Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship

After last week’s thoroughly gripping premiere, Watchmen’s second episode only further builds up the world of the comics, while also undoubtedly laying the foundations for some fascinating plot developments later down the line.

Warning, minor spoilers for the first episode!

The opening scene only twists the show’s racist commentary knife further. Sure, this might be a high-budget show about superheroes and vigilantes, but no one can try to say that it has no substance. It layers sub-text within sub-stories, while simultaneously telling a complex narrative with throwbacks to the original source material – all while giving audiences new vigilantes to embrace. It’s hard not to be impressed by how much detail Damon Lindelof has crafted into the series (so far anyway – there’s still seven episodes left).

Immediately, the episode picks up in the aftermath of the premiere’s dramatic finale, with Angela Abar A.K.A. Sister Night trying to comprehend how this mysterious stranger, known only as Will, managed to kill Police Chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson). And while Regina King’s Angela allows herself to embrace her feelings for a brief heart-breaking moment, a slick synth beat from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ flawless score signifies her transformation (both mentally and visually) into her Sister Night persona. King’s performance throughout the episode is gripping as she chases a surprisingly personal mystery while the police grapple with the death of their Chief.

While the premiere spent time building the world through squid falls and mentioning significant world events, the second episode doubles down on the history lessons. Some exposition explains exactly what certain elements in the world are, and why they’re so prominent – like Redfordations for example. When flashbacks build on the emotional connection between Angela and Judd, we finally see the Seventh Kavalry’s brutal attack on the Police force during the ‘White Night’. It’s harrowing and real and yet still – when a revelation teased in the premiere is explored further, it asks the audience to question why they feel sympathetic for Judd Crawford.

When Looking Glass delivers a methodical, detailed explanation of the chief’s shocking death, it again plays into the horrific racist sub-text Watchmen strives to deliver. What makes one character’s lynching more horrific than the thousands of innocent men and women who were lynched in America? Is it just because it’s Don Johnson’s character and we got to know him during the premiere? The answer is left up to the audience – but the intended irony in the answer is made clear before the end of the episode. One of the most entertaining things about Watchmen is how it can intelligently dive into racism, class war and the elevated vigilantism all while delivering absurdly brilliant lines like; “You don’t want to beat the shit out of these fucks? You? She loves beating the shut out of these fucks!” – and of course, Sister Night really loves beating the shit out of those fucks.

One of the biggest questions most fans had before going into the series, was about the Doctor Manhattan in the room. He slowly comes into the picture from the beginning of the episode – while he’s still living life on Mars, his influence and image have left a lasting impression on the world. He’s mentioned directly several times, setting up concepts and ideas that may completely come into play later on. Watchmen seems to revel in building the world through tidbits of information that only become important when assembled further on. Angela’s son, Topher, even builds the structure that Doctor Manhattan built on Mars in the first episode. He even knocks it all down with a wave of his hand, just as Manhattan did – surely, we’ll be seeing him sooner rather than later.

But while we’re on the topic of throwbacks and references, an excellent scene between two men at a newsstand discussing the squid falls directly mentions the New Frontiersman and the Nova Express, perfectly paying homage to the original comics and Tales of the Black Freighter.

Of course, there are also references to Nite Owl are scattered across the episode once again – will we find out what happened to Dan Dreiberg? While Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) hasn’t appeared just yet, it’s likely we’ll learn what happened to the second Nite Owl from her when she arrives. There are probably more easter eggs and references to be unveiled that audiences haven’t noticed, with the show even telling us to look harder through something Will says to Angela “You haven’t been listening hard enough”. The colours he wears seem to match that of one of the original Minutemen, Hooded Justice who also appears in a show-within-the-show, American Hero Story. Was he a vigilante too? Although the vigilante in American Hero Story was played by a white man, it’s possible Will managed to manipulate the truth somehow to protect his identity.

Just to clarify, at the end of the Watchmen comics, Doctor Manhattan explains he’s leaving to make a new life of his own. Perhaps that’s the explanation behind the bizarre manservants living with Jeremy Irons’ Adrian Veidt – while there is a reveal surrounding the people he lives with, we won’t ruin the pivotal moment in the episode. But his warped play depicting the creation of Doctor Manhattan only further teases the godlike blue being’s arrival. It seems like fans won’t have long to wait for the imminent arrival of Big Blue.

Watchmen’s second episode doubles down on its social commentary, while still proving that the world it’s building is as fascinating as the narrative itself. We’re Doomsday Clock-watching till the next episode.

Tick tock.

Created by: Damon Lindelof
Directed by: Nicole Kassell
Written by: Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Cast: Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howards, Tom Mison, Louis Gossett Jr, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson