Friday, July 19, 2024

Watchmen Tells a Good Joke

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We all like jokes, right? Well, good ones, anyway. And we like characters who tell good jokes. The Comedian became an iconic character because of his appreciation for a good joke. The third episode of Watchmen introduces his daughter, Laurie Blake, formerly of Silk Spectre fame. Turns out she enjoys a good joke, too. Her episode revolves around one, after all.

Along the way, Watchmen delivered another very good episode that offered possible answers to some important questions.

More than either of the first two episodes, this one reminds you of a classic episode of Lost or The Leftovers. Those two shows, for which Watchmen showrunner Damon Lindelof served as co-showrunner or took the reigns himself, each loved their episodes focused around a single member of their cast. You’d spend an hour wrapped up in the story of one person and seeing everything from their perspective. The episode would clearly be crafted around them.

With the absolutely perfectly named “She Was Killed By Space Junk,” Watchmen gave Laurie Blake the Lost treatment, crafting the entire episode around her introduction. And also around a pretty damn good joke delivered via communicator to Mars. Okay, so we still have some questions.

Having Laurie embrace the Blake name and become a federal agent dedicated to stopping vigilantism will probably divide opinions, because there’s a genuine concern in having her embrace the name of the man who tried to rape her mother and was an awful person she spent her life hating. It’s a bit of a depressing take for her post-novel. However, it fits where her mind was by the end of that story. She may not have liked The Comedian, but she had accepted him as her father and shown signs of influence.

In the end, Edward Blake’s harsh view of the world received some justification with Adrian Veidt’s squid attack, and Laurie saw this firsthand. She lives in a world born of the joke. We’re seeing the punchline on this show now. Laurie spent her life seeing the best and worst of vigilantes and the world. She knows the harm they cause, so why wouldn’t she want to stop people from making the same mistakes she and the other Watchmen did? Why wouldn’t she want to stop another Ozymandias from blooming?

Of course, I wish that Laurie had lived a happy, peaceful life rather than become the Comedian part 2. But I understand it and I’m fascinated to see where it goes. Her joke about the brick makes clear how she resents the vigilantes she once worked beside.

Besides, I also think this episode put effort into showing us how Laurie hasn’t fully abandoned the past. And I’m not just talking about the absolutely hilarious Dr. Manhattan dildo joke. Say one thing for Damon Lindelof, the man knows how to write a good dick joke. Her FBI work seems aimed at the eventual goal of freeing her lover, Dan Dreiberg, also known as Nite Owl II. She spends the entirety of the episode telling a joke to Dr. Manhattan through the previously mentioned Mars communicator. A painting of the Watchmen hangs in her hotel room. She has her partner agent wear his joke vigilante mask when she sleeps with him.

Laurie clearly has some part of her clinging to her past and the people in it. There’s a struggle here, where Laurie isn’t sure how much of her is her mother and how much is her father. She’s not sure whether she’s really leaving vigilantism behind or still eager to go back to how things used to be.

What happens in Tulsa will play a huge role in how her character arc eventually resolves. Let’s just say her first glimpse didn’t seem to favor the vigilante side. Having her walk into a warehouse full of Tulsa cops abusing people on the off-chance they confess to killing their chief was a harsh introduction to “justice” in the city. They represent everything dangerous about masked vigilantism, perfectly encapsulated by the exchange between Laurie and Angela where Laurie points out the blurred lines between masked cops and vigilantes.

What will win out in the end? I can’t wait to see.

Watchmen absolutely nailed her introduction out of the park. Along the way, they gave us more details on how the world works these days. We now know that the 7th Kavalry was formed in the aftermath of the reparations act mentioned in previous episodes. Senator Keene came up with the idea for the Tulsa police to wear masks. They are the only police force doing so, though other cities are considering doing the same.

We even received some less directly applicable details, such as the Russian government trying to build their own version of the machine which created Dr. Manhattan.

Most of all, though, I think we finally got enough details to guess what is happening with Adrian Veidt and his mansion full of clones. At this point, we can make a solid guess that Manhattan holds him captive somewhere in space. This is Watchmen’s version of Tales of the Black Freighter, possibly even with the ship made of dead bodies. Adrian Veidt is stranded and trying everything he can to escape from the beach which holds him captive. I can’t imagine a happy ending will result from his effort.

The revelations about Veidt being held captive, as well as Mr. Phillips being frozen inside some makeshift pressure-sealed suit, combines fairly well with his seeming disappearance on Earth and the other weird things we’ve seen to suggest some type of cosmic captivity. Also to be considered are the anniversary celebrations which have taken place in every episode. It wasn’t until this episode that I considered how these celebrations marked a year passing since the previous one. We’re seeing his efforts over years to escape from somewhere.

All this may lead up to the present day, where we see Manhattan dismantle a castle on Mars which looks exactly like Veidt’s. It makes all the sense in the world.

Now, the flaw here seems to be the why of it. Manhattan expressly does not care about humanity enough to want to punish Adrian himself. If his imprisonment was his own idea, why would he be trying to escape rather than have some method? Maybe the governments of the world figured out the truth of the alien squid attack and this was the compromise made to protect him and themselves.

Whatever the case, having this new idea of what is going on makes this subplot all the more fascinating. It’s probably the most obviously interesting thing going on right now, which says something considering how much I love what’s happening in Tulsa.

Watchmen continues to move forward strongly, delivering one hell of an updated re-imagining/sequel to the seminal graphic novel. With each week it peels back more layers to expose the larger plot at work and the direct connections to the source material. I’m absolutely loving how Lindelof has taken iconic themes and elements of the original series and adapted them to fit the modern day. He and everyone else involved have done an outstanding job so far.

I’m looking forward to the next episode making all our theorizing look idiotic.

Images courtesy of HBO

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