Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage…The Comedienne!
Well wow. Just wow. I didn’t think Watchmen could get a more badass female lead than Angela Abar, a.k.a. Sister Night. That was until Laurie Blake entered the room. The always incredible Jean Smart, knocked it out of the park this episode and brought a whole new aspect, and bigger story, into play.
Laurie Blake, the former Silk Spectre II, daughter of Edward Blake (the Comedian) and Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre), has interestingly enough taken the surname of her father. Laurie did not learn that the Comedian was her father until after his murder. She also learned that her father had violently sexually assaulted her mother, but later Sally had consensual sex with Blake, which is when Laurie was conceived. It appears then that over the past 30 years, Laurie has forgiven her father for his crimes against her mother, and perhaps learned of his true fondness for both Sally and her during his life.
Laurie was a reluctant hero during her youth, taking on the name of Silk Spectre II to keep her mother happy. She dated Dr. Manhattan, and when that became impossible as he slipped further and further away from humanity, she began a relationship with Nite Owl II, the kindest of all the masked vigilantes.
It is interesting then to learn that Laurie is still working for law enforcement, but without a mask, for vigilantism is illegal these days. In fact, she’s head of the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force that weeds out the rich assholes playing dress-up (we’re looking at you, Bruce Wayne). Is this her way of fighting back against her mother’s wishes, even though Sally is long gone? Or does she work for the FBI for some bigger reason? Like, to figure out how to get her love, Dan Dreiberg out of prison, perhaps?
I Started a Joke…
The whole of this episode is framed by Laurie telling a joke over the phone in a blue booth. These booths are a direct line to Dr. Manhattan on Mars—if he’s actually listening, that is. Laurie seems to have her father’s comic timing down pat. She begins her joke, but messes up the punchline, fumbles her way through and then seemingly starts a new joke. However, it ultimately turns out to be one long, elaborate gag. Laurie didn’t really mess up the bit about the bricklayer’s daughter who throws a single leftover brick into the air; it was an intentional misdirect. She was using an old trope designed to leave the listener hanging and frustrated, only for the payoff to come later when they aren’t expecting it during a seemingly unrelated joke.
Of course, the joke is the true story of three of the men in Laurie’s past.
The three “heroes” who arrive for Judgement before God are Nite Owl II, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan. First up is Nite Owl. Laurie said God gave him the ability to create amazing things. But rather than send Nite Owl to heaven for not killing anyone, God damned him for “being too soft.”
Since the real Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, is currently sitting in a jail cell, it seems like this is her own judgement of her former lover’s personal failing. Nite Owl was brilliant and kind, but he might have been too nice in a world so hard and brutal (echoes of her father’s nihilistic views). Maybe if Dan wasn’t so “soft” he’d be a free man, and they’d still be together now. It is somewhat ironic that of all the “heroes” who killed millions of people, Dreiberg, who killed no-one, is the one doing time. Tick Tock.
There is a sense that Laurie still loves Dan; she keeps an owl called “Who” in a cage in her apartment. When Joe Keene Jr. comes to ask her to take on the investigation of Judd Crawford’s death in Tulsa, he hints that her help could persuade him to pardon Dreiberg, releasing him into the wild.
The next to stand before God in Laurie’s joke was Adrian Veidt, otherwise known as Ozymandias. The smartest man in the world says he used God’s gift of genius to “save” humankind by dropping a giant alien squid on New York City, killing “3 million, give or take.” Arrogantly assuming he could beat this “game,” Veidt seems shocked when God says, “Christ, you’re a fucking monster,” right before snapping Ozymandias straight to hell.
The last to meet his maker is Dr. Manhattan—a man gifted/damned with supernatural powers. God asks how many people he killed, and Manhattan says it doesn’t matter. “A live body and a dead body have the same number of particles.” This isn’t just Laurie describing her former boyfriend as cold and unloving; it’s something Dr. Manhattan actually said in 1985 as he was losing his final shred of humanity. But the blue god doesn’t need someone to judge him; he already knows he’s going to hell because he’s already there. Dr. Manhattan can not only see through time; he experiences it all at once. He’s watching his father throw his watch pieces over the fire escape in 1945 at the exact same moment he’s sitting on Mars in 2019.
