Television review: “Watchmen – Episode Four: If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” (2019)

Drama/Science Fiction

8 Episodes

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

Directed by: Andrij Parekh

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 fourth episode of the HBO series “Watchmen” has aired, following on from last weeks introduction of Agent Blake as well as the continuing mystery around Angela and her Grandfather we are introduced to Lady Trieu who seems to know a lot about all three characters. Her motivations are clouded as we see a flashback to 2016, her purchase of a farm and the crashing to Earth of some mystery object. We also are given more information about Ozymandias with his English Estate actually on the Moon with him seeking to escape after four years there. Of course it should be no surprise that there are even more questions asked in this episode which I am sure we will get some answers to by the end of the season, although I would not hold my breath for them all to be given away.

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 Andrij Parekh, it matches the general look and feel of the first three episodes which is to be commended when different people are behind subsequent episodes. Parekh is an inexperienced director but is a hugely experienced cinematographer, which shows in this episode. This is an episode that has not only a lot of light but its fair share of darkness as well which is well represented in all the locations used.

What is unique about the “Watchman” series is that in any given episode we can be in a small room or in a giant machine that keeps time, one a real environment that other a CGI creation but both are as good as each other, the mise en scène for each scene is intricate, important and sometimes extremely subtle. The construction of sets or scenery is as important as the music, the characters or the direction which lends itself to proving why this is a prestige drama. I have to admit that Damon Lindelof  has done an exquisite job something I would not have been thought possible.

I cannot wait until next week.

Episode Four: If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own

Sometime prior to 2019, Lady Trieu buys out the farmland of a Tulsa couple just moments before an object from space crashes onto their property as to claim its ownership. In the present, Angela learns about Will’s parents at the heritage center, when she hears her car crash outside and meets Laurie, finding a pill bottle inside. Later, Angela leaves Judd’s KKK outfit with Looking Glass, and fails to capture a unknown vigilante. At the station, she finds Laurie has found Will’s fingerprints in Angela’s car, as well as a connection to Trieu’s facility at the Millennium Clock. Trieu provides them with a list of people with access to new lightweight drones, and in Vietnamese, tells Angela that Will wonders if she got the pill bottle. That evening, Trieu talks to Will about being upfront with Angela, but with events to come to a head in a few days, he would rather she figure it out herself. Meanwhile, Veidt collects fetuses from a lake to grow new clones of Phillips and Crookshanks after killing off all of the existing ones. With their help, Veidt launches the dead bodies by catapult to test the limits of his prison.

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