Watchmen: Little Fear of Lightning   Books Included 
November 18, 2019 1:44 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The origin story of Looking Glass is at last revealed, as is the truth behind the greatest hoax in American history. Far away, the Smartest Man in the World plots a daring escape.
posted by adrianhon (113 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
The soundtrack is very good. It almost always sets exactly the right tone. I was thinking this as Veidt arranged the corpses.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:20 AM on November 18, 2019


GIANT ALIEN SQUID!
posted by rmd1023 at 4:02 AM on November 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


Yes, I was so happy to finally see the giant psychic squid in Times Square.
posted by octothorpe at 4:14 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Five episodes in, I'll finally say it: this series is being overrated by critics. The storytelling is heavily padded, served in tiny dribbles presented in a slick, pretentious way that doesn't cover up how empty the emotional conflicts are. Teenage sexual shame in the midst of the squid drop as the driving force behind Looking Glass just felt cheap to me. And yes I know sexual shame was an integral part of the comic series, so how could it go so wrong?

That we're apparently now going to get an hour of muddy, drugged-up, confusing flashbacks to maybe, hopefully learn a little bit more about what the hell Louis Gossett's character is up to (after weeks of absurdly vague and portentous conversations between characters with no clear reason to hide*) seems par for the course. I know it's The Lindelof Way, but while I find the world and the acting engaging enough to keep going, I'm not much of a fan of the way he's telling this story.

*Will Reeves' answer to Lady Trieu' s suggestion at the end of episode 4 that he should just tell Abar who he is was so hilariously stupid: "She's not gonna listen. She has to experience things by herself." And it was made so much worse by the nudge-nudge meta-commentary from Trieu about "passive-aggressive exposition." So, so much worse. My not-high expectations for this show dropped precipitously at that point. Even the squid couldn't help them recover.
posted by mediareport at 4:24 AM on November 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm still wary of their ability to wrap this up in nine episodes but I did like the emphasis on Mirror Guy's story for this one. Tim Blake Nelson grew up in Tulsa so I assume that he had a lot of input into the background for the character. I just hope that they didn't kill him off at the end.
posted by octothorpe at 4:36 AM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


So...where we going with all this?

I don't have a clue a clue what's going on or more importantly, why, but that's...ok? Or it is what it is. Feels like things should be starting to wrap up. Maybe that'll happen with the next episode?

Viedt's rearranging of the bodies to create a sign reminded me of White Walkers in Game of Thrones and how that show ended so badly and was on HBO. That thought doesn't give me a lot of hope.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:54 AM on November 18, 2019


Did anyone catch what Veidt was actually writing?
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:16 AM on November 18, 2019


It was “SAVE ME D...”

Dan? Dr. Manhattan? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by adrianhon at 5:18 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Another little mystery!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:23 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Viedt's rearranging of the bodies to create a sign reminded me of White Walkers in Game of Thrones and how that show ended so badly and was on HBO. That thought doesn't give me a lot of hope.

It's a direct reference to the Tales of the Black Freighter comic from the graphic novel; The marooned mariner lashes together the corpses of his dead shipmates to build a raft, which is presented as a crucial step in his descent into madness, and as a narrative parallel to Veidt's murderous drive to "save the world" by any means necessary. This scene can be understood on a meta level as Veidt fully merging with his fictional mirror-self to become the madman and pariah that he never became on Earth.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:00 AM on November 18, 2019 [18 favorites]


Dan?

Dreiberg? He is in prison, right? I bet he makes a mean hotplate, but I don't see how he can rescue Veidt.
posted by thelonius at 6:08 AM on November 18, 2019


Short note on the episode title: It's part of a quote from Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea":
"If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning."
Which ties in with the squid (notice that the support group calls themselves "friends of Nemo"), as well as Veidt's apparent arrangement with the U.S. government re: the "squid rains" to keep the residual unease with the threat of interdimensional invasion at a simmer.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:09 AM on November 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Are some of the older contents from Peteypedia disappearing?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:14 AM on November 18, 2019


Are some of the older contents from Peteypedia disappearing?

I just checked the site and it looks like everything from past weeks is still there, plus the new infodrop for this week. Maybe something's up with your browser?
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:18 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Must be. I switched to desktop mode and it's all back.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:25 AM on November 18, 2019


The pamphlet on Nostalgia from the Peteypedia suggests that Angela is in for a pretty bad time taking someone else's pills (they're made of your own cloned brain tissue) and that many at once.
posted by codacorolla at 6:30 AM on November 18, 2019


This scene can be understood on a meta level as Veidt fully merging with his fictional mirror-self to become the madman and pariah that he never became on Earth.

I don't think you get where I'm coming from.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:33 AM on November 18, 2019


Viedt's rearranging of the bodies to create a sign reminded me of White Walkers in Game of Thrones and how that show ended so badly and was on HBO. That thought doesn't give me a lot of hope.

I get the impression that HBO gives showrunners pretty free reign on their respective shows, I don't think you can generalize from one show to another. For better or worse, this seems to be a Lindelof joint.
posted by octothorpe at 6:57 AM on November 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


Fully satisfied with this episode. I like Tim Blake Nelson and I like Looking Glass, I'd take the character for that ridiculous accent alone. I liked having a whole episode about him; Angela is awesome and the center of the show, but multiple angles on it are better. I'm totally fine with a somewhat cliche origin story; teenage sexual shame plus psychic trauma plus funhouse mirror maze is some perfect comic book deliciousness. Also the fact he came from the Jehovah's Witnesses, that's gotta really mess with you.

Loved the shot of Wade eating beans out of a can while watching Hooded Justice sodomize Captain Metropolis on the TV. (About 17 minutes in). The beans are a completely unsubtle reference to Rorschach in the comic. But also Wade entirely transfixed. Disgusted? Rorschach certainly would have been, with his ugly moralism and seething hatred. Wade seems more just stunned. This whole show has set Looking Glass up to be a new Rorschach, sorta, but then he's also a lot less brutal. Having his day job be consumer research is a nice touch.

Some other nice references.. "Knot Tops" are credited in the end, I guess the bad kids at the carnival. And Stephen Spielberg's movie "Pale Horse" doesn't exist, but maybe it's meant to recall "War Horse". Mostly of course "Pale Horse" was a band in the comics.

I honestly didn't follow all the results of the Big Reveal at the end, when Wade is kidnapped. We're absolutely sure the Kalvary are the bad guys, right? I don't think this show would try to make the Klan actually sympathetic. That's the Kalvary who picked him up, not just some random Rorschachs. And the Senator is part of them? And somehow they know that Veidt confessed to the squid drop on video? And the Kalvary is gonna do something like that to Tulsa? I'm just kind of confused, need to watch again.

Veidt is on a moon of Jupiter! We were all wrong! Well, all right in general, but just wrong about the specific planetary body.

I cannot imagine how this show makes any sense to people who don't know the comics. Even knowing just the movie now isn't good enough, since this story is relying so heavily on the squid drop which was left out of the movie entirely.
posted by Nelson at 7:03 AM on November 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


Pale Horse was a Spielberg movie shot in black and white except for a girl in a red dress. I'm going to assume Schindler's List was never made in this universe.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:15 AM on November 18, 2019 [16 favorites]


What I'm curious about is how Veidt had the incredibly specific info on his location but still seemed like this was the first time he could get outside the hologram/bubble - his suit had the stopwatch set to time his work to exactly when the satellite would swing by, which would require incredibly good info on both his *precise* location and some very refined data on the satellite location without having access to any computers - Veidt is unnervingly intelligent and all, but having memorized the trajectory path information of deep-space probes before being sent to a pre-industrial exile seems... a stretch.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:25 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Two small things:

The Trieu Industries logo looks like an elephant as seen from head on.

