“If there was no thunder, men would have very little fear of lightning” — Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
It is 11/2/85—one minute to midnight. A young Wade Tillman is far from his Oklahoma home in Hoboken, New Jersey—birthplace of the great Frank Sinatra. Wade is there intending to hand out copies of the Watchtower—the official magazine of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He approaches a gang of Knot Tops (a gang who frequently appeared in the Watchmen graphic novel), to tell them how they could be one of the 144,000 people chosen to ascend to heaven when the Apocalypse comes. A girl leads him away to a chamber of mirrors where she pretends to seduce him, but instead steals his clothes, leaving him naked and humiliated. But the joke is on her. The Apocalypse is Now, and she did not make the cut. Wade, surrounded by mirrors, is protected from the psychic blast that wipes out 3 million New Yorkers, but he is far from heaven; left dazed and confused, and psychologically scarred for life.
Welcome to the backstory of Looking Glass, an exceptionally well-written new character in the world of Watchmen (in that he was not in the graphic novel). Like “She was Killed by Space Junk‘” this episode focused heavily on who and why LG is.
It all harks back to that infamous day. It was something Watchmen fans have been wondering about since the beginning: would we see the giant squid that Veidt teleported and dumped on Manhattan? In light of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie not quite daring to take it on (and changing the ending to omit the sea creature entirely), we wondered if Lindelof and team would go there. Oh they did. They really did, and in a way I definitely wasn’t expecting. To tell the story from a victim’s perspective, not from Veidt’s, or Dr. Manhattan’s or Laurie’s point of view, was absolutely the most impactful way to go.
Evoking memories of 9/11, we see the aftermath of the terror on the ground, shell-shocked survivors wandering aimlessly not knowing what the hell just happened to them and how their lives would be changed forever. Bodies piled up on the streets with blood oozing from their ears and eye sockets to show us that the psychic blast literally blew their minds. The grand scale of the massacre was simply devastating and breathtaking.
Looking Glass is the result of 11/2. There are millions of others just like him, though they don’t all wear masks, of course. He lives in fear of another squid attack—his life is dictated by what happened that day. Psychologically speaking it is going to mess anyone up, but imagine being there naked when this happened—your humiliating reflection staring back at you in a thousand mirrors. He probably wished that girl dead in a split-second and die she did. He will feel guilty that he survived when so many others didn’t. Thankfully, that guilt made him want to make a difference, and he became an officer of the law.
Moreover, he joined the part of the police force in which he can wear a mask, not just to affect justice, but also as a structure in which literally he can hide. By hiding, he can re-exert some measure of control over his life, a life that was really taken from him in terms of his belief, his faith and the root aspects of his sexuality, on the cusp of adulthood. Finally, under that mask, he can have some measure of power and self-knowledge, and also finally a way not to despise himself as a sinner.
He holds meetings for other people affected by the events. And not just those that were there. The attack left its mark on people who weren’t even born yet. We all know how this is. I was nowhere near New York on 9/11 or at any of the terrorist attacks on London and Manchester, yet every time I go on a tube train or catch a flight the thought is there, niggling in my head. Is today the day they strike again? Of course, it’s down to media scaremongering. It’s also because people did live to tell the tales of the horror experienced first hand. Everyone remembers where they were the day the Twin Towers fell, even if they were just watching it unfold on TV.
This “Intergenerational trauma” is what Renee, a new member at the support group, speaks of when she tells Wade about her “squid story.” For her, it’s the 1992 film Pale Horse, by Steven Spielberg, that has embedded the fear in her psyche—yet it also gives her comfort. She tells of a little girl in a red coat, where the rest of the movie is black and white. Clearly, in this alternative world, Spielberg made Pale Horse instead of the gripping Holocaust drama, Schindler’s List. We can assume the impact that Pale Horse would make on people in the Watchmen universe by the same measure.
Pale Horse was the name of the band that was playing in Madison Square Garden the night the squid hit. In the graphic novel, Nova Express (a fictional publication within the Watchmen world) mentions the name of Pale Horse’s lead singer, Red D’eath alongside that of Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen. So this group was a big deal. The band and everyone that went to see them were wiped out.
It’s not easy for Wade to trust women, that’s quite understandable after his first-ever experience with a girl ended so catastrophically. He’s been married, to Cynthia Bennett, who runs a store that clones pets so that you never have to go through the trauma of your pet dying again. It’s funny isn’t it, in removing the trauma of death they create throwaway living things which they kill without a second thought. Wade goes to visit Cynthia at her shop to collect the pills that Angela asked him to check the identity of; the ones that old Will left behind, accidentally on purpose. Cynthia throws a cute little puppy in an incinerator as it’s not exactly like the original. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the way that people would begin to act towards anything that was easily replaceable. We do it with expensive phones, iPads, cars and so on. Humans are awful; let’s face it, we treat each other badly enough, never mind clones. Let this be a lesson in what not to do.
