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Behind the Mask: Theories and Analysis for Watchmen S1E2

“Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”

Welcome back, dear reader, to your one-stop-shop for all the latest and greatest theories and analysis stemming from this week’s episode of the HBO television series Watchmen. As a reminder, this article will be chock-full of spoilers. I’ve scrubbed internet forums, YouTube videos, podcasts, preview clips, and various interviews, so you don’t have to. Be forewarned; if it’s publicly available, we’ll be talking about it here.

If that’s not your cup of tea, you might rather check out 25YL’s weekly recap and review written by Hawk Ripjaw this week.

Still here? Great! “All right dimwits, on with the show!”

Historical Background

I’m going to start having this as a regular section, to review some of the real world history that the series is pointing us to. This week, there are a few things of note:

  • Smithsonian page on the painting “Comanche Feats of Horsemanship”: https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/comanche-feats-horsemanship-4004
  • The “Road to Reparations” PeteyPedia file (see below) references the 1919 Red Summer, a nation-wide series of attacks on blacks by whites.
  • The Wikipedia article Red Summer on also mentions the “First Red Scare” that ran 1919-1921. You would probably do well to read up on that for when we get a backstory on “Red Scare” the character. I’d bet it will be relevant.

PeteyPedia

Three new files in the PeteyPedia files this week:

  • A newspaper clipping of an article titled “TULSA POLICE CHIEF FEARED SLAIN” dated September 17, 2019. This appeared to be from the Washington Post-Intelligencer and was written by a Ben Woodward (relative of real world Washington Post Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, who was believed to have been killed by the Comedian in the Watchmen universe?). In this, we find out that Senator Joseph Keene Jr sponsored the Defense of Police Act that authorized the “masking” in 2017, Judd had close ties with both Keene senior and Keene junior, Judd Crawford was one of three survivors of the 2016 White Night attack, and that Judd is a 4th generation lawman. This also explains why the Chief is not wearing a mask; it’s a requirement of the masking legislation that leadership remain transparent—which debunks a few theories.
  • Another Agent Dale Petey internal FBI memo on “VIGILANTES IN POP CULTURE”, referring specifically to the upcoming season of American Hero Story. We learn that this is Season 2 of the series, and Season 1 was about Rorschach. Agent Petey considers it “provocative to vigilante profiles.” He also outlines concerns over the re-release of an album titled The Book of Rorschach by space-rock band Sons of Pale Horse. The release is planned for November 2, 2019, coinciding with the 24th anniversary of the New York giant squid attack, and includes an inflammatory essay by Seymour David, the editorial assistant at the New Frontiersman who discovered the journal and used it to gain some fame of his own.
  • A legal document granting the petition for the hearing that would eventually lead to the “Redfordations”, that we now know are specific to remedying the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. This again fills in a lot of real history surrounding the event. Of note to the show though is that at the very end, it states “This document was adapted and edited from the dissent in Alexander v. the State of Oklahoma, December 13, 2004.” In the newspaper article about Chief Crawford, it’s noted that his wife’s maiden name was Alexander.

Was the Chief Corrupt?

There’s a theory going around that Judd could have been the second gunman in Angela’s house, the one who apparently spared her life. She passes out staring at that gunman and wakes up staring at Judd. Sorry, but I’m a lot skeptical of that, since that would require him to both stage an attack at his own house, complete with dead 7K member, and somehow also be in a completely different part of the town participating in another attack. Plus we saw he had bullet wound scars in Episode 1 that match up.

I wouldn’t be surprised however to find out there was an undercover agent in the 7K, maybe authorized by Judd, who spared Angela. He does tell her in the hospital that he’s sorry he let her down, which is weird because he was only a Lieutenant at the time. It could also have been Will’s “friends in high places” who spared Angela.

The KKK outfit is pretty damning, and despite Angela’s accusations against Will Reeves, seems unlikely to have been a plant. Who, besides his own wife, would have had access to pull that off so quickly? That said though, it could just as easily been an artifact of his grandfather’s that he keeps as a reminder of the guilt in his family’s past. The robe appears to be yellowed, and it has a different sheriff’s badge on it—I’d hazard a guess that this will date back to the 1921 massacre. That’s why, while a lot of folks keep saying that was his father in the picture that the camera keeps lingering on, my bet is that it’s his grandfather.

