A key element of making a show linger is weaving in layer upon layer of mystery and possibility. HBO’s Watchmen has thus far succeeded in doing that in a variety of ways, from not revealing who Jeremy Irons is (even though we can kind of guess) to revealing layers of a character you never expected. In episode 3, the show continues to unveil just how connected this world is to the comic book source material, which is another layer entirely. It all focuses on a new character yet to be introduced known as FBI agent Laurie Blake (Jean Smart). She is part of a task force that takes down self-professed superheroes even though vigilante justice is against the law. This episode pulls in your interest if you’re a fan of the original comic or movie, as it seems to promise a reunion of sorts.
Jean Smart gets most of the screen time in this episode, which hovers around Judd Crawford’s (Don Johnson) funeral — which is a good thing, since she’s so damn good in this episode. She’s tough, resourceful, smart, and still yearning for her ex-boyfriend. It’s not immediately clear who that is, but seeing her enter a Dr. Manhattan communication booth and telling him jokes is a big hint. The episode opens with this scene, continuing to add layers to a world that really did follow the comic book closely. Dr. Manhattan has been on Mars for over 30 years and apparently, folks want to talk to him as if he’s God. We then cut to her entering a bank, taking down a superhero, and then quickly being assigned to the Crawford case. Oklahoma is the location of his death and the location of The Seventh Cavalry, and likely superhero activity is going on there since the terrorist group follows Rorschach’s journal as if it is gospel. It’s exciting to see how Blake navigates each scenario in this episode and it’s clear Damon Lindelof is laying the groundwork for her being an amazing detective.
Surprisingly, Angela Abar (Regina King) gets little screen time, although she does spar with Blake in a battle of wits in a questioning scene. King does a great job holding her cards close to her vest, never forgetting Blake isn’t her friend. It will be interesting to see how Abar moves forward now that Blake is putting even more pressure on her.
Possibly the most fascinating thing about this episode is how it connects hooded vigilantes like the Ku Klux Klan to the current masked police force. Blake, who we learn is an ex-superhero herself, reviles what has happened to the world. Gone are real superheroes, and in their place are normal cops who idolize them. You see it in a great scene between Blake and Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) midway through the episode. In this scene, set in Looking Glass’s advanced interrogation room which Blake dubs the “racist detector” to the irritation of Looking Glass, it’s clear Blade sees the current state of Looking Glass and the police as imitators. But if they are capable of torturing–which we’ve seen in past scenes–and doing whatever they like in the name of justice aren’t they as bad as the criminals?
Jeremy Irons gets plenty of screen time as his B-plot as Adrian Alexander Veidt continues. Yes, it is confirmed this episode, but the writing team decided to add an even more perplexing mystery to take its place. We know Veidt is still playing around with genetics and making new breeds of creatures as if he himself is God, but a new masked figure emerges who may or may not have been placed there by Veidt himself. It’s quite clear his patience is being tested and something will have to give, which adds even more pressure to the overall story.
This is an episode fans of the original comic series are going to love. It weaves in so much promise for rekindled conflicts to sprout again, Dr. Manhattan’s part in the narrative, and the ever-present nature of bygone eras being reborn. I suspect viewers who haven’t read the source material or even those who have a passing knowledge of the series will feel a bit left out. There are strong references to previous stories and the weight of what is going on in this narrative gets a bit lost if you don’t know a thing about Watchmen. That’s a slight weakness to an otherwise excellently written and plotted show.
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