Nevertheless, Cynthia seems nice enough and kinda gives it away that their seven-year relationship broke down because he was paranoid she was going to do the dirty on him. “Seven years bad luck,” he retorts. If all those broken mirrors at the carnival are anything to go by, it’s way more than seven, sorry Wade.
The news on Angela’s pills is that it’s Nostalgia, an outlawed drug made by the Veidt company that literally allows you to experience other people’s memories. So it seems that Will intentionally left them for Angela knowing full well that her curiosity would lead her down this path. Likewise, it appears that Lady Trieu was giving her daughter an IV drip of the same/similar medicine which allowed her to experience memories from Vietnam.
In the Watchmen world, there is another Nostalgia made by Veidt cosmetics too. A perfume with the same name, an androgynously marketed scent, worn by Sally and Laurie Jupiter, and Dan Drieberg. Even Rorschach splashed some on his face once. Interestingly, the commercial for Nostalgia the perfume featured the song “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole. The same song that was playing when Edward Blake a.k.a. the Comedian, fell to his death at Veidt’s hands. Nice touch.
Another great call back to the comics was when Looking Glass attended one of the focus groups he’s a specialist at, who played him a test ad to encourage people to go back to New York. It’s been a long time, but it seems that people can’t quite forget what happened there. In the ad we get a brilliant cameo from Michael Imperioli offering his authentic Italian cuisine, “You know how we like our squid now?” he says. “With lemon and a little bit of marinara.” As part of the “Return to New York” ad, we see a glimpse of a couple who have apparently just seen the hit new Broadway musical based on Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic Bomb. Promoting it as mind-blowing is probably not the most sensitive way to encourage people back to the city though now is it? Also, note the ad in the left-hand corner of this shot. Nostalgia, the perfume, was rebranded in 1986 and renamed Millennium and featured controversial imagery to reflect a futuristic utopian vision. I absolutely adore the level of detail Lindelof has gone to even for the tiniest references to the comics.
Meanwhile, the extent of Looking Glass’ fear becomes apparent when we see him at home. He lives alone in a fortress, with Extra-Dimensional Security systems hooked up all over, and he totally freaks out when one of them becomes defective. In a Rorschach style, he eats cold beans straight from the tin (probably the real reason why Cynthia left him), while watching American Hero Story on TV. The show within a show goes all out again with its “romantic” depiction of the affair between Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis. We see an eyebrow raise slightly underneath his Reflectatine mask, which is pulled up over his face. He always wears this to protect himself from any future psychic attacks, and when he’s not on duty, he wears baseball caps lined with the material too. A tinfoil hat. Literally. But you know, Looking Glass is no conspiracy theorist. He was there; he has every right to be scared and to protect himself.
Laurie is in charge of the Tulsa police now and has stepped into Judd Crawford’s shoes with confidence. She calls LG to her office, just to wind him up it seems, by calling him “Mirror Guy.” I believe there’s more than meets the eye going on here though. Laurie willingly tells him that his cactus is bugged (a nod to the bugged bonsai in Twin Peaks I’d like to think) and asks him about the pills Angela is trying to identify. There are two reasons for this: 1) She wants to see if he’d tell her the truth or how far he’s willing to go to protect his friend Angela/Sister Knight and 2) She needs him to know that the plant is bugged so that he can give her information secretly later on. Laurie knows everything pretty much; there are no flies on her whatsoever. She will know without a doubt that if he gives Angela up, it would be to protect her, not to land her in trouble—no matter what she might have done.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise that Renee was a member of the Seventh Kavalry. What is surprising is that Wade didn’t see that, being such a great judge of character. But loneliness and the need for love can skew your vision. Plus her not so subtle hint that sex was on the table. Drunk, vulnerable and the hope of making a connection with someone who understands you is a temptation that’s hard to ignore, and so he let his guard down. Poor Wade just doesn’t have much luck with the ladies. After seeing lettuce fall from her ride’s pick-up (note that the truck had Lady Trieu’s company logo on it), he followed them to a disused department store.
Squid Pro Quo
Looking Glass has accidentally found the Seventh Kavalry’s place of worship and stumbled across a game of teleportation basketball at the same time—much to his horror. I don’t think there was ever really much doubt that pretty boy Senator Joe Keene, was not going to turn out to be the golden boy he seemed. He’s actually the leader of the 7K, and Judd had also been a leader before his murder. It hadn’t always been this way; they had only stepped in recently to help with their dastardly plan whatever that may be. We know it involves teleportation but not squids. That’s so 1985.
For a man known as the human lie detector, learning that your entire adult life has been a lie is pretty damn harsh. Keene threatens to kill Angela and all her family if LG doesn’t help him keep her off his scent so he can continue with his big bad plan. Keene also shows him a message from Veidt on the eve of the squid attack, that was sent to then newly elected President Robert Redford. In the message, Veidt tells Redford that his presidency was initiated by him, all part of his plan for seven years in the future. Veidt also admitted to staging the whole squid attack to stop the burgeoning Cold War by uniting the world against a common enemy. And you know, he did it! But he also took the lives of 3 million people and ruined many millions more. So yeah, its a bit of a kick in the gut for old Wade.
