After a slightly underwhelming episode last week, Watchmen comes back swinging with its best episode yet, “Little Fear of Lightning.” Tim Blake Nelson‘s Looking Glass gets to step into the spotlight, opening the world of the show up even more while revealing more secrets. Here is an episode that both furthers a bigger storyline while also standing almost all on its own.
Your God Has Abandoned You
Before we get to our main story, let’s check in with our old pal Adrian Veidt, shall we? By now everyone has probably figured this out, but if not, this episode makes it official: where Adrian is, it’s certainly not earth. His experiments have finally paid off, and he’s able to catapult himself – wearing a homemade space suit – up out of the atmosphere onto some rocky Outerspace landscape (the Moon, perhaps?).
That landscape is littered with the corpses of all the other dead clone servants Adrian launched up here, and he proceeds to spell out a giant message with their bodies: “SAVE ME.” Before he can celebrate too much, Adrian is hauled back to his countryside prison, and we finally meet the Game Warden up close. He’s played by Tom Mison, aka the man who plays all the Mr. Phillips clones, which means he’s probably just another clone baby hauled out of the mysterious swamp water.
There’s a lot of talk here about how the “God” of these clones has abandoned them, and I think it’s safe to assume that the God they’re speaking of is Dr. Manhattan. Why would Dr. Manhattan create this weird space prison with a lake full of clones? Who knows! In any case, Adrian is in trouble, and the last we see of him, he’s knocked unconscious.
If we’re assuming that Dr. Manhattan created this world, we can, therefore, assume that Dr. Manhattan is the one who imprisoned Adrian here. Unless this is all a ruse to throw us off the scent.
Squid Pro Quo
This week’s episode is all about Looking Glass, aka Wade Tillman. The stunning opening sequence takes us all the way back to 11/2/85, the day of the infamous alien squid attack. As we learn, Wade was part of a religious congregation that was visiting Hoboken. At the time, it was “one minute to midnight”, as fears that the Soviet Union would launch a nuclear attack on America were imminent. The plan of Wade’s flock is to convert the sinners, but things don’t work out exactly that way.
Poor, naive Wade ends up in a carnival funhouse – full of mirrors – with a punk girl who proceeds to seduce him then make off with his clothes. Nude and confused, Wade doesn’t have much time to react. The squid attack begins, and while the alien creature is dropped onto Manhattan, its psychic blasts are felt all the way in Hoboken. It’s a haunting sequence as Wade steps out of the funhouse and finds countless corpses scattered about, leading to a jaw-dropping long zoom out to show us the alien squid creature nestled among the ruins of New York.
How terrifying must it be to live in a world where this event happened? As we’ve seen in previous episodes, some people have been able to move on and put it in the past. Not Wade, though. Since he was there and experienced it first hand, he’s still haunted and afraid. We learn that the material his mask is made out of – Reflectatine – is thought to be able to repel psychic blasts, a la a tinfoil hat. Wade even has the material lining the inside of a ball cap he wears when he’s not on duty.
Tim Blake Nelson gets to shine here, bringing us into Wade’s sad, frightening world. He runs endless drills to prepare himself for future squid attacks, dropping large chunks of money to get himself a new alarm system from Extra Dimensional Securities. And he hosts a support group for others still haunted by the event. It’s at one of these group meetings that Wade meets Renee (Deadwood‘s Paula Malcomson), and the two seem to hit it off. They even go on a semi-date to a bar, where Renee opens up to Wade so much that the two end up sharing a kiss outside.
But like Wade’s encounter with the punk rock girl back in the ’80s, this tryst turns out to have an ulterior motive. Renee is a member of the Seventh Kavalry, and through some trickery involving the lettuce truck from the first episode, she’s able to lure Wade to the 7K’s hideout – a shopping mall full of what appear to be movie sets. Oh, and there’s a Stargate-looking portal, the same kind believed to have opened up the dimension of the killer alien squid.
Of course, anyone familiar with the Watchmen comic knows there’s more to the squid attack than meets the eye. And soon, Wade learns that, too – thanks to Senator Keene, who reveals himself to be a leader of the 7K. Keene says that Judd was a leader as well, and the two of them took over after the White Night to avoid future attacks like that. Keene doesn’t seem to be a true believer in the 7K cause, going so far as to call them “racist yokels.” What he does care about is revealing the shocking truth that the squid attack was all staged by Adrian Veidt.
To back up this claim, Keene has a message recorded by Veidt – a message that was shown to President Robert Redford after his swearing-in, and which is apparently shown to everyone in the government. This seems like a big risk to take, but I guess I’ll let that slide for now. The message has Veidt confessing to creating the squid attack, as well as revealing that it was he who helped engineer Redford’s election – without Redford’s knowledge.
In exchange for this revelation, and his life, Wade has to flip on Angela. Keene is convinced that Angela either killed Judd, or knows who did. And that’s technically true – if we’re still buying that Will, Angela’s grandfather, is the one who bumped-off Judd. Angela confesses this to Wade, unaware that Laurie has bugged the cactus on Wade’s desk. Wade is aware of this, though, and his claim of wanting to help Angela leads to her getting arrested. Not cool, Wade.
After all of this, Wade is supposed to breathe easy. Now that he knows the squid attack is fake he shouldn’t be worried about extra-dimensional attacks, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. After trying to get a hold of himself by throwing out his new Extra-Dimensional Securities system, he quickly retrieves it from the trash. But Wade’s mental anxieties are the least of his problems right now – the moment he goes into his house, a van full of gun-toting 7K members comes calling. Uh-oh.
- The episode title is a quote from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: “If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning.”
- Wade is able to find out what Will’s mysterious pills are from his ex-wife: Nostalgia. Pills that literally give you memories – and that also have been outlawed because they cause psychosis. In the Watchmen comic, Nostalgia is a brand of cosmetics created by Veidt Enterprises.
- Before being hauled off to jail Angela downs the entire bottle of Nostalgia. Guessing that’s going to have some consequences.
- I can’t get enough of Laurie mockingly calling Wade “Mirror Guy”.
- The lettuce truck Wade follows has some sort of box that displays the logo of Lady Trieu’s company. How does she tie into all of this?
- Wade’s cover story involves working for a market research company. The company is currently testing a hilarious ad to bring people back to New York City, full of people excitedly claiming you can hike through an empty Central Park, and Michael Imperioli – presumably playing himself – talking up the authentic Italian cuisine (complete with squid). I’m just glad to know Michael Imperioli survived the 11/2 attack.
- Speaking of the 11/2 attack, it turns out that Steven Spielberg made a movie about the event, called Pale Horse. The film was released in 1992, and acts as a stand-in for Schindler’s List, because we learn that the movie is in black and white but features a scene where we can see a little girl in a red coat. Which I guess means Schindler’s List doesn’t exist in this world.
- If Spielberg already made a movie called Pale Horse, would he then later make one called War Horse, too? Or does that mean War Horse doesn’t exist in this world either? So many Spielberg questions!
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