So all these powerful and brilliant men are stuck in a hell of their own making. Nite Owl because he cared too much. Veidt because he only cared about himself, and Dr Manhattan because he just stopped caring about anything.
But then God notices someone he didn’t even know was there, a woman “standing behind those other guys the whole time.” God gave her no talents to speak of, and he’s embarrassed he doesn’t know who she is. “I’m the little girl who threw the brick in the air,” she says.
The little girl with the brick from the first joke is Laurie herself, who unlike her male superhero counterparts had no special ability. And just like the God of her joke did, it was easy for others to overlook her. She wasn’t a hero as much as she was just Dr. Manhattan’s girlfriend, at the tender age of 16. Yet while Nite Owl sits in a jail cell, Adrian Veidt has been declared dead, and Dr. Manhattan lives alone on Mars, she is working as an FBI agent, still serving the public, and totally kicking ass.
But Laurie looks lonely. Her life is leaving messages for an old boyfriend that she doesn’t really think he listens to or cares about. Her other lover has been separated from her for years. Her job is to incarcerate people who she was once just like. Her bitterness and cold, hard calculating style is not like Laurie from 30 years ago. That’s not to say she isn’t absolutely the coolest woman on the planet, because I truly believe she is. I mean, every line she delivered was killer, and I spent most of this episode shouting, “yas!” at my TV. Laurie’s shrewdness and vast knowledge of what’s really going on—who all vigilantes are underneath their masks, including Looking Glass and Sister Night—suggests that the brick she’s thrown up in the air that is going to come and knock God into hell. But which God does she mean? And what exactly is her plan?
The Blue God
Laurie’s pure joy at the end when it becomes clear that Manhattan has been listening to her calls isn’t one of a woman cooing over a man’s attention. No, there is much more to this. If he listened and let her know that he is paying attention, that means he does have some humanity left in him. This is further backed up by the footage of him smashing down the sandcastle fortress on Mars. If he didn’t care, why would he be angry? Is this what Dr. Manhattan has been doing on Mars since he left? Rediscovering his human emotions and learning to love the people? And will this make him weaker or stronger?
The god metaphors are plentiful, but he is an absent god. Manhattan lives up in the sky watching over us but seemingly not answering anyone’s prayers—allowing humanity to destroy itself and terrible things to happen here on Earth. The people are divided over their feelings for Manhattan. Some dedicate their time to him, worship him and believe he’ll come back to save them. These are the people sending thoughts and prayers in the blue booths placed in every town. Then there are people who hate everything he was and will never forgive him for turning his back on the world. For a guy who sees the future though, he must know what’s coming. Up to this point, he’s been totally complacent about it. Now it seems that something has changed. Something big enough that Manhattan knows he has to “feel” something to stop it.
Laurie noticed the wheelchair tracks at the site of Crawford’s hanging (oh and thank you so much, Laurie, for correcting hung to hanged. One of my earliest childhood memories is being taught this at school. One can only imagine the inappropriateness of the lesson I was having aged 6). I bet that she knows full well who these tracks belong to, and she probably knows that guy is Angela’s grandfather.
So now it seems that Will’s “friend in high places” is Dr. Manhattan. It is Angela’s crushed car that lands in front of Laurie, and the last time we saw it, Will was sitting in the passenger seat being airlifted away. It’s interesting to note the episode title here, “She Was Killed by Space Junk.” This is in reference to the CD (yes CD, no downloads or Spotify in this reality) that Laurie plays at the beginning of the episode. The track “Mongoloid” by Devo, which is an interesting, and fairly controversial choice. The song is about a man with Down’s Syndrome, but no-one notices or cares. Now as a mother of a child with Down’s Syndrome, I gotta say I find the song quite refreshing in that sense. Of course the term mongoloid is outdated now, but it was written over 40 years ago so I forgive them for that. In essence the song is about a human, but with something a little extra, not completely unlike Dr Manhattan (though he has A LOT extra). Perhaps Laurie’s choice of music represents her outlook of people. She didn’t care that Jon Osterman became a giant blue god-like entity, she loved him all the same.