Not only has he learned that he’d been scared about nothing for 30 years, Wade now has to lure his one friend into a trap. But as I said above, I don’t think for a second he led Angela into revealing the truth about her grandfather for any reason other than to protect her and her family. He is a human lie detector, after all. He knows that Laurie is a good, albeit hilariously catty person. He knows that she hides behind quips like a mask, just like the rest of them hide. He will almost definitely have guessed that Angela would swallow the truth—the truth in the form of old Will’s encapsulated memories, the second Laurie arrested her. He asked Angela just beforehand, “is anything true?” My guess is that she realised what that meant. Memories can’t be lies, can they?
With Angela in custody and about to take a trip down memory lane, I am excited to see where the story takes us next week. Will she forgive Wade?
Time can never mend
The careless whispers of a good friend
To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
There’s no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you’ll find
Things are looking pretty bleak for poor Wade. Just as he’s putting his trash out (and then recovering it again–the new Extra-Dimensional Security box, and I say box because who knows, it might not have had the appliance inside, he may have simply decided not to get rid of the box in case this one fails too), a gang of Rorschach-masked hoodlums arrive weaponed up to the hilt. Now, I’d be more worried about LG if 1) he wasn’t so badass, 2) he couldn’t see a liar a mile off (yes, I’m looking at you Joe Keene) so wouldn’t be expecting this, and 3) his ex didn’t make clones for a living.
The store she owns had an extraordinary number of twins on her staff, or she’s happily cloning people, not just their pets. If that’s the case, then my bet is that when Wade was glaring at that padlocked door in his house he was considering awakening another version of himself. It’s likely his clone would be murdered, so the real Wade could “go dark” and do some undercover investigating. He’s becoming more like Rorschach by the second. I want this to happen, please. I am certainly not ready for Looking Glass to die.
So that’s almost me done for this week, but wait!
Is there Veidt on Mars?
Yay! I finally got to use that subtitle. And the answer is…No! Veidt is not on Mars.
I cherish every moment we spend with Ozy and all the Mr. Philipses and Ms. Crookshankses every week. I just find myself gleeful and the absurdity of it all. Veidt got himself catapulted out of the atmosphere this week, wearing his fancy new spacesuit. He wears a red rose pinned to the front for reasons I really, really want to know but don’t.
On the outside it is revealed with almost definite certainty that Veidt is on one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa (Lindelof has confirmed this in an interview with Collider). Here are some fun Europa facts!
- Europa is a frozen, icy world and is a unique object in the solar system—scientists believe that beneath the frozen layer of ice on Europa’s surface, there is a salt-water ocean in contact with a rocky seafloor. If this is proven to be true, Europa may be a promising place for life to exist beyond Earth.
- The surface of Europa is made of frozen water and has the smoothest surface of any other objects in the solar system—i.e., it lacks large features such as mountains or craters. There are very few craters on the surface of the moon because it is tectonically active and relatively young.
- One day on Europa—the time it takes for the moon to rotate on its axis—is 3.551 Earth days. It also takes Europa 3.551181041 Earth days to orbit Jupiter. This means that a day on Europa takes the same length of time as one year on Europa, which may explain the regular anniversary cakes.
- Like almost all moons in the solar system, Europa is tidally locked—locked by gravity—to Jupiter and the same side of the moon always faces the planet.
- Radiation levels on the surface of Europa are around 5400 mSv (540 rem) per day, a dose which would cause severe illness and death in a human being exposed for just one day. Like Io, this radiation is the result of solar radiation and energetic particles produced by Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field.
So this is exciting! Why Europa? Who put him there? Well, it’s a very long way away, so that narrows it down a bit. He’s going to have trouble getting home from there. He’d need a friend in high places for that. Now, most people would agree that it’s likely Dr. Manhattan that put him there. Next to Jupiter too, the hero surname of his ex, Laurie. It feels right. But then, we see Veidt piling the bodies of the clone Crookshankses and Philipses into the words:
Save Me D? Who is D? Dan Dreiberg? Dale Petey? Damon Lindelof? Dave Gibbons? Surely not Dr. Manhattan?
Veidt is dragged back to the surface of Europa by the Game Warden, who is yet another rendition of Mr. Philips, possibly the original? He wears an eye mask so it seems he may have been a superhero/villain too at one time maybe? My hopes that the originals will be Marionette and Mime are fading a little. Mime never really spoke for a start, but we shall see. There has to be a reason why these two people were picked. Maybe we’ll find out next week.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for our mass collection of all theories from across the internet in a few days. Until then have a look at what Petey has to report this week. Tick Tock.
“All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there” — Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey 2