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Watchmen 1.4 Review – ‘If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own’

November 11, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Watchmen - If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own
7.5
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Watchmen 1.4 Review – ‘If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own’  

[Warning: spoilers abound for those who have not seen Sunday’s episode of Watchmen.]

Table setting is a necessary evil in the world of serial dramatic television. When I say “necessary evil,” I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, mind. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. The more time and care that you spend setting up story elements, the more satisfying the reveals when everyone sits down to feast on the big reveals, plot twists and dramatic character decisions. Table setting episodes were a crucial part of Game of Thrones during its best seasons, not to mention shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Americans, Sons of Anarchy…the list goes on.

But no, when I say that table setting is a necessary evil, I’m referring to the fact that they’re inherently not as enjoyable of episodes for the viewer. We like our tasty moments, and we hate having to do the legwork to get to them. There’s a reason everyone remembers episodes like Thrones’ one-two punch of “Battle of the Bastards” and “Winds of Winter,” but few people remember much about “Blood of My Blood” or “No One” which did most of the setup work for what followed.

“If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” is likely to be an episode that falls in the cracks when people eventually discuss their favorite Watchmen episodes. And again, much like those Game of Thrones episodes that’s not to say this is bad; it sets up a lot of dominos so they can be knocked down later. It simply lacks the crunchy appeal of catching up with Laurie Blake or the major moments of the series premiere.

Watchmen Lady Trieu

One of the reasons this episode has to do so much table setting is because it’s adding another character into its already-loaded cast. Last week saw the addition of Laurie Blake, now an FBI agent and a link to Watchmen’s past. This week we had another, albeit less direct link to the past in Hong Chau’s Lady Trieu. We learn that Trieu is the woman who bought Adrian Veidt’s company and is responsible the Millennium Clock that is dominating the skyline. She’s a new connection to the old guard, so much so that she has a statue of Veidt in her vivarium.

Folding yet another player into the proceedings at this point would be too much for many shows. After all, we already have Angela, Laurie, Looking Glass, Calvin, Jane Crawford, Grandpa Will, Agent Petey, Senator Keene, Adrien Veidt, Mr. Phillips, Ms. Crookshanks, Veidt’s jailer, and Judd (dead but still looming large as a character). We’re not talking Westerosian levels of cast size, but it’s still a bit unwieldy.

Fortunately, Chou makes an immediate impression right off the bat and Trieu comes off as a missing piece of a puzzle we can’t yet make out, as opposed to someone shoehorned in. Right from the opening scene, she’s someone we can’t take our eyes off of and we want to know more about. This is a woman we’re supposed to be suspicious of; after all, bioengineering a child without the parents’ consent as a lure to land a land acquisition is hardly what someone might call ethical business practices. And the little dialogue touches here and there enable Chou to deliver a magnetic yet unnerving performance.

Watchmen Laurie Angela

Chou is in good company on that front, as she joins Regina King and Jean Smart as performances that are just killing it. We got a taste of Angela and Laurie bouncing off each other last week, and the sparks were a sight to behold. That continues this week, in an only slightly-less adversarial way as they start working together. Angela’s guarded nature going up against the casual ease with which Laurie insinuates accusations is an utter delight.

Adding Trieu in when they get to the Millennium Clock is an extra treat, as she adds an X-factor and Angela is able to use Trieu to put Laurie back on her heels a bit. It’s a mental chess game between these two cops with who are just similar enough to work together, but different enough that the tension is always there.

There’s a lot set up in the dialogue between Laurie and Angela, putting things in motion that will likely play out later. Notably, Laurie’s conversation with Calvin enables the Abars to talk with each other, at which point we learn about Cal’s mysterious accident that for some reason is a secret. These are all new little balls getting tossed up in the air, and that’s without even getting into the silver Spandex guy with the contortionist Parkour skills that saw Angela dump a duffel bag off a bridge.

