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Watchmen Season One Episode 6 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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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.

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 One Episode 8 Review: “A God Walks into Abar”

Dr. Manhattan steps into frame in a breathtaking episode.

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Watchmen A God Walks Into Abar

The elevator pitch for Watchmen‘s eighth episode is relatively simple: what if Dr. Manhattan is to Watchmen, what Desmond was to LOST? A person unstuck in time, whose ability to move back and forth across the key moments of their lives, opening their minds to a wealth of experiences, perspectives – and of course, deep regrets for the moments and things that cannot be changed. LOST‘s 77th episode, “The Constant,” uses time as a thematic anchor for a love story, the absolute apex of science-fiction romance – a man who is only able to hold onto his identity by remembering the woman he loves.

“A God Walks into Abar,” and the love story that plays out within it, is among the most heartfelt entries of Lindelof’s career, able to carefully turn a seemingly indecipherable character, into something beautifully textured, human, and meaningful.

“A God Walks into Abar,” co-written by Damon Lindelof (who wrote “The Constant” with Carlton Cuse) and Jeff Jansen (a writer who once wrote LOST recaps for Entertainment Weekly), is pretty much a direct successor to “The Constant”; but though it is explicitly familiar in its structure, characters, and thematic explorations, is still a wildly successful, abundantly rewarding entry all to itself. Where “The Constant” served as an important fulcrum for the emotional journey of a mysterious character, “A God Walks into Abar” uses Dr. Manhattan’s gravity to pull in every loose thread of the series, while also telling a touching, tragic love story: it is a rather impressive feat, firmly establishing Watchmen‘s first (and only?) season in the pantheon of modern adaptations (and a gentle reminder of why Watchmen is so much fucking better than The Boys, I might add).

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

Perhaps the most impressive thing “A God Walks into Abar” accomplishes is understanding Dr. Manhattan as a character, and how to effectively convey the paradox of his continued existence, in ways even the comic struggled to contend with. He is a man constantly living and reliving his past, present, and future, all at the same time, consistently able to needle the thread of his existence, in a way that allowed it to make sense. Or so he thought: the comic ends with him agreeing to the greatest conspiracy in human history, disconnecting from humanity and looking to the stars to satisfy the existential bounds of his mind (the meme of his disinterest in humanity is now iconic, after all).

Watchmen re-frames that idea ever so slightly, in a fascinating way: Dr. Manhattan did forget about his humanity… that is, until he fell in love with Angela, moments before he was sucked into a Kavalry-manned teleporter, which occurs exactly 10 years after he meets her. ” A God Walks Into Abar” opens with Dr. Manhattan putting on a mask (during the holiday celebrating his rampage to end the Vietnam War) and meeting Angela at a bar (Angela Abar… A-bar… Lindelof strikes again). It then proceeds to bounce around time, to capture life as Dr. Manhattan experiences it; an ever-evolving set of vignettes, an expanding world of knowledge, one he is not able to create and shape himself.

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

The moment ” A God Walks into Abar” builds to is referenced in the first few minutes; after his strange introduction piques Angela’s curiosity, Dr. Manhattan notes that he is in love with her. We see that moment occur 50+ minutes later, as Angela turns into a one-woman assault squad, hell-bent on taking out every last Kavalry member outside their home. Infuriating as it may be to understand, he can see the beginning and the end of their short, beautiful life together at the same time, because he’s living it all at the same: Watchmen captures that idea poignantly in its unorthodox approach, smartly tethering each strange sequence together with a singular image, or color, to bring us from one moment to the next.

As we move through time, “A God Walks into Abar” casually begins to fill in the big holes of narrative created in last week’s slightly frustrating entry; we finally learn how Ozymandias ended up on Europa, and the history of the people and places we’ve seen on that world for eight episodes. We also learn how Will became involved in the process, which is, ironically, the moment it all falls apart for them: the moment Angela asks Dr. Manhattan to inquire about Judd’s identity (while Dr. Manhattan talks to him in 2009), she inevitably kicks the first domino down the path of Judd’s death, and the Kavalry’s impending attempt to turn themselves into racist deities.

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

How “A God Walks into Abar” frames this is its true genius: Dr. Manhattan’s existence is the conundrum of the chicken and the egg. There was a moment in time where Jon existed, and Dr. Manhattan didn’t; but there also isn’t, since Dr. Manhattan’s creation allowed him to experience all of time in a cumulative fashion, rather than linear. Finally, the many, many images of eggs and yolks finally come together: as nature’s great paradox, a man literally capable of creating entire worlds and paths of evolution, finding his way back to the only immeasurable quantity in the universe, love.