The location of Trieu Pharmaceuticals (One Waverider Plaza) is a possible reference to the DC Comics character, Waverider, whose history deals abundantly with time travel.
posted by Big Chief Little Pants at 7:35 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Veidt is on a moon of Jupiter!

Is he on a moon of Jupiter or going through a teleportation machine that puts him on a moon of Jupiter?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:40 AM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I think the complaints about slowness only really hold up if you're actively guessing plot points: the episode we found out Keane is a secret racist, was in league with Judd, that seventh kav is planning an attack using Manhattan derived tech, that Veidt is in a bubble universe in space and had been captured. I saw a lot of that guessed in this thread, but it's still stuff that has to happen on screen even if we correctly assumed it earlier.
posted by codacorolla at 7:57 AM on November 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


Right, when he's out on the moon of Jupiter (Europa?), it has clearly far lower gravity than the normal Earth-level gravity in his castle. So:

- Is there localised higher gravity in his castle?
- Is his castle in a simulation?
- Is he teleporting in from another place with higher gravity?
- Maybe it's just dramatic licence
posted by adrianhon at 8:02 AM on November 18, 2019


This wasn’t their strongest episode, but Looking Glass/Rorschach might be shaping up to be my favorite slant from the comics to the show.
posted by jameaterblues at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


we found out Keane is a secret racist,

Is he, though? Or is he using the racists as a tool to maintain a certain level of background fear? I'd have to re-watch to examine his actual words, but his tone expressed a disdain for the 7th Cav, like he considered himself above them. (Didn't he refer to them as yokels?)
posted by dnash at 8:15 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


He's at least working with them. My guess is that he is actually ideologically aligned with them, at least in the same way the modern Republican party is aligned with CHUDs - enabling white supremacist terrorism for political expediency is about as bad as enabling it for the sake of "keeping the peace", which also has parallels to Ozymandias' plan in the original story.
posted by codacorolla at 8:26 AM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


My speculation is that he's a true believer (in a hereditary sense given the letter in the peteypedia) and that he fooled Looking Glass because he is, as he says, a politician and he's a trained liar.
posted by codacorolla at 8:28 AM on November 18, 2019


I assume Veidt’s in a pocket dimension that’s the comic version of Mordenkainen’s Mansion - it’s invisible from the outside, but if you exit, you’re back wherever you left from. Maybe he sent up photographic film with several of the bodies so he could work out where he was relative to satellites?

Mostly I’m confused about what the Senator’s/7th’s plan is with the teleporter - do they want to reveal to everyone that the squid was fake by leaflet or something? Do they want to escalate to a fake squid war? Are they common military tech in Watchworld, given that Looking Glass recognized it?
posted by tautological at 8:38 AM on November 18, 2019


I think the complaints about slowness only really hold up if you're actively guessing plot points:

Firmly disagree, as the show took pains to try to explain why things weren't simply explained to Sister Night. Granted, it may all work out in the end and make narrative sense, but for the moment, argument that the show is creeping into the too much padding territory isn't odd.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Overall, I'm enjoying the show, even though it seems to be certain amount of BS going on with the narrative structure and pacing.

One thing that's really growing tiring are the constant callbacks to the comic. We get it, you've read the it and liked it, lets move on. Is the really adding much, other than "oh yeah, this takes place in that world"?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 AM on November 18, 2019


Nostalgia was also the cosmetics line by Veidt Enterprises from the Watchmen comic.
posted by kokaku at 8:43 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is the really adding much, other than "oh yeah, this takes place in that world"?

Thematic consistency. But I guess that depends on the value you place on themes.
posted by codacorolla at 8:50 AM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


There was a lot that I loved about the episode, but one part that really needed some work. First, the good stuff: the opening, with the knot tops (they're established as a gang style that occasionally gets co-opted by would-be edgy fashionistas, such as one of the lesbians at the street corner at 40th and 7th in Manhattan); looking at 11/2's Ground Zero on the map, it makes sense that some people in New Jersey would get caught in the killing zone. Looking Glass' mask being the Watchmen world's equivalent of a tinfoil hat (and his cap being lined with the stuff as well); his outside job observing focus groups; the diploma on his wall; the can of beans; the support group (and its shameless borrowing from AA); even the scene with his ex. It's all good and gives more depth to Wade's life than just "this show's Rorschach."

The part that really didn't work for me, though, was 7K's set-up of Wade. Starting with using the lettuce as a tell (did he really buy that they'd use another lettuce truck? Really?), the false radio connection (so... they blocked his call to dispatch, but transmitted back and forth using the same frequency? Radios in W-World work like that?), the gun with blanks (how did they know that he wouldn't just use his own weapon?), having about a half-dozen members in there when they didn't know that he might wait for backup, risking Keene in a room with an unrestrained Wade, and the topper, having Adrian Veidt record a video seven years ahead of time, for President Redford, this video then getting shown to any member of Congress who gets put on the Appropriations committee, and... why? The whole thing was just very badly thought through, and could have been very easily fixed (finding another tell for Wade to notice, planting an altered radio and gun in his car, and instead of a video that Veidt would have never made--he could have just gone for a stroll with the new President in the Rose Garden, off camera, and told him all that--they could have shown him Rorschach's journal, or a copy of it, gotten from a sympathetic plant at the New Frontiersman).

I do have to say that revealing that Veidt was indeed on the moon... of Jupiter was kind of awesome.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:00 AM on November 18, 2019 [8 favorites]


Starting with using the lettuce as a tell (did he really buy that they'd use another lettuce truck? Really?)

Noooo, he thought it was the original lettuce truck. That's why he called into dispatch, because he didn't know a major detail of cop involved shooting, i.e. whether they had recovered the truck from the shooting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:07 AM on November 18, 2019


Teenage sexual shame in the midst of the squid drop as the driving force behind Looking Glass just felt cheap to me.

Since sexual shame didn’t seem to crop up as an issue for present day Mirror Glass, I assumed it was simply a conceit to get him inside a location that would keep his brain from entirely melting from psionic blast.
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:07 AM on November 18, 2019


Am I the only one who weirdly recollected the old HBO intro when they zoomed out from young Looking Glass to the giant squid?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


Thematic consistency. But I guess that depends on the value you place on themes.

Awesome, what themes have been resonating with you in the series so far?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2019


Liked this episode, especially Wade's origin story. I thought Veidt's recorded speech came off as a little silly, but maybe that's supposed to be in-character for him. Could just be the accent, I'm not sure. Was hoping Wade was going to slip Angela a note or something before her bust.

When the 7K rolled up on Wade's house at the end, my son was yelling "NO! Don't be over!" and I said "Son the music is swelling...it's done."
posted by jquinby at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


how did they know that he wouldn't just use his own weapon?)

Because he does not have one - remember the stuff with having to get dispatch to unlock a service weapon?
posted by thelonius at 9:53 AM on November 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


On the 7K’s somewhat overwrought setup of Wade, the gun part is easily explained by the fact that police need to check out their guns, plus some presumed CCTV in the mall.
posted by adrianhon at 9:55 AM on November 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


One thing that's really growing tiring are the constant callbacks to the comic

Oh I love them. But purely as fan service. I was thrilled to see Wade eating beans out of the can just like Rorschach. Oh! That's a thing I recognize! I am so smart and cultured for recognizing it! I was so happy about that I even rushed to post the observation here, complete with links to images.

