Watchmen: She Was Killed by Space Junk

“Roll on snare-drum. Curtains. Good joke.”

Until this episode, I wasn't sure if I was really on board with this series. I think I am now.

As a matter of fact, I imagine this might be the one where most viewers will decide if they're sticking with this show or not. An episode featuring a giant blue dildo with attachable scrotum tends to do that, I think; bet you never imagined that in your wildest wizardly dreams, Alan Moore.

The Comedienne

The introduction of Jean Smart as Agent Laurie Blake, formerly Laurie Juspeczyk aka Silk Spectre II, was probably what sold it. Until now the only one of the original Watchmen we've seen has been Adrian Veidt (formerly Ozymandias), and the only thing he's given away so far is that he's become a dark shadow of his former self. We know Dr. Manhattan is on Mars, of course, but have yet to see him... maybe?

With Laurie we get a firm sense of things, all with style and razor sharp cynicism.

To be fair, though, one could say that she's also become a dark shadow of her former self. The costumed vigilante forced into retirement by the government is now a lead agent in a federal government task force that specializes in catching unsanctioned costumed vigilantes on a regular basis; the one she catches in the opening scene is a pretty blatant Batman knockoff.

It might seem like a big 180, but her disposition here is really just a natural extension of her comic counterpart. Even there Laurie was already pretty fed up with the superhero culture she was born into, despite reveling in beating up bad guys with Dan Drieberg (Nite-Owl II) and being righteously outraged by Viedt's diabolical plan to save humanity -- as Laurie described during her joke. Add to that her miraculously screwed up parentage, and it's easy to see why she'd be a little more sour with age.

I believe the answer to why she is now working for the FBI to take down masks is told early on in the episode. Senator Joe Keene, Jr. observes Laurie's pet owl in a cage. Upon revealing that he's arranged for her to investigate the Seventh Kavalry's apparent murder of Judd Crawford in Tulsa, Keene states that he might be able to get her owl out of the cage if she helps him. Pretty sure I know what that means. Nite Owl is the only one of the surviving four Watchmen we've had virtually no word on. Perhaps he has been imprisoned by the government, and Laurie is simply doing what she's got to do to protect him.

The Lord of a Country Manor

While we mull over that new mystery, we finally get some hint as to what is going on with Veidt in his little private getaway.

I should first note that Veidt's openly twisted and unstable state now is, like Laurie, a natural extension of what we knew him to be in the past as well. While it was shocking when we eventually discovered that Veidt was a ruthless sociopath who could and would murder any of his loyal servants if it was in service to his goals, it was at least somewhat tragic in that he felt his actions were all for the greater good and he showed genuine remorse when putting these people to death. His current existence is darkly ironic with this in mind. He has no clear goal and nothing left to gain anyway. He finds endless ways of applying his great genius, but none that have any effect on the world. And he thinks nothing of sacrificing the lives of his unquestioningly loyal servants, knowing there are more copies to work with.

This week Viedt attempts to cryogenically freeze "Mr. Phillips", which only succeeds in freezing the poor bastard to death and getting smashed by pieces by his enraged master afterward. Veidt decides that his homemade freezing suit requires a thicker skin for its fabric, and attempts to extract the material he needs from a buffalo he kills in a neighboring field. This fails too as Veidt is warded off by a masked gunman on a horse, who is called the Game Warden. The letter correspondence between Veidt and the Game Warden reveals that Veidt isn't enjoying his retirement. The manor, his estate, possibly all the lands we see him galloping along on horseback are part of a prison he is trapped in.

The Tulsa Investigation

Anyway, Laurie and her fellow fed Agent Petey travel to Tulsa, where the former immediately gets to work on the Crawford case. This includes the relentless grilling of Sister Night and Looking Glass. It's kind of fascinating that Laurie is, in many ways, already a greater threat to our new masked crimefighting detectives than the Seventh Kavalry. She already knows they're identities, she's predisposed to rattle and antagonize them just based on the nature of her job, and she quickly begins to suss out Angela's suspicious activity in the wake of Judd's death. It seems that she's just as interested in nailing the sanctioned vigilantes in Tulsa as she is the Seventh Kavalry.

Ultimately, though, it seems as if she's here to aid our heroes. She and Angela end up working together to save the day when Judd Crawford's funeral ceremony is interrupted by a 7K suicide bomber who attempts to abduct Senator Keene. Laurie acts first by putting a bullet in the man's head. This reckless action does nearly get a bunch of people killed, if not for Angela dampening the impact of the explosion by dropping the dead terrorist into the grave and pushing the casket down on top.

Laurie's interrogation of Angela in the mausoleum sets the tone of their relationship. They're on the same side, but are still at odds. Laurie might be exactly the sort of help she needs to solve the mystery of Judd's death, but Angela is determined to stay one step ahead of her, which may not be as easy to do with Laurie as it has been with her fellow masked detectives.

Dear Jon

We keep referring back to Laurie making a phone call to Dr. Manhattan on Mars; apparently there are special satellite phone booths all around that can do that. The joke she tells him about the three heroes (Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan) being judged by God at the pearly gates does a good job of providing exposition on the comic as well as illustrating what has happened to the surviving Watchmen. Given what we know about Dr. Manhattan and now Ozymandias, as well as Joe Keene, Jr.'s earlier comments, it seems likely that Dan Drieberg/Nite Owl has been captured and imprisoned somewhere. I'm guessing this is how the government has compelled Laurie to hunt vigilantes for them.

She clearly still has a thing for nerdy nice guys, as evidenced by her spontaneously deciding to sleep with the much younger Agent Petey, FBI slide projectionist and superhero historian. The fact that Petey is sleeping with his domino mask on might also suggest that Laurie still has a fetish for costumed sex that she previously embraced with Dan.

