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Another Very Special BoJack Horseman Bungles the Jump, But Sticks the Landing

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Given we’re now in the fifth season BoJack Horseman, an episode like “BoJack the Feminist” is no longer a surprise – be it “Thoughts and Prayers”, “Brap Brap Pew Pew”, or any other number of entries, seeing BoJack dive into cultural critiques deeper than its constant Hollywoo razzing is nothing new to this point. Over time, in fact, there are moments where it feels like the show’s need to say something Important about a cultural hot point drowns out the normal rhythms of the show, often to the detriment of the characters in front of it. In the context of BoJack‘s complicated history with hot-button topics, “BoJack the Feminist” is a fascinating case study of the show’s approach to so-called “controversial” topics, and why they often end up feeling like well intentioned mixed bags.

Why “BoJack the Feminist” doesn’t completely come together for two and a half acts is not because it is a poorly crafted episode: on the surface, it is a well-delivered story about Vance Waggoner, the amalgamation of every piece of shit male that’s appeared in the news over the past two years, for their abhorrent behavior during the last five decades. His character (voiced wonderfully by an underutilized Bobby Cannavale) is constructed with the careful comedic touch we’ve come to expect on BoJack: he’s an anti-Semite who starred in a Sandy Koufax movie (a very famous Jewish baseball player), beat his wife, insulted Swedes, sexted a 12-year old, told his teenage daughter he was going to kill her, made slurs against Native Alaskans… BoJack really lays it on thick with Vance’s rap sheet, distilling every shit bag we’ve heard about recently (and in the case of very clear influences like Mel Gibson and Louis C.K., for decades) into one man.

Vance’s journey through multiple public rehabilitations harkens back to “Brap Brap Pew Pew”, and how the story’s escalating zaniness gave voice to the biting critique of the events and people it was parodying: as the allegations pile up, Vance’s reputation, and inability to learn anything from each round of rehabilitation, slowly begins to envelop itself in escalating BoJack weirdness – which, as it did in “Brap Brap”, allows it to act as a funhouse mirror to the reality of the situation it is satirizing. Vance’s continued ability to get chances in Hollywoo is fucking ridiculous; and yet, if you think about the career of someone like Sean Penn, it’s really not that crazy an idea, is it? BoJack‘s ability to present its own outlandish world as a mere half-step away from our own is one of its most powerful tools, never sharper than when distilling the nonsensical logic of Hollywoo down to its ludicrous, hypocrisy-ridden roots.

At the core of the episode is an interesting idea that feels underdeveloped until the final few frames: “BoJack the Feminist” is ultimately a referendum on its main character – and, perhaps by accident given when the show would’ve been in production, a great study case for 2018, and how quickly condemnation has turned into redemption for so many horrible men in the world. BoJack’s done a lot of shitty things – his fake attempts to be a feminist to cash in on social capital wouldn’t crack his personal top 20 – and since late in the third season, the show’s really focused on whether BoJack’s able to overcome himself in order to be someone better, and make amends for the many, many mistakes he’s made. Using the context of the monsters unearthed in the #MeToo movement, “BoJack the Feminist” pointedly asks a question it has only danced around in the past: does BoJack’s attempts to be better even matter? At this point, does he deserve forgiveness – and more importantly, why do we, as an audience and society, even want to forgive people like him?

“BoJack the Feminist” attacks this idea from a number of different angles in the first two acts: Hollywoo’s hypocrisy comes through Princess Carolyn, the cynicism of Diane, and the aloofness of Mr. Peanutbutter, whose B-plot about trying to present himself as a tough guy presents a nice parallel to Vance staging multiple apology tours to paint himself as a “nice guy” (in the end, Mr. PB proves that just as long as you’re good looking, wealthy, and male, opportunities will more than likely find their way into your lap). But it’s not until the episode turns that mirror against BoJack does it feel like its story really comes to life; but by that time, the story is over and the credits are rolling (playing the original BoJack closing theme for the first time in a long time, signaling an earlier descent into depressing territory than earlier seasons).