It's not High Art, and it's not original, but it totally pushes my buttons.
posted by Nelson at 9:57 AM on November 18, 2019 [9 favorites]


It would make more sense if the Jupiter moon Veidt is on isn't Europa, but rather Io. It's the input/output portal.
posted by guiseroom at 10:04 AM on November 18, 2019 [8 favorites]


Because he does not have one - remember the stuff with having to get dispatch to unlock a service weapon?

Hmm, OK, although it still seems weird that he'd go into a nest of terrorists known to have not only guns but bombs and even heavy machine guns by himself.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:36 AM on November 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Yeah, that felt a bit forced. Why not wait for backup? Not as if the 7K looked like they were leaving any time soon.
posted by adrianhon at 11:00 AM on November 18, 2019


Yeah, I would just wait for backup but I'm not a cop, and more specifically not a cop in a work of fiction. I guess we can point to him being drunk as affecting his judgment on this matter.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:01 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


FatherDagon: Veidt is unnervingly intelligent and all, but having memorized the trajectory path information of deep-space probes before being sent to a pre-industrial exile seems... a stretch.

I read the watch as an estimation on how long until the Game Warden came to yank him back into his bubble of un-reality, and he was assuming he was being constantly watched by an orbital satellite. But I'm just guessing at this all.


jquinby: When the 7K rolled up on Wade's house at the end, my son was yelling "NO! Don't be over!" and I said "Son the music is swelling...it's done."

But what comes next? Sure, there was the ominous shotgun pump, but that seems like a small squad to take out a named masked person. Maybe they're there to escort him, forcefully if necessary.

Then again, it may be that he Knows Too Much and that is an execution squad.


I liked that the Mirror Guy nickname is even more justified with his backstory, which makes me think that Blake knew his history. After all, if she bugs his cactus, she's bound to know his past already.


Nelson: It's not High Art, and it's not original, but it totally pushes my buttons.

Ditto. And it's flawed, but it's a lot of fun and most of it is well-crafted.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:24 AM on November 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Hmm, OK, although it still seems weird that he'd go into a nest of terrorists known to have not only guns but bombs and even heavy machine guns by himself.

Agreed. But they didn't take his clothes, at least.
posted by thelonius at 11:47 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


“SAVE ME D” -> DAMON

pretty sure.
posted by mwhybark at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I don't think you get where I'm coming from.

Oh, I watched all of Game of Thrones and remember the exact scene you're talking about. I just don't see a real connection between that and this, other than the fact that they're both airing on HBO and feature wild things happening to dead bodies. But I don't think there's a network mandate to have at least one corpse-piling scene in every show.

If anything, it reminded me more of Rick & Morty, with Veidt having finally gone full Rick in his pursuit of mad science, stacking up dead clones like so many unfortunate Mortys.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:55 PM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


Awesome, what themes have been resonating with you in the series so far?

The primary textual theme from the books, that also seems to be repeated here, is that the 'great man' theory of history (and the way it informs our IRL 'with great power comes great responsibility' super hero mythos) is both insane and destructive. Veidt buys entirely into this concept, which is why he can effortlessly make the choice to kill three million people to stave off a nuclear war that was exacerbated and perhaps even caused by his masked friends. It's worth noting that the only reason Nixon was able to maintain hegemonic power at home and across the world is a) the Comedian doing wetwork on his domestic political rivals, b) Dr. Blue Dong being a mindless, emotionless super-weapon that completely shifted the balance of power, and c) a combination of A and B making the domestic political process obsolete. There are echoes of this with Redford, who has clearly followed in the footsteps of Nixon with his 30 year presidency, and the implication that the Government is keeping up squid rains (and making them even more common in soviet bloc countries) to maintain a shaky peace. Keane and Judd conspiring from either side of the 7K to 'keep the peace' is a similar idea, and I would presume that whatever Reeves and Trieu are planning is going to have a similar valence.

As with the comics, there are a number of repeating visual themes. I wouldn't call these references, I would just say that (similarly to the comics) they're being used to repeat primary ideas in the story. Just a few I picked up on in this episode:

The pile of clones calls back to the corpse raft from The Black Freighter, showing the means that Veidt is willing to justify his ends.

Looking Glass's origin story in the hall of mirrors (clearly insulating him from the extra-dimensional attack) is shot similarly to John's transformation in the intrinsic field generator.

The use of masks across every masked character is similar to how each of the mains in the original treated their own (e.g. Rorschach's vision of his mask as his true face, versus The Comedian barely having a mask at all). In the case of Looking Glass it's about overcoming the PTSD of the event with a 'tinfoil hat', but you can see it in other heroes (Lady Night's is very precise, Red Mennace's is just barely there and half-assed).

The wall of TVs in the 7K base calls back to the screens Ozy uses to psychoanalyze the world in the original series, which connects the two together.

There have been a number of watch symbols throughout: in this episode the way the cross is positioned on the wall in the fake church.

A lot also comes from the supplementary text, e.g. Nostalgia, which was Veidt's primary product line before the Squid, is rebranded by Trieu as a snappy, emotionless pharmaceutical. In the comic, Nostalgia was tied to Veidt's desire to 'reset the clock' and maintain a comfortable status quo at any cost. I'm less clear what it means here, but we've also gotten less of Trieu's character on screen.
posted by codacorolla at 2:27 PM on November 18, 2019 [20 favorites]


One thing I found myself thinking about, the next morning, is what happens around the middle point of the episode, because it’s the middle of the series, mostly because of Fearful Symmetry.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:40 PM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I, for one, have logical qualms about the internal narrative logic of a world with superheroes, overseen by Richard Nixon and then Robert Redford and then...

Sorry. Can't pretend I am not fucking around.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:12 PM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Are those baby squid edible? Problem solved.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:16 PM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


So Senator Keane is planning a new squid-type attack to restore the peace between police and Kavalry, which was broken by (checks notes) the Kavalry. And Judd, before his untimely death, was also pouring fuel on that fire. So, that checks out.

And I don't think Keane expressed any interest in who killed his pal Judd, did he?

Wade is awfully hard to read in the present tense, but this episode suggests a consistent history of responding to threats by trying to save the world. I'm wondering if Senator Keane did that research, or if he's just working off a brief description like "sad conspiracy theorist hick".
posted by mersen at 3:19 PM on November 18, 2019


Keane wants to be president so his aim has to be larger than Tulsa. Maybe use the Kavalry to show the links between Veidt and President Redford and have the masked Tulsa officers take down the Kavalry, there'll be massive unrest so then nationalize masked officers as his plan to make the country safe and get him elected. Getting teleportation tech to work would be quite useful as well.