“A God Walks into Abar” makes an important distinction between love and worship: love is able to be critical, to understand and accept flaws, to show empathy. Worship, or what Dr. Manhattan experiences when creating his own world (and people) on Europa, is disillusioning: there’s no older religious trope than the unsatisfied god who turned to humanity to find purpose, and that’s “A God Walks into Abar” to an absolute T. And it works: the love story that plays out is among the most heartfelt entries of Lindelof’s career, able to carefully turn a seemingly indecipherable character, into something beautifully textured, human, and meaningful.

Watchmen A God Walks Into A Bar

If there’s any noticeable flaw to “A God Walks into Abar,” it is strangely the episode’s construction as a romantic entry; it kind of sidesteps integrating Dr. Manhattan’s chosen identity to live as a black man in modern America. There are hints of it at various parts – the scenes of his childhood, in particular – but “A God Walks into Abar” strangely doesn’t contend, at least in this episode, with Angela’s decision to show Dr. Manhattan the original Cal’s body. Why did she just show him three white bodies first? What drew Dr. Manhattan to OG Cal’s appearance? For a series so deftly integrating explorations of race and identity into the Watchmen mythos, the lack of reflection in this episode feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

But that is a small complaint in what will be remembered as a signature episode of the series; and for good reason, because it is a phenomenal, breathtaking hour of television. “A God Walks into Abar” is also another bold reinterpretation of Watchmen itself, replacing the cold sensibilities of the comic’s anarchistic roots with a warm beating heart; as cheesy as that sounds, it is everything to making the high wire act of Watchmen the series work on a fundamental level. After all, love is the one universal element ensuring humanity’s continued existence; as Dr. Manhattan finally understands, even if the pursuit is an impossible one for us as a species, it at least makes the inevitable collapse of our world something worth fighting against.

Other thoughts/observations:

“By definition, doesn’t every relationship end in tragedy?” Fuck. Me. Up. Watchmen.

The Philips/Crookshanks origin story ends up being a rather touching detail: they are modeled after two lovers young Jon saw during his brief stay in England (the mansion the event happened in ends up being Ozymandias’ home).

Very interesting note that Ozymandias’ Plan A to defeat Dr. Manhattan was not to kill him, but to condemn him to being a mortal with amnesia.

Dr. Manhattan mentions his theory for being able to transfer his powers; would not be surprised to see that come up in next week’s episode.

Related to the previous note: Dr. Manhattan tells Angela he wanted her to see him outside by the pool. Does that mean we’ll see Will walk on water next week?

Lots of props given to Regina King throughout the series for her stunning performance – if Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is not nominated for a shitload of awards for his work in this episode, however, we riot.

A post-credits sequence finally reveals the use of Phillip’s infamous horseshoe – though it remains to be seen where this story is all heading, as Europa’s small world of clones desperately tries to keep another god from leaving them.

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‘Bojack Horseman’s Xmas Special Is the Height of Schmaltzy Satire

If you were lucky enough to grow up watching bad sitcoms with awful specials, then Bojack Horseman’s Christmas special is just for you.

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Bojack Horseman

Join us as we spend the next 25 days writing about some of our favourite Holiday TV specials! Today we look back at Bojack Horseman‘s “Sabrina’s Christmas Wish”.


When it comes to sitcoms, the grand tradition of the holiday special is a long time staple of the genre. The schmaltzy corniness of the 80s and 90s made these specials all the more egregious, and it is this tradition that Bojack Horseman echoes back to with its brilliant Christmas special.

Ostensibly just a full episode of Horsin’ Around (the show that made Bojack famous), Bojack Horseman‘s Christmas special only uses the present day as a framing device before diving into the stupid fun of a very special episode of Horsin’ Around.

The central plot of the episode focuses on Bojack’s youngest adopted child, Sabrina, wishing for her parents to come back to life after Bojack assures her that Santa can give her anything she wants for Christmas. Of course, in typical sitcom fashion, rather than simply explaining to Sabrina that Santa can’t bring people back from the dead, Bojack instead opts to try and trick her into being naughty so Santa will have an excuse not to grant her wish.

Bojack Horseman

The absolute apex of this silliness comes when Bojack tries to get Sabrina to give in and eat some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. “I’ve heard of lookie-lookie don’t eat the cookie but this is ridiculous!” The use of lines like these in sitcoms is a classic cut to simpler and stupider times, where shows could really get away with lines as ham-fistedly ridiculous as these and actually call them jokes.

Ultimately this is the greatest strength of the Bojack Horseman Christmas special: calling back to the tropes of 80s and 90s sitcoms before satirizing and roasting them into oblivion.

