“Little Fear of Lightning”
November 17, 2019
November 2, 1985: Hoboken, New Jersey
A school bus full of young men in matching crisp white shirts, black ties, black slacks and tan windbreakers (nope, you’re going to want something heavier than that Members Only action in New Jersey in November) pulls up to a carnival on the Hudson River. The leader of the young men prays over them as that they are about to enter the “whore’s den,” hoping that Christ will turn the sinners’ hearts as they near “one minute to midnight on the brink of extinction.”
As the young men disperse with their Jehovah’s Witness flyers featuring pandas on their covers, the leader warns our hero, Wade, that time is running out. Tick tock, Wade.
Wade spots a group of punks and approaches them, telling them that the Doomsday Clock has ticked closer to midnight and the Russians are prepared to annihilate everyone … but the punks, being punks, they are not actually interested in the Jesus that he is selling and begin fucking with him until a girl punk among them tells them to leave Wade alone. She then leads our friend Wade into a clown-faced fun house.
Inside, Wade reveals that he’s from Tulsa and that they’ve come to New Jersey because that’s where the sinners are. TRUTH. She asks if he really thinks the bomb is going to kill them all, and he insists that yes, he is. She begins undressing our young protagonist while asking him about the status of his virginity. When he admits that he is, in fact, a virgin, she grabs all of his clothes, but for his socks, and runs out of the fun house while yelling, “FUCK YOU, BIBLE BOY!”
Staring into the fun house mirrors, Wade admonishes himself for being a dummy, a sinner, when a terrible ringing fills his head and explodes the mirrors all around him.
When Wade regains consciousness, he stumbles out of the fun house to a scene of carnage: bodies everywhere, heads exploded, a handful of survivors stumbling around utterly confused.
Oh, I’ll tell you what’s happening: across the river in Manhattan, a giant psychic squid just appeared in midtown
from another dimension and upon arrival died, sending a psychic blast that killed some 3 million people in the greater New York City area.
Some 34 years later, Wade is watching a focus group as they watch a commercial urging people to come back to New York City — Christopher Moltisanti insists that they like their squid with lemon and marinara now.
The ad guys are thrilled with the focus group’s response to the ad: THEY LOVED IT! But Wade is here to tell them otherwise: the despised it. But being red-blooded Oklahoma men, they can’t admit that they are still afraid, and he suspects the calamari didn’t help.
Later, Wade goes to the storage unit where he keeps his Looking Glass mask and Looking Glass’s vehicle before heading over to the precinct. There, Agent Blake hosts an all-hands-on-deck meeting where she explains the cops will from here on out be looking for the church in the Seventh Kalvary video. There are only a few thousand churches in the area, this should be easy.
While the cops puzzle over the differences between a Catholic church and a Baptist church (your Catholics are going to feature actual Jesuses on their crucifixes, whereas your Baptists and other protestants’ crosses will be body-free, for starters) Sister Night asks Looking Glass about the status of the pills, but he informs her that he doesn’t know anything yet and anyway, when you’re asking someone for a favor, you don’t lean on them.
Tell that to President No Quid Pro Quo.
Agent Blake calls Looking Glass — or “Mirror Guy” as she insists on calling him — into her office for an informal interview. There, she notes that he’s from Tulsa (actually Hugo) and that he was in New York on 11/2 (actually New Jersey). Blake notes that she’s heard that people in the psychic blast zone have lasting trauma, but Looking Glass insists that he sleeps just fine, thankyouverymuch.
She also sees in his file that he joined the force right after The White Night, and he explains that justice needed to be applied. OR, she counters, that’s when yahoos were allowed to wear masks, and gave him an excuse to wrap his head in Reflectatine.
Looking Glass is offended at the suggestion …
… but doesn’t exactly deny it, either.
Agent Blake also notes that his cover job is market research before dismissing him … right before stopping him again, to ask “what pills?” See, she bugged the cactus on his desk — she’s FBI, that’s what they do — and she overheard Sister Night ask him about some pills, and she would like to know what pills? But Looking Glass declines to release Sister Night’s private medical information and leaves.