I also have to wonder that if the US government knows the attack was a hoax and no one else did if they were able to convince the Soviets to get rid of their nuclear weapons (while keeping America's) so that when the big reveal eventually, inevitably, happens the world won't immediately be on the brink of MAD again.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:07 PM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


An off the wall, and not really serious idea is that the Veidt video could be a fake. It's pretty similar to what was already in Rorschach's Journal, and the additional detail about colluding with Redford really plays into the rightwing conspiracy angle.
posted by codacorolla at 4:28 PM on November 18, 2019


Some decent stuff here, with the exception of fingering Europa instead of Io (which is genius! Even if it turns out to be incorrect, in a larger sense it is, koff, true, er ah I mean Trieu). In particular, the concept that the clone servants are clones of Jon and Janey is so, so potentially insightful. Even if it turns out that’s not the case, good critics find true things unintended, which is why I love criticism. Divergent timelines converging, yeah, a lotta ground we share, more or less.
posted by mwhybark at 4:44 PM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


I checked what happened at the midpoint of the episode, and it’s Wade sitting and having drinks with the blonde woman from the 7K. Which could plausibly mark the shift between setting the pins up and throwing the bowling ball down the lane. Our conspiracy is revealed, and now the characters have to deal with it.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:41 PM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Because our faves are problematic, Lindsay Ellis weighs in about the politics of conspiracy and trutherism. My dispassionate summary: the comic was written in 1985, pre-9/11, but the tv series is written in 2019, post-9/11, so the same themes resonate differently. Here's a direct quotation: "[...] this isn't a condemnation or anything [...], but the decision to go SO hard on the 9/11 parallels certainly was A Choice"

Having presented Lindsay Ellis's qualm, which I think I share, I loved this episode. I felt it was the one where the backstory of the comics was well enough explained that someone watching the series in a vacuum is almost fully caught up.I love Looking Glass's backstory and the power of Tim Blake Nelson's performance. How poignant is his turning and subsequent betrayal of Sister Night? I hope he's not gone from the series.

What feels off is the conspiracy reveal video. Not its existence: we know Veidt's a megalomaniacal psychopath, so making the video is not at all out-of-character for him, but how the hell hasn't it been leaked already? If Junior Senator Keene can get a copy, would he have been the first? Wouldn't someone have broadcast it years ago?
posted by kandinski at 6:02 PM on November 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


I’m loving this series, and when I see all the Easter eggs And references to the source material I don’t think, “yeah, yeah, I get it, geez.” I am Instead appreciative that the creative team has a deep appreciation and understanding of, and respect for, the source material. Best part is that they use it as a foundation upon which to build a totally new structure, not a slavish reproduction (cough).

For instance: as soon as “Nostalgia,” which was a perfume in the book, is introduced as the name of a dangerous memory drug, we cut to a shot of “Mercy,” a perfume in a bottle identical to Nostalgia’s. And it drives us to consider how mercy is an important theme of this show, just as nostalgia (literally “the pain of returning home”) was important to the book (especially to Laurie).

One Easter egg that I dug went beyond the source material into its inspiration—in the Veidt video for President Redford* he says “the only weapon more powerful than nuclear bombs is fear, and I am its architect.” That’s a wonderfully winking reference to the Outer Limits episode “Architects of Fear,” which may have inspired the ending of Watchmen or just been stolen, and wound up referred to within the series and its follow-up.

*I hope so hard Redford shows up playing himself. It would be even cooler than his cameo in Avengers: Endgame.
posted by ejs at 7:12 PM on November 18, 2019 [13 favorites]


how the hell hasn't it been leaked already? If Junior Senator Keene can get a copy, would he have been the first? Wouldn't someone have broadcast it years ago?

Knowing the squid drop was fake is a tactical advantage the US has over the rest of the world (presumably). The video could be shown only to government insiders determined to maintain that advantage. Though Keane could be a sociopath willing to risk national security for personal benefit, but now that I say that it sounds outlandish and unrealistic (cough).
posted by ejs at 7:18 PM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


I agree with ejs's comment -- the video is also a right of passage, bringing the viewer into a select inner circle. And given the influence of those who have seen the video, I can imagine they would get any broadcast of this blocked before it happened.

As for the possibility of it being a fake -- in this timeline, the world (or at least the U.S.) went full anti-tech, after thinking that new technologies like personal computers were the cause of the giant squid falling on NYC and the psychic blast. That's why there are no cell phones and computers are just getting introduced to the police station. (See the memo The Computer and You, PDF from Peteypedia.)

The content of the video is also something that sounds so crazy that it could be laughed off, especially if it's announced by someone who is known to have suffered in the outer edges of the psychic blast on 11/2, and gets Reflectatine by the roll.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:56 PM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


Notes on a rewatch

1. House of Mirrors sequence references the end of Lady From Shanghai (Welles, Rita Hayworth). Wasn’t there a Madonna remake?

2. Young Wade is the victim of sexual assault, no bones about it. Peteypedia attempts to underline this point via Agent Petey highlighting this aspect of what happened to Laurie’s mom.

3. in the preroll, Angela drops in on Wade wearing a maroon flight jacket with what appears to be a rank pin, one bar, so presumably a Lieutenant. No idea what the maroon thing might mean.

More as it comes to me.
posted by mwhybark at 10:41 PM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


ah, Angela’s pills have a red cap. Spose they must be the Red Pills.
posted by mwhybark at 10:42 PM on November 18, 2019


18 minutes in, Wade’s alarms go off and he hits the fallout shelter. We’ve seen a couple shots of his no-longer-around wife Cynthia.

There’s a quick shot of a wall in the bunker, with a diploma awarded to Wade in June, 2000, in the discipline of Extraterrestrial Squid Science, a 60-second timer clock branded by EDS, a clipboard of Wade’s EDS (Extra-Dimensional Security) drills through mid July 2019 (not surr why he’s been slacking so since it’s now November) and a taped-up “The New York Times.” LATE CITY EDITION, date mostly illegible except for NOVEMBER featuring a banner pic of Manhattan from altitude and a headline reading MILLIONS FEARED DEAD.
posted by mwhybark at 10:56 PM on November 18, 2019


Wade’s Squidfearers Anonymous meeting references, as the show should, epigenetic trauma.
posted by mwhybark at 11:06 PM on November 18, 2019


“we boosted your signal”

amusing, given that here “boosted” means stolen or diverted
posted by mwhybark at 11:18 PM on November 18, 2019


Wade, watching Veidt at the 7K “abandoned department store”. Veidt suggests that the video will last a few more hours, but we cut away to the Master at launch.
posted by mwhybark at 11:27 PM on November 18, 2019




Does Looking Glass have an actual superpower in his ability to detect lies, or is he just very skilled at it? I could see supernatural lie detection being a side effect of the squid attack, but that would open up a whole lot of questions about who else might have similar abilities...
posted by Rock Steady at 5:38 AM on November 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


It's a real skill, but his seemed to be amped up quite a bit - pupil responses and so on.
posted by jquinby at 5:44 AM on November 19, 2019




> DirtyOldTown: This essay argues that since half of 1985 NYC was wiped out, hip hop as we know it would not exist in HBO's Watchmen

Interesting... There is some scholarship that sees the early MC/DJ tradition as coming out of Jamaican toasting, so maybe hip hop in Watchworld comes more directly from the reggae/ska/dancehall genres?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:22 AM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


As for the possibility of it being a fake -- in this timeline, the world (or at least the U.S.) went full anti-tech, after thinking that new technologies like personal computers were the cause of the giant squid falling on NYC and the psychic blast. That's why there are no cell phones and computers are just getting introduced to the police station. (See the memo The Computer and You, PDF from Peteypedia.)

We know for a fact that high-end tech includes both the ability to create a fully formed adult from a cloned fetus in about 5 minutes, as well as photorealistic holographs that can be altered on the fly to account for the DNA projections of a skin swab in a database.
posted by codacorolla at 8:59 AM on November 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


And for what it's worth, the IRL Ozy might be coerced into the performance or actively in on it. He does look old in the video.
posted by codacorolla at 9:08 AM on November 19, 2019


Lindsey Ellis

Deep within the Twitter thread another person says “People desperately want to believe Star Trek: Into Darkness was a fluke, huh?”

...and oof, that was a terrible movie that did 9/11 Truther stuff and was terrible and realizing that it was Lindelof makes this here show feel different, not in a good way.
posted by mwhybark at 9:53 AM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Ellis' point is decent, and I think the accuracy of it depends on where the show ends up. I'm optimistic, but also open to the fact that it might bungle the ending.

