B6B: WATCHMEN Episode 4 Review

By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – November 10, 2019)

EPISODE 4: IF YOU DON’T LIKE MY STORY, WRITE YOUR OWN (Lindelof/Christal Henry, Andrew Parekh)

So, first thing’s first, the character of Lady Trieu is awesome. It’s another dynamic personality that has a no-nonsense approach, at least in how she treats others. The opening sequence with the Clark family, underscored by Dolly and Kenny belting out “Islands in the Stream,” was affecting on every level, because it showed both a coldness to Trieu, as well as a practicality and a wry sense of humor. Hong Chau is so good throughout the hour. Having both her and Jean Smart working alongside Regina King is making for as powerful a trio of female… check that… excuse me, making for as powerful a trio of performances in television as you’ll find.

Lady Trieu bought the company from Adrian Veidt, and once we see the statue that makes him look so “old,” we realize the two are still in some sort of contact, or at the very least, Trieu knows he’s alive and knows his appearance. Finally, we also got some clarification as to what exactly Adrian is up to at his manor, namely taking engineered infants, effectively microwaving them, and turning them into Crookshanks and Phillips, for the express purpose of putting them through various rigors that he would encounter in trying to escape what he has come to see as a prison, not a place of refuge.

We still don’t know the details of the deal he made and how his situation got to where it is now, but we know he wants out and we know he still believes in his own altruism, with plenty of “I’m better than you” to go around. Jeremy Irons continues to portray eccentric old kook very well, and some of his lines, even speaking to himself, are good for some solid laughs, sometimes ironically. Also, Veidt’s scenes feel more and more Westworld-like by the week, with the room full of dead clones the biggest example thus far.

Will Reeves can walk, which would have been shocking if it weren’t predictable, but that wasn’t a let down. It isn’t important to the larger story except that Will is holding back part of who he is and what he’s capable of for a larger purpose, which we’ll learn more about as his relationship grows with Angela. He has a tie-in to Lady Trieu, and his shadowy ways are similar to the way she treats her own daughter, which he points out. Speaking of which, the young teenager has nightmares of being forced to walk a great distance and her feet hurt. She still feels the pain while awake, but Lady Trieu won’t walk her back to her room. This is tough love, but it seems to indicate something generational. We may not ever see it, but it’s not unreasonable to believe the mother once was a daughter that encountered similar styles of parenting and an emphasis on self-reliance.

Self-reliance is Cal’s mode as well, which we see when he reveals he’s atheistic, or maybe just as it relates to a creator, because perhaps he views Dr. Manhattan as some kind of deity. “Heaven is pretend,” he tells his children, and Angela doesn’t balk at it. That said, she does sort of pay closer attention and perhaps doesn’t want to make that choice for her kids. Cal also has a conversation we don’t see, but hear about, with Laurie Blake, which leads to an almost fight between Angela and her husband as to what she wanted and what he told her. Basically, he lied, which he hates to do, but he knew he couldn’t tell her much about Judd’s death and what happened that night. Will there be more of a rift between man and wife here? Possibly, but they’re both also protecting each other and sharing responsibilities. In fact, Cal is handling quite a bit at home while Sister Night does her thing.

“Did you tell her about your accident?” For now, it didn’t come up. But, what accident?

Blake’s opinion of masks is fascinating. “Well, people who wear masks are driven by trauma. They’re obsessed with justice because of some injustice they suffered, usually when they were kids, ergo mask. It hides the pain.” Angela says she puts it on to protect herself, to which Laurie simply responds, “Right, from the pain.” Then Angela hears the story of how Laurie’s father tried to rape her mother and how her trauma led her to play dress-up. Petey gives us that bit of information, which is good for those who haven’t read the source material. It’s important to know what makes Laurie as cynical and negative as she is.

Blake, in charge, in Judd’s office, has found William Reeves’ fingerprints on Angela’s car, and she thinks it’s highly likely one of the flying machines at Trieu’s hangar was used to lift it off the ground and then drop it originally. She mentions the “thermodynamic miracle” to Angela, who is increasingly dismayed with how much Laurie knows and how good she is at her job, because she’s too close to things Angela is trying to figure out herself, including the family tree and what Will Reeves wants from her, other than to take strange pills.

