THE UPSHOT
HBO’s take on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel has some brilliant single-character-focused episodes.

Creators: Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons (graphic novel), Damon Lindelof (TV series)
Cast: Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson
Seasons: 1 (2019)
Streaming on: Hotstar

Episode 4: Laurie and Angela butt heads

The episode opens with a look into the life of a childless couple living on a farm in Oklahoma before they are visited in the night by Lady Trieu, who wants to make a trade: their house and the 40 acres of land it sits on for a baby she created from the couple’s DNA. This exchange has an ominous feel to it, as if it were a deal with the devil. “Legacy isn’t in land, it’s in blood,” Lady Trieu declares. “You two have no children, when you die your legacy dies with you.”

In episode four, the focus is back on Angela, after last week’s brilliant exploration of Laurie Blake. As Angela gets rid of the evidence of her capture of Will, she realises she’s being watched by a man wearing silver spandex. The episode feels like set-up for big reveal and a confrontation between Laurie and Angela.

The tension between Laurie and Angela is coming to a boiling point. Laurie, making jabs at masked police officers, saying that their actions are ridiculous. On their way to Trieu Industries to investigate the sudden and dramatic reappearance of Angela’s car from the sky, she jokingly speculates as to whether Angela was harmed by nuns after her parents’ death, while looking for Angela’s motivation behind her costume. “People who wear masks are driven by trauma,” Laurie states. “They’re obsessed with justice because of some injustice they suffered, usually when they were kids. Ergo the mask to hide the pain.” Laurie understands this due to her own backstory. She shares a piece of this with Angela, revealing how her father, the Comedian, raped her mother, the previous Silk Spectre.

It’s intriguing to see how Angela and Laurie’s stories are thematically linked. Angela’s story is tied to black history in America, while Laurie battles with her family background and trauma that came from growing up in a family of crime fighters. The way the show intertwines both characters’ struggles with issues inherited from their very different family histories is compelling and makes for an entertaining character dynamic.

Episode 5: The truth comes out

Director Damon Lindelof does exceptional work with episodes that focus on a single character as seen in his previous work, Lost. This episode is centered on Wade, the costumed crime fighter known as Looking Glass.

The episode begins in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1985. An Oklahoma school bus of Christian missionaries stops at a carnival. Couples are making out in the street and leather-clad young people lean against walls smoking. Nervously making his way through this scene is a young man from Tulsa, hoping to spread “truth” to the people of Hoboken. The young man is Wade. A girl lures him into a hall of mirrors and leaves him in there, naked. Suddenly, giant alien squid teleports onto on New York City, killing millions and sending a psychic wave through the neighbouring cities, including Hoboken. He walks out of the house of mirrors to a horrifying scene of death and destruction.

The events of that night have come to define Wade’s life. He is just as frightened even 30 years later and lives in constant paranoia. In the present, he essentially turned his home into a bomb shelter with an elaborate security system, stocked up with supplies and survival gear. He even attends a support group for those affected by the New York incident. His mirror-like mask is a protective measure against psychic blasts. This fear also prevents him from maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. He doesn’t have any friends and his paranoia ruined a seven-year relationship with Cynthia, the woman he still seems to be in love with.

Wade is still that scared little boy trapped in a funhouse. Once again he is tricked by a pretty woman, who this time turns out to be a member of the Seventh Kavalry. This time he’s lured into an abandoned department store, where Kavalry members are opening an extra-dimensional portal. She tells him she brought him there to show him the truth. Wade is brought to a room, where he meets Senator Joe Keene. It turns out Keene has been working from inside the Seventh Kavalry all along. He claims to have taken over the leadership role from Chief Judd and that their goal is to maintain peace and stability in the nation and prevent another White Night. But to do that, he needs Wade to sell out Angela.

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In exchange for his cooperation, Keene offers Wade the truth that will set him free of his paranoia, a pre-recorded video from Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) addressed to future president Robert Redford. In the video, he admits to staging the New York squid incident as an elaborate hoax to save the world from nuclear war. It’s great to see the series confirming Veidt’s orchestration of the squid incident. It’s more faithful to the source material than the Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie, which completely rewrote the ending.

In the next scene at the police station, Wade sells Angela out. She swallows the entire bottle of pills left behind by Will which she had asked Wade to investigate for her.

Episode 6: Revelations from the past

The episode continues the main story after Angela made the decision to swallow the entire bottle of pills that her grandfather, Will left in her car. For legal reasons Laurie needs Angela’s permission before she has her stomach pumped, but by the time Laurie brings her the consent form, the pills, which turned out to contain Will’s memories have taken effect. Every dose of contains memories from significant moments in his life, such as the day his family fled Tulsa during the race riots.

The episode entitled ‘This Extraordinary Being’ stands out among Watchmen’s episodes in the aesthetic differences in the way the episode depicts the past and the present.

Angela, under the influence of the drug is now in a black and white world, experiencing Will’s memories. The first one, from his adulthood when he joined the NYPD in the ’40s. As Will stands on stage among his fellow newly-made officers, even though he’s made his way through the rigorous process involved in becoming a police officer, the NYPD doesn’t value him. Unlike his white peers, who receive their badges from the chief in the ceremony, Will is left out and the duty of giving him his badge is relegated to one of the other black officers. He eventually realizes that he cannot fight crime with a badge and gun and dons the mask of a vigilante, calling himself Hooded Justice.

The main plot of the episode revolves around Hooded Justice’s fight against ‘Cyclops’, a racist group that manages to brainwash young black men into attacking each other at a theater. However, this story is set up for the biggest reveal yet. The episode eventually lets us in on the secret of who killed Chief Judd. The answer: he killed himself. Will used Cyclops’ old hypnosis tactic to suggest that the chief of police hung himself. While the motivation behind this act remains unclear, we definitely have enough with which to speculate.

For a recap of episodes 1-3, see here.