Back at home, Wade puts his Looking Glass mask back on to watch a particularly porny episode of American Hero Story: Minuteman and eat some beans straight from the can when his evening is interrupted by his alarm system going off. He tries to turn it off in his fall out shelter, to no avail, and has to resort to ripping the unit off the wall and kicking it to death to make it stop. He calls the Extra-dimensional Alarm Company who tells him 1. he shouldn’t be running drills but once every six weeks (and he’s been running them considerably more often than that) and 2. they’ll be able to get a new unit to him by Thursday. This is UNACCEPTABLE and he demands that they overnight him a new unit.
The next day after swinging by the market research office to watch a bunch of kids taste-test a cereal called Smiley-Os, Wade goes by his ex-wife’s office: pet cloning clinic. There, (after one darkly funny moment when she disposes of an adorable puppy she is working on in an incinerator and a million PETA brains explode as if a giant psychic squid had just landed the next block over) she informs him that the pills he brought her are Nostalgia, a drug that had been outlawed years earlier for causing psychosis in users.
Ex-wife urges him to tell his lady friend to not take them. She also clearly pities Wade, wondering why he continues to choose women who end up kicking him in the balls when he could have his choice of good women. Wade protests that he chose her: she was a good woman. And she sadly reminds him that she spent seven years trying to convince him that she was not going to steal his clothes and abandon him.
That night, Wade goes to a meeting for a support group for people traumatized by the giant psychic squid attack of 1985, a group that he appears to lead. There, one of the members explains that his mother was living in Brooklyn at the time of the attack, and he believes even though he was not born until about 10 years later, he suffers from GENETIC TRAUMA FROM THE EVENT.
I would be lying, reader, if I said I did not let out a scream at this point.
A blond woman joins the group and listens as the man continues, noting that he doesn’t want to be one of those nutjobs who wraps his head in tinfoil. Wade assures him that he was once where that man was (and if the Reflectatine lining the inside of his baseball cap is any indication, where he still is) but he is no longer afraid: the Soviets were very close to annihilating us on 11/2, and if the giant psychic squid hadn’t arrived when it did, they would all be ash. They are all in a tunnel, and all tunnels eventually end and they end with the light. With that, they stand, hold hands and recite their prayer/mantra/koan: “We know there are dimensions other than this one. This is the dimension where we live. We will not live in fear.”
After the meeting, the blond woman is waiting out by her car when Wade is getting into his, and she informs him that she will not be coming back to another meeting. In fact, she knows that there is no tunnel, and that he is just as batshit as the rest of them. She then invites him to follow her, which, obviously, he does, because what is the point of a white rabbit if you don’t fall down the rabbit hole?
The pair meet up at a bar/restaurant where I assume the rotating menu specials involve wings, Frito pie, some sort of bacon burger and large steins of cheap beer, but that there is a salad with grilled chicken option for your lady friends. There, he reveals that he can tell if people are telling the truth, and she tests him, claiming that she’s a waitress. He calls bullshit, so she tries “foreclosures.” Bullshit again, and she reveals that she is a radiologist.
She then reveals her “squid story”: that she is obsessed with the Steven Spielberg movie, Pale Horse, the black and white one with that one scene where the little girl in the red coat wanders Herald Square looking for her mother after the giant psychic squid lands. It just really stuck with her.
Blonde Woman also can’t believe that people are just fine with the squidfalls and not FUCKING PETRIFIED. The only thing that keeps her sane during these times is watching that movie and fucking.
NO WADE, TURN AROUND NOW. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS A SECOND TIME.
But, sadly, Wade absolutely does fall for it a second time, and while she waits for her friend to pick her up from the restaurant, they make out for a bit. But the friend does arrive, and as she gets into the truck she calls out that she will “see you Tuesday.”
Oh, come on, writers — have the courage of your convictions and have her say “see you next Tuesday.” YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO.
The truck drives off, hitting a speed bump on the way out of the parking lot, jolting one head of lettuce out of the back.
Wade, remembering that the Seventh Kalvary member who shot the cop in the first episode had a bunch of lettuce in the back of his truck, calls into the precinct to find out if they ever recovered the shooter’s truck, and when they confirm that they never did, Wade begins the chase.
He follows the truck to an abandoned department store where his new lady friend and her driver pull on their Kalvary masks before entering. His worst fears confirmed, Wade calls for backup before searching the truck. He finds a gun inside, and taking it with him, he goes into the department store where he discovers a church set — the church in the Kalvary videos. He also finds, considerably more alarmingly, a bunch of Kalvary members hurling basketballs through a door which is lit up with a blue buzzing energy. The basketballs then re-materialize in unexpected locations in the old store to Wade’s horror.
