Hutch Watches the Watchmen Ep. 3: She Was Killed by Space Junk
By Chase Hutchinson
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! That quote from Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley is recited early in this third episode and is a good summary of my feelings. While getting things back on track, I still am beset by feelings of despair about the balance of the show. The introduction of the new character Laurie Blake (formerly known as Silk Spectre) is a positive one. It advances the narrative and further builds towards what I believe to be the most engaging component of the story thus far. I am still predicting a schism in the police force which Blake complicates even further by bringing in an outside force that most of the characters view with suspicion while still advancing the existing storylines. This is notable because the entire narrative with Adrian Veldt (our good friend Ozymandias) feels far removed from the rest of the story which is terribly unfortunate. There is a line about him getting facial reconstructive surgery and still being around that characters discuss on an airplane in the main storyline. This hopefully means that things are more closely tied together than it seems as of now. While this is a step in the right direction, it still is narratively frustrating and concerning about him being kept in the background to do his own thing with little relevance to the rest of the plot. It is likely that the relevance will become clearer as the rest of the episodes continue on but for now the organizational structure is far out of wack.
With all that being said, this episode has some of my favorite character interactions thus far. Blake's conversations with Angela and Wade are both compelling as hell. Even as Wade is suspicious of Sister Night, he is unwilling to betray her to Blake and is reluctant to answer even the most basic of questions. The fact that this conversation takes place in his interrogation room but instead finds him being the one interrogated is a nice subversion. The show is constantly flipping who has power and who does not. The dialogue is razor sharp and even pokes fun at it's own mythology (which happens multiple times throughout the episode). All of this establishes that Blake is one to fear and be concerned about as the show goes on. Especially since she is the head of an anti-vigilante task force. Even then, Angela flaunts her veiled threats in a wonderful acting moment by Regina King and establishes that she is not going to back down. It is likely they will be reluctant allies as long as their interests align but after that.....that is where I imagine the most interesting part of the show will flourish. I am thoroughly invested in the characters and their complicated motivations. They feel authentic and down to earth leaving me hungry for more. The fact that the story centers race and the struggles against the existing tendrils of white supremacy makes this more engaging than your typical superhero shows that may shy away from deeper complexities.
What does it mean to kill God?
There is a repeated device of Blake giving a call to Doctor Manhattan that bookends the episode. She tells a classic joke that involves a brick being thrown in the air where the joke teller feigns that they have forgotten the punchline before launching into a second joke. However, the punchline of the second joke involves the brick falling back down and disrupting the second joke. The version she tells has a twist where the second joke is about the various superheroes she knew, including Manhattan himself, who are meeting God at the gates of heaven. Most of them are sent to hell until the brick kills God in a brutal way with his brains splattered everywhere. It is a dark joke, but it speaks to Blake's anger at being abandoned by Manhattan who himself is a god. I imagine there is a desire Blake has to kill Manhattan because of this (or sleep with him as demonstrated by the dildo) and she continually goes to these phone booths to communicate with him. Whether he has been listening every time is unclear, but there seems to be some hint that he is based on how the episode ends. It is possible that the car is just from the previous episodes end but there seems to be some hint that this is still connected to Manhattan especially since it mirrors the end of her joke. It seems likely that he will be come back down to Earth at some point and may himself die. The episode hints at false idols being ones that we kill or lose faith in.
Speaking of which, the funeral of the Chief sequence is the most tense of the series so far. It establishes that the Seventh Kavalry has more resources and planning to execute such an attack. However, I want to focus on the component of the Chief's legacy. That Angela's eulogy is interrupted feels significant. He was someone that was an idol of sorts to the force, the community, and Angela herself. But it seems likely that he was at one time part of the Klan and that was the real motive for his murder. It is probable that Angela will have to make the attempt to cover this up rather than his reputation be damaged. The conversation where Blake questions her about his hidden closet seems to heavily hint that the groundwork is being put in place for this. Just as in the storyline prior to the show, Manhattan taking the fall for something he didn't do because it was an easier pill to swallow seems to be part of it. The death of the Chief as both a literal death as well as a metaphorical death of him as an idol as well with everything that is coming to light about his past has me intrigued. This theme about our heroes falling and not being as good as we thought they are is what I hope becomes the focus of the later episodes of this season. It is what elevates this show beyond just any other hero narrative as it grapples with what it means to be a hero and how we worship them. I just wish that it was the emphasis rather than the weaker aspects of the show.
The biggest struggle is that Ozymandias doesn't fit
I still am deeply confused and troubled about this aspect of this story. Creator David Lindelof has said that there is a mystery aspect to the show which is also part of the previous iterations of the story. I have no problems with the mystery aspect of a story, but the world as well as the tone of these scenes feels way out of place. It is honestly goofy. It is not explicit where he is right now, what he is doing, or really what relevance he has to the story. The only thing that has been established is that he is currently being held against his will by a character known as the Game Warden. Lindelof has made it clear he is aware that this could be seen as tonally distant but that the storylines will eventually converge with everyone else's story. Fine, all well and good. I will trust and withhold too much judgement until the full arc of his character is revealed. It is possible that the shift will occur and will blow me away. It is possible that the narratives will truly mesh delicately and they will stick the landing. However, I am incredibly nervous about how they will all fit together. I am worried that the story we are building in the world of Angela and her personal struggles may get pushed to the side in lieu of a more conventional story where Ozymandias causes a disruption that sucks all the air out of the rest of the storylines.
Listening to the podcast that HBO just released, it is clear that Lindelof is aware of all these concerns that I am expressing and that he is trying to address the high wire act they are attempting to execute. He has explained about how they shot all of the scenes with Jeremy Irons first and that they had to write that first as a reason to trust them. That they know where things are going from here and that you just need to stick with them. However, this explanation makes me more nervous than reassured. The fact that the Ozymandias storyline was where things started and that everything else came secondary is immensely concerning. I don't want everything with Angela to be pushed to the edges of the narrative and relegated to a sideshow. Her storyline is the most rich and engaging story. Jeremy Irons running around as Ozymandias attempting to catapult his servants into the sky is, for lack of a better word, bizarre as all hell and just jarring every time it happens. If this continues all the way to the last episode only to end with a cliffhanger that takes the focus by dropping something out of the sky on the narrative, it will be a regrettable and unfortunate waste of the rest of the storyline.