However, drawing from the original graphic novel, it does miss one fact: that Veidt is a monster, is always depicted as such, and his grand conspiracy was always going to beget other grand conspiracies. His plot to kill millions to uphold general global order isn't that different from the thought process that goes into declaring a war of convenience to boost an economy, or to demonize a minority to promote localized peace. It's the sort of thing that will always beget a cycle of vengeance and ill will, no matter how smart the person at the wheel may or may not be. That's the entire point of the first book - that the utilitarian calculus of the EDE was always doomed to fail (hence the final shot of Rorschach's journal), because it was that self-same utilitarian calculus (albeit from Nixon's perspective of protecting the world from socialism) that drove everyone to the brink of midnight in the first place. Everyone who decides to become the one great mind that will solve conflict thinks they're correct - even if they're fascists wearing masks.

Also, while Ozy says the "correct" things in terms of vague progressive values, he's still an egomaniacal capitalist, who's grand scheme involves robbing three million people of their lives and agency as part of a bargain to put himself in charge. That's the point behind his millennium branded crap: he sees himself as driving the post-EDE world. I would imagine Moore put Veidt into a somewhat appealing political position precisely because he knew that having a semi-sympathetic villain is more interesting and provides more to think about than having Veidt be clearly evil (and anyway, Nixon already has that position).

Getting back to the show, that seems to be the same point that they're working with: what we're seeing isn't a distinct episode from the graphic novel - nothing ever really ends. We're seeing the break in a brief period of peace that has been bought through deception, and the blowback to that deception has put all of the power into the hands of an evil ideology. I don't think it's hard to draw a comparison with the GOP's Southern strategy, where a complicated series of lies built out of antebellum racism were used to buy short-term gains (mostly by decimating labor, creating a class of ultra-rich, and hollowing out trust in government systems even at the expense of the white supremacists who's votes had been bought), or for that matter in IRL American imperialism (where lies about wars for freedom lead to justifiable hatred of America that is then capitalized on by extremists with vile domestic ideologies). One thing I keep coming back to is Laurie's joke where she kills God: that's what I'm hoping for. Some sort of attempt to break the system itself, which Veidt pretended towards, but was only ever interested in putting himself on top.
posted by codacorolla at 11:32 AM on November 19, 2019 [13 favorites]


Are those baby squid edible? Problem solved.

Did Burgers'N'Borscht ever serve calamari?

I also have to wonder that if the US government knows the attack was a hoax and no one else did if they were able to convince the Soviets to get rid of their nuclear weapons (while keeping America's) so that when the big reveal eventually, inevitably, happens the world won't immediately be on the brink of MAD again.

This. The peace is based on a lie. To quote Silence of the Lambs - are the squid drops like the "desperate elaborations of a bad liar."

One thing this world lacks is a sense of what day-to-day humans think about the peace and the basis of the peace. We got a little taste of this in the scene at the newsstand in the first episode (where Trieu's daughter gets magazines by the way) - I wish the narrative flow could have us revisit the newsstand to get more of the man-on-the-street opinion. That scene definitely expressed cynicism about the current news and the peace. Perhaps we'll get more?

I find Looking Glass' story really moving and sad. Tim Blake Nelson is a terrific comic actor of course. He is perfectly deployed here - suspends all my disbelief at what some criticize of the way things are unfolding.

Oh and my crush on Laurie is greater. The perfect matter-of-fact world weary woman. This episode I had a pang though, of how strange it is she's taken control of the Tulsa PD with no sign of pushback from internal forces? (Panda? Abar?) Is this an oversight or a sign of a lack of leadership inside TPD? On The Wire there'd be plenty of officers jockeying to be chief in that vacuum. Baltimore and Tulsa have similar populations (~600k).

And the depressing way the world went from Nixon to an actor with RR initials who also had too many terms is just... sickening. In an era where we keep undoing checks and balances it's feels plausible. Be curious to know what this reality did with Ronald Reagan (who was POTUS during the comics release dates); Also in Presidential connections: Nixon died in 1994, I wonder if he was ever exposed to the comic and what he thought of it if so?
posted by artlung at 11:34 AM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


One callback that hasn't been remarked on yet - maybe it's just too obvious - is Veidt's cry of "I did it!" when he sees the satellite over Europa.

I'm a little unclear about why the Kavalry is coming for Looking Glass at the end of the episode. He seemed to do what they wanted him to do, and is presumably now ideologically in tune with them, at least as far as the EDE goes. So why take him out? All of that setup was just for the purpose of getting Angela thrown in jail?
posted by whir at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2019


That’s the idea - they’re tying up a loose end now he’s done his job.
posted by adrianhon at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


artlung: And the depressing way the world went from Nixon to an actor with RR initials who also had too many terms is just... sickening. In an era where we keep undoing checks and balances it's feels plausible.

Speaking of art mirroring life, I enjoyed Keane's in-universe twist on a current hot-button term:
I'm gonna show you something, and after you see it, you're gonna walk out of here and you're never gonna be afraid of big teleporting aliens ever again. Because I'm gonna set you free. In return, I'm gonna ask you to do me a favor. Call it a squid pro quo.
Emphasis mine.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on November 19, 2019 [9 favorites]


That’s the idea - they’re tying up a loose end now he’s done his job.

Here's hoping he knew Keene was lying and is ready for 'em.

please
posted by jquinby at 1:54 PM on November 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm a little unclear about why the Kavalry is coming for Looking Glass at the end of the episode.

Keane told Wade he needs to get Angela "off the board" for a few days, which implies that whatever the 7K is doing with that portal they're planning to do very soon. In order to ensure they can pull it off, they can't risk Wade having a crisis of conscience and changing his mind before or after their plan is executed.

There's another echo here between Rorschach and Wade. Wade knowing Keane's plan makes him a potential danger to undoing whatever Keane is trying to accomplish, just as Rorschach had to be taken out to ensure the peace Ozymandias had engineered.
posted by tomorrowromance at 2:10 PM on November 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


It's possible that since Laurie is the one apprehending Angela, her and Wade had a talk and agreed that 7K might be full of shit. Laurie is one of four people alive who has the pure unadultered truth of the original EDE (I guess maybe three or two, depending on how you count Dr. M and how alive Veidt truly is), so she might have any number of things to tell Wade. If that's the case, then Wade might very well be prepared for the 7K to silence him.
posted by codacorolla at 2:46 PM on November 19, 2019


sidebar to codacorolla:

upthread and maybe elsewhere you and maybe others have pointed to doins and phenomena in Veidt’s pocket universe, such as the baby-grower, as evidence of larger-universe technical capacity. This is not, I will grant, a settled point. But the babies, although they may be clones of Jon and Janey, have a distinct biology which appears to include pond gestation, some incidence of flipper arms, and what I perceive to be incomplete cognitive faculties. So while it’s sure possible Jon and Janey contributed genetic material to the Master’s doomed companionate, “clone” strikes me as inaccurate.