Notably, on that same Devo album is the track, “Space Junk” which has the following lyrics.
She was walking, all alone
Down the street, in the alley
Her name was Sally, I never touched her
She never saw it
When she was hit by, space junk
She was smashed by, space junk
She was killed by, space junk
In New York, Miami Beach
Heavy metal fell, in Cuba
Angola, Saudi Arabia
On Christmas Eve, said NORAD
A Soviet sputnik, hit Africa
India, in Venezuela
In Texas, Kansas
It’s falling fast, Peru too
It keeps coming, it keeps coming, it keeps coming
And now I’m mad about, space junk
I’m all burned out about, space junk
Oooh walk and talk about, space junk
It smashed my baby’s head, space junk
And now my Sally’s dead, space junk
Sally huh? Just so happens to be the name of Laurie’s mother. Coincidence? Or in this reality, did Devo write this song about the death of Sally Jupiter? If this is how Sally Jupiter died, then that’s a pretty sick joke from Dr. Manhattan. The kind of dark humour that Laurie (and her father before her) would find hilarious—and Laurie really did. It seems like Manhattan is really learning how to human again.
Now the only junk falling out of the sky that we’ve seen so far are Angela’s car and baby squid. Are squid junk? Possibly, and clearly they do enough damage for everyone to take cover when they rain down. But could they kill someone?
Or simply, Devo might just be one of Laurie’s favourite bands. In issue #7 of the original comic, she described Nite Owl’s goggles as “pretty Devo.”
The Blonde God
There was never really any doubt, but nevertheless, clarification came this week that The Lord of the Manor is Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias. The question remains though of where exactly he is. I suspect that he is not on Earth, possibly Mars, but perhaps an entirely fabricated environment created by his jailer(s). Note that Veidt had on his desk a bottle garden type object. He used the glass lid to make the visor of the helmet for Mr. Phillips. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Veidt himself is trapped in something similar to a glass bowl. His experiment of shooting Mr. Phillips through the glass ceiling failed, and maybe not just because he “needs a thicker skin.”
Veidt rides his white horse to the outer reaches of his captivity, hunting buffalo—which, like tomatoes growing on trees, are not common features in what I assume is meant to be Britain. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this land was a virtual reality, a bit like Westworld. The pirate flags seem to mark the end of his permitted boundary. The Game Warden arrives and promptly shoots at Veidt, but yet in the subsequent letter from him—which basically tells Veidt to stop being naughty—he calls himself Veidt’s “Humble Servant,” which would suggest that, like the rest of the staff at the Manor, that he is a clone.
Who exactly are these the clones of though? There has to be an original of both Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks. It’s my feeling that whoever they are based on are the ones keeping Veidt captive. I don’t feel like Manhattan is involved here, because really, why would he care? It seems to me that while the clones are Veidt’s servants, they are also the ones in control—programmed to keep an eye on him at all times.
Sometimes, its who or what you don’t see that is most telling, and Watchmen is chock full of Easter eggs. For example, the motel that Laurie and Dale Petey stay at is called the Black Freighter. So who haven’t we seen or heard anything about? The names Marionette and Mime spring to mind. They are a couple who would undoubtedly be sadistic enough to play this game.
Talking of Dale Petey, we finally met the man behind the tie-in website, which brings me so much joy. I really do love it when a show has extra little treasures for me to study. Peteypedia has some fascinating notes this week, but I’ll leave that to Brien and his Behind The Mask report to dig deeper. During the police briefing, Petey gave us our first real look at the published version of Rorschach’s journal. In particular, he perhaps unwisely included a slide featuring two excerpts from Rorschach’s October 13th entry, as seen in the comic’s “Chapter One.”
The first journal entry covered the vigilante’s first attempt to gain information about the Comedian’s murder. Was that a purposeful play by Petey to get a rise out of Laurie? Whatever the case, it worked, as Laurie decided she was taking him, and only him, with her to investigate Judd’s murder.
