By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – November 24, 2019)
EPISODE 6: THE EXTRAORDINARY BEING (Damon Lindelof, Cord Jefferson; Stephen Williams)
There’s a lot that’s compelling about Watchmen at this juncture, but there’s also a lot that’s just…trash. It’s not bad television, it’s just sludge. We aren’t treading any new ground talking about the racial divide of the past, although the new angle with the Cyclops project attempting to mind control blacks into killing only other blacks and seeing themselves as enemies was inventive.
This entire hour, which felt a little long, was a drug fueled Nostalgia (literally) trip through Will Reeves’ past, leading us to understand who he was and why. When Hooded Justice unmasks in American Hero Story during the opening, it’s a white man, because no one ever found out Will’s secret identity due to his makeup. He had legitimate motives for what he was doing, namely that black police officers meddling in “white folks business” would end up lynched. He found that out in the harshest way imaginable. Thus, still wanting to help the woman being attacked in the alley, the hood gave him a way to hide and still be effective.
When Nelson Gardner shows up, who we already know is Hooded Justice’s secret lover…we get to know Captain Metropolis and the Minutemen, which is much less about doing good and much more about being seen as doing good. Will Reeves was, as June said, an angry man who wouldn’t find justice on the NYPD, but under a costume. When he murdered Fred, which was cathartic considering what a reprehensible piece of garbage that guy was, he gets vengeance, but not relief. He’s still an angry man in 2019 when he uses the same mesmerism book he found in a Cyclops hideout to convince Judd Crawford to hang himself.
Folks, this isn’t news, but Watchmen is absurdly dark, so much so that it can be extremely hard to watch. It’s not approachable for the masses, that much is readily apparent at this stage, and there’s no way to begin now if you haven’t been watching from the beginning. I have no idea how it can succeed in the long term, even in the climate of today, where more is acceptable than ever before in terms of how bleak you can be in a fictionalized story. Stephen Williams’ direction throughout this hour was just unbelievable. The story was illuminating and necessary both for us and for Angela Abar to learn who Will Reeves is and why he’s so important.
That said, it felt about ten minutes too long.
It’s a secret very few know, but her nearly fatal overdose on Nostalgia got her the visions and the memories, and by proxy, the audience got them right along with her. It was an ugly past, with some truly horrific moments, and again, in 1937, what Will Reeves’ experienced was real. There is some nastiness, in fact quite a lot of it in our history, and certainly in Lindelof’s alternate version, which splices his own creative license alongside real events, such as the Tulsa Massacre in 1921.
We already surmised that Will Reeves took much from Bass Reeves, the Black Marshal of Oklahoma, and marrying that character that he loved so much with what he hears about this “Superman” that appears in Action Comics 1, which the newsstand clerk is reading as he walks by one morning, we get Hooded Justice. Also, he uses that noose around his neck to remind him of his quest, which is never to get caught in that situation again, duped by fellow officers. We don’t know at the time that when the second desk officer tells him he’s trying to help him and to “let it go,” that HE’S the one being honest. The cops from the day before had their plans to give him a Code Red and stop just short of lynching Reeves at a tree that looks awfully similar to the one that bore Judd Crawford’s corpse.
What does Angela Abar think now? When she wakes up with Dr. Trieu in the room, how much more angry is she? Will and Angela both have rage issues and both wear masks to channel it in the mode of justice. Think of Angela putting on the black paint around her eyes and how Will did the exact opposite to keep his race the secret. He could be almost anything he wanted as Hooded Justice, but if anybody found out he was black, the tolerance might fade.
I’m left asking what Damon Lindelof is seeking to achieve at this stage of the season. We’ve got three more episodes, and HBO has provided me with eight of the nine thus far. I don’t know what message he’s trying to get across, where he’s headed here, and how all of this is going to tie in. I’ve always trusted him, but I’m finding myself clutching to several loose disconnected threads at current, just hoping for all of it to click into place. This was a necessary flashback hour to tell Will Reeves’ story and explain his presence, but the next episode needs to get us somewhere, advance the story of the present in a palpable way, and set the stage for the final two episodes of the season.
Cyclops reminds me a bit of Marvel’s Hydra, perhaps by design, as there was Nazi imagery and backing behind both groups, but it needs to lead somewhere that hopefully has tentacles much deeper than a bunch of racists in Oklahoma. I know I’ve written that before about the series, but at this point, we’re at an “I get it” stage, where we need to know more about Dr. Manhattan and Laurie Blake and how Angela Abar fits into things. I’m not sold that all of this is going to make sense in the end.
We can enjoy the questions, but if we’re expecting great answers, we might be setting ourselves up for a massive disappointment. This was a well-structured episode, but I think we may have been better served to have seen a half hour of Will’s story and a half hour of “Trust in the Law,” showing how the stories mirrored each other. This episode felt bloated and a little slow, which may stand out more to me right now because of the ease and taut nature of The Mandalorian, which I’m writing on simultaneously with this show. Plus, one of these series’ makes me feel good… the other I need a palette cleanser for once it ends.
Television gives us a little of everything. Watchmen is treading on giving me a little more than I want to handle, and after two great episodes, this one – despite impeccable quality, performances, and direction, is definitely a “one watch” installment. I have no desire to go back to it again, though much of it was absolutely necessary to flesh out Will Reeves. It did a great job of that, no doubt about it.
Last week, we saw Looking Glass’ origin story and this week, the story of the real Hooded Justice. We got nothing new as to whether Wade Tillman is still alive, but this diversion certainly added richness to the story, both for better and worse in some cases. Now, I want to know what happened to that guy.
Also, I totally understand why Nostalgia was banned.
I’m @JMartZone. If you can hear what I’m saying right now, I need you to blink.