Watchmen S1E2 - The Lord of a Country Manor sniffs a tomato he has just plucked from a tree.
That’s not an apple.

Lord of a Country Manor

Before Episode 2 aired, Damon Lindelof himself dropped some interesting background info. On Instagram, he posted several pages supposedly from the script of the Episode 1 scene. I say supposedly, because there is a date of “10/26/19” on the pages and there was a lot of editorial commenting included that you would not normally see in a shooting script. Here’s a link to the Reddit thread on the Instagram post, and another Reddit thread with the images captured to an Imgur album.

A few takeaways from those pages:

  • The scene transition (from the 7K HQ raid scene) was originally to pan up to stars, see the constellations “shifting and changing and blurring”, then tilt back down to the countryside. Implying this is not Earth, but rather somewhere else with different constellations?
  • Wherever we are is “breathtakingly beautiful… almost magical. Like a painting.” Implying that this is not a natural place?
  • The Lord of a Country Manor is referred to as “The Blonde Man”. You know who else was a blonde man in the original Watchmen comic?
  • The servant speaks with a “decidedly British” accent. The master speaks with an American accent.

A few hints have also been dropped in interviews. I’ve heard that Jeremy Irons made an offhand reference that his part is set in the 1930s in a podcast interview (though I haven’t yet been able to track that one down and confirm, I trust the source). In an interview for Paste (see below), director Nicole Kassel refers to Irons’ character as being “marooned in a mysterious other realm.”

Knowing of Veidt’s admiration for Alexander the Great, we get two references in the Country Manor scenes. The horse he is riding is named Bucephalus—that was the name of Alexander the Great’s horse. And the play mentions a Gordian Knot—Veidt had a painting of Alexander solving the Gordian Knot in his Arctic hideout.

So last week we talked about the preview scene showing the Lord sitting in a dungeon with the same anniversary cake, though with a few more candles. I looked closer and now see that there were actually seven candles on the cake, not six, definitely lining up the seven years between 2012 (Ozymandias’ disappearance) and 2019 (present day). We’ve seen his first anniversary in Episode 1, now his second anniversary in Episode 2. Will it continue to pan out this way, each episode showing us the subsequent anniversary? If so, then he’ll be caught up to 2019 in episode 7 or 8.

Watchmen S1E2 - Topher plays with his Magna-Hattan Blocks set, building a floating castle.
Topher plays with his Magna-Hattan Blocks.

Life on Mars

The floating metal Lego-like blocks Topher is building with are called Magna-Hattan Blocks and, as we’ve already mentioned, it appears that he is building a replica of the sandcastle on Mars. Interestingly, Topher swipes it away not too dissimilarly to how Dr. Manhattan demolished the larger version on Mars. (There are some wild theories about Topher being Dr. Manhattan somehow trying to regain his lost childhood, but I won’t even bother you with them, they’re so preposterous.)

Not much else to say on the Dr. Manhattan front except that there was a lot of talk in this episode about what he can and cannot do with his powers. Honestly, I think all of the talk of Dr. Manhattan copying himself, changing the color of his skin, posing as a regular human—all of that is just a red herring, intended to send us off chasing shadows.

Who is Will Reeves?

Everyone seems pretty firmly convinced that Will Reeves is the Hooded Justice from the original Minutemen. He wears purple and red. He indirectly claims to be able to lift 200 pounds. Lots of subtle things we know about the Hooded Justice’s background (the noose, the German sympathies) also point in that direction.

More interesting though were the indications that Will might be a super-powered being. He breaks himself out of handcuffs. He gulps down a freshly brewed hot cup of coffee in one gulp, like it’s a glass of lemonade. He reaches into a pot of boiling water, grabs a hardboiled egg, peels it and eats it without so much as a wince. Super strength? Impervious to heat? If true, this would make him only the second person we know of in the Watchmen universe to have true superpowers. He seems to be human at least, since his DNA was readable by the Tulsa Reparations database. And why does all of this elicit practically no reaction out of Angela?

We also now know that he is Angela’s grandfather, with two ancestors in the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, presumably his parents, and two living descendants. One of those is Angela, who is the other one? The baby that was rescued with him in 1921 appeared to be a cousin. Would she have a completely separate family tree, assuming she also survived to have a family?

Another little weirdness introduced was the pills Will had on him. He says they “help me get my memory.” That’s a weird turn of phrase. He follows that with “Long time since I been home.” Where has he been then? Does he just mean back to Tulsa, or back on Earth?