Wade pulls out the gun and orders everyone to get on the ground, but the Kalvary, they are not interested, thanks, and Lady Friend explains that he just needs to be cool — she went through a lot of trouble to bring him here, but if he keeps yelling she won’t be able to explain why.
Wade, FREAKING OUT, aims the gun at a Kalvary member and proceeds to shoot at him … but nothing happens. “Blanks,” Lady Friend explains. Also, that was them on the radio. No backup is coming.
Two men then grab Wade and drag him off to a room filled with video monitors. There Lady Friend returns his hat and tells him that she really is a radiologist.
Another Kalvary masked man then sits down with him and explains that they know he’s Looking Glass, but Wade’s got one on him: he knows he’s Senator Keene. Keene removes the mask, apologizing: he just wears it for the Kalvary’s benefit. Wade worries that Keene is going to have him killed, but Keene insists he’s not a murderer, he’s just a politician.
Keene explains that he assumed leadership of the Kalvary to prevent violence like the White Night from happening again, just as Judd did so as Chief of Police. They were managing their respective teams to maintain the peace.
Not that Keene thinks that Wade actually cares about any of that: what he cares about is that CX924 Teleportation Window that they are hurling basketballs through — the same teleportation device that caused 11/2 in the first place. THEY’RE GOING TO DROP ANOTHER SQUID ON EVERYONE, AREN’T THEY? But Keene insists they’re not: they’re going to do something new.
With that, Keene tells Wade that he’s going to show him something and after he sees it, he’s going to walk out of there with exactly zero fear of teleporting aliens. The truth will set him free. But he needs Wade to do him a favor though. A SQUID PRO QUO.
Friends. This was the second time I screamed during this episode. And I am certain I am not the only one in this great country of ours who did.
Anyway, the point is: Angela Abar. She either killed Judd or knows who does and Keene needs Wade to get Angela out of the way for him. Either Wade does so, or the Kalvary kills her and her entire family. Either way, Keene will get what he needs.
Keene places a disk into a player and explains that a couple of weeks after becoming a senator, he was placed on the Appropriations Committee where he was brought into a room and shown what he is about to show Wade. With that, Keene hands Wade a remote and gives him a choice: he can tell the cops that Keene is running the Kalvary, but Keene will just convince them all that Wade’s a crazy tinfoil hat conspiracist. Or he can press play and finally be free.
Wade presses play.
The video is of Adrian Veidt congratulating President Robert Redford upon his inauguration in 1993. But the twist is, the video was taped in 1985, some seven years before. Veidt explains that he didn’t predict Redford’s election: he planned it. He then explains Operation Giant Psychic Squid, before explaining that it was all towards saving the world. But now Redford must help him maintain the hoax by arranging smaller events. Veidt trusts that mankind is ready to change, and he envisions a stronger, better, more just world with true equality. He just needs Redford to be his partner.
HEY, DID I MENTION THIS ACTUAL WEEK’S ACTUAL NEWS STORY WHERE ROBERT REDFORD WROTE AN ESSAY ABOUT HOW DONALD TRUMP IS A DANGEROUS AND DICTATOR-LIKE PRESIDENT?
Speaking of Adrian Veidt: over in his bubble, he suits up in that now-perfected diver’s suit and has his clones launch him into the sky via catapult. But unlike those unfortunate dead bodies, Veidt is tethered back on … wherever he is.
He is launched into space and comes to land on what appears to be a moon — maybe one of Jupiter’s moons if that is the planet in the background? — which is positively littered with the corpses of Ms. Crookshanks and Mr. Phillipses. He proceeds to pile their bodies and parts of their bodies to spell out “SAVE ME” just as a satellite swings into view. And that’s when he’s yoinked back to earth or “Earth.”
His servants crowd around him which is when the Game Warden (who is also rocking a Lone Ranger mask) appears, demanding to know WAS HE NOT CLEAR IN HIS LETTER? But no, Veidt continues to disobey the laws of this land and there must be consequences: he is under arrest. May God have mercy on his soul.
“GOD? Your God’s abandoned you, and why wouldn’t he? You’re pathetic, every one of you!” Veidt screams back, only to be kicked squarely in the face by the Game Warden. However, the Game Warden does agree with Veidt: God has left and is unlikely to return. So no mercy it is!