The revelation is powerful, but “BoJack the Feminist” would’ve been a lot more effective had this episode used the debate it creates around BoJack as the core, rather than Vance Waggoner, a character who ultimately is just a stand-in for shitty men, and a catalyst for the episode’s numerous, overtly pointed monologues about women’s rights, normalizing misogyny, and the indestructible hierarchy of the patriarchy. Diane perhaps fares the worst here, her character mostly marginalized as a (very well informed, and very well written) feminist who speaks in tweet threads, rather than actual dialogue. There are multiple scenes where BoJack pauses to make a number of great, prescient points, but rather than highlight the debates it is exploring with them, it castrates any and all momentum to preach to the audience, which at times, feels a bit self-defeating.

There’s a lot to love in “BoJack the Feminist”, but it never reaches the insane heights of “Brap Brap Pew Pew” or “Thoughts and Prayers”, feeling more like a continuation of “Hank After Dark”, a sequel that doesn’t offer much in its first 24 minutes, except updating the language and appropriate cultural touchstones for 2018, before finally tying everything together in the last thirty seconds (Ana Spanakopita remains the most frightening character on all of BoJack, by the way). While the argument the episode makes about women and their horrible mistreatment in every facet of life is powerful, necessary, and sharp, there are a number of moments where it doesn’t quite feel like an episode of television, where the veil is pulled back and the pure anger in the heart of the writing room is revealed, naked voices that spring up out of the spring as some of the episode’s most dissonant, preachy moments.

Maybe that kind of blunt, look-at-me-when-I’m-fucking-talking-to-you approach is necessary; I recognize that as a white male (one of many who wrote about this episode, an irony that is not lost on me), my perspective on this episode is bound to be a bit skewed… but societal context aside, there’s something about “BoJack the Feminist” that doesn’t quite click for me, especially when compared to Very Special Episodes in BoJack‘s past. Ultimately, the episode gets where it needs to be, but until those final moments, the overtly self-effacing tone sells its well-constructed ideas short.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– the number of levels the “Feminism is Bay” shirt works on is the kind of genius we can only aspire to achieve.

– “He’s one tough S.O.A.B” – never change, Mr. Peanutbutter.

– “I’m off to perceive depth in a Wes Anderson fillllmmm!”

– So Philbert is just True Detective season one, right? When they talk about the show using “feminism” to explore, and ultimately embrace, toxic masculinity at the cost of its female performers, I immediately thought of the nude scene in the first season. Yes, that one…. and now I can’t think of Philbert as anything but True Detective.

– “You get to drop in, and play Joss Whedon, and everybody cheers. But when everybody moves onto their next thing, I’m still here.”

– since guns are outlawed in Hollywoo’s California, the gun shop has been turned into weed store. Progress we can all get behind.

– BoJack’s faux pas du fromage is the absolute best way to describe what happened at the Forgivie’s, and reminds me why Princess Carolyn is my favorite.

– BoJack thinks NCIS is a person named Nikus, who just travels to different cities on each new show.

– Stefani talking about how people sharing and not reading is more important than them reading, is probably the most salient thing I’ve heard recently about the gig economy on the internet, and just how fucking horrible and soul-sucking it can be.

– Diane thinks her Prius locks automatically, a small character detail that might be my single favorite moment of the episode.

– I really wanted to close this review with some great pieces written by women on this episode… strangely enough, there wasn’t a lot to find. I did come across a couple great, informative pieces written by Jess Joho at Mashable, and Alison Herman at The Ringer.

 

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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Watchmen Season 1 Episode Seven Review: “An Almost Religious Awe”

An underwhelming hour of Watchmen ends on a shocking high note.

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Watchmen An Almost Religious Awe

Though I’d be the first to argue Damon Lindelof’s series are graceful, I certainly wouldn’t be able to describe LOST or even The Leftovers as particularly elegant; there are certainly times where his infatuation with puzzle-box logic and deep existential musings clash, turning a middle chapter of any given season into a near-indecipherable mush of plots, themes, and characters.

“An Almost Religious Awe” is not a bad episode of television, not by a long stretch: it’s just unrefined, an expected byproduct of such an ambitious, wandering series built on such a limited structure.

“An Almost Religious Awe” is the signature Hour of Inelegance for Watchmen; though it contains a number of fascinating themes and developments, the broad focus of the series forces this episode, the holy seventh, into a rather awkward position. Not only is there a massive stretch of plot this episode needs to cover (despite being one of the series’ shortest episodes), but it is also tasked with delivering the single biggest stunner of the season: Dr. Manhattan’s been hiding on Earth as a human, in the form of amnesia-ridden Cal Abar.