Further, but less definitively: is the prison a pocket universe? I was 100% hard yes on this, which would mean that the Big Blue Fella was involved. Adrian knowing that the satellite would be there (which is not Juno as we know it. Juno, the satellite, in our reality, is a three-lobed satellite, the ship’s wings seeking to maximize solar energy) argues against a pocket universe.

so while I am grudgingly coming around to the idea that Veidt’s prison exists in our universe, and therefore is unlikely to involve the Doc, I definitely do not subscribe to the idea that Veidt’s adaptive steampunk tech is available in the larger worldspace and therefore quotidian. Veidt, seeking respite in old age, pranked himself with Jon and Janey - derived, um, people, not clones. They are people. They are very different than the people any of us have ever interacted with.
posted by mwhybark at 3:01 PM on November 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


[Star Trek: Into Darkness] was a terrible movie that did 9/11 Truther stuff and was terrible and realizing that it was Lindelof

It's true that Lindelof contributed to the screenplay, but according to the sources I've read, all of the truther stuff in ST:ID was the work of noted conspiracy nut (and first credited writer) Roberto Orci. It's also likely that Orci was canned from writing/directing the following Trek movie (Beyond) as a direct result of his vocal support for 9/11 conspiracy theories on Twitter around the release of ST:ID.

I strongly suspect that Lindelof might have been inspired to tackle conspiracy themes both on this show and The Leftovers partly as a result of his past association with Orci, but I don't see that as an endorsement of those ideas. Here's a quote from Lindelof on Orci and his conspiracy beliefs:
"It's impossible to know Bob Orci and not get involved in those conversations. He believes very passionately in a lot of that stuff and has done a tremendous amount of research. I think you can start it as a casual interlude but it can become intense rather quickly. Personally speaking, I've known Bob feels that way for a long time."

posted by Strange Interlude at 5:14 PM on November 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


I am frankly kind of baffled at the amount of credit people are extending to Lindelof here on fanfare. Like...he’s just making stuff up. It’s exactly as problematic as it looks.

We had a 9/11. We had an economic crash soon after that. We had a world gripped by fear. And the result wasn’t the Robert Redford administration and strong armed racial justice, it was fucking Nazis. Because that’s who preys on fear. That’s the ideology that is compatible with fear. Justice isn’t.

So like...no, I don’t think this has something profound to say, and I think this is just a white dude who has a lot of power and influence and read a few essays on racial justice and then went hog wild with “ok, but what if, like, the police were woke? Like, woke fascists?”

Which at its core is the same awful both side-ism that has validated and excused a lot of terrible things.

I don’t think it gets any better than that. That’s what we’ve had so far. This show is stylistic, and well executed, and hollow at its core, and I’m kinda perplexed that people are working so hard to find something else in it. Like you shouldn’t have to work that hard, you know? Sometimes a really dumb “what if?” is just...dumb.

I mean, I’ll still watch, because it’s so well executed, and the actors are great. But I will also continue to roll my eyes. (I started when the grandfather was like “if I told you the whole conspiracy, it would blow your mind!” Because come the fuck on.)
posted by schadenfrau at 7:11 PM on November 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


80+ comments before someone mentions the squid pro quo. Mefi, I barely recognise you.
posted by Molesome at 2:47 AM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


We had a 9/11. We had an economic crash soon after that. We had a world gripped by fear. And the result wasn’t the Robert Redford administration and strong armed racial justice, it was fucking Nazis. Because that’s who preys on fear. That’s the ideology that is compatible with fear. Justice isn’t. 

The above is so on target. I didn't even want to get into the horribly muddled and deeply stupid, relativistic politics underpinning this entire revisionist world, but they are indeed muddled and deeply stupid, barely relevant to the world we face today. This is so far from what Alan Moore was doing at the height of Reaganism it's absurd, and the much-beloved "callbacks" like the can of beans or the re-use of the name Nostalgia do nothing to cover up this fundamental problem. That so far the Tulsa massacre has turned out to be initial window dressing seems about right. One of the early reviews I saw mentioned that episode 6 is particularly mind-blowing (critics got the first 6 eps, apparently) so we'll see how that goes.

So like...no, I don’t think this has something profound to say, and I think this is just a white dude who has a lot of power and influence and read a few essays on racial justice and then went hog wild with “ok, but what if, like, the police were woke? Like, woke fascists?”

Amen.
posted by mediareport at 4:58 AM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Say what you like about Lindelof, but ultimately he's not the guy who introduced the idea that the truth about the global conspiracy would only be distributed and believed by right-wing nutjobs.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:26 AM on November 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


I think schadenfrau and mediareport are right in that this show is shallow and isn't going to offer some deep insight into our modern political times. Ultimately it's a comic book show and it's entertainment. I appreciate that it's set in a world that reflects my times though in a way that speaks to my political sensibilities. It makes it more interesting than, say, Agents of SHIELD ever was.

Moore's huge contribution with the Watchmen books wasn't that he revealed something deep about Reagan. It's that he revealed something deep about comic books and their unwitting embrace of fascism. So far I don't think Lindelhof has much to say about modern American racism or Trump. But maybe he's got something to say about TV comics. (See also Watchmen creator Alan Moore: Modern superhero culture is embarrassing).

I am a bit worried that the whole Tulsa 1921 setting will turn out to just be appropriation. They damn well better go somewhere with it. The key to that is the Black Marshall and the boy watching a costumed lawman proclaim "Trust in the Law!" only to (presumably) grow up to be a vigilante. The idea that any Black person who lived through the massacre would trust in the law is just absurd. And yet here we are in modern times with Angela working as a cop and trusting her best white friend Sheriff Judd. Only it turns out he looks like a Klansman. All this is terribly poignant and if they can land that story somewhere meaningful I'm excited.

Also I give Lindelhof the benefit of the doubt because I keep thinking back on The Leftovers. I loved that show, and even now a few years later I'm still not sure what all it was about. But The Leftovers (and to some extent, Lost) dealt deep on human feelings. So far this TV show seems a bit shallow that way, but it's only been a few episodes.

We Smoke to Proclaim Our Faith.
posted by Nelson at 7:15 AM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


Say what you like about Lindelof, but ultimately he's not the guy who introduced the idea that the truth about the global conspiracy would only be distributed and believed by right-wing nutjobs.

Moore depicted The New Frontiersman staff as slobs with little power. They have a marginal role in the narrative. Their real-world analogues had no place in 80s mainstream political discourse. So the idea of repulsive minor characters who publish racist, anti-Semitic propaganda stumbling upon the truth offered Moore an ironic closing note.

Lindelhof depicts the 7th Kavalry as the major antagonist: an organized militia that massacred an entire city's police department (seemingly without drawing the full force of the FBI down onto them, which...) in cahoots with a U.S. Senator, and plotting something monstrous. By virtue of their role in the story, they become part of the moral argument that the narrative is dramatizing. Their real-world analogues have become a political constituency during a time of resurgent white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories that place a single billionaire at the center of a grand liberal plot.

The differences between book and show here are pretty stark.
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 7:29 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I would say that the direct line between the influence of the New Frontiersman in Moore's work on the 7th Kavalry does mirror pretty well the influence of the NF's real world analogues on the 7th K's real world analogues. That the real world analogues of the NF in the 80s morphed from something with no place in the 80s mainstream political discourse into insane and malignant drivers of big parts of current mainstream political discourse, with Senators (and the Executive, and the House minority, and a fraction of the Supreme Court) on board and organized racist militias and all, is a big part of our current awful political situation.

What's interesting to me about Wade's situation being in the middle of Angela, the 7K and the FBI is that it asks a good question about the effectiveness of straight cis white male allies whose power to be effective allies comes from their positions in systems that they are loath to jeopardize... even if Wade was trying to minimize harm in a no-win situation by giving up Angela to Laurie instead of to beat cops who may be 7K allies (as has been theorized), Wade still felt the need to control the situation himself rather than confide in Angela and allow her a say in her own fate, because he figured staying in his position of power and control was the only way to handle it. I don't know that that's an intentional question that's being asked, but it brings a new perspective to Wade's own words, "he's a white man in Oklahoma." Wade may have made that observation and may not be an active 7K style racist but he's still not the exception that proves the rule.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:17 AM on November 20, 2019 [9 favorites]


I would say that the direct line between the influence of the New Frontiersman in Moore's work on the 7th Kavalry does mirror pretty well the influence of the NF's real world analogues on the 7th K's real world analogues.