Back on Earth, Mercy is the name of a perfume Wade is focus-grouping before he returns to the precinct where Red Scare and Panda are arguing about whether Hooded Justice is really Doctor Manhattan BECAUSE EVERYBODY’S GOT A THEORY.
Sister Night calls Looking Glass to ask if he has the pills, and in response, he asks her if anything is true. Frustrated, she marches over to his desk where she tells him to stop playing around and he delivers the news: the pills are Nostalgia, they are actual memories. Sister Night explains directly into the bugged cactus that they must be her grandfather’s memories — he was at the tree and said that he killed Judd, but it’s not possible, he’s over 100 years old. So she covered it up.
Looking Glass apologizes just as Agent Blake comes tearing out of Judd’s office, demanding that Sister Night not move, show her her hands! Now! Instead, Sister Night takes all of the pills at once just as she is being arrested.
So that should go well for her.
That night, Wade returns home. As he parks, he considers bringing his Reflectatine-lined baseball cap with him, but then leaves it in the car because he doesn’t need it anymore. Just like he doesn’t need the new extra-dimensional alarm system that is waiting for him on his doorstep, so he takes it out to the trash.
He thinks better of it, and retrieves the box form the garbage and heads inside.
Which is when the Kalvary arrive in a van, and they’ve got shotguns.
OH NO! LOOKING GLASS!
Before we get started, I just want you to close your eyes and imagine being a writer on this show and for the past three months watching everything that has unfolded in our country while having to sit on “squid pro quo.” JUST. IMAGINE.
As promised, we will begin by discussing the original Watchmen character Rorschach, perhaps one the most enigmatic of the Watchmen “heroes.”
Rorschach is actually a man named Walter Kovacs, who was born to an abusive single mother who turned to sex work to support them. When he was 10, he was beaten by bullies but responded so viciously that his home life was investigated. As a result, he was taken from his mother and sent to the Lillian Charlton Home for Problem Children. (Just an FYI, the Watchmen characters were all based on classic Charlton Comic characters.)
Kovacs romanticized his absent father, turning him in his imagination into a war hero and aide to President Truman. In fact, when he was 11, he wrote an essay arguing that Truman saved millions of lives by dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. You know, the greater good and all that.
When he left the Charlton Home, he found a job at a garment factory. There, he took a special order for one Kitty Genovese for a dress made from a special Doctor Manhattan-based latex material. She didn’t care for the final product, so he kept the dress to use as cutting practice.
For those of you who don’t recognize the name Kitty Genovese, she was a young woman living in Queens who was murdered outside her apartment in 1964. The story/myth is that people heard her screaming but no one did anything to help. (For those of you who care, that popular version of events has since been questioned. And, in fact, two people did call the police, one of whom found Genovese and stayed with her until help arrived. In any event, 9-1-1 was created after her murder so there’s that.)
ANYWAY, Kovacs was so disgusted by humanity after her death and how no one did anything to help that he made himself a “face” from her dress material so that he could bear to look at himself in the mirror.
Rorschach became his new crime-fighting identity, named for Hermann Rorschach, the Swiss psychiatrist who invented the famous ink blot test. And let’s just pause for a moment to appreciate how hot the actual Hermann Rorschach was:
Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach (1884 -1922) inventor of the Rorschach test pic.twitter.com/zQqieafZVr
— 41 Strange (@41Strange) September 21, 2019
Brad Pitt needs to play him in the movie.
ANYWAY. Rorschach pairs up with Nite Owl, and is later invited to be a member of the Crimebusters, the follow-up crime-fighting group to the Minutemen. Rorschach, for one, was skeptical of the idea and found himself impressed with The Comedian just calling it like he saw it (it being that a crime-fighting group was pointless in the face of nuclear annihilation).
There is an incident where he brutally (and in a very Saw-like fashion) kills a murderer of a young girl, after which he snaps and goes full-on nihilistic. During the Police Strike of 1977, he talked shit about the police which wasn’t well-received. And then after the Keene Act, which required masked heroes to register with the government, he called bullshit on that and continued just going around being a masked vigilante anyway.