Watchmen Veidt Crookshanks

And then there’s Adrian, who is continuing to try and escape his prison. We learn that he’s been there for about four years, which was three years after Trieu bought his company. We also learn how he creates his clones in one of the most horrifying sequences in this show to date. It involves fishing infants out of lobster cages and growing them in a disturbing-sounding process while he eats the cake that his now-dead previous servants made him.

All of this is fascinating and wonderful in getting into Veidt’s state of mind. Clearly, the last several years in this prison have not been good to him, and he wasn’t stable to begin with. Thus, he mass murders his servants and uses their corpses with the new Crookshanks and Phillips’ help to calculate trajectories.

And while it’s all entertaining enough, the question has to be asked, where is it going? It’s really hard to ignore the similarities between Veidt and Trieu, from the fact that they both had/have vivariums to how Trieu’s “I’m not going to make you a baby, i already did” echoes Veidt’s “I did it 35 minutes ago” from the graphic novel and film. I appreciate that these similarities are minor touches that you don’t need to know in order to suspect something between Veidt and Trieu; all we need to know is Trieu bought Veidt Industries and has a statue of him as he currently looks, combined with the fact that Veidt negotiated his imprisonment, to have some strong suspicious. They may turn out to be wrong, but for now I can’t believe that Trieu isn’t in some way responsible for where Veidt is.

Watchmen Angela Abar

The big question right now is, what does this all mean? The pieces are being moved into place, but it’s hard to see what it all adds up to. We’re now caught up in the Millennium Clock and whatever plan Trieu and Will have cooked up, and outside of a few pieces of lip service from Looking Glass and Trieu it would be easy to forget that there’s a murder investigation.

And that’s fine, to be fair. Just like Watchmen the graphic novel had its Comedian murder as a way to kick start the investigation Veidt’s conspiracy, Judd’s death seems destined to lead to Angela (and maybe Laurie) learning about Trieu’s. We don’t know what that conspiracy is, and we don’t even know if that’s the correct narrative line. That’s what makes an episode like this a little bit muddled.

If there’s a single flaw that can most strongly be attributed to this episode, it’s that – as I said in the beginning of the review – it’s necessary. The goal of episodes like this are to keep the pace from accelerating too quickly and developing the plot threads that will pay off later. “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” suffers only in comparison to what we’ve seen before, and hopefully what we’ll see in the coming weeks.

Watchmen Lady Trieu

Some Final Thoughts:

• Honesty check: did anyone actually think Lady Trieu was joking about destroying the baby if the parents didn’t sign at first? I certainly didn’t.

• Whoever at the Greenwood Cultural Center came up with the horrible pun of the “Ances-Tree” deserves whatever bad things are coming to them in this heartless Alan Moore world.

• While most people are praising the on-screen dynamic between Angela and Laurie, I also love the way Angela and Looking Glass play off each other. Particularly in dialogue like, “You are fucking weird.” “And you are adequately self-aware to recognize the hypocrisy of that remark.”

• Speaking of acting praise, I deeply appreciate the amount of nuance that Tom Mison and Sara Vickers are putting into Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks. There are little hints of the trauma they’re going through at Veidt’s hands, but it’s wonderfully subtle.

• Being coined “Lube Man” by Tulsa PD is exactly why superheroes and vigilantes need to be brand focused.

• Lots of nice camera tricks this week for scene transitions, from Veidt’s sky turning into the moon to the Clarks’ orchard turning into the streets of Tulsa.

• Cal may be a good dad overall, but man it’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone whiff the “what happens when you die” talk so hard. Which, obviously, was the point.

7.5
The final score: review Good
The 411
The fourth episode of Watchmen is the show's least enjoyable thus far on a visceral level, though that doesn't mean it's bad. We're getting to the midpoint of the show's run and there are some pieces that need to be moved into place, and that happens effectively. It's not the most memorable hour of TV but Regina King, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons and Hong Chau keep it enjoyable throughout.
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