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Behind the Mask: Theories and Analysis for Watchmen S1E6

“This Extraordinary Being”

Credit HBO

Welcome back, dear reader, to your one-stop-shop for all the latest and greatest theories and analysis following the airing of HBO’s Watchmen S1E6 “This Extraordinary Being.” 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! Grab a turkey leg and let’s get to business.

Historical Background

Here we review some of the real-world history that the series is pointing us to:

  • Men’s Health pointed out that there was a real-world history of NYC police officers with KKK affiliation uncovered during an investigation in 1922.
  • I don’t know if this inspired the writers at all, but “anti-masking” legislation is a real thing, first inspired to fight against the KKK in the 1920s through 1950s.
  • Among the newspaper clippings Will Reeves kept was an article about a massive pro-Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden. This was a real-world event that happened in 1939. (Source: Reddit)
  • HBO paid for a webcomic on the Atlantic, telling the story of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. It’s quite impressive.

Watchmen - PeteyPedia disk icon

PeteyPedia (and Other Supplemental Material)

With a light week on theorizable content, the writers made up for it by giving us a treasure trove in the PeteyPedia files this week:

  • MEMO: What Has One Eye and Loves Evil Plans? – This is another internal FBI memo, from Agent Laurie Blake this time, documenting what she learned from monitoring Angela’s Nostalgia overdose. Angela talked throughout her experience and Laurie picked up on the details: William Reeves being Hooded Justice, him being the one who killed Judd Crawford, the mind control tech, and the introduction of “Cyclops” as a KKK spin-off that is likely related to the Seventh Kavalry. She takes note of the “thermodynamic miracle” of someone from her past being the guy who killed the police chief in Tulsa. She tasks Agent Petey with going to “Mirror Guy’s” house and bringing him in, and announces her intent to go question to Crawford’s widow a little further, based on her new belief that Judd Crawford was “most certainly” a member of Cyclops.
  • EVIDENCE: The Will of Nelson Gardner – Half internal memo (from Agent Petey) and half hand-written will of Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis). Agent Petey gives a brief history of Captain Metropolis, the Minutemen, and the Crimebusters, and then expresses his own dismay at the “historical inaccuracy” that led him to believe Hooded Justice was a white male. In the will, Gardner revokes all previous wills and bequeaths everything to Will Reeves. He is doing this as penance for his “neglect and subversion of his noble work of decades ago.” We learn that they last met face-to-face in 1955, and his last communication from Will was a nasty letter sent in 1966 when he was trying to form the Crimebusters (postmarked from San Francisco). The writers also use this moment to justify some minor elements of retcon (e.g. Hooded Justice saying the Minutemen “should avoid political situations” was him mocking them).
  • CLIPPING: “Lady Trieu: Fact or Fiction” – This is a 2018 gossip column article from the Tulsa Star-Sentinel newspaper” right after the ground breaking on the Millennium Clock construction, dedicated to the “elusive and reclusive mystery woman.” We find out she sent free HDTVs to every resident in a three-county area as an apology for the inconvenience of the construction. Lady Trieu’s mother, Bian My, molded her daughter into a genius and wrote a memoir, Pachyderm Mom, about her techniques. Bian My had a direct encounter with the Comedian and his commandos in 1971 when they “passed through her village” with a “uniquely warm demeanor [that] made quite an impression on her.” Lady Trieu has four PhDs (astrophysics, nuclear fission, bioengineering, and nanochemistry). She has launched 50 Voyager-class probes into the galaxy as part of a new interest in space exploration. She openly wants the see Vietnam regain independence but rejects the “militant nationalism” of the Vietnamese Liberation Front. She has an “Eye over Mars” satellite that beams back the images of Dr. Manhattan “building and collapsing ornate sandcastles over and over and over again.”

Yet another source of in-world data dumps has been HBO EXTRAS, an app for HBO Digital Latin America that gives additional background information at seemingly random times throughout the episode. Another hero of the internet has been capturing images from these popups and posting them to Reddit.