So then we get to the events of The Watchmen: It’s Rorschach who is at the scene of The Comedian’s death, he warns the other masked heroes that there is a murderer out there targeting them, he is framed for the murders by Veidt and sent to prison, he is broken out of prison by Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, he then puts the pieces together and realizes that Veidt is behind everything and he and Nite Owl confront him in Antarctica — but it is too late, Operation Giant Psychic Squid has already launched. All the other heroes agree to keep Veidt’s conspiracy secret except for Rorschach, who, removing his mask, tells Doctor Manhattan he’ll have to kill him to keep him quiet. So Doctor Manhattan does.
However! His journals are mailed to the right-wing newspaper, The New Frontiersman, who publishes them. The journals are dismissed by most as being just a wacky conspiracy theory. But, as evidenced from this series, some people took him seriously.
For those of you who did not read the comics, I should pause here and make clear that Rorschach is not a white supremacist in The Watchmen. In fact, Damon Lindelof said in an interview before the show premiered that the Seventh Kalvary using Rorschach’s imagery was an almost meta-joke about appropriating someone else’s material, the way he and his writers were appropriating the original Watchmen.
“We had to be aware as writers in the writer’s room when we were appropriating Watchmen,” Lindelof said at the screening and Q&A panel, which was held on the Javits Center Main Stage on Friday. “That somebody else created [it] and we were taking it. Sometimes when you appropriate something, you make it out what you thought it was and that the original intention [of] the artists who made it in the first place, was secondary to you enforcing your will.”
“We thought that, on a meta, pretentious level, it would be really interesting to show characters who had done the same thing to Rorshach. The Seventh Calvary are appropriating Rorshach.”
“He’s been dead for over 30 years, he doesn’t get to say, ‘You misunderstood me. No, I wasn’t a white supremacist.’ They decided what he was,” Lindelof said. “We felt that was a really interesting idea to embed in the show because we were doing it ourselves.”
That said, Rorschach does embrace a number of right-wing, might-makes-right, borderline fascist (if not outright fascist) positions, and does so with the full confidence that he is CORRECT and GOOD. There are many things to take away from Rorschach and hist story, but the one thing that I’m going to stick a pin in for our purposes is that he is a moral absolutist who only understands the world as good or evil, black or white, there is no room for shades of gray in his understanding. Hence, the mask where black shapes move over a white background without ever merging into a gray mess. Of course, the great irony here is that the Rorschach test itself is an exercise in subjectivism. There is no “correct” answer: what any particular inkblot looks like is determined entirely up to the observer.
Which brings us to our friend Wade Tillman and his alter-ego, Looking Glass. From the get-go, it’s hard to miss the comparison between Looking Glass’s mask and Rorschach’s mask, this constantly changing, amorphous thing that reflects back to the viewer what they want to see in it. In Rorschach’s mask, it’s a reflection of their own inner psyche, in Looking Glass’, it’s their own face.
Before we go any further, let’s do a quick refresher on the symbolism of mirrors because I don’t know if you noticed while you were being beaten over the head with it, but there was a lot of mirror imagery in this episode. We have Looking Glass’ mask and the Reflectatine material, we have the funhouse mirrors at the seminal moment in his life, we have the two-way mirrors through which Wade spends his life watching other people, we have him making a joke about seven years of bad luck in reference to his broken marriage. And, of course, his name is LOOKING GLASS.
Mirrors are a very basic symbol representing truth, self-knowledge, enlightenment. The Latin word for mirror is speculum which gives us the verb “to speculate,” which meant to scan the sky and the movement of the stars through a mirror. Hence, mirrors served as devices through which knowledge was gleaned, and became symbols of intellectualism, science and understanding. Also, mirrors can only reflect the truth, so, you know.
But mirrors also represent portals, a passage into a parallel world, a universe that looks like ours, but is the opposite of our own in significant ways. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There is a classic representation of this idea, in which Alice, while playing with a white kitten and a black kitten (AHEM) ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror, and steps through one, finding an alternative universe where our Earthly logic is twisted and turned upside down.
Similarly, here, Wade begins believing the world to be one thing, only to follow a white rabbit (twice over) into a realm where everything he knows is shown to be false. He first follows the punk girl into the fun house where his reality is shattered — literally and figuratively — during the giant psychic squid attack; he then follows the blonde lady into the Kalvary’s nest where he learns that everything he believed for the past 30 years about the giant psychic squid attack was a manufactured lie.