An Almost Religious Awe Review

The space between where “An Almost Religious Awe” begins and ends is cavernous: after opening with Angela still trapped inside Will’s memories, the third act is a cascade of twists and reveals leading to Dr. Manhattan’s resurrection, mere moments before the Seventh Kavalry’s plan to capture and kill him is kicked into action (in fact, they’re waiting right outside the door when the episode cuts to black). The episode’s meta dialogue about ending “all the silliness” and not fucking around anymore is certainly true; but its messy construction undercuts some of its biggest moments, an underwhelming turn as Watchmen heads into its final stretch of episodes.

The overstuffed nature of the episode also serves as a prescient reminder of just how much ground there is still to cover; Ozymandias is still on trial (in his defense, it has gone on for an entire year), Looking Glass is still missing (though the men who attacked him are dead; given that one is unmasked, I’m willing to bet Wade’s undercover), and Will Reeves is nowhere to be found. It would take one of the elephants Angela’s hooked up to in order to remember all the running plots and side stories of Watchmen‘s first six episodes, a reminder of the Sisyphean task ahead of Lindelof and his team, as they try and push everything to the center of the table in the final two episodes.

“An Almost Religious Awe” is the first time Watchmen feels awkward and lacking in confidence, over-explaining its most mysterious elements, while clumsily trying to build out its emotional arcs around the families of Trieu and Angela. There’s also a lot of expo dumps, be it Lady Trieu’s many reveals (Bian is a clone of her mom! She’s trying to save humanity with her clock! She has all the Manhattan Booth tapes!) or Senator Keene’s play-by-play of the Kavalry’s ultimate plan to transcend the difficulties of “being a white man in modern society” – which, as true as it may be, is a line of dialogue that hit the nail on the head a bit too firmly, similar to the effect of Angela’s Sister Night VHS tape.

Watchmen An Almost Religious Awe

It also features the single most unsatisfying scene of the series: after Angela’s family is killed in a terrorist attack, she is adopted from her punishing orphanage by her grandmother June (Will’s ex-wife)… who promptly dies after they share a single lunch together. There’s an undercurrent of some interesting themes in the scene – having the context of June’s history, using her grandmother as a grounding device to help fix her memories – but the actual text of their (very) brief shared experience is about the most underwhelming thing Watchmen‘s done to this point, a rare example of the series repeating itself, simply for the sake of dramatic repetition.

The undercurrents of Angela’s life are much more sharply drawn outside that scene; we see the neat parallels between her life and Will’s, turning to careers in law enforcement as a way of enacting control on their lives. Formed by definitive traumas in their lives – Will’s Bass Reeves fandom before the Tulsa riots, Angela hearing the murder of a terrorist conspirator in an alleyway – they turned to becoming police officers to try and make the world right; but a world that didn’t accept them as valid, made those righteous journeys a lot harder to do on the supposed right side of the law. Those moments, while not necessarily adding to the construction of Angela as a character, are effective in how they reinforce the idea of inter-generational connections between family members; how similar genes can lead to similar experiences, or even simply just detailing the inherited trauma enforced on millions of families like the Reeves’ by the systemic racism against any minority in America’s history.

Watchmen An Almost Religious Awe

But most of Angela’s material, especially with June, just falls a bit flat. There really isn’t much that’s able to transcend the cumbersome feeling of “An Almost Religious Awe”; upon rewatch, one can almost feel the show holding its breath excitedly until the final moments, draping the entire episode in shades of blue, and rushing through a bunch of subplots in a sprint to get to the Big Reveal. To Watchmen‘s credit, it is a doozy of a reveal, one that comes with the shocking delivery of Angela beating Cal’s head in with a baseball bat, only to retrieve a very familiar piece of equipment from inside his shattered skull.