HBO released a promotional photo of the Minutemen from the press release scene, which is nice, because the rest of them only showed briefly and somewhat blurred in the background.

Another frivolous little extra from HBO is a squidfall safety instruction card, published in 1987 by the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Department of Extra-Dimensional Affairs, and the Food, Drug, and Technology Administration. This does go a long way towards confirming that Veidt’s “additional small-scale extra-dimensional events” were indeed the squidfall, having been common enough just two years later to warrant this.

Far less frivolous, the second volume of the Watchmen soundtrack was released, and once again there’s an in-world version, this time done up as the soundtrack to the TV series, American Hero Story: Minutemen. I have not yet had a chance to go through them, but images from the liner notes are posted on Twitter.

Watchmen - Officer Reeves and the newsstand guy look through a copy of Action Comics No. 1
Officer Reeves looks over a familiar origin story.

Who Is Will Reeves?

For those of you following along with all of the theories and analysis, this episode was light on new content and heavy on payoff. Here’s a rundown of just a few of the theories that were confirmed via the Will Reeves’ memories in this episode:

  • He is Hooded Justice from the Minutemen.
  • He painted his eyes white to disguise his identity (mirroring Angela painting hers black).
  • He was having an affair with Captain Metropolis.
  • June, Will’s wife, is the girl he picked up in the field after the Tulsa Massacre.
  • He did kill the police chief (albeit somewhat indirectly).
  • The KKK outfit in Judd’s closet did belong to his grandfather.

We also get a payoff in the noted parallels between Will Reeves’ origin story and Superman’s origin story, when he actually has a flashback to his escape from Tulsa while leafing through that Action Comics No. 1 at the newsstand.

The eye logo that we dated back to 1955 with the grandpa Keene to grandpa Crawford letter now appears to go back even further. It is apparently the call sign of Cyclops, either a KKK spin-off or parallel organization with similar aims. A logo we’ve also seen associated with the Seventh Kavalry, although note that the red spray-painted logo now incorporates the Dr. Manhattan symbol. The vast and insidious conspiracy that Will has been fighting his whole life.

One thing about that final scene between Will and Judd that is driving people crazy is how did Will know that Judd had the KKK robe in his closet? Assuming Will didn’t do it himself (he can’t go upstairs), the only two close enough to have that kind of knowledge to pass on would be his wife and Senator Keene. Who both have their own established political relationship, it might be worth adding.

Watchmen - Lt Battle warns Will to beware of the Cyclops
“Beware of the Cyclops.”