The teleportation portal that the Kalvary is playing with is certainly intriguing in terms of where they are going with the end game to this story. Who knows what Keene is up to (other than obviously cooking up a scheme to help him in his political campaign). For me the portal and the mirrors are more important symbolically as this passage that Wade must traverse to enter into the Truth … that everything that has shaped his life, that everything he has been terrified of for the past 30 years, has all been a lie.
And for someone who is a living lie detector, whose career and life is built around being able to determine when people are telling the truth, this is so profound, he finds himself betraying the closest thing he has to a friend over it.
Which brings me back to another major theme of this series: trauma. As this episode makes clear, our government, our society, our culture does not just inflict trauma upon African-Americans or other minorities. Wade Tillman is a white Christian man who has been horribly traumatized by what has turned out to be a conspiracy that was not committed by the government, but which has been perpetuated by the government to suit its own ends. That trauma and fear, it shaped his life as it did the lives of the entire planet, bringing an end to the Cold War as we knew it.
But I also feel like there is something being said or hinted at about the politics of fear which controls so much of our American experience, and which divides us as a country.
This is all a bit of a stretch but stick with me, I do get to a point: There have been many studies over the year that suggest — perhaps somewhat dishearteningly — that the political divide in this country is not merely philosophical, it’s biological. The conservative brain and the liberal brain are literally wired differently from one another. Those who identify with more “conservative” values have larger amygdalae, which serve to process memory and emotion. They tend to process threats or threatening situations with more of a fear response and with greater aggression. In contrast, those with more “liberal” viewpoints have more grey matter in the anterior cingulate cortex which is (according to my medical degree from Wikipedia) associated with “monitoring uncertainty and processing conflicting information.” Meaning, “liberals” have an easier time emotionally with dealing with uncertain situations.
What this means that your political beliefs — on either side of the spectrum — is not so much based on your philosophical understanding of the world as your philosophical understanding of the world is based on the way your brain is composed. Which this brings me back to Rorschach and Wade: Rorschach’s view of the world is very black and white, with no nuance, and he’s hyper-aggressive. He over-responds to situations because he had a violent and traumatic childhood — his memories are tied to pain, and living in a constant state of fight or flight. Thus he has no choice but to respond to a violent world with violence.
And while we know nothing about Wade’s childhood, we do know that he also survived something terrifying and painful in the giant psychic squid attack — which was also tied to his first and deeply humiliating sexual almost-experience. Experiencing something this traumatic lodges in one’s memory, excites the amygdala, and shapes one’s world view. You know, sort of like how those of us who were alive at the time were all impacted in one way or another by the events of 9/11, and how that event has shaped our politics ever since.
And I don’t know where, exactly, I’m going with this except to note that, again, Watchmen, like its source material The Watchmen, is a satire of our current state of politics. As such, they seem to be suggesting that fear can be a powerful political tool that can be used to manipulate those who have been traumatized or frightened, into believing even the most outlandish conspiracy theory propagated either by a Russian troll on Twitter or the resident of the White House. Maybe we’d all be better off with a few Reflectatine-lined baseball caps.
As if this hasn’t gone on long enough, a few Easter eggs:
In the opening Hoboken scene, there are a number of callbacks to the comic: the lovers graffiti is acted out by two kids making out; another kid is reading a comic with Adrian Veidt’s book, The Veidt Method advertised on the back; the one punk kid who bullies Wade has his hair in a top knot, which was a gang in the 80s; the Ferris wheel at the fair is called the Atomic Wheel — reflecting the nuclear anxiety of the comic and Doctor Manhattan himself; and they reference the Doomsday clock several times, including a shot of a clock with blood streaming down it after the attack.
Wade eats a can of beans for dinner, which was something Walter Kovacs — Rorschach — did in the comic.
Additionally, there is the Smiley-Os cereal which is a reference to The Comedian and his button.
Wade’s lady friend mentions the movie “Pale Horse” (which is clearly an alternative universe version of Schindler’s List, duh) which is named after the band that was playing at Madison Square Garden during the attack. Also, it is an apocalyptic reference to the Four Horsemen from the Book of Revelation. (The pale horse’s rider was Death, btw.)
Wade is brought into a room full of TV screens, much like Veidt’s in his Antarctic retreat.