Sure, extrapolating the New Frontiersman to the 7th Kavalry makes narrative sense. But the fact that Moore invented the NF doesn't absolve the show of its many nonsensical choices. Like the way that a post-White Night Tulsa police force has to have their guns released by a janky remote-control system.

And trying to make sense out of the show's choices can lead one to some pretty ugly conclusions. Watchmen's 2019 is a world where a liberal Pax Americana predicated on covering up a mass murderer's hoax led to disarming the police, outlawing tobacco, and providing reparations. The in-universe Spielberg movie about the EDE -- a hoax -- has its real-world analog in Schindler's List -- a world-historical horror that today's Nazis deny as a hoax.

So in Watchmen's 2019, racial justice is the fruit of a poisoned tree, and the Nazis are right. Those are the show's choices. They were not foreordained by Moore, and per schadenfrau's and mediareport's excellent comments above, the show is hollow. At best.
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


The Squid is not a hoax, it’s a 3-million person killing atrocity that continues to inflict pain and spiritual confusion on people. Popehat’s law: a man who fucks goats ironically is nonetheless a goatfucker. The reckoning for that atrocity has yet to come—for the perpetrator, and for the victims of it. The original novel posits that the primary characters decide keeping this lie alive is the best thing to keep the peace. The reality that information will get out and that it’s hard to sustain “the big lie” I think is one of the things the show has chosen to grapple with. I also think that the way the show focuses on Tulsa implies it’s a microcosm of this new order of the world, I think it’s not. Laurie comes from outside this world and thinks it’s a mess. Laurie I suspect we will see also grapple with guilt over being complicit in the secret of the Squid.

I continue to enjoy the show, I am not reading it as an apologia for the worst aspects of current society.

When I first read Watchmen the world was immersed in the Cold War. 80s culture is suffused with the idea of nuclear armageddon as inevitable. I bet my best friend $10 we’d see a nuclear weapon deployed in anger before 2000. It overshadowed all other things that needed redressing. Why work on changing the world if we’re all dying in a few years anyway?

I’m sympathetic to those who condemn the show as facile and corny, or worse: faux woke and reinforcing tropes about the failures of progressivism in a way that would deny people hope for change. But the show is not attempting to show a better world with better ways to behave. It’s a compelling alternate history of the present time that is thought provoking and entertaining. If anything dramatizing the idea of the Tulsa Riots and reparations is a heck of thing to pull off for the network mostly known for boobies, dragons and soap operas about emo gangsters.
posted by artlung at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2019 [13 favorites]


Watchmen's 2019 is a world where a liberal Pax Americana predicated on covering up a mass murderer's hoax led to disarming the police, outlawing tobacco, and providing reparations.

This is what I find most unsettling about the show. I'm willing to give it another episode, but I'm very uncomfortable with what seems to be the show endorsing the New Frontiersman / John Birch Society line on liberalism being the work of shadowy manipulative elites imposing their views on the unsuspecting public.

In the comic, Ozymandias' respectable liberalism serves an entirely different purpose. If we just had Rorshach and the Comedian, it might seem that the problem with superherodom isn't with superherodom itself but rather the violent fascists and nihilists it attracts. But just as Dan illustrates the impotence of "good" people engaged in traditional superhero crimefighting, Ozymandias illustrates the terror of superherodom aimed at good ends. Setting aside leftist criticisms of liberalism for the moment, Ozymandias holds mainstream, respectable liberal political views and sincerely aims at world peace and more egalitarian, liberal world order. When we learn about the squid, we don't learn that his politics were bad; we learn that pursuing those politics through superherodom requires an egotistical monster. (Related: Watchmen also works if you replace "superhero" with "billionaire").

The show...I don't even know. Maybe the show will turn out to mirror Moore's critique of superherodom with a critique of neoliberalism, and Will and Treiu are anarcho-socialists plotting to destroy the unjust hierarchies that even enlightened neoliberalism imposes. I don't know whether that would even be a good show, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by This time is different. at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


Respectfully, artlung, I could be mistaken but I believe you're arguing right past me. I'm not saying the 3 million in-universe deaths are a hoax. I'm saying that the Extra-Dimensional Excursion (apologies if I've gotten the terminology wrong) is a hoax. The squid was manufactured by Veidt. It is Veidt -- not aliens from another dimension -- who's responsible for those millions dead, and the hoax consists of covering that up.

I'm not asking the show to depict a better world or good behavior; that would be pretty dull. The show has chosen to grapple with "the big lie" because it could not do otherwise. Most drama is ultimately about a character, a group, a world disabusing themselves of a lie and embracing a new truth (or in the case of a tragedy, failing to do so).

So what does it say about the show that it gives us an America in thrall to a liberal authoritarianism drawn from cartoonish right-wing tropes ("Libs hate cops and want to leave them defenseless / the nanny state will take away your cigarettes / identity politics is dividing us")? What is the show saying when a liberal authoritarianism built on lies finally secures a measure of restorative racial justice –– and the forces diametrically opposed to justice are the only ones in possession of the truth?

The show doesn't make sense as presented: the 7th Kavalry killed an entire police force...why? The feds somehow didn't come down like a hammer on the 7th Kavalry...why? After the force staffed up again, the cops have to ask permission to remote-unlock their weapons...what? It's a contrivance turducken.
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 11:59 AM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


Moore invented the NF

Quibble: Moore named the New Frontiersman as a gesture evoking the UK-based populist-neofascist party with both subcultural and political expressions, the National Front, more commonly abbreviated in press of the day as NF.

It is certainly inaccurate to claim that Moore invented the NF, even if one is simply using common internet acronym shorthand as we do with FB, for example. I am sure you did not intend to claim that Moore invented the National Front, but it is what you said to me when I read it.
posted by mwhybark at 5:21 PM on November 20, 2019


also, artlung, thousandaire, time is different: excellent commentary, enjoying every word.
posted by mwhybark at 5:27 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


The 'ticking clock' trope of the original was the nuclear doomsday clock: it came down to the wire as a sort of Trolley Problem in the final issue - allow Veidt's Plan to proceed, or move the lever to the other position, that being Global Thermonuclear War.

The other key element was the 'who watches the watchmen?' theme. You appoint guardians to protect you, but who protects you from the guardians? And then who guards you against the anti-guardian guardians? And then what's the protection from them?

So we've seen the latter in the show, with its concatenated layers of authority, corruption, and violence. The Redfordists are called oppressors by the Nixon it's when they address their historical oppression, your only protection from the police is the hillbilly militia, and your only protection from the hillbilly militia is the police, who need the protection of masked vigilantes, the only protection from which is the FBI, etc, etc. Isn't it something to notice that nobody's the good guy, even though we're still referring to this as superhero genre?

For the former, I've been wondering what the ticking clock is counting down to?
Hoax Revelation Showdown? Are we gonna do that 'you can't reveal The Truth, the world would panic!' scene for the umpteenth time?
Whatever the 7Kav is up to? Which is what? Are they accelerationists, pushing to just have a race war already and get it over with?
Are the 7Kav just a host body, opportunistically infiltrated by the Senator and his small cell, who have an agenda of their own? (And since they're aware of not just The Hoax, but that the hoax is just a part of Veidt's Plan, are they in defiance of it, or collaboration with it?)