Easter Eggs

  • The title of the episode, “This Extraordinary Being,” was a line used by Hollis Mason (the original Nite Owl) to describe Hooded Justice in his biography, Under the Hood.
  • Of the three villains mentioned by the FBI interrogators in the opening American Hero Story scene, Captain Axis and Moloch are canonical from the original Watchmen King Mob is new and may be a nod to Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, another classic comic series that features a character of that name.
  • The FBI guys also said that Captain Metropolis had a “safe behind the painting of the white horse in his boudoir,” which could be a nod to the band Pale Horse, the painting “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” in Judd’s house, or heck, even a Twin Peaks reference
  • The officer who pins the badge on Reeves is a real-world figure, Samuel J. Battle, New York City’s first black police officer. (Source: Reddit)
  • The mugging that Will Reeves stops, his first action as a masked vigilante, matches the account in Under the Hood. (Source and full text: Reddit)
  • The National Bank poster with Dollar Bill that Captain Metropolis unveils at the press conference was also seen in the 7K member’s trailer in Episode 1.
  • The Action Comics 1 that Will is casually leafing through at the newsstand features the first appearance of Superman and is worth as much as $3.21 million today.
  • From Episode 5, when Senator Keene gives his speech to Wade and hands him the remote, he says “I leave it entirely in your hands”, which is the last sentence of the graphic novel.
  • Two songs by a band called The Ink Spots are featured in this episode, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” (1941) and “We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)” (1940). Could “ink spots” be a reference to Rorschach?
  • Always on the lookout for Twin Peaks references, we find out that Laurie has a tape recorder on her (she uses it to record Angela’s Nostalgia-induced ramblings, in this week’s PeteyPedia files).
  • Not an Easter egg per se, but the movie playing in the black theater was the original “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” starring Danny Kaye and released in 1947. Just to show the time progression in the Will Reeves’ memories.
  • The Cyclops members’ hand gesture is a real KKK sign known as the “kuklos.” It also looks a lot like the “be seeing you” gesture from The Prisoner. (Source: Reddit)
  • Fred—deli arsonist, grocery proprietor, and all-round nasty racist—could be intended to be Fred Trump, father of our current President, Donald Trump. (Source: Vox)
  • In the last episode, I forgot to note that Ozymandias had an eye of Horus image on the chest of his homemade spacesuit. Just more eye imagery to add to the show.
  • The book June reads to Marcus is “Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz,” the fourth book in the Oz series.
  • At the police academy graduation ceremony, June is there working for the New York Amsterdam News. This is a real paper, the oldest black newspaper in America. (Source: Jay and Jack Podcast)
  • The show kind of made a nod to itself, with the Episode 5 mention of the black and white movie with just a splash of red, then rolling into Episode 6 being all in black and white with just the one splash of red.
  • Oppenheimer, featured in the musical from the “Come Back 2 NY” ad in Episode 5, warned about mind control weaponry. Specifically, a type of subliminal suggestion imagery that could control human behavior. He found the prospect more terrifying than nuclear weapons. (Source: Reddit)
Watchmen - A map of the united states with a list of cities and the Cyclops icon on the lower right corner
Cyclops plans to distribute their mesmerism projectors across the country.

Quick Takes

  • Cyclops” is actually a title within the Ku Klux Klan (as in “Grand Cyclops,” “Vice-Grand Cyclops,” and “Exalted Cyclops”).
  • In the late 40s and early 50s, Superman radio dramas featured the Klu Klux Klan as the bad guys, revealing a lot of their secret handshakes and such. They made the KKK look silly and foolish, resulting in reduced membership numbers. Nice tie-in. (Source: We Do Podcast)
  • Nelson Gardner’s will was written in the 50th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. Hard to believe that’s just a coincidence. Leading some to wonder if Will used the mind control flashlight on him to make him rewrite his will? I don’t think so though; he did not die until three years later. His knowledge of that anniversary and possibly even its impact on Will Reeves might have inspired his repentance though.
  • It’s vaguely implied that Gardner might have been killed by the Comedian at the behest of President Nixon, for protesting against the repeal of the 22nd Amendment (presidential term limits).
  • A lot of people were commenting from the weirdness of Will and June being together, when they probably were essentially raised as brother and sister. Heck, my take on it is that they were cousins—even worse!
  • The boxes the Cyclops guys were packing up at the F. T. & Sons warehouse were labeled “Allied Projector Co.,” with the Cyclops eye logo.
  • A lot of theories are flying around that the Millennium Clock will deliver whatever it is meant to do via the HDTVs Lady Trieu gave away in the Tulsa area (see the PeteyPedia files). In my mind, however, as Freud would say, sometimes an HDTV is just an HDTV. Until it’s mentioned on the show for the normies, I’d be wary of this just being bait for us to go crazy theorizing on.

Interviews

In this section, I’ll be pointing you to a few of the more interesting interviews with cast and crew:

  • Tim Blake Nelson has a lengthy interview with GQ, reviewing many of the iconic characters he’s played throughout his career (the Watchmen part starts at 23:25 and only runs for two minutes). The main reason I include it here though is because he lets slip that he too gets to work with Jeremy Irons. So Looking Glass is going to survive and he is going to meet Ozymandias. Sweet.
  • In an interview for Decider, Damon Lindelof himself explains the minor retconning of Hooded Justice from the comics that they had to do to make his origin story as a black man work (which as mentioned above, is explained in-world via this week’s PeteyPedia files).
Watchmen - Hooded Justice holds a book titled Mesmerism for the Masses book.
A little light reading for your vast and insidious conspiracy.

