"Watchmen" S1E5: What happened to New York?
Updated: Nov 28, 2019
Episode 5 of Watchmen echoed Dumbledore’s advice to Harry, “Don’t pity the dead, Harry pity the living.” Looking Glass aka Wade Tillman is the episode lead and does a wonderful job of bringing the vulnerability to the screen. I kept feeling so sad for him throughout the episode. Wade is a market researcher/analyst without his mask, and a police interrogator with his mask on. He was once a Christian missionary who was trying to talk about sinners in New Jersey when the squid attack happened in 1985. The psychic blast didn’t kill him, as he was stuck inside the funhouse, and gave him some psychic abilities and a lifetime of PTSD.
Wade is a survivor and a man who lives in the horror of that past. He is the only character that has come closest to paralleling Rorschach; the same technique when eating baked beans, awkward social skills, having difficult relationships with women and being haunted by trauma. The choice of the mask is interesting too; Wade’s mask is a symbol of the looking glass and reminder of the horror he faced as a teen and his function as a human lie detector. The mask protects him as well as totally obliviates the existence of a real face. Wade also runs a support group for people suffering from extraterrestrial invasion anxiety which proves to be an important plot twist in this episode. He wears his mask all the time; it has become his true face. But most important, like Rorschach, he too comes into possession of the truth and has to decide what to do with it.
The major theme of the episode was duality, thanks to Looking Glass seeking help from his ex; we learn cloning is indeed an accepted reality of this world, at least for pets. In the pet centre, we see identical pairs of dogs and some humans too. So is Lady Trieu developing this technology further? Is the child she gave to the Clarks an example of this technology? And is the human clone swamp from which Adrian was picking up his servants in the previous episode a prototype of this technology? We also learn the concept of genetic trauma: what if Lady Trieu's daughter is reliving her ancestors' past? Another question that bothers me: if life becomes literally cheap to reproduce, does the value of life remain?
Before I become more philosophical, Laurie Blake is my favourite woman on the show. She is savagely witty and cuts to the chase. I love how she is not taking chances and just bugging the entire office, and using her deduction skills to find the Seventh Kavalry. We hardly get to see Angela this episode, but the few minutes she gets contributed to the buildup of the next episode. And the Senator Joe Keene Jr. rises to the occasion and proves many fan theories absolutely correct. He is flourishing in the not-so-good-guy avatar. But is he as smart as Adrian?
We finally find out where Adrian has been captured! (SPOILER ALERT!) It is definitely on a moon, but it’s not our moon. It looked like one of Jupiter’s which would be a nice nod to Sally Jupiter. Though Veidt is so far away and considered dead, the consequences of his actions are still in effect. It’s intriguing to see that everything that has happened post-1985 up to the current timeline is somehow related to this man, who is not a god but has one of the biggest god complexes of all time.
Though Adrian might not even know, Wade is in constant fear of another alien attack, and his anxiety caused more than enough alarms to break down as he continuously runs drills on them. We still haven’t learned anything on Dr Manhattan. Is he alive? Is he now replicating himself? Is he raising the next generation of evolved humans? The story is so tightlipped about him that it's frustrating! We also see a glimpse of the television series Minutemen which Pete has dubbed as garbage.
Hollis T. Mason aka first Nite Owl, wrote in the comics and later elaborated in Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice were in a homosexual relationship, and in this episode, the Minutemen series presents us the two masked vigilantes engaged in passionate intercourse shot on camera like cosplay pornography. But what has history erased from their retelling of this tale? Since Laurie has been insistent that America needs the illusion of grand and beauty, I can’t help but wonder how many stories have been retold to fit the demand of grand over facing facts?
And the biggest query I had in the back of my mind! Why not set the story in New York? Well, apparently people haven’t forgotten the tragedy of the Alien Attack! New York has been abandoned and property developers are trying to lure people back to New York! Well, now that’s a piece of foresight we miss out on! Indeed, for the number of times New York, Moscow, San Francisco, or Gotham have been attacked, destroyed, or were just bearing the brunt as collateral damage, why would anyone live in such unsafe cities?
There are many easter eggs to look for, and much more alternate history to churn out, but my favourite pick would be 'Pale Horse:' an alternate creation to Schindler's List and also the name of the band from the book. Adrian's horse is pretty pale, and the song "Turtles All the Way Down" literally mocks the idea of belief.
And where is Lady Trieu? I miss her!
Before Watchmen: Minutemen (2012)
Schindler's List (1993)