It soon transpires during their plane journey that Petey knows all about Laurie’s history as Silk Spectre II. She makes fun of his fandom a little, but I think she was secretly impressed that he’d done his homework. After all, she is very knowledgeable about the identity of masked vigilantes herself.
Now, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room for much longer. As Laurie begins to settle down for the night in her motel room, she opens her briefcase, which glows with blue light Pulp Fiction style, only this time we do get to see what’s inside—an absolutely gigantic Dr. Manhattan-inspired sex toy. My initial thoughts were, “hell yes Laurie!”, then shortly after, “oh, that’s actually really sad (and ouch!)” and then, “wait a minute, what is happening here?”
My confusion lies with the fact that in the scene after we see Laurie putting her weapon of mass destruction together for a cosy night in, she invites Petey to her room for some loving (and yes, he did wear the eye mask—I’d like to think she requested that). So was “Dr. Manhattan” not enough for her? Is there a softer side to Laurie that needs the human experience which “Dr. Manhattan” cannot give? Or, is there more to that dildo than meets the eye? Now I’m not exactly a connoisseur of sex toys, but I’ve never seen one that needs to be assembled before use. Nor one that needs to be carried in such a sturdy and secure case. Is it an actual weapon of mass destruction in disguise? In a world where police weapons are largely forbidden, this would be an excellent way to sneak one past security. I mean really, who is going to question Silk Spectre as to why she has a Dr. Manhattan dick in her briefcase?…awkward.
There are quite a few tongue-in-cheek jokes to be made about that magazine in the briefcase too. Firstly, it’s a nod to her mother’s appearance in sex mags that disgusted and embarrassed Laurie back in the day. Now it seems that Laurie has some of her mother’s nature after all. Or it may all be as simple as Laurie reminiscing about the sexual exploits of her youth, and there’s nowt wrong with that. I’m sure everyone thinks back to those really great experiences now and then.
Funeral for a Friend
“Space Junk” was dominated by Laurie’s arrival. So much so that Angela Abar barely got a look in, which I am honestly shocked to say considering she is such an immense character. To completely turn what we thought we knew on its head this episode, is down to some truly excellent writing.
Laurie brazenly tracks down the warehouse in which Red Scare, Looking Glass, Pirate Jenny and the yellow-faced police are interrogating suspected Seventh Kavalry members. Laurie totally outwits the shrinking Looking Glass, hilariously picking her teeth in the reflection of his face, and coolly getting the truth out of him about his and Sister Night’s real identities. LG reveals that it is Judd’s funeral in just a few hours, so Laurie slinks off to dress in something darker.
The funeral scene sets up how Laurie and Angela will exist in the other’s world, and also put a target on Senator Keene’s back. Laurie and Angela’s relationship has started off prickly at best, so I am fascinated to see how this will play out.
A Seventh Kavalry member digs his way into the cemetery and straps a bomb to his chest, which is linked to his heart rate. If his heart stops, the bomb will detonate. He takes Keene hostage, and while Laurie is the one who kills the bomber, it is Angela who limits the explosion’s damage by pushing the body of the terrorist into the hole dug ready for Judd’s coffin. She then pushes Judd’s coffin (and therefore body) on top, which takes the brunt of the explosion.
As Laurie alluded to herself, this apparent act of bravery and quick thinking by Angela did seem somewhat suspicious. There’s no way that Judd’s body could be exhumed now. No toxicology report was carried out, and his funeral was arranged very quickly. Laurie let Angela know in no uncertain terms that she’s onto her. She knew full well that Angela had seen the KKK robe in Judd’s wardrobe and has for some reason removed it. So what is Sister Night up to? Why is she protecting the reputation of Judd if he was a white supremacist? Questions still linger about how she and Judd survived the White Night, and whether Judd was the one who spared her life. Did she feel like she owed him for that no matter what crimes he committed? I can’t believe that to be true, so there must be something much larger at stake here.
Watchmen is shaping up to be some of the best television I have seen in years, and I don’t want it to finish. Thankfully, nothing ever ends.
Our episode analysis continues every week, plus we will have deep dive theories, polls and more all season long.
All images courtesy of HBO