The video message to Redford wasn't just a revelation of the 1985 event and then a 'doesn't that blow ypur mind?' from Veidt; it was a 'now that's out of the way...let's talk about your seventh term. Yes, I said seventh.' Which means There's More Plan to Come; not only that, but Plan has been happening this whole time.
Is Lady Trieu working that plan, or trying to foil it? Who's working for who, and do they even know it?
posted by bartleby at 6:07 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


That’s a wonderfully winking reference to the Outer Limits episode “Architects of Fear,” which may have inspired the ending of Watchmen or just been stolen, and wound up referred to within the series and its follow-up.

My understanding is that Moore did not know of the Outer Limits episode (with its DIE-prefiguring plot) until most of the series was published — ah, the innocence of the pre-search-engine world. It gets kind of clumsily and explicitly name-checked late in the novel specifically because Moore had belatedly become aware of it and I think he did not want readers to think he had plagiarized a 25-year-old tv episode.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


The idea that the truth revealed would matter is honestly the least realistic thing about this show.

Which sounds horrifyingly cynical, and yet...*points to the news*
posted by schadenfrau at 6:28 PM on November 20, 2019 [9 favorites]


Oh, and dibs on the theory that since the Hoax didn't save the world (I mean look around), the New Plan involves Lady Trieu's millennium clock. Why Tulsa? In the center of a continent, a thousand miles from any ocean, a bio-dome full of clones would be a great place to watch humanity remake itself over a thousand years, after global ecological disaster that will be caused by destroying the existential threat of Dr. Manhattan. He had to go, and humanity needed a reboot. And besides, we had all these Tulsa Massacre Survivors thoroughly gene-typed and ready for cloning! Let's Flood and Ark this bad boy.
I'm anticipating a great line delivery by Hong Chau:
"Hey Senator. What's Vietnamese for 'We had to burn the village in order to save it'?"
posted by bartleby at 6:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


schadenfrau, I've been wondering what contemporary / future viewers will think of all those thrillers where resolution / victory / safety comes when they get The Disk With the Insidious Plan to (gasp) The New York Times. So what? Like that's going to stop anything.
posted by bartleby at 6:39 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


I can feel myself going full epileptic trees one this one (per TV tropes, pardon the expression). There are ridiculous levels of misdirection and flooding the field going on. The show normalises the WTF stuff so you can't even spot or remember which particular events matter until it's too late.

Random theory: Judd's body was never properly examined, ostensibly to cover up his coke and booze use, which leaves the possibility he's still alive and it was "only" a clone, since those are A Thing.

The video message to Redford wasn't just a revelation of the 1985 event and then a 'doesn't that blow ypur mind?' from Veidt; it was a 'now that's out of the way...let's talk about your seventh term. Yes, I said seventh.' Which means There's More Plan to Come; not only that, but Plan has been happening this whole time.
Is Lady Trieu working that plan, or trying to foil it? Who's working for who, and do they even know it?
Elsewhere I called Veidt as the Black Freighter Story rather the Big Bad right from the first ep and have been stroking my quiet pride until this comment. Because actually now that Ozy's so explicitly a side plot, the most obvious rugpull in the world would be to have him actually be the (cough, cough) architect after all.

On the thematic points raised above of "What if anything is this show about?", from the next episode trailer I'm still hoping if not entirely hopeful that stuff like Angela's ancestry and the Black Wall Street series opening is going to be directly relevant (in a good way!) and not just Another Cool Thing for a writer to play with.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


in Watchmen's 2019, racial justice is the fruit of a poisoned tree, and the Nazis are right

I'm not sure I agree with this characterization. The Seventh K is right in that they know the truth about the EDE, but they aren't the only ones who do, and I don't think the show is at all trying to make the leap to "therefore, fascism is good." The racial justice that we've heard about on the show (although not seen directly much) may have its roots in Veidt's big conspiracy from the book, but I don't think that qualifies it as fruit of the poisoned tree in the sense that therefore it is all invalid.

The whole question of Veidt's plan in the first place is whether the ends justify the means, and whether telling people the truth about the event is worth the chaos that would presumably ensue. Dr Manhattan kills Rorschach explicitly to stop the truth from getting out. While I don't read Moore as explicitly tipping his hand as to what he thinks about this act in itself, the delivery of Rorschach's journal to the New Frontiersman seems like a pretty clear indication that he doesn't see the secret lasting for long.

I think to some degree there's an element of taste involved in these assessments of the show. I personally enjoy it as being complex and having interesting elements positioned against one another in ways that do seem contradictory at times. Others in this thread see it more as muddled and without a clear point. I think you could make an argument for either position (at least at this point, when we don't yet know the whole story).
posted by whir at 9:31 PM on November 20, 2019 [8 favorites]


I can understand why the show's remixing of our timeline is disorienting to people. The show is about the use of power, in terms of authority, in terms of attempting to enact societal change, and in terms of information as power. They've jumbled the way they've attached these things to the sides we would be inclined to view as good and bad. But this is absolutely not being done to make us reconsider the morality of the sides, but rather the morality of the methods.

I think it's pretty clever and pretty provocative. I also think it's extremely true to the spirit of the comic.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:02 AM on November 21, 2019 [21 favorites]


I cannot imagine how this show makes any sense to people who don't know the comics. Even knowing just the movie now isn't good enough, since this story is relying so heavily on the squid drop which was left out of the movie entirely.

I haven't read the comic or seen the movie and it's not really that hard to follow. We know from previous episodes that squids fall from the sky so the big squid is obviously related to that, and the rest of the episode explained in detail the consequences of it, the peace it brought, and then that it was an intentional act by Jeremy Irons' character.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 10:34 AM on November 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


Pale Horse was a Spielberg movie shot in black and white except for a girl in a red dress. I'm going to assume Schindler's List was never made in this universe.
But that, weirdly, The Killing Fields was, since that particular color-cue from Schindler's is a direct rip from the earlier film.

Re: the gravity mismatch, it's likely well within Manhattan's powers to adjust gravity on a local basis.

Something in this episode that REALLY REALLY bothered me was the two times they intercut footage from earlier in the episode to drive home a point that viewers could easily get on their own: the cut back to remind us Wade's hat is lined in foil, and the cut back to remind us that yeah, he got taken in by a pretty girl once before. TRUST THE VIEWER, jackass.

I'm still enjoying it, but I'm DEFINITELY starting to worry that Lindelof will fuck up the ending.
posted by uberchet at 1:36 PM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think the key to liking this show is just not having ever read the book or seeing the movie. Because to me it's really great, easy to understand but also pretty deep with its themes. Everything it wants to say is right there if you're paying attention and not looking for something you're trying to recognize.

The message I'm getting isn't that "the nazis are right and how dare they" it's more like "these sneaky fuckers never stop, they're in some abandoned mall right now getting ready for their next bullshit, how are we going to stop them this time? Let's find out." It seems to me that the racial justice & liberalism that they get comes out of that "unite against a common enemy" result of the squid drop.

Wade's story felt to me like the kind of "sexual assault as traumatic origin" that you see for women characters all the time and hardly ever for men (and yes I did see that as an assault, he clearly said he didn't want to and if the genders were reversed it'd be no question). The repeating of that is their way of showing you how wade is reliving that insanely traumatic memory all tied up in every corner of his brain having just found out that it was all just some guy, working for the president.
posted by bleep at 6:55 PM on December 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I found Paula Malcomson's appearance so confusing. I thought for sure I recognized her from earlier in the series but couldn't place her significance. But, I think this might be the only time she's in the show? Is that right?
posted by rebent at 6:09 AM on December 11, 2019


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