What is Lady Trieu doing? She’s creating the “first wonder of the new world,” one that can withstand what nothing else has been able to, including immense seismic events and natural disasters, not to mention man made atrocities. She, like Veidt, has a self-image that tells her she can do what no one else can, and that she can play god. She reminds so much of Whiterose from Mr. Robot, except that she’s less obtuse about what she’s doing. While Esmail’s character speaks in riddles and abstract theories, she’s matter-of-fact and blunt. Not that she isn’t harboring secrets and unstated motives, but what she says is less confusing and more graspable.

Looking Glass has a theory, or just throws something out there that we’ve discussed previously, namely that Judd’s old school Klan outfit might just be a keepsake from his father, who was also a lawman. “He was a white man in Oklahoma.” Not just a silver mask, but we also see “Lube Man” escape through a sewer grate in a full silver bodysuit. Maybe we’ll find out more about him, or maybe that was semi-isolated. It seems an odd thing to NOT mean something greater, considering how he was positioned on the overpass prior to the chase.

Also interesting is Angela thinking of the Minutemen as the people she saw on television, almost like they weren’t real. Laurie Blake’s parents, of course, were two of them. Petey saying the show is garbage and full of inaccuracies backs up the idea that he IS a bit of a fan boy, even though he’s a professional. There are histories that intertwine on Watchmen, including Angela and Lady Trieu both being from Vietnam and Angela and Cal meeting in Vietnam. What will that part of the world and what happened across the globe play in the larger story between those three characters, Will Reeves, Laurie Blake, and perhaps even Adrian Veidt?

Will says at the very end that it’s foolish for Trieu to question his loyalty or whether he’s “all in” and then says something that has me excited for what’s to come. While I look forward to the new episode each week, now I have something specific to watch for. Will mentions that in three days, Angela will find out what he has done, that he betrayed her and her family, and says Angela will hate her for it. He then does the “tick tock” and the episode ends. The more we learn of Reeves, the better. He may be the skeleton key on this show, so our access to him growing is going to add to the richness of the plot.

I have thoroughly enjoyed these past two episodes in particular. Still, the standout is Reznor and Ross’ score, but King, Smart, and now Chau are superb, and the male cast is strong as well, particularly Irons and Louis Gossett Jr. Watchmen is rounding into form, but it’s always going to be a mindbender and one that requires paying close attention. Damon Lindelof said in early October this could be a one-season show. I tend to think he’s probably going to be right. It’s losing viewers for two reasons.

  1. It’s tough to follow and understand early, and it’s still awfully complex. Patience is necessary.
  2. It’s politically correct in a way that has led to many people campaigning against it, tuning it out, and saying it’s liberal garbage – bastardizing Alan Moore’s original material.

Whether you agree with the second one or not, it’s legitimate. Critical acclaim means little if people aren’t watching, although HBO is less captive to ratings numbers and looks at other factors much more strongly. It no doubt went an odd direction out of the gate, trying to make a statement rather than easing into its story. It’s turned off many people, and I think those folks are gone.

I’m still digging it, even though by no means am I liberal…but I can see how easy it is to just see it as preachy and run from it. What I certainly can say now is that one of my predictions, that it would be a huge success and the show everyone would be talking about this fall and into next year, is wrong. The source material is dense, not that Lindelof has been faithful to it thus far past using it as history, but the show is becoming just as dense.

I like it, but I see its flaws. And, The Leftovers it is not. I love Lindelof, but here he may have gone for a message people aren’t interested in hearing, because the entertainment isn’t what it needs to be in their eyes. Four episodes in, five remain in the season, but it’s hard to see more people picking up the series that haven’t watched thus far. His Dark Materials might have a better shot at people binging and catching up. Watchmen might just be a one-and-done.

What do you think?

I’m @JMartZone. I don’t kid about things falling out of the sky.