But the phone calls to Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan -- as well as her masturbation ritual involving the giant blue dildo and a naughty photo of her and Manhattan on an old cover of Esquire -- make it clear that, while she may be working to free her lover Dan, she still holds a candle for her godlike ex-boyfriend. The fact that she knows Dr. Manhattan cares very little for mankind and that he was complicit in covering up Veidt's attack on Manhattan island only makes her feelings about him that much more complicated.

The ending reveals to us and Laurie that the wayward superhuman may not be as uncaring as we might have believed. As she exits the phone booth, Angela Abbar's car falls straight from the sky to land right in front of her. Laurie gazes up to observe a twinkling star in the sky above and begins to laugh.

It's a clever parallel to the previous episode's ending, and shows us that Will Reeves isn't the only character with friends in high places.

Capes and Masks:

* "Mongoloid" by Devo.

* Jean Smart owned this episode.

* In the graphic novel, Laurie was disenchanted due to having been groomed to be her mother's successor as the Silk Spectre. Here, she seems to be forced to live up to her biological father's legacy now. On top of going by the name Blake, she's become a government attack dog and has even gotten into the habit of telling dark jokes.

* DOPA (the Defense of Police Act) enacted by Joe Keene, Jr. is the reason the Tulsa Police all wear masks. And it’s so popular due to its effectiveness that other states want to enact it as well. Very ironic that the son of the senator that passed the Keene act which allowed masked vigilantes is the one who enacted the law requiring the Tulsa Police to essentially become masked vigilantes.

* Prior to the White Night, the Tulsa Police attempted to strike back against the Seventh Kavalry by profiling everyone who was “white supremacist-adjacent,” which apparently involved searching their houses and confiscating their weapons. Sounds a like a far right-winger’s worst nightmare made reality. As is Laurie's observation of them rounding up dozens upon dozens of men and women for interrogation and DNA swabs.

* On the flight into Tulsa, Laurie and Petey spot The Millennium Clock. This is one of several technological marvels developed by Lady Trieu, the enigmatic figure who bought Adrian Veidt's company.

* Agent Petey is criticized by his superior for lending any credence to Rorschach's journal, the document that ended up influencing the Seventh Kavalry. I've yet to really address Rorschach's posthumous effect on the story. At first, I wasn't sure about the direction they've gone with it. Honestly, though, it makes sense. Sure, Rorschach's last few journal entries did seriously implicate Adrian Veidt in the chaotic events of 1985, but that doesn't change the fact that most of his journal is just a series of misanthropic passages that detail how deeply troubled he was. So it's no wonder that the world at large dismissed him as a raving lunatic in favor of Veidt's very convincing new world order. And Rorschach's perspective did tend to have a negative effect on people who were around him long enough, so it's also no surprise that his radical, vicious attitude and black-and-white worldview would be co-opted by a bunch of disenfranchised, murderous, racist white people. The journal was supposed to be his legacy, the thing that revealed the great lie Ozymandias told humanity, a lie he died attempting to expose, but it was ignored and the only effect it had was creating a cult of domestic terrorists who wear his face and parrot his speech. Now everyone hates Rorschach.

* I love how Angela framed her pushing Judd's casket over onto the bomb to help contain the explosion as Judd taking a bullet for everyone. Wonder if that's what she told his wife too.

* Laurie framing herself within her own joke as "the girl who threw the brick" that kills God was fascinating. Perhaps it denotes the part-nihilistic, part-deterministic influence that the events of the graphic novel had on her, specifically in regard to Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian, but it also alludes to the fact that she has, thus far, defied and prevailed over the forces that have condemned the other Watchmen.

* Some viewers have noted that 40 seconds passed between Laurie leaving the Trieu phone booth and Angela's car landing on the street in front of her, the exact time that the phone booth's automated voice said it would take her message to reach Dr. Manhattan on Mars. Maybe that is the case, but I think it doesn't matter. This is Dr. Manhattan we're talking about, he can see his future as clearly as his past. He probably heard that message decades before she ever imagined sending it.

Quotes:

Laurie Blake: He’s not a hero. He’s a fucking joke.

FBI Director: Seventh Kavalry. Apparently, it’s a Custer’s Last Stand thing, but who gives a shit? They’re just the Klan with different masks. They first popped up after the Victims of Racial Violence Act was passed. After Americans come to Tulsa to claim their benefits, they buy land, start businesses, and we all know how accommodating white folks are when people of color dare to prosper.
That last line is almost exactly what I wrote in my review of the show's pilot.

FBI Director: Is it the 1980s, Petey?
Petey: Uh… Mmm-mmm. No, sir.
FBI Director: Then who gives a shit about Rorschach?
Ouch.

Laurie: Sir, I’m with the FBI. Are your civil rights being violated?
Suspect: Uh yes, ma’am. These people came into my place of business and they just grabbed me. They didn’t read me my ri-
Laurie: Okay, sorry. I was just kidding. I don’t care.

Laurie: (in the pod) What does this thing do?
Looking Glass: It’s complicated.
Laurie: Try me.
Looking Glass: It determines and exposes negative cultural biases to which the suspect might otherwise not admit.
Laurie: So it’s a racist detector?
Looking Glass: That’s an oversimplification.

Laurie: And so, a mere piston in the inevitable machinery of time and space, God does what he did and what he will do. He snaps his fingers, and the hero goes to Hell.

Mr. Phillips: I never doubted you, master.
Adrian Veidt: That, Mr. Phillips, is because you are incapable of doubt. Nevertheless, I appreciate the sentiment.

Laurie: You know the difference between a masked cop and a vigilante?
Angela: No.
Laurie: Me neither.

Laurie Blake: Goodnight, Jon.

So yeah, I think I'm in. Five out of five exploding caskets.

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