No one seems to be talking about this, but American Hero Story is apparently planning to debunk the belief that Hooded Justice was Rolf Müller and plans to reveal who the real Hooded Justice is by the end of the series, which we will presumably see on screen. Are they going to reveal that it’s Will Reeves? That seems unlikely, given his current activities and “friends in high places.” If someone else, could the show be an elaborate plan to drive attention away from Will?

Watchmen S1E2 - Will Reeves, sitting in a wheelchair, reaches into a pot of boiling water on the stove.
Will helps himself to a hard-boiled egg.

Easter Eggs

  • Many folks are commenting that the American Hero Story fight scenes look a lot like Zach Snyder’s work in the Watchmen film. Again, the movie is not completely being ignored here.
  • Angela’s x-ray/night vision goggles look a lot like Nite Owl’s. More evidence that his tech has been co-opted by the government and being used by police forces (maybe an equivalent to the militarization of police forces that happens in the real world).
  • The Comedian also had a secret costume hiding spot behind a fake wall in his closet.
  • When Sister Knight leaves the bakery, she drives by some familiar-looking graffiti, of a couple kissing, projected as a shadow on the wall. This is a nod to the comic, featuring the same image in New York City. That, in turn, was a homage to a real effect that happened during the Hiroshima bombing, known as the Human Shadow Etched in Stone.
  • The cutaway to the newspaper stand was a definite parallel to the Watchmen
  • Two potential homages to Blade Runner were shown in this episode. Angela putting on the eye paint like Priss, and Will reaching in and grabbing a hard-boiled egg. Is Will a replicant?
  • One tongue-in-cheek suggestion has been that the Lord of a Country Manor stacking up dead bodies in the basement to make a raft, a la The Black Freighter. Although he really only said “Mr. Philips, the basement will be perfect. We’ll have use for him before too long.” Also, the condition of the watch going in (clean) and out (charred) would seem to indicate this was the one and only full performance, ending in a charred body that needed to be disposed of.
  • Calling the paparazzi “moths” is probably a nod to the original Minutemen member Mothman, though his wings were strictly for gliding, not powered in any manner.
  • In the PeteyPedia article about Chief Crawford’s death, they note his status as a fourth-generation lawman. His great grandfather’s name was Dixon T. Crawford and his grandfather’s name was Dale Dixon Crawford. This might come from Thomas Dixon Jr., a white supremacist and author whose works are credited with the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the 20th century.
  • There is a horse named Comanche that was famously the only survivor of Little Bighorn. [Credit: We Do podcast]
  • The beeping of Angela’s pager is Morse code for SMS. [Credit: Reddit.]
Watchmen S1E2 - A car drives by a brick wall with a graffiti silhouette of a couple kissing.
Some familiar looking graffiti on the wall.

