
Oh, one last character bit I should note. James Wolk plays Senator John Keene, Jr. In the comic, Senator Keene, Sr. created “The Keene Act” in 1977 – this is the bill that made costume vigilantes illegal. His son seems to be carrying on his crusade in 2019.
OK, that’s a lot. But hopefully it’s useful information if this is your first exposure to Watchmen. I apologize that this was late and next week may also be since I’ll be gone for most of the week. I’ll do my best!