For the past two weeks, Damon Lindelof has been challenging viewers to, to borrow a phrase from his previous series, let the mystery be. As a sequel to Alan Moore's seminal '80s comic book, Watchmen the series hasn't been shy about throwing fans into the deep end of its universe with nary a breather for any kind of conventional exposition. Those who read the comic are still finding their footing, so there's no telling what it's like to try and watch this series without having read or even seen Zack Snyder's mid-2009 film adaptation.
And yet, what's been on screen has been undeniably compelling. If you're patient and trust that answers will come and the narrative focus will sharpen into clarity, then it's been a fun, if disorienting, ride. That patience is starting to be paid off with this week's episode, "She Was Killed By Space Junk," which shifted Regina King's protagonist Angela Abar to the backburner in favor of a new character played by the GOAT character actor Jean Smart—who was quickly revealed to be an older Laurie Juspeczyk aka Silk Spectre II. Having had romances with both Doctor Manhattan and Nite Owl, as well as being The Comedian's (the hero whose murder is the inciting incident for the novel) secret daughter, Laurie was a major character in the novel and the first to interact with our new characters here. The episode doubles down on its comic connections from there, confirming the obvious: Jeremy Irons' mysterious man in the castle is indeed a secretly-alive Adrian Veidt, as well as giving backstories on Nite Owl and Manhattan. With that said, Lindelof fan Frazier and Complex's Watchmen expert William Goodman break down the excellent episode and where the series goes from here.
William: After spending two episodes focused mostly on the new characters in the Watchmen universe, “She Was Killed By Space Junk” saw the introduction of Laurie Blake, the first existing “legacy” character from the comic book to interact with Angela and the rest of our Tulsa cast. Played winningly by the GOAT Jean Smart, the second Silk Spectre—and the artist formerly known as Laurie Juspeczyk—is the conduit by which the show really begins to broaden its horizons. What did you make of her brazen reentry into this world, Frazier?
Frazier: Mystery is cool, but every slow-moving, anti-exposition series like this needs an episode that electrifies both the cast and the story to really get the gears going. Watchmen week 3, largely in Jean’s hands with Regina King scaled back to two-to-three scenes, is just that. Watching her completely command both the screen and start molding this still shapeless story into something with a clarified narrative propulsion, I felt the same thrill that I did during Nora Durst’s first spotlight episode in The Leftovers Season 1, “Guest.” (An instant classic in every sense of the phrase.) I’ve watched this episode twice now, and it’s brilliant. It’s also the most comic-heavy hour to date of a show that the network and creators swear you can mostly enjoy if you’re coming in blind. What do we make of this episode being centered around Silk Spectre II, with references to Nite Owl, her dad The Comedian, the lover who she is still clearly capital o-obsessed with, Doctor Manhattan, AND confirmation that Jeremy Irons is indeed Adrian Veidt?
William: I’d like to think the direct references aren’t so distracting as to overwhelm the casual viewer, but I can’t help as to wonder how this episode will play for those who haven’t read the comic. It’s so comic heavy that I wonder if some of the same ‘holy shit’ moments I had will resonate. Yet, even if they don’t, there’s plenty in Smart’s performance to get excited about. Your comparison to “Guest” is so spot on—I feel like that was the episode of The Leftovers in which the show finally capitalized on its premise, and the same is happening here.
I’m amazed by the way in which Lindelof and his co-writer Lila Byock handle Doctor Manhattan throughout this episode. This is the most information we’ve gotten about him so far and the way it’s all contextualized really goes a long way to effectively making him feel like the massive, otherworldly presence he is. The fact that Laurie, his former lover, is the one to convey the majority of the information to the audience is fitting, but even more effective is the way that Smart sells the real, deep, and genuine hurt Laurie has about it all.
As for Irons being Veidt, I am curious why the show decided to be so coy for so long about it. I suppose Lindelof could have kept things going until the end of the season, but from the minute Irons was cast, it seemed so blatantly obvious he’d be Ozymandias. I know there was lots of speculation online about who his identity really was that drove some conversation in the early weeks, but this seemed inevitable. I did, however, appreciate the reveal itself was handled in a manner reflective of the cheeky, cartoony energy all of the Veidt segments have had thus far. I’m more interested to see how they’ll approach working him into the larger Tulsa narrative. How did you feel about it all?
Frazier: I agree, Veidt’s reveal wasn’t handled in some big jaw-dropping, Bet You Didn’t See This Coming way, which is for the best. (Instead, especially with the background orchestra, it was kind of winking.) And yea, even if new fans aren’t hype to see Silk Spectre older, and ornery, how can you not be hype about the way the episode positions her and Angela as adversaries going forward. That scene in the crypt—your favorite basic ass “prestige” drama doesn’t have as much badass chest-beating as those five minutes. Laurie’s presence gives Angela a great foil while also sharpening the agendas so this thing can settle into a little bit more of a conventional narrative. Angela wants to solve Judd’s murder for vengeance. Laurie wants to do it for Keene, because of what he can do for her as he’s using Tulsa to angle for unseating Redford’s presidency. Adrian Veidt is in hiding doing...something nefarious. And Doctor Manhattan is the ace card in the sky, who can fuck shit up for either side, still undetermined. Things are going to get interesting when Veidt re-enters the fray too: remember, Laurie knows (as helpfully explained in her God "joke") what Adrian really did re: the giant squid. She might even be the last person who knows. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to tear through the rest of these screeners. Are there any other Easter Egg nuggets to help the people at home wrap their heads around what they just watched?
William: Eager to step up and be Complex’s version of Petey, albeit less annoying and fire off some stuff for you. Petey, of course, is the person that’s been authoring the supplemental documents that HBO has been circulating after each episode. Laurie’s caged owl is a less than subtle metaphor to the fact that the second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, is still locked away in FBI custody after the events at the end of the comic. I found the Lone Ranger reference to have a particular bit of relevance, considering Bass Reeves (who we saw in the pilot) was the inspiration for that character. Petey recites a bit of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” poem which gets referenced in the comic. The Black Freighter hotel is a nod to the pirate comic I talked about last week. “Roll on Snare drum, good joke” is a direct callback to one of Rorasach’s more famous quotes, the story about Pagliacci the clown. There’s also a funeral service in the comic, but it doesn’t end in quite such an explosive manner. And finally, in case you missed it last week, I’ll reiterate that Laurie’s adaption of the last name “Blake” comes in honor of late father.
Whew. That’s a lot. But I think it’ll be worth in the long run, as you said, we’re getting to the heart of this thing now—and if this episode is any indication, the best is yet to come.
Odds, Ends and Other Notes:
- The title of the episode refers to the Devo song, “Space Junk, which ends with the lyrics: “it smashed my baby’s head, space junk / and now my Sally’s dead, space junk.” Sally was the name of Laurie’s mother and was the first Silk Spectre. Laurie would do well to watch her head though.
- Interesting to note that even with Joe Keene’s Defense of Police Act, or DOPA if you’d like Laurie to mock you, vigilantism is still outlawed via Joe’s father and the original Keene Act.
- The Doctor Manhattan sex toy is just . . . chef’s kiss, leading me to have a legitimate laugh out loud moment.
- “Rich assholes playing dress-up.” So Laurie would be more of a Superman fan than a Batman lover?