Television review: “Watchmen – Episode Three: She Was Killed by Space Junk” (2019)

“Watchmen – Episode Three: She Was Killed by Space Junk” (2019)

Drama/Science Fiction

8 Episodes

Developed by: Damon Lindelof based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Directed by: Nicole Kassell

Featuring: Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Louis Gossett Jr. and Jeremy Irons

Rorschach’s Diary: “Soon they will shout, ‘Save us!’ And we will whisper, ‘No.’”

The Story so far…

The Watchmen series is based on the comic of the same name, taking place in an alternative, contemporary reality in the United States. Masked vigilantes became outlawed due to their violent methods. Despite this, some gather around in order to start a revolution while others are out to stop it before it is too late. In this reality, the Watergate scandal never happened, allowing President Richard Nixon to dismiss term limits and run for five terms and lead the United States to a decisive victory in the Vietnam War with help of some of the vigilantes that sided with the government. The comics events end in 1985 after Adrian Veidt, a former vigilante known as Ozymandias, created a fake alien attack in New York City with millions dead in the resulting psychic shockwave, leading to a new accord between the United States and the Soviet Union ending the Cold War and avoiding a potential nuclear holocaust. Veidt asserts his actions were for the greater good, but they disgust his former allies; Rorschach seeks to tell the world of Veidt’s misdeeds but is vaporized by Doctor Manhattan before he can do so, after which Dr. Manhattan decides to depart Earth, seeking a place less complicated than Earth. Unaware to them, Rorschach had sent his journal to be published before he accosted Veidt.

Now…

The third episode of the HBO series “Watchmen” has aired, following on from last weeks aftermath of the death of Crawford we are introduced to a new character in the form of Agent Laurie Blake who is on the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force, and is revealed to be Dr. Manhattans ex lover and hero Silk Spectre who played a major part in the movie and original graphic novel. Here she hunts down vigilantes who are now outlawed, she is conflicted but straight forward and is looking at getting down to who murdered Crawford. Blake and Angela have a run in, they do not get along as they are both after the same thing while hiding secrets from each other as well as their workmates which will be troublesome as we movie forward through the narrative and into the upcoming episodes. We also get more of a look into the Jeremy Irons character who is revealed to be Ozymandias in what was to be expected, however we are also introduced to a character, ‘The Game Warden’ who seems to be keeping Ozymandias a prisoner. Motivations of all the characters remain shrouded in mystery but like the best noir tinted narratives the only element that is solid is that nothing is at it seems.

Some of the ongoing themes that occur within this episode are of course some of the same that we face today, politics, social commentary, past actions having real effects on the modern world, the reliability of news, forgiveness, racism, left versus right and one of the more important, that of decision making and the outcomes of those decisions. There are of course a multitude of others which will become apparent on repeat viewings and as the episodes unfold from week to week.

Some important aspects to consider in this alternate present:

  • The series takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma;
  • Vietnam is now a U.S. state;
  • Fossil fuels have been eliminated by Dr. Manhattan;
  • Robert Redford is the President and has been in office since 1992, he is now the longest-serving President.
  • There is an Act named as the ‘Victims Of Racial Violence Legislation’ designed to give reparations for those affected from past racial injustice, which is seen as unfavorable by a large portion of the white population.
  • The ‘Seventh Kavalry’, a white supremacy group in Tulsa has taken to the writings of Rorschach and use masks similar to his own.
  • Laws are passed to allow the police to take extra precautions to protect themselves and their families, including wearing their own masks.

Whilst there have already been readings of this being about possible white power as well as a variety of what could be called anti-left stances this is far too simple. This new world is not just a place where we have back versus white, but there are serious political, economic and social realties that have come to the fore which like today is something that divides people along rigid lines. Unlike the world in which we live where there is a right wing President in office who seems at peace with disrupting the left as well as behave like some new millennium Nixon this new one is run by the left, so a figurehead like Robert Redford is apt to be able to embody this for all audiences who know his obvious allegiances. This is a world we can see what would happen to the right if the left were in charge, making laws that were not agreed with and where the price for disagreement can be ultimate. We live in an age where right wing politicians globally are making a comeback in many countries and hard liners are making their feelings grow. At the same time we are also seeing the lot flex their own muscles in social media where they are negating others opinions so that wokeness and SJW are able to influence where there should be none, these are juxtaposing narratives which exist in “Watchmen”. I am looking forward to how these dichotomies shake out in weeks to come and if they can be brought together somehow, unlike in real life.

This episode has a new director in Stephen Williams, it matches the general look and feel of the first two episodes which is to be commended when different people are behind subsequent episodes. Williams is as experienced a television director as you can find and has worked on a multitude of genre and prestige dramas so he is a good fit here. The other element that really comes to the fore in the episode is the use of original music which is composed by Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who have been working in television and film together and apart since that Oscar win for the peerless “The Social Network” (2010). The music like much of the pairs compositions is subtle, electronic and used sparingly to give it a fuller effect, here the director and producers do just that. This episode is a masterclass in how to use great music to full effect, in particular when Blake is leaving a message for Dr.Manhattan.

I cannot wait until next week.

Episode Three: She Was Killed by Space Junk

Agent Laurie Blake on the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force is asked to investigate the situation in Tulsa by both the FBI and Senator Joe Keene, Jr. She tracks down the Tulsa police as they are rounding up the Seventh Kavalry and learns that Crawford’s funeral is in a few hours and makes contact with Angela. A Seventh Kavalry member wearing a suicide vest attempts to seize Joe, but is killed by Laurie, while Angela saves the other attendees. Later, Laurie talks to Angela, explaining the FBI knew about wheelchair treads leading up to where Crawford was lynched, and the existance of Crawford’s secret closet, and warns Angela about trying to protect Crawford. Later, Laurie uses a special phone booth to contact Dr. Manhattan on Mars and tells him a “brick joke”. As she leaves, Angela’s empty car drops in front of her; she looks up and laughs. Elsewhere, the Lord, attempting some experiment with a Phillips, hunts down a bison, but is warned off by the Game Warden, who reminds the Lord of the terms of his imprisonment. The Lord sends off a letter acknowledging these terms, signing it as “Adrian Veidt”, and goes out that night to hunt again in his Ozymandias outfit.

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