The reveal of Cal as Dr. Manhattan is a fascinating moment, one that calcifies some of the deeper explorations of the series more effective than much of the hour surrounding it: to think the world’s most powerful being has spent the last decade-plus, hiding as a black man in America is certainly something to chew on, especially considering the origins of Dr. Manhattan (as Jonathan Osterman, his family escaped Nazi persecution) in the original Watchmen novel. And it works as an “out of left field” moment, a well-crafted reveal grounded in the facts of past episodes – like his wardrobe, view on death, or Laurie’s vocal attraction to him – blossoming character and narrative in one fell swoop.

However, there’s no denying how quickly Watchmen moves from Point A to Doctor M; an episode that is ostensibly about Angela’s identity, is co-opted by the twists and turns of the third act, none of which is particularly enriching. It is a marker for conclusions to follow, a tack in the middle of the storyboard that undeniably serves an important purpose pulling everything together, but doesn’t necessarily find a natural way to fit itself into the overall narrative in a satisfying way.

Watchmen An Almost Religious Awe

Does this spell trouble for the final two episodes of the series? Though this episode is certainly the closest Watchmen‘s gotten to feeling like a late-era episode of LOST, rather than the unofficial fourth season of The Leftovers – it is Lindelof feeling the pressure to give some semblance of coherency, before taking big creative gambles in the impending climax. His self-inflicted atonement for the vitriol directed at the many, many, many LOST mysteries over the years is readily apparent in his work since that show, none more than in between the titles and closing credits of “An Almost Religious Awe.”

An episode like this was bound to happen at some point in Watchmen; it is part of the Lindelof experience to have at least one episode a season feel like an absolute cluster fuck, where the thematic and narrative pacing becomes noticeably dissonant. After all, “An Almost Religious Awe” is not a bad episode of television, not by a long stretch: it’s just unrefined, an expected byproduct of such an ambitious, wandering series built on such a limited structure.

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Watchmen Season 1 Episode Six Review: “This Extraordinary Being”

Watchmen’s jaw-dropping trip into Will Reeves past might be the most stunning hour of TV in 2019.

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Watchmen This Extraordinary Being

The genius of “This Extraordinary Being,” Watchmen‘s Nostalgia-fueled trip into America’s past, like any powerful idea, is poignant in its simplicity: what if America’s first superhero was black?There’s a scene in “This Extraordinary Being” where a young Will, adorned in police garb, notices a newsstand owner reading a copy of Action Comics #1 instead of the daily news. “It’s more hopeful,” he says to Will, as he quietly reads the quintessential hero origin story. From there, “This Extraordinary Being” posits another very simple question: why is Superman’s origin story so effortlessly hopeful?

Watchmen‘s alternate universe was already a potent minefield of philosophic and sociopolitical ideas; “This Extraordinary Being” absolutely shatters those previous expectations, reaching towards deeper truths about faith, identity, and legacy even the original series didn’t attempt to tackle.

Re-contextualizing Watchmen‘s first hero as a queer black man isn’t exactly a huge surprise (it was pretty obvious back in the second episode); what is a surprise is how it expands on Will’s childhood as a direct inverse of Clark Kent’s birth and rise to superhero-dom (also hinted at in the series premiere), and how that acts a potent metaphor for America’s racist history – and more importantly, how the illusion of progress has acted as a mask for the actual lack thereof.

Watchmen This Extraordinary Being

After all, the story of an alien assimilated, and openly welcomed, into a community proud of his abilities is easy to believe, if only in the whiteness of it all. It is documented throughout history how welcoming America’s been to its heroes of color through time: segregated in armies, systematically distanced from influence in the police force – or, lest we forget, enslaving and imprisoning multiple races at different points in history.

Needless to say, the man known as Will Reeves is not accepted in the world as a beloved hero of American values; should he live openly as a gay black man, Will Reeves most certainly wouldn’t have survived to the age of 105. He barely makes it out of the police force alive, victim to a brutal beating by the emboldened racists running the New York police department. He didn’t experience the privilege of being adopted into a great family, of the opportunities and acceptance Clark experiences throughout his trials and tribulations as a hero.

What would happen if the world found out the first masked hero was a black man? While the legend of Bass Reeves is true story, it’s an obvious exception to the rule – an idea that allows it to lean even harder on the ideas it explores about black identity and culture, and how it has been corrupted by various oppressive movements through the centuries. If America’s first hero was a black man in the 1920’s, it would’ve been outlawed a lot sooner than you might think; and the ripple effects of that throughout history offer a fascinating lens to explore our reality.