All of the classics are here. From the annoying neighbor character, who is legitimately named Goober, to the absurd onslaught of character catchphrases that permeate the episode. The best of the latter comes from Ethan, the nerdy middle child, who espouses the line “Yowza-yowza-bo-bowsa!” to a few sparse claps and a cough from the unamused studio audience. That every character needed a catchphrase in these types of sitcoms is a given but to have one so bad that even the studio audience can’t be bothered to care is a beautiful bit of satire.

Bojack Horseman

Speaking of the studio audience, Bojack Horseman doesn’t stop using them for fodder there. Thanks to one very stupid audience member, some of the best moments of the episode come from reactions to classic sitcom tropes. For instance, when Bojack flirts with his secretary, while most of the audience opts for the classic whoops and cheers of yore, the idiot just yells “Kiss her!”. He also points out catchphrases (“She said the line!”) and lets out a confused “What!?!?” at the message of the episode.

If you were lucky (or unlucky) enough to grow up watching bad sitcoms with even worse Christmas specials every single year, then Bojack Horseman‘s Christmas special is just for you. Hearkening back to the nostalgia of the time before ripping it to shreds with endless glee, Bojack Horseman’s Christmas special isn’t just one of the funniest episodes of the show, it’s also one of its best.

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A Doctor Who Christmas: Revisiting “Voyage of the Damned”

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Join us as we spend the next 25 days writing about some of our favourite Holiday TV specials! Today, we look back at the Doctor Who Christmas special, “Voyage of the Damned”.

What’s it About?

First broadcast in December 2007, “Voyage Of The Damned” runs 72 minutes long and is the third Christmas special since the show’s revival in 2005. The Doctor finds his TARDIS colliding with a luxury space cruiser (based on the RMS Titanic) during a Christmas party. The ship’s captain, Hardaker (Geoffrey Palmer), sabotages the cruise liner by purposely lowering the ship’s shield, resulting in severe damage after colliding with several asteroids. It’s up to the Doctor (David Tennant), with the help of a waitress named Astrid Peth (Kylie Minogue), to fight off robot-like creatures in the form of golden angels and save the day.

voyage-of-the-damned-17

Review

A festival of ideas, bursting with wild imagination, ambitious set pieces, strange characters, curious visual effects, and one charming Doctor who had this critic glued to the screen midway through, when he turned around to deliver this rousing monologue:

I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?

This time around, the mammoth cruise ship struck fire (not, ice) and the passengers are a sordid bunch including robotic golden angels armed with killer boomerang-like-halos, and a dwarf named Bannakaffalatta – a cyborg Zocci who strangely resembles Darth Maul. We learn that due to an accident, Bannakaffalatta had undergone conversion into a cyborg, for which he felt shame because apparently where he comes from, cyborgs are discriminated against. “Voyage of the Damned” features a batch of religious imagery (including a messianic portrayal of the Doctor himself being carried away into space by two of the angels), and the blank and trite performance by the beautiful pop sensation Kylie Minogue, (whose role was specifically written for her).

Voyage of the Damned

For a Christmas special, we get a number of casualties along the way, including Bannakaffalatta’s self-sacrifice and Astrid’s fall into the fires of hell. One could accurately describe this episode as The Poseidon Adventure in space, a nightmarish schematic rhapsody of virtuous discomfort. “Voyage” doesn’t end on a happy note. Sabotage and corporate greed destroy our ragtag bunch of passengers, and those who are lucky enough to survive do come out with lasting scars. Not much Christmas cheer here, but the script is sprinkled with clever comedic moments from time to time, including a surprising gag involving the royal family.

Astrid’s final appearance comes in the form of “an echo with the ghost of consciousness”; her stardust-hologram-like image fades after a final kiss. Perhaps a tad bit corny, but the sequence is enough to bring a tear to the eyes of die-hard Whovians. “Voyage” is ridiculous, but also oddly fun in the sheer overkill of pulp and fantasy imagery. Technically it impresses, loaded with eye-catching-hi-tech chase scenes and more importantly, characters and a plot (even if incoherent) to support them.

doctorwhovoyageofthedammbed

Is this thrilling no holds barred sci-fi/disaster mash-up brilliant or idiotic? Perhaps a bit of both, but “Voyage of the Damned” satisfies because of its strong emotional core and unnerving dark themes couched in stunning visuals. This visually arresting, occasionally funny ride is neatly wrapped in a comfortable Yuletide package.

– Ricky D

How Christmassy is it?

Despite the high death toll and the titanic setting, “Voyage” strangely delivers a Christmas vibe, if in scenes few and far between. I would say 50/50.

You May Like It If…

Obviously, if you like Doctor Who, disaster films, and science fiction.

Voyage of the Damned
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