Watchmen This Extraordinary Being Review

No more playing around. You want answers, you got ’em. Okay, sure – there are still plenty of unanswered questions in the world of Watchmen. We still don’t know what Lady Trieu is up to. Nor do we really know what the heck is going on with Adrian Veidt, who doesn’t even appear this week. But at long last, Angela will learn the truth about her grandfather Will Reeves, and the audience will learn the history of one of the most mysterious characters from the original Watchmen comic.

Beware the Cyclops

It was always going to be about Hooded Justice. The only Watchmen comic hero whose identity was never revealed, Hooded Justice was always a mystery – and the Watchmen TV series has been more or less teasing his true identity from the start. The first scene we saw in this show was a young Will Reeves watching a movie about a hooded lawman. And he himself would grow up to be one too.

A cheeky opening scene that turns out to be directly from American Hero Story has Hooded Justice unmasked to be a white man, but as Agent Petey already told us, American Hero Story is “bullshit.” The real Hooded Justice was none other than Will Reeves. And “This Extraordinary Being” is ready to tell us how he became the first costumed crimefighter.

Last week ended with Angela downing an entire bottle of Nostalgia pills before being taken into custody. As Laurie explains this week, Nostalgia was created by scientists insert chips in people’s brains and harvesting memories into pill form. The pill was originally supposed to be for people suffering from dementia, but after substance abuse set in, Nostalgia was banned. Side-effects are an issue, and Angela begins to trip-out – big time.

Her long, strange trip puts her in the body of her grandfather, a concept that is brilliantly executed by occasionally having Regina King pop in and out of a scene, taking the place of the actor playing the younger Will, Jovan Adepo. The visual style of this episode is striking – a mix of black and white and color, with the camera constantly moving in an almost dream-like state. Surrealism prevails, with images from the Tulsa massacre blending in with the images of Will living in 1938 New York. Will’s piano-playing mother is almost always spotted in the background, pounding away at the keys. It’s haunting, and fully immerses us in the flashback world Angela is stuck in.

Through this extended flashback, Angela sees Will become a cop in New York – one of the few black faces on the force. His wife June (Danielle Deadwyler) worries that by joining the police force, Will is siding with the “enemy” – racist white cops. Will doesn’t see it that way, but before long, he’s encountering the racism on the force first hand. He busts a man named Fred (Glenn Fleshler) for torching a Jewish deli, but Fred is back on the street in no time. And when Will starts asking questions, his fellow officers brutally beat him – and lynch him, too. A hood is pulled over his head, a noose tied around his neck, and Will dangles from a tree for a terrifying moment – before he’s let down. The cops warn him that next time he sticks “his black nose in white business”, they won’t show any mercy.

Bloody and beaten, the noose still dangling around his neck, the hood still in his hands, Will stumbles home – only to happen upon a couple being attacked in an alley. Will springs to action, donning the hood and beating the shit out of the assailants – unleashing all of his rage.

Before long, Will has become Hooded Justice, and his costumed antics are inspiring other costumed crimefighters, like Nelson Gardner, aka Captain Metropolis (Jake McDorman). Gardner recruits will to his crimefighting group The New Minutemen – and Will and Gardner end up falling into a sexual affair, as well. But Will can’t count on Nelson. He can’t count on anyone. No one wants to listen to his pleas to stop the Klu Klux Klan, who are operating in town under a vast, insidious conspiracy dubbed the Cyclops. “You’ll have to solve black unrest on your own,” Gardner coldly tells Will when Will tries to ask him for help. And so he does. 

Smoke Gets In Your Eye

After Will busts a Klan hideout he discovers a book called Mesmerism for the Masses by W.C. Florentine. As it turns out, the Klan is using mesmerism for their own evil deeds. They unleash their plan at a movie theater, playing a film to a black audience that hypnotizes the audience to turn on each other in an orgy of violence. The white cops shrug this off, calling the blacks “animals.” But Will knows better, and he tracks the whole plot down to a warehouse owned by none other than Fred, the man he arrested.

In a fit of Rage, Will murders Fred, and all the others in Fred’s warehouse, including one of Will’s fellow cops who is recording a subliminal message for future use. I’ll say this much: the hypnosis storyline feels slightly off. I know it’s silly to call a show set in a fictional universe with superheroes far-fetched, but the way the hypnosis subplot is handled never feels right. In fact, the entire episode has a heightened reality, with clunky, obvious dialogue. Perhaps this can be shrugged off as a result of the strange trip Angela is on, but it still dampens the episode ever-so-slightly – especially after last week’s show-stopper.

After burning down the warehouse, Will returns home to find his son donning his Hooded Justice costume – something that makes him snap, leading to a big blow-up that results in June taking the child and heading back to Tulsa. And soon, we’re back in Tulsa, too. But not the Tulsa of the 1930s. The 2019 Tulsa, where we finally learn what happened to Judd.

The older Will was indeed waiting for him, and played a part in his death. But he didn’t string Judd up himself. Instead, he used a strobing flashlight to hypnotize Judd into hanging himself. Again: I don’t know if I buy this hypnosis stuff, but I’m willing to go along with it for now. In any case, the moment between Will and Judd underscores the complicated portraits of its characters. When Will points out Judd has a Klan robe in his closet, Judd says it’s part of his legacy, since it belonged to his father. “If you’re so proud of your legacy, why do you hide it in a closet?” Will asks.

With Judd’s death (again), we’re suddenly thrust back into the present with Angela as she snaps out of her flashback. She’s no longer in jail. Nor is she in a hospital. Instead, she appears to be chilling at Lady Trieu’s place, and Lady Trieu is right there, waiting for her. What the hell happened? How did Angela get here? Like I said, there are still plenty of unanswered questions in the world of Watchmen.

Watchmen’s Journal

  • This episode explicitly underlines the connection between Will’s origin story and the origin story of Superman, in case you missed it.
  • Superman isn’t the only hero to get a nod this week. The whole “couple attacked in an alley” scene is obvious a tip of the hat to Batman.
  • What a twist! We learn that June, Will’s wife, is actually the baby he found in the field as a child. This fact was tossed off rather casually, and I can’t help but think it’ll come back in a future episode.
  • As much as I love Jeremy Irons and his weird Adrian storylines, I was fine with him sitting this week’s episode out.
  • If you guessed that Will was Hooded Justice – and many people have – congrats! You’ve won Watchmen!
  • Surely this hypnosis thing is going to play a big part in the Millennium Clock that Lady Trieu is building, right? After all, she and Will are working together.
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