As “This Extraordinary Being” weaves its way through the formative years of Will’s adult life, Watchmen‘s exploration of America’s great lie takes a firm grasp of the season’s central narrative. From diminishing the legacies of black innovators, to racial stereotyping, “This Extraordinary Being” uses its stark, monochromatic visual language as a potent metaphor for the fundamental truths about our own world, often obfuscated by a culture too willing to take a lot of credit for a minuscule amount of progress.

Watchmen This Extraordinary Being

Strip away the artificial moral grays and distracting bright colors, and the visual truth of Watchmen‘s greatest episode becomes deafening in its profundity, building to the violent explosions of its powerful climax. A black man’s path to heroism in America is defined by tragedy and resilience, not hope and opportunity: it is much easier to be a happy, positive hero when every door of opportunity is opened to you, most of the time simply because of the color of your skin.

To become a hero in America’s narrative, any non-white person must suffer: and suffer does Hooded Justice, privy to the horrific discrimination firmly ingrained in America’s identity by the early 20th century. Paraded around to the public as an important part of the police force – and later, the Minuteman. Hooded Justice’s very identity becomes weaponized against him: Captain Metropolis uses him as a PR gesture, and he becomes isolated from the family of cops in his precinct, treating him as the “other” in the place he calls his home.

Watchmen This Extraordinary Being

In becoming the Hooded Justice, Will must sacrifice in ways Clark Kent would never have to: he loses his wife and child as he becomes more and more angered at the horrible daily attempts to dehumanize him. More importantly, he loses his trust in the law, his identity stolen and re-purposed by others to fit their needs. And the harder his soul becomes, the harder his skin becomes, until he explodes in a rage of violence, killing an anti-Semitic business owner and his Klan-adorned cohorts, before burning their warehouse down.

Will Reeves became a hero out of pain, hardened into a diamond by a fucked-up world seemingly designed for him to exist as an object for everyone else to fetish, and to die without meaning, without self-worth. Rather than being nurtured into the world, Will fought against its constant, unjust rejection of him: as a cop, as a gay man, as a superhero – and as a child, the traumatic moments when he lost his parents forever haunting him, even in his memories.

Watchmen This Extraordinary Being

The rich subtext of “This Extraordinary Being” offers a shocking amount of depth, reflecting on America’s supposed social progress over the 20th century, and how quickly that becomes reframed when you replace one iconic hero with another. Watchmen‘s alternate universe was already a potent minefield of philosophic and sociopolitical ideas; “This Extraordinary Being” absolutely shatters those previous expectations, reaching towards deeper truths about faith, identity, and legacy even the original series didn’t attempt to tackle.

(My particular favorite are the layers of masks Hooded Justice wears; one to shield his identity, the other to shield his race. It speaks to how many layers of identity Will forces himself to wear: straight man, upstanding police officer, happy person.)

One of those questions frames Will in a hauntingly complex way: what kind of person does someone have to become, to truly fight back against the oppression designed to break one’s very soul? How does someone take on the weight of hundreds of years of history, of inherited trauma, of constant conflict, and remain on the “good” side of morality? The breaking of chains is necessary; but like any revolution, the human cost is palpable, and often deeply personal (just look at how many murdered civil rights leaders America has, if you don’t believe me).

Watchmen This Extraordinary Being

In a year where so much television played it safe, “This Extraordinary Being” is a wonderfully experimental hour of ambitious screenwriting and meticulously crafted visual design. Oscillating beautifully from traditional and modern stylistic choices (the Snyder fan club gets some visual eye candy in this episode’s action sequences), “This Extraordinary Being” aspires to be a level of television so much of 2019’s offerings have failed to achieve.

This is truly No Fucks Given television, at its absolute finest: and while it will most certainly be divisive, it is thoroughly impressive, and exciting, to see Lindelof and co-writer Cord Jefferson embrace the audacious, curious beast lying within the heart of their series.

It remains whether it will be able to stick the landing, especially with only three episodes to go: but in isolation, the story of Will’s long, angry life is perhaps the single most affecting, thoughtful hour of television I’ve seen in 2019.

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Watchmen Season 1 Episode Five Review: “Little Fear of Lightning”

Watchmen delivers its finest hour yet, a focused character study that connects past and present in fascinating ways.

