"Watchmen" S1E6: The Whiteface of Justice!
History is a tale of circumstances and rewriting, and HBO’s Watchmen might have created the best example through its episode 6. How do we talk about a piece so intrinsic without spoiling it? Well, I shall try. Episode 6 proved one of the major speculations about Will Reeves’s true identity. And we were spot on. The red and the purple clothing that Will wears indeed is reminiscent of his hooded days.
The true identity of the Hooded Justice, the first masked vigilante, has been a big mystery both in the actual graphic novel, the Before Watchmen: Minutemen issues, and now in the tv series. HBO’s series did an amazing job in cherry-picking the facts from the book and remoulding them to suit the narrative. In Minutemen issues we had learned more about the history of the masked vigilante; Hollis Mason’s Under the Hood is the closest to an actual history anyone has ever come to write. But there is a catch: J Edgar Hoover got a whiff of it at the end of the Minutemen and Hollis was forced to edit in chunks.
The episode of Minutemen, a.k.a. the garbage TV series in the Watchmen universe, opens with the Hooded Justice being interrogated by the FBI because they know he is a homosexual, and he can help them get the sex tapes of Nelson Gardner. Apparently Gardner has been blackmailing Hoover with sex tapes, but the FBI is insistent that Captain Metropolis used a lookalike to blackmail Hoover, a nice touch since Hoover is the epitome of queer mystery. While the history is rewritten on television as a scandalous affair of two homosexuals in a time of intolerance, we soon learn it’s all indeed a smokescreen. History has been whitewashed and rewritten to sell it.
Angela, who had overdosed on Nostalgia Pills of her grandfather, is having an Alice in Wonderland adventure of her own. From here on we learn how Will Reeves became the Hooded Justice and what made him come back after almost 100 years.
The episode was an aesthetic beauty of black and white: memories colliding, Angela morphs into her grandfather, Angela peeling one layer of history from another, while Cal and Laurie Blake try their best to get her out of her delirium. The episode also showed how similar young Will the police officer is to Angela. They are always angry like an Osborne character, their fate in the legal system crumbling one day at a time, and both uncovering a secret white supremacist agenda. And both choose a costume to fight the injustice brought upon their society.
The episode was heartbreaking on multiple levels, Will’s memories of the Tulsa massacre imposed on his memories of battling racism in the city of New York. We see his instant attraction with Nelson as their hands touch just like in the comics, where multiple characters had their moment of this harmless intimacy. Not only was Will a black man in the police force, but he was also a queer black man suppressing every emotion under years of anger. And the constant image of his mother in sepia tone playing the piano on the streets of New York, inside the bar in the alley, made this episode an intense ride.
Angela was, in every scene wherever she popped up, Will Reeves. Her posture, her anger, her fears and frustration was all Will Reeves. I loved the part where Angela pops and smirks like Will, while June, the baby girl Will saved in episode one, now his wife is talking to him, worried, inside the jazz bar. Angela, the only black police officer in the blue suit graduating in the year 1938, and fading into monotone was beautiful.
We also learn of the ancestors of the Seventh Kavalry known as Cyclops! They were planning something big and Will Reeves was there to stop it. Similarly, Angela Abar is here to stop them. The episode worked so much better because of the personal investigation of Will. Despite being part of Minutemen, Will could never seek much help from them to investigate Cyclops. Though Nelson was clearly head-over-heels for Will, he too advises against revealing the true identity of Will as some of the Minutemen were racist. It also clearly aligns with the book narrative of Before Watchmen: Minuteman, as Nelson is in anguish, and to protect the identity of Hooded Justice, burns down his hideout after Hollis killed Hooded Justice. This detail of Hollis killing Hooded Justice was dropped from Under the Hood, and if Will is the Hooded Justice, then who did Hollis kill?
So many questions and too many tempering with timeline, but I guess as a parting gift Nelson hired someone to wear the costume. And according to Peteypedia, Nelson left his entire fortune to Will Reeves. That explains how he came to meet Lady Trieu and how he has friends in high places. Will the old man is currently a millionaire; comic book history is proof that orphaned millionaires are hell-bent on justice.
The loveliest part of the episode was, the Superman narrative coming into the full cycle, we saw the first issue of Action Comics and how it inspired Will to think on the idea of mask vigilante. The Man of Steel has often been misappropriated as the ultimate form a white man, but he was a creation of two Jewish men, and maybe it is time for a Black Superman.
Before Watchmen: Minutemen (2012)
Alice in Wonderland
Look Back in Anger