My Own Thoughts

In this section, I pose some of my own thoughts and any unique theories I might be harboring.

  • Cal tells Angela that she was “born in Saigon in 1976,” but in the first HBO Official Watchmen Podcast, Damon Lindelof said she was born in 1978. Unreliable narrator type stuff, I’m sure, but it just jumped out at me.
  • The Senator Keene kidnapping being a false flag operation explains the crazy timer on the bomb vest. I’ve been wondering (as have others) why his dead switch would have a loud beeping countdown timer instead of just going off immediately. It’s to give the “victim” time to clear out after he heroically stops his would-be kidnapper. Perhaps once away from the crowd, the Senator turns on his captor, they wrestle, he pulls a wire or something, beep-beep-beep, and either one or both of them manage to get away (depending on how much of a patsy the 7K guy was in this plan). Everything is purposeful in this show.
  • The thing that fell from the sky onto the newly purchased Clark farm could be a de-orbited satellite, with big honking Dr. Manhattan lithium batteries on it. If so, she would then essentially be doing the same thing the 7K is, collecting lithium, just on a much larger scale. After all, they practically came right out and told us it’s “space junk”.
  • It is very strange that in the “history” leading up to the show, the writers chose to negate Schindler’s List and replace it with a movie about 11/2. Black generational trauma and (probably next episode) Vietnamese generational trauma are front and center, but Jewish generational trauma has been very purposely not, it would seem.
  • This is not much of a prediction, but American Hero Story should now transition into the Comedian’s story, as we roll into the Vietnam related content on the show. The tagline of the billboard ads, “Tragedy begets comedy,” features Hooded Justice and the Comedian, and Agent Petey has indicated as much in his reviews of the series as well.
  • If Will Reeves did accept the Nelson Gardner estate, it included the intellectual property rights to the Minutemen, Captain Metropolis, and other assorted characters. That would mean he is involved in American Hero Story: Minutemen. Will this tie in with Lady Trieu’s “secret plan to save humanity?”
  • Bian’s grandmother was also named Bian. Probably just passing down a family name, right? This would be the source of the burning village memories Bian was experiencing in her dreams. And now we learn that the Comedian may have been front and center for those memories, with his “uniquely warm demeanor.” More evidence piling up for the revenge on the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan theory.
  • Trieu has been launching probes “into the galaxy,” per the PeteyPedia files, searching for potential colonization sites?
  • Is there a clue to the Millennium Clock’s function in the selection of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” for some of the promotional materials? Hmm, just a thought.
  • Manhattan has been building and collapsing sandcastles on Mars over and over again, per the PeteyPedia files. This rules out some theories that he was caught destroying the one and only castle from Veidt’s imprisonment after he either escaped or was released. Not that being on Europa didn’t also kind of rule that out.
  • Will answers his own question to Judd: “If you’re so proud of your legacy, why do you hide it?” He hides it because he is not proud of it. Judd is trying to undo his grandfather’s legacy. Yes, he does use the words “you people.” He is a white man in Oklahoma, after all. That doesn’t mean he can’t be both.
  • There are crystals laid out with the mesmerizing movie projector Will takes from the warehouse. Could this be what fell down from the sky onto Lady Trieu’s recently purchase farm? Some final material she needs to build an enormous version of Will’s flashlight, and also the reason it had to be located in Tulsa?
  • I believe that Will is going to sacrifice himself as part of the plan with Lady Trieu. He wants to connect with Angela, his last living relative—his legacy—before he dies. Will is 105 years old and ready to die, and this will be his one last strike against his enemies. But because it is going to harm Angela in the process (if it hasn’t already), he’s trying to reach out to her so that she will understand, and perhaps even forgive him.

That’s it for this week. If you have any interesting theories or clever Easter eggs that I missed, let me know in the comments below, or catch me on Reddit as u/catnapspirit.

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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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