By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – November 2, 2019)
EPISODE 3: SHE WAS KILLED BY SPACE JUNK (Lindelof/Lyla Byock, Stephen Williams)
Everything is subjective in analysis, but this was the best of the first three episodes for me as a viewer, because Damon Lindelof began to answer the questions the non-Watchmen comic fans likely had, or shed some light on a few characters that needed more clarity.
And it had Jean Smart. Which, as has been proven in 24, in Legion, in Fargo, and basically in anything she’s been cast in this century…is always a good move. She’s tremendous, dating all the way back to Designing Women, but she plays this kind of tough, savvy, hardened role so well, which you never expect until you see it. Then you find yourself wondering why she hasn’t been cast in EVERYTHING. She and Margo Martindale are two people that when you see them pop up, you know you’re in for a treat.
However, Angela Abar might not see it that way, because Laurie Blake isn’t to be trifled with in much the same fashion as Sister Night, and when two alpha dogs end up in the same space, it gets claustrophobic real quick. Smart’s voice narrates much of the episode, which centers around one singular phone message she leaves the man she loves, Jon Osterman, who would become the superhuman Dr. Manhattan, who now lives on Mars.
The recurring concept is Blake telling a joke in three parts, with a fourth unexpected part that serves as the twist. Three masked heroes die (Owl Man, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan) and all are at the entrance to heaven, where they will learn whether they enter through the pearly gates or whether they go elsewhere. There is no optimism in the original group of heroes, and so there’s no surprise that none of them gets into the “good place,” to steal a Schurism. Blake is jaded and cynical, and here is where delving deeper into the joke would be instructive, but it made me a little uncomfortable respective to my faith, so I’m going to leave much of it alone.
The crux, however, is that Dr. Manhattan has left them behind, left HER behind, and doesn’t care enough to come back and help society, as if Jon has become apathetic to the situation on his former planet. That’s not untrue. He changed, and his mindset and priorities shifted, due to the incident that gave him the powers in a powerless world. We saw the recreation of the accident in Episode 2 in the form of Adrian Veidt’s play. Enough is laid out from Blake’s words that we know the two were in love, dating back to the time she was actively the second Silk Spectre.
Never forget everyone in Watchmen, at least we haven’t met one yet that isn’t, is damaged and dealing with mental instability in some form or fashion. They aren’t super heroes driven by a desire to do good as much as they are channeling potentially volatile emotions behind costumes and alter egos that leave them classified as loose cannon vigilantes, especially now, as we see with Angela, Wade, Red Scare, and the rest. Yes, they’re driven by the same protective instinct over the police and they’re anti-Seventh Kavalry, but they’re also extremely different and each possesses the potential to cross every line for individual purposes.
Blake is anti-hero in her new role in the FBI, and her motto could best be described thusly: I’ve been there, done that, seen it, and you can’t get over on me with it. This ain’t new. Still, Angela’s mocking fear when Laurie threatens her in the mausoleum is perfect, because it’s exactly the way Agent Blake came across when she revealed who she was during the bank “robbery” that was all about luring a masked vigilante into the open to arrest him. Both are too cool for school, with Angela having a family and Laurie desperately wanting Jon to return to her life.
Will’s car, once it drops in front of Laurie at the end of the episode, following the twist in the joke that leads to the brick, which cleverly returns after she “messed up” the original story about the bricklayer and his daughter, reveals that Reeves does indeed have powerful friends. In fact, he has nuclear radioactive godlike friends, or at least one of them. The car landing reminds of the brick that finally falls in the story, and is an effective way to end the episode. But before we go further, we have to talk about Veidt.
We do see the Ozymandias mask and outfit and we actually see Adrian put it on and admire himself in the mirror, missing what he once was. It’s worth your time to go to HBO.com and look at the “Peteypedia” each week, especially if you want the background. One particular added feature of note is the newspaper article that describes Adrian Veidt’s death. If you recall, we saw the headline in the New Frontiersman during the premiere, but with no exposition.
If you were listening carefully, you heard Laurie Blake basically explain the squid problem, which had to happen sooner, rather than later. The short version is Ozymandias grew so frustrated with the state of the world, the fighting and the class struggle and all the things that divided us. He believed himself to be smarter and superior and thought he had the answer. If he could create something for everyone to be afraid of, perhaps they’d start battling THAT and stop battling each other. So, as Blake explains, Veidt unleashed a giant squid he created that became sort of the uniting force to stop the perceived “Doomsday Clock” that Alan Moore used to replicate the very real fears the population had on both sides of the Cold War.
But, we know he’s not dead, and there’s a theory out there that he had facial surgery to disguise his appearance and he’s living somewhere incognito. Maybe not a theory, as we learn of the Game Warden that has sort of a guard-prisoner relationship, but it’s weird because Adrian seems to be the one in control. He isn’t, though, but Ms. Crookshanks (whichever clone used at the time) takes dictation on the letter and what Veidt says is both submissive AND mildly aggressive. But courteous in both directions are Adrian and the Game Warden when tomatoes are the topic.
Notice also, twice in this episode, Laurie Blake tries to condescend to younger people and they stand up to her, first the younger FBI “slide presentation guy” who calls her out on the airplane for thinking him some kind of Ozymandias fan boy and later Angela Abar when those two meet in the mausoleum. Speaking of Peter, the back-and-forth with him and Laurie was fun. Blake is very much a lone wolf type and she has a blankness to her that only fades when she pines for Jon Osterman. She gives off a facade of apathy and caring about nothing in particular, especially people, but what I took from watching is that her real face IS her mask… that’s the alter ego. The woman in the phone booth – a Veidt-created technology by the way – that’s Laurie Blake.
And, when she mentions in the joke that the third hero, Dr. Manhattan, believed he was already in hell, my takeaway was that a loveless life and a mind that feels nothing, a non-working heart…is an empty, meaningless, brutal existence.
Blake also tells Abar she thought the Rorschach masked suicide bomber was bluffing, because “almost nobody isn’t.” Yet, it sure feels like she is with the tough gal act. Not that she isn’t tough. But that it’s more put on than she’d like to admit and certainly it’s more put on than she hopes anyone else can figure out. The way she ends the phone call gives up the reveal of how much Laurie really does care about Jon. She talks of how people on Earth still believe he cares. “But we’re not really worth giving a sh__ about, are we? Good night, Jon.” You see the tears and you know the meaning. It’s not a total guilt trip. She’s hurting badly and she doesn’t have hope.
She may “eat good guys for breakfast” and she may clown “racist detectors” in warehouse detention centers, but even though she didn’t have a talent in her own story, she’s conflicted perhaps more than anyone else in the show. Every brick has its place in the hands of the bricklayer. And, complicating it further, if only Jon hadn’t existed, she could be the Laurie Blake the world sees, but inside, she knows she’s the one holding the phone up to her right ear.
This was an engaging hour and Jean Smart again annihilated an acting performance. So, does Doc Manhattan return this season? That is yet another of many questions we’ll know the answers to at some point. Whether it’s 2019 or not, who knows? Three eps in, how you feeling about the show folks? If you were patient following the opener, do you feel better about it now? Or are you ready to bail? Unsure how people perceive it, and the chatter about the show online hasn’t been as loud as expected. It was a huge swing for Damon Lindelof, but is he going to end up the 2019 Astros or the Nationals?
I’m @JMartZone. Mr. Shadow deserved to be caught. Mainly because “Mr. Shadow” is an awful name for a superhero.