Watchmen Season 1 Episode 2: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”
Director: Nicole Kassell
Starring: Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, and Louis Gossett Jr.
Runtime: 55 Minutes
HBO’s Watchmen continues its gallop into the unknown with another satisfying episode that manages to balance the myriad loose-ends introduced in the pilot while providing a surprising amount of depth for the lead characters. Tightly directed and wonderfully acted, Watchmen is shaping up to be an intriguing sequel to its hallowed source material.
Holding up a mirror to the Watchmen Universe (Spoilers)
We pick up at the close of the first episode, with the Tulsa Chief of Police, Judd Crawford, hanging from a tree. Beneath him, the supposed perpetrator, a mysterious old man in a wheelchair named, Will. Crawford’s death causes the conflict between the police and 7th Kavalry to boil over, much as the death of the Comedian sparks the action of the original Watchmen. This show is careful to never simply reboot or redux its source material. Rather, it reflects shades of that world as directed towards different issues of social commentary. Our main characters are reminiscent of the Watchmen exactly as the Watchmen are reminiscent of the Minutemen. Each generation lacks an element of polish and esteem often granted to the previous era. And, that’s exactly the point. Watchmen is critical of those rose-colored glasses.
The lynching spurs Regina King’s Angela Abar to take Will into private custody as the police move against the supposed nest of the 7th Kavalry: Nixonville. In contrast, the bulk of the episode is dedicated to developing the relationship between Abar and Crawford. A welcome moment of respite to really understand these new characters. They were bonded together by the same inciting incident that caused police to dawn masks in the first place. They are survivors of The White Night, a coordinated 7th Kavalry attack, that ended in the assassination of the bulk of the Tulsa Police on Christmas Eve.
However, this poignant moment of camaraderie is quickly upended as Will suggests the now deceased Crawford kept secrets. It should come as no surprise that Crawford’s secret is a hidden Klan robe with a sheriff’s badge pinned to the chest. Watchmen is committed to having an honest conversation about the history of racial violence in America. Ignoring the reality of police Klansmen is something they simply cannot do. Much as the original Watchmen was an unflinching examination of power and accountability, this show has moved the issue of racial violence front and center.
The depth of nestled narratives
One of my favorite things about this show is its commitment to utilizing nestled narratives to expand and color the world of the show. Just as, “Tales of the Black Freighter” did for the original, this Watchmen is constantly utilizing plays and television shows to contrast and inform the world around them.
This episode formally introduced “American Hero Story,” with a brutal vignette of the Minutemen’s Hooded Justice. The scene blends golden age camp and hyper-violence. Rendered in a heavily stylized slow-motion, it seems to call back to Zach Snyder’s film adaptation. It’s an absolute joy. What is exceptionally interesting is how the show frames this vignette. Everyone, from the police to 7th Kavalry, stops what they are doing. An absurdly lengthy content disclaimer warns them away from the incendiary material. But no one, not even children, looks away. Much like our current world, the people here share an obsession with superheroes.
Jeremy Iron’s Adrian Veidt mirrors this obsession with his long-time rival, Dr. Manhattan. Who has his attendants – clones? robots? who knows? – perform his play, “The Watchmaker’s Son,” a reenactment of Dr. Manhattans origin story. (Which also marks the first instance of full-frontal blue-dity in the series.) What remains unclear, is Veidt’s motive. Certainly, it is clear that Dr. Manhattan’s final words have been ringing in his ear all these years: “Nothing ever ends.”
What’s on the horizon?
It feels that this show is driving towards a convergence of its many disparate elements. The pace has been a bit slow, but so constantly rewarding that I can’t actually complain. I’m excited to see how our new heroes fair against the legacy of Ozymandias or Dr. Manhattan or the Silk Specter. But, the question still remains: Will Watchmen strike its own interesting balance? Or, will it flounder in a squid rain of its own nostalgia?
Watchmen Season 1 Episode 2
HBO’s Watchmen continues its gallop into the unknown with another satisfying episode that manages to balance the myriad loose-ends introduced in the pilot while providing a surprising amount of depth for the lead characters.