Speaking of Veidt: He uses the bodies of his former servants to make that message on the moon or planet or wherever the Hell he is. This actually is two references in one: it is a nod to a comic book a kid is reading in The Watchmen, “Tales of the Black Freighter,” in which a sailor uses the dead bodies of his fellow crew members to make a raft so that he can hurry home and warn his townspeople that a pirate ship, The Black Freighter, is coming. (He arrives home, believes the pirates have already taken the town and mistakenly kills a couple and his own wife before realizing his error and that the ship has not yet arrived. He then swims out to join The Black Freighter. It’s very dark and something of a parallel to Vedit’s plan to save the world by killing millions.) But it’s also a nod to the giant smiley face that is revealed on the face of Mars after Laurie’s visit with Doctor Manhattan.
Wade’s lady friend is a radiologist. One of the conspiracies that Veidt perpetuated so as to get rid of Doctor Manhattan was that Doc Manhattan was causing cancer in those closest to him.
In the comic book, “WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?” is spray-painted all over the place, and Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is found on the comic’s final page. I was struck in this episode of the clever image of Wade in the first focus group standing behind a two-way mirror, watching a group of men watching a TV screen. Wade is the watcher of the watchmen.
And this one is a bit circuitous, but stick with me: in the giant psychic squid support group meeting, when Wade’s new lady friend comes in, he asks her if she’s a friend of “Nemo.” Nemo is an obvious reference to the Jules Verne novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (which also provided this episode its title: “If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning.”) and its Captain Nemo whose ship is at one point attacked by a giant squid.
BUT. ALSO. TOO. The Watchmen‘s author, Alan Moore was inspired to write “The Tales of the Black Freighter” by a song in The Threepenny Opera called — wait for it — “Pirate Jenny.” This same song also inspired him in his other very famous comic, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. There, Pirate Jenny becomes Janni, Captain Nemo’s daughter, who is gang-raped. She summons Nemo’s crew to slaughter both her rapists and the people who witnessed it and did nothing.
KINDA LIKE KITTY GENOVESE.
Something I have neglected to do so far with this series is to point out Lost parallels, but this episode had too many to ignore. WARNING: If you have not watched Lost, but intend to, there are spoilers ALL OVER THE PLACE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The first and most obvious is Looking Glass himself. On Lost, there is a Dharma station called The Looking Glass, which is hidden under water. It is accessible by submarine, but our heroes get to it by lowering themselves down following a cable or a tether (not unlike Veidt and his deep-sea diving suit and tether).
Wade’s bunker and the giant button he has to push is very reminiscent of Dharma’s underground Swan station, where Desmond is trapped, forced to push a button every 180 minutes.
And this is more of a stretch and more of a just common literary or cinematic theme, but Veidt’s SAVE ME reminded me of Bernard’s SOS on the island.
However, in larger thematic terms, it’s hard to not see how The Watchmen inspired Lost, particularly in this idea of a grand conspiracy, and telling a lie to protect the rest of the world. When a select group of survivors make it off of the island, they agree to lie about the plane crash and the rest of the survivors as a means to protect the island itself. They choose to sacrifice the lives of a few to protect the lives of the many. The Greater Good, y’all.
And of course, there is the whole black and white dualism as embodied by Jacob versus the Man in Black. This theme of the absolutism of black versus white is taken in a very literal and racial way in this series, which we will certainly explore more in the next episode.
FINALLY, I again forgot in the last entry to write about the supplemental material that HBO has been feeding us. SO!
Episode 4: “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own”
A transcript of the FBI interrogation of Laurel Juspeczyk. The interview takes place in 1995 and Laurie is no longer Silk Spectre, but has become “The Comedienne.” It’s clear that she and Dan Dreiberg killed Timothy McVeigh before he was able to bomb the Murrah Federal Building. Also revealed, Dan Dreiberg’s company MerlinCorp makes weaponry for law enforcement; Dreiberg made the Doctor Manhattan dildo for Laurie out of spite; and they have broken up.
Engineering designs for said dildo.
Episode 5: “Little Fear of Lightning”
An Agent Petey memo explaining the whole Silk Specter/Comedian relationship. Also he notes that Blake became an FBI agent as part of her plea deal for the McVeigh incident. He also spends a lot of time talking about Hooded Justice and his identity, which we will obviously discuss next episode. Also put a pin in Moloch’s solar weapon.
A flyer: Extra-Dimensional Anxiety and You.
Girl, don’t think I don’t have it.
Watchmen airs on HBO on Sundays at 8/9 p.m.