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Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

“Little Fear of Lightning,” the most masterfully crafted episode of Watchmen yet, is the most Lindelof-ass hour of the series, uniting itself around a single image – the fun house mirror – and projecting out the author’s many, many thoughts on identity, reason, morality… and specifically, justice. The gods are unkind in Lindelof’s work, and the cosmic injustice of Looking Glass’s life is laid bare in “Little Fear of Lightning,” an hour that beautifully walks the line between character piece and narrative fulcrum.

Watchmen is firmly back on track with “Little Fear of Lightning,” a thematically rich hour that firmly embeds itself in the history of its inspiration, and yet never feels handcuffed by it.

Opening on the fateful night of Eleven-Two (the day Veidt’s monstrous concoction was dropped on New York), “Little Fear of Lightning” is an origin story of Matt Jamison-esque proportions. Like Matt on The Leftovers, Wade is a man of faith, to an overwhelming degree: he believes the government’s story of Eleven-Two being an alien attack so much, he lives in paranoid fear of it happening again. He has a special (albeit buggy) security system, attends a support group for other survivors, and even bases his masked identity around the moment where his religion changed from fearing an ethereal white dude, to a big ass motherfuckin’ squid.

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

From the episode’s opening scene, “Little Fear of Lightning” drenches itself in Watchmen‘s history; from the Knot Top-ish girl who steals all Wade’s clothes (and promptly dies a gruesome death), to references to Veidt’s old perfume company, the fifth hour of Watchmen lives in reverence to its source material. In a way, it turns Wade – a dude whose obsession and fear ruined his marriage, and left him a paranoid life of bad luck and solititude – into the series’ own Rorschach for a moment, as the man with the uncanny ability to spot a liar suddenly realizes he’s the one whose been played for the past three-plus decades.

Though ostensibly a gentler, slightly more gathered individual, the similarities between Watchmen‘s original protagonist and Wade as “Little Fear of Lightning” continues are potent, and help further the aura of reflection and redefinition (… like a Rorschach test would) that is the episode’s backbone. The first two acts spend the episode neatly arranging the pieces of his strange, quiet life – and the third act brings them all crashing to the ground, forcing Wade to cling to the very few fundamental beliefs he has: mistrust and fear, the very same tools the Seventh Kavalry’s inspiration derived his sense of purpose from.

(I mean, he even eats a can of beans this episode… how obvious could the parallels get?)

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

His final question – the one he proposes to Night just before letting her into Laurie’s trap – is “Is anything true?” It’s a question I imagine most Americans post Eleven-Two (or in our world, 9/11) have had to ask themselves over the years. Steel beams in our universe, sentient tentacles in Watchmen‘s; the point is, whatever the actual facts of either event are, there are always questions bad people are willing to provide answers to.

In this case, it is Ozymandias and Senator Joe Keene that provide Wade with the answers he never knew he wanted; and it is the second time everything in his world is utterly and absolutely shattered. After learning Judd and Joe Keene worked together to form the “peace” in Tulsa – and that the Kavalry is experimenting with an outlawed teleporter, for an “original idea” they have – Wade watches the infamous Ozymandias video, where he details his plans to save the world to future-President Redford.

This all comes after he watches his ex-wife incinerate a puppy in front of him (it was just a little bit too small, after all), and the first girl he’s kissed in ages reveals herself to be part of the white nationalist group he’s been at war with. In a series fascinated with the power of perspective, “Little Fear of Lightning” spends its entire time treating Looking Glass like a Rubik’s Cube, the patterns of his life rearranging over and over until they’re a complete mess of half-truths, disappointments, and traumatic memories, all vying for absolute control of Wade’s sanity.

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

There isn’t enough Reflecteen in the world to protect Wade’s mind from the truth, the single most weaponized element of Watchmen‘s 2019 America. From the moment Veidt completed his creature and killed his entire creative team, the truth of what really happened in 1985 has rested with a handful of individuals; one a god, another an imprisoned genius, and a third one of the most pragmatic federal officers in the country. They’ve successfully protected the lie in the name of world peace; but as that dam prepares to break, the Seventh Kavalry is poised to deliver a historical moment of such devastating, unfixable damage, it would be a massacre on a level no physical, traditional weapon could ever replicate, even nuclear (which makes me think about the scientific theories around nuclear winter could mitigating the effects of climate change).