Quick Takes

  • I forgot to mention last week that there was a lot of excitement about the number of Earth (or Earth-like) globes in the classroom scene. There are four globes on the left side, and two in the hanging planets to the right side. Speculation is that this might imply knowledge of other Earth’s in a multiverse type framework, or even that Dr. Manhattan has somehow created one or more additional planets for humanity to cross over to, either within our solar system or elsewhere. This could even be where Ozymandias is currently located.
  • The PeteyPedia newspaper clipping on the Chief’s death says that he was one of three survivors of White Night. Looking Glass would be my first guess since the Chief also seems close to him.
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr. was introduced as the Secretary of Treasury at the heritage center, but in real life he’s a scholar/historian of African American studies, with genealogy being one of his particular fields of interest. He hosts a PBS show Finding Your Roots.
  • In the American Hero Story episode, the circus strongman exhumed from the water has one shoe on, one shoe off. So did Judd when he was hanged.
  • That man is named Rolf Müller and was named by Hollis Mason in Under the Hood as the possible secret identity of the Hooded Justice. In the WWI Germany scene, it was Fraulein Mueller who is called on to type out the pamphlet.
  • In the PeteyPedia files, it’s mentioned that Judd Crawford served under a Captain Robert S. Mueller in the Liberation of Vietnam. That would likely be real world Director of the FBI and author of “The Mueller Report,” Robert Shawn Mueller.
  • There’s a theory floating around that Senator Joe Keene Jr. is the new Nite Owl, and he might be part of the “people in high places” that are helping Will. Unsubstantiated at this point, but at least he’s placed high, so there’s that much to it.
  • Now we understand why Angela and Cal have three white children. They adopted her former partner’s children after White Night. It’s also possible that Angela could no longer have children of her own after being shot in the gut region. It’s also possible that she was pregnant at the time, and that’s what the midnight surprise package was going to reveal.
  • The Moth-parazzi (credit to Hollywood Reporter’s Series Regular podcast for that term) are drawn to crime scenes like a moth to a flame. Ha!
  • There’s speculation that drug decriminalization may have expanded beyond just marijuana under the Redford administration, and that’s why Judd could do cocaine out in the open (though not in front of the kids) during the dinner party last episode. However, we know from the PeteyPedia computer memo that tobacco is “listed as a controlled substance.”
  • I mentioned above that the script pages Lindelof released this weekend said that the setting of the Lord of a Country Manor scenes was “like a painting.” This episode we actually go into a painting to transition to that setting.
  • The discrepancy I pointed out last week between the elder “Keene” and junior “Keane” appears to have been a discrepancy in the IMDb cast list. In the PeteyPedia files, the link between the two is firmly established and both are named “Keene.”
  • The Comanche tribe was living in Oklahoma when Europeans arrived in North America.
  • Of course, they still use checks in this technophobic Society.
  • It seems pretty clear that Senator Keene knew Angela was still an active police officer. He’s not supposed to.
  • Sister Night’s secret lair has been dubbed “The Bake Cave” by the denizens of Reddit. Though I imagine she’d kick our asses if she found out.
  • There was a lot of references to crying in this episode. Looking Glass says he’s crying under his mask, sitting in Sister Night’s car. Judd tells Angela that it’s OK to cry at the news of her partner’s death. The Lord wants “real tears tonight” during the performance of the play.
  • It has been pointed out that two episodes in, there are no standout characters among the 7th Kavalry, which tells us that they are pawns at best, not the real enemy.

Interviews

Another new section, I’m going to start pointing out some of the more revealing interviews with cast and crew.

  • WNYC’s The Takeaway: Cord Jefferson, one of the writers, sat down to talk about his role on the show and what he is hoping the show will mean to viewers.
  • TV Line: Watchmen’s Tom Mison on His Extremely Revealing Scene in Ep 2: ‘That Is Not My Penis’
  • Sky Atlantic’s Previously On podcast: Jamie East packs and recaps the first two brilliant episodes of Watchmen alongside a rip-roaring interview with Regina King aka Angela Abar aka Sister Knight. She’s kick-ass.
  • Polygon: Watchmen costume designer Meghan Kasperlik reveals what Looking Glass’ mask is made of.
  • Paste: Interview with Damon Lindelof and director Nicole Kassell.

My Own Thoughts

I’m going to add this section to pose some questions of my own thoughts and any unique theories I might be harboring. There might not always be something to add here, but I have a few thoughts rattling around in my head this week.

  • Not to be a gatekeeper, but it bugs the crap out of me when reviewers say that the painting has the same title as the episode. It does not. The painting is “Comanche Feats of Horsemanship” while the episode is “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship.” Why the difference? I do not believe for a second that it has no meaning. This is a Damon Lindelof show. Perhaps if more people were aware, we’d get some decent theories.
  • I still firmly believe that the Lord of a Country Manor is a) Adrian Veidt, b) a prisoner, and c) not on this Earth. I think Lindelof dropped a massive hint with the script pages, saying that this location is “magical” and “like a painting.” The tree then becomes the clincher. That tree was created by someone who doesn’t know what a tree is supposed to have on it. Like they have only seen a painting of a tree, green with red dots, and incorrectly guessed that those red dots were tomatoes. And I don’t believe it was Veidt.
  • Is Dr. Manhattan really on Mars, or was that footage faked? Another government false flag operation?
  • Everyone is suspicious of Chief Crawford, but I’m much more suspicious of Angela. Judd expected her to push back on enacting Article Four. She covered up Will’s involvement in the Chief’s death. Looking Glass seems suspicious of her. She’s hesitant to roll into Nixonville and bust some heads. I think there’s sleight of hand being played here. Keep an eye on this one, kids.

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Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

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  1. I am arriving late here, we are in 4th episode and you were pretty close to Veidt as lord of manor. Great work with this page¡¡

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