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Watchmen 1.6 Review – ‘This Extraordinary Being’

November 24, 2019 | Posted by Wyatt Beougher
Watchmen - This Extraordinary Being
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Watchmen 1.6 Review – ‘This Extraordinary Being’  

Previously on Watchmen: Looking Glass’ origin story was told, the Kavalry’s surprising leader was revealed, complete with a sinister plot for Sister Night, Laurie Blake continued her investigation into the murder of Judd Crawford, Adrian Veidt continued his attempts to escape his unusual prison, and the mystery surrounding Lady Trieu’s actions – and her connection to Will – deepened.

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

Not unlike last week’s episode, this week’s episode of Watchmen, ‘This Extraordinary Being’, was an origin story. After ingesting a coma-inducing dose of the illegal memory drug Nostalgia, Detective Angela Abar relived the history of her grandfather, Will Reeves, who was the first vigilante, Hooded Justice.

The episode started with an interlude from American Hero Story, which is believable as the type of show that Ryan Murphy might make in Watchmen’s alternate reality, the featured a very caucasian Hooded Justice being interrogated by FBI agents who wanted him to steal compromising photos of J Edgar Hoover from the safe of Hooded Justice’s Minutemen teammate and lover Captain Metropolis. Blake dismissed the show as garbage, but there was more than a kernel of truth in the events as they played out on-screen, as Angela would find out in her Nostalgia-induced trip through Will’s memories. It’s also worth mentioning that Nostalgia was produced by a pharmaceutical company owned by Lady Trieu, which explained Will’s continued access to them.

After the Bombing of Tulsa, Will Reeves made his way to New York City, where he became an officer of the NYPD. Will’s wife, Angela’s grandmother, was worried from the beginning about what the job would turn Will into because of his lingering anger over the events in Tulsa, and the continued racism that Will faced in New York, both from within his ranks and from other citizens, specifically a grocer/Klansman/arsonist who crosses Will’s path repeatedly. After initially apprehending the man for arson, Will runs afoul of a group of officers who are part of a group called Cyclops, a group that Will was initially warned about by Lieutenant Battles, the officer who inspired Will to join the NYPD in the first place. They beat Will and lynched him as a warning, inadvertently unleashing all of the stored-up anger from his childhood, as he stopped a mugging on his way home from the lynching, which is what caused him to become Hooded Justice.

And while Will’s wife was initially supportive of his efforts as Hooded Justice, including tying his desire to be a masked vigilante to Trust in the Law, the Bas Reeves movie he’d seen so many times at the Dreamland theater where his mother played the piano and encouraging him to use makeup to make the skin around his eyes (the only skin visible when he was in costume) appear caucasian, she began to sour on the idea when Nelson Gardner, the masked adventurer Captain Metropolis, pitched Minuteman membership to Will. Will and Gardner began a relationship, while at the same time, Will’s wife confided to him that she was pregnant with Angela’s father (she was also the baby that Will found after being smuggled out of Tulsa).

As Will worked to expose Cyclops’ plot, eventually determining that Cyclops was a faction of the Ku Klux Klan, he found himself growing disillusioned by the lack of support from Gardner, who had insisted that Will keep his true identity a secret from the “less tolerant” members of the Minutemen. After a violent incident at a theater in Harlem, Will followed a pair of men out of the theater and to a warehouse owned by the same arsonist and Klansman he had initially apprehended years earlier. After a call to Gardner for backup was completely dismissed, Will took matters into his own hands, shooting the warehouse owner, several other police officers and their affiliates, and, in a moment of karmic justice, strangling the officer who had led the group of police that had lynched Will and created Hooded Justice. He also torched the warehouse and brought a projector home with him.

Upon returning home, Will found his young son applying the same caucasian makeup around his eyes and wearing Hooded Justice’s noose around his neck. Will attempted to forcefully remove the makeup from the boy, but his wife stopped him and told him that they were going back to Tulsa and that he needed to stay away from Tulsa and from them. And it certainly seems like he did just that, as the next memory Angela experiences is Will’s return to Tulsa as a wheelchair-bound centenarian, his eventual confrontation with Judd Crawford, and the revelation that Will used a modified version of the Klan’s projector technology to make Crawford hang himself. After experiencing that memory, Angela wakes up in Lady Trieu’s care.

One of the biggest issues that I had with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was that while he faithfully recreated a great deal of the original limited series’ images, it felt like he missed a lot of the source material’s messages, and a lot of the urgency of the original series was lost because the Cold War, one of the biggest themes of the comic series, was long over by the time the movie came out. And that’s probably the biggest thing that this series has gotten right – they’ve traded in the Cold War for the long-simmering racial tension that has been present in this country for almost as long as it has been a country.

With the resurgence of white supremacist beliefs and hate groups in the United States over the past few years, making racism one of the central themes of this show gives it an urgency similar to that of the original comic series, and this re-imagining of Hooded Justice in that lens is easily the best link to the original series that I think they’ve done yet.

For those unaware, Hooded Justice was the only member of the original Minutemen team whose real identity was never revealed, and thus, whose fate was never known. There was a theory that he was an Eastern German strongman whose body was found around the time that Hooded Justice was believed to have been killed, and the show touched upon that masterfully in one of the earlier episodes as a red herring that Will used to keep his identity a secret. Also, there was speculation in the original comic series that HJ was a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer, and the paper that Will carried around that said “Take care of this boy” (the one that Angela accidentally set on fire) was the tract that Germans were using at the end of World War I to try to convince African-American soldiers not to return home to the States and instead to stay and fight for Germany. Also, one of Alan Moore’s biggest intentions with Watchmen was to show that these heroes weren’t to be idolized and that many of them weren’t even particularly good people, and Will’s story in this episode certainly brings that to light, as Will’s desire to fight the racism that he’d experienced his entire life ended up costing him his family (and, most probably, his job, though that’s never explicitly stated). And finally, probably the most Easter Egg callback, Hooded Justice’s character design was originally supposed to be for an unused character called “Brother Night”, so Angela’s police name, coupled with her identity as Hooded Justice’s granddaughter, was a well-done nod to the source material.

On top of that, this episode was probably the best-directed of the season so far, with the musical pieces used to highlight the flashback scenes being every bit as perfectly chosen as all of the other music used so far. The uses of color and black-and-white and Will’s mother playing the piano as Angela moved from memory to memory was an especially nice touch, and I look forward to watching this episode again and seeing how many little cues and nods to the original series that I missed. I’d be lying if I didn’t echo some of Jeremy’s concerns that Lindelof’s track record is making me nervous that we’re not going to get all of the pieces in place by the time this limited series wraps up in a few weeks. Even if we don’t, though, this series has been a worthy spiritual successor to the original series, and one of the best new shows on television this fall.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Another top-notch outing from one of the best new shows of the year, ‘This Extraordinary Being’ tells a different kind of superhero origin story, one that’s both a huge departure from the original character in the graphic novels and also arguably the best homage to that original series.