By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – October 27, 2019)
EPISODE 2: MARTIAL FEATS OF COMANCHE HORSEMANSHIP (Lindelof/Nick Cuse, Nicole Kassell)
One thing about Watchmen thus far, which I hate to say, is that as entertaining as I’m finding it, I’m a little disappointed that the plot has been so razor thin in the direction of merely being “woke.” Damon Lindelof is better than that, and I still foresee it growing in depth. Right now, we’re in this spot where the most basic struggle, the “black and white” world Angela mentions to her adopted(?) daughter, is the backdrop for everything that’s happening.
That’s not to say a lot isn’t going right in the series, but last week I mentioned it needs to be more than the most obvious societal disconnect to do anything more than coming across as pedantic and finger-pointy. It’s treading the line of doing too much of that, but I’m hopeful it will grow. You have to start somewhere with a series, and try to hook an audience with something they can sink their teeth into. That’s what we’re seeing right now.
The Adrian Veidt side of things is so confusing and obtuse, or I have to imagine that’s how a new viewer feels that isn’t familiar with the source material. It’s not off-brand for that character, whose eccentricity and worldview is somehow even more absurd than Thanos. Jeremy Irons is perfect for this role, because he can play quietly odd or overtly strange with adeptness. This is an award winning actor whose performance is sublime, and as weird as Ozymandias is, these sequences are fascinating to watch, the highlight being the cloned Mr. Phillipseseses. Kind of morbid to incinerate a body during a dress rehearsal for a play, but I guess clones aren’t people? Or we assume they’re clones.
Last week, I mentioned the black-and-white photo of Judd Crawford on his dad’s lap would turn out to be something that would matter. The camera focused on it, and as we saw it, immediately my mind jumped to “KLAN” and white supremacist. It explains why Will Reeves would take credit for it, had he actually known what Crawford’s past was. Is it possible that’s his father’s outfit? Sure, but the sheriff badge on it definitely was a tip off that Judd had a secret racist tendency. Perhaps he was part of the White Night, or perhaps that’s what pushed him in one direction or the other.
The dynamic between Will and Angela was easy to see coming, as we watched the younger Reeves find the child after the accident in the opener. Louis Gossett Jr. is an actor with the pedigree and gravitas to play the stonefaced, almost regal wisdom of an old man that’s seen enough. And, he has friends in high places, literally, as he’s plucked along with Angela’s car into the night sky after telling her he’d have been rescued if she had arrested him originally. Her being Will’s granddaughter was an obvious place to go that was certainly predictable, but it makes sense in the larger scale.
Here’s one thing about the original Watchmen comics I will tell you, as we see the beginning of American Hero Story and the tale of one of the heroes of the past. I will refrain from the names to allow the series to lay them out for you in coming weeks. Lindelof may choose to tell one story from the pseudo-show within the show each week, but the reason the “superheroes” put on suits and masks originally was NOT because they had magical powers or super strength or anything of the sort. These were broken, rage-filled, desperate, seeking people that hid or tried to channel their blemishes behind a second self.
They’re not “good” guys and in one case, they’re very much the opposite. There’s a morality within them, but even that is fractured between members that see things differently based on experience and the jaded nature of what’s happened to those close to them. Angela Abar goes way past the line at times, but she also pulls back in the trailer park, knowing that breaking skulls in retaliation for Judd’s murder isn’t going to accomplish much of anything positive. This America (or world) is a powder keg of a society, and as we go back and find out the history of alternate Tulsa, where it was a bastion of minority success that became a massacre and a symbol of what ignorant humans were capable of.
Correction: The Tulsa race riot actually took place in the Greenwood district in OUR America, and if you look it up, you’ll see it referred to just as Watchmen describes it, as the “Black Wall Street Massacre.” The reason to point it out in this way is to remind you to study history and open up a book, even as we do television reviews here at the Big 6 Blog. I need to take my own advice, because it was only after looking it up moments ago that I found out it was real. A bit of a wake-up call for me.
Also, the painting on the wall in the Crawford home that we see just as Angela has discovered the Klan outfit, revealing that somebody in that household has ties to the Second Kavalry, depicts the title of the episode. Yes, there’s also Adrian riding his white horse in some non-descript area outside his palace, but the Comanche tribe abducted a 9-year-old pioneer girl named Cynthia Ann Parker, who would later marry a Chief and rise to prominence in the tribe. It was something that started badly but ended much differently. But one would think the Kavalry would merely view the situation as an uprising that threatened white supremacy.
All of this is NOT what I hoped to write about to open Watchmen, but the graphic novel was undoubtedly political, so it goes with the territory. As far as the actual characters we know from the comic, Dr. Manhattan is the one that’s being talked about, as he’s still alive, on Mars, and Veidt’s play depicts a version of how he obtained his powers and became, well, nuclear radioactive. The updated Legos… I would have dug a set of those as a kid.
The relationship between Will and Angela should be a major focus in coming episodes, as should Abar learning more of why he seems to have guardian angels keeping him from harm’s way. What Watchmen is doing right now is posing a plethora of questions, answering a couple, and asking several more each week. We’re seeing plenty of violence and the backstory of the actual White Night event on Christmas Eve is slowly trickling out to keep it palatable. We know now that it was a coordinated attack to go after law enforcement and their families. It was pure racism, attempting to quell the rise to equality of other groups, and believing the police to be assisting in balancing society.
We also know how Angela’s night went, how she and her husband barely survived it, how she killed the assailants in her house, got shot, and woke up with JUDD CRAWFORD sitting next to her. I still have to think he likes her, that his friendship was in some way genuine, although it all could have been a smokescreen to mask (pun intended) his atrocities and backward thinking.
I’m looking for more concreteness next week, as right now it has to be tough to follow if you’re new to it and attempting to find something to grab onto. The squid stuff, like I said, don’t worry about it. It will be explained, or if it isn’t, at least the people IN the show have no idea what’s going on either. Let’s just say it’s Veidt related and leave it at that. I’m still enjoying it, it’s visually outstanding, and by far my favorite part right now, outside of King’s stellar performance, is Reznor and Ross’ score, which hits every musical bone in my body. Can’t wait to own it. It’s so good.
What’d you think of the ep this week? Tweet me @JMartZone and let me know. Are you invested? Are you growing frustrated with how tough it is to follow? Or are you turned off by the politics of it? No opinion is wrong, just interested in your takes. Until next week…
I’m out like Will Reeves in Angela’s car.