In Watchmen‘s 2019, the government (we can assume) is continuing to drop squid fall on the nation, a little reminder of the thunder brought down in the episode’s opening moments; and as that realization crosses Wade’s fact, it provides deep, necessary context to how the world of Watchmen operates on a fundamental level. The ever-present threat of another disaster serves two purposes; it reminds humans to be obedient and fearful… and it also ensures said population is cognizant of their own mortality, which helps give context to some of the general disregard for the sanctity of life we’ve seen throughout the series.

Watchmen Little Fear of Lightning

“Little Fear of Lightning” is able to do all this, and still leave plenty of room for Tim Blake Nelson to chew up the scenery, as Wade’s world is broken into jagged pieces around him once again, which is just an absolute pleasure to watch. His even-mannered temper, even when everthing is blowing fucking mind, subtly gives room for the thematic material room to shine: his performance is careful and deliberate, but measured in a way to carefully build out the traumatic ironies of his character (and unfortunately, what appears to be a potentially terrible fate).

After a couple weeks of thumb twiddling, Watchmen is firmly back on track with “Little Fear of Lightning,” a thematically rich hour that firmly embeds itself in the history of its inspiration, and yet never feels handcuffed by it. It is a creative tightrope to walk that is downright mesmerizing when pulled off as it is here, a re-purposing of the novel’s ideals and ruminations in ways that feel prescient and fresh, rather than stale and imitative.

Not only is “Little Fear of Lightning” a great hour, but is an absolutely essential one, the moment where Lindelof and company finally spread their wings, briding the gap between past and present, setting themselves free in the process (as the preview for next week’s episode proves; this show is about to get fucking nuts, and quickly). Most importantly, it reminds us the absolute power of truth, perspective, and just how fucked up things can get when “both sides” end up being members of the same team. As normal as it looks on the surface, Watchmen‘s world is a fun house mirror of distorted truths and elaborate, false representations of self: I think Wade might agree the only time anyone is being completely honest with themselves and the world around them, is when we’re completely naked and alone, and there’s truly nowhere to hide.

Other thoughts/observations:

Laurie: “I’m the FBI. We bug shit.”

Deadwood‘s Paula Malcomson plays the woman who seduces (and manipulates) Wade into his meeting with Joe Keene. She is one of my favorite actors, and if you haven’t seen her in the Deadwood movie, you really should.

Ozymandias’ prediction was for Redford to become president in exactly 7 years, which he did. 7 years imprisoned, 7 years until president, all signs pointing to episode 7 as the one Where The Big Thing Happens… Lindelof sure loves patterns and numbers, and this is one of the more fun ones he’s done in awhile.

It appears Ozymandias is jailed on a moon of Jupiter… which isn’t Dr. Manhattan’s favorite planet, which may be a hint towards who imprisoned him. Then again, the Warden mentions a “him” when he talks about the god who abandoned him and the clones.

boy, if this episode had aired six months from now, “squid pro quo” would feel way too on-the-nose.

In this week’s American Hero Story: two heroes have gay sex. Weakest scene of the episode by a long shot, though Wade’s nacsent curiosity gives it a strange hint of subtext.

Keene, grinning: “I’m not a murderer… I’m a politician.”

Ozymandias, in the present, takes a trip to one of Jupiter’s moons, and makes an SOS sign out of his servant’s bodies that a Trieu satellite captures. (It reads “SAVE ME D”… could he be asking Dr. Manhattan for help?)

Angela is certainly in for a fun time, after downing a bunch of pills consisting of her grandfather’s memories while getting arrested. See you on the other side, Sister Night!

Are they going to do anything with Red Scare and Panda? I’m starting to wonder if these two side characters will end up the weakest elements of the series.

In this world, Steven Spielberg directed Pale Horse instead of Schindler’s List – the visual motifs remained the same, only the topic matter of a more recent act of mass murder.

Though the references to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea are more obvious (Friends of Nemo, the episode title, etc.), there are hints of Through the Looking-Glass in it, as well, as Wade goes through the literal rabbit hole of America’s hidden truth.

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