The episode begins with a soldier coming into a room of stenographers in search of Fräulein Müller. When Fräulein Müller, played by Annika Pampel, speaks up, the commandant wants her to come with him, as he wants her to transcribe a message for him- she speaks fluent English. He wants to know why the Black Americans are fighting the Germans, given what America has said about fighting the war for democracy.
After all, what is democracy? Do the Blacks earn the same equal rights as Whites in America? Black soldiers receive leaflets that are dropped from planes overhead. Clearly the Blacks should drop their guns and join the German soldiers.
In present day, Will Reeves reads this same note when a car pulls up. He shines his light at the approaching vehicle when Angela Abar exits. Reeves raises his hands while Angela is stunned to see Judd’s lynched body. She goes over and wheels Will away.
Angela brings Will to her home and promptly handcuffs him. When searching his person, she finds a bottle of pills and a note. When Angela is alone, she vents her frustration at the loss of Judd.
After composing herself, she suits up and heads back to the room where Will is being held. She offers him some coffee, which he gladly accepts, and asks who he is. She doesn’t believe he’d be the one to hang him- not a 105-year-old man.
He claims to have done it all by himself with his psychic powers, saying he can manipulate materials with his mind. Perhaps he’s Dr. Manhattan, even though Manhattan’s on Mars and can’t look like normal people. As far as we know. But hey, Manhattan can make copies of himself, so why can’t he be like humans? Will wants his pills, so Angela suggests that he use his powers to bring them over. Ha!
As for the pills, they help him get his memory back. He explains that there are vast conspiracies at play in Tulsa, so he has to give them to Angela in pieces. Apparently Angela hasn’t been listening to Will’s clues. Still, he does finally introduce himself as “Will” when Angela gets a phone call. After hearing the surprising news, Sister Night takes the coffee cup as evidence and leaves.
A newspaper stand owner opens up for the day when a young woman approaches for her papers. He wants to know if the person who gets the papers really reads all of them- and this person does- as does the owner, but he just doesn’t believe it.
Angela heads to the crime scenes where other officers have roped off the tree where Judd is still hanging. Before she can exit, Looking Glass enters and asks if Angela has anything to eat. Luckily, there are nuts in the glove compartment. They speculate that this could be Kavalry, and Wade explains how Judd suffered before his death- yet he was alive the entire time. Until he wasn’t.
Wade brings up how Judd was at Angela’s home for supper last night and asks if Judd was acting strange or high. He might’ve done some blow at least. Angela isn’t a fan of this interrogation, but this is far from that.
Then paparazzi fall from the sky. Red Scare holds one down to the ground until Wade tells him to back off, which begs the question of who is calling the shots in light of Judd’s death. The three then get to work taking down Judd’s body.
Then we flash back to a simpler time as Angela and Cal dance as the clock approaches midnight- just two minutes to go until Christmas. When it’s midnight, Cal can open the present he’s been wanting to open, but apparently he’ll have to wait until Christmas morning. Cal promises to open that present and there’s nothing Angela can do to stop him, but that won’t happen.
But then the festivities come to a halt when a Kavalry member bursts in and opens fire. He stalks the kitchen in search of Angela. She manages to put him down, but she in turn is shot by another Kavalry member. He sticks the gun to her temple, but before we can find out what happens, we leave this scene.
Angela then awakens with Judd at her side. He informs her that Cal is fine and he’s been sitting at Angela’s bedside for the past three days until Judd told him to go home. Noticing Judd’s injuries, Angela realizes that the Kavalry came for him as well. It was all a planned, coordinated attack. On Christmas Eve of all times. The news is calling it the White Night. Angela’s partner and wife, though, weren’t so lucky, as they were killed.
There’s no one left to round up, though. The force is aware that the Kavalry knows their names and addresses, but Angela won’t quit. Neither will Judd. Noticing that Angela hasn’t reacted to the news that her partner was killed, Judd tells her that it’s fine to cry, but she’ll save for that for later. Judd apologizes for letting Angela down.
In present day, Night, Scare, and Glass watch as Judd’s body is taken away. Scare wants to head into Nixonville and crack some Kavalry skulls to get people to talk, but Night suggests that they stop and take a breath first. Angela isn’t immediately on board, which is strange given how much she likes kicking ass.
So the force heads to Nixonville anyway and is prepared to kick some serious ass. If someone doesn’t accept the invitation of cooperating, the Nixon statue will be torn down. When one resident tosses a glass bottle near Red Scare’s foot, he orders the officers to begin rounding up the Nixonville residents. They do so, but Angela tells Glass that this is unnecessary.
Then Angela does go on the attack when one resident takes a swing at her and Glass. She beats the man’s face over and over again. However, her attention is drawn back to the coffee cup.
Back in her civilian clothes, Angela heads to the Greenwood Center for Cultural Heritage- passing some Refordations protesters on the way- with the evidence en tow. She goes to a machine and brings up U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Louis Gates Jr., who also goes by Skip. She refers to herself as “Will” and is given a history lesson on the prosperous Black Wall Street.
Then it was all gone with the Tulsa massacre. President Redford offers condolences to anyone affected. Angela then gives her consent to have DNA taken, and this is when she uses the swab to rub inside of the coffee cup and submit the sample for testing. Only survivors of the massacre and direct descendants are able to apply at the facility, though. Angela then offers a number where she can be contacted.
Angela heads home and finds a man sitting on her porch, as it’s apparently his day to see the kids. He won’t take a rain check, but he’ll take a real check instead. Ha!
She then goes inside and finds Cal playing with the girls. She lets him know that she got rid of the man. As for the old man, Will is still at the bakery. She’s confident that the old man didn’t kill Judd, despite saying that he did. Cal asks Angela if they’re safe, and she would tell him if they weren’t. Also, turns out that Jane will be having a get-together tonight and Cal thinks that Angela should go.
Apparently she sounds just fine, despite what happened, but Cal knows better than that.
So Angela pops by Topher’s room, where he’s in the middle of building a castle. She tells him that there are people who believe the world is fair and good. She remembers what happened to her parents, as does Topher with his. They don’t do lollipops and rainbows, as they hide what the world really is- black and white. She finally tells him that someone hanged Uncle Judd from a tree. Topher is unbothered by this.
After all, policeman die. But Topher will tell Rosie and Emma himself. He then asks if he can watch TV. It helps that his castle is now ruined.
As Angela prepares to head out, everyone is watching or listening to the same episode of American Hero Story. Tonight’s tale is about Rolf Muller, circus strongman, has washed up in the Boston sea. However, as police retrieve the body, it turns out that this isn’t really him. If he said how he really was, though, we wouldn’t watch until the end.
So let’s jump to some perps holding a stickup in a grocery store as they demand the valuables from the customers.
But then a hooded vigilante crashes into the store and begins laying waste to the robbers. He explains that when he looked in the mirror, he saw a stranger looking back at him. What could he do with this hot, vibrating anger? If he couldn’t release his rage, maybe he could hide it. The man never felt comfortable in his skin, so he got a new one. The reflection’s anger became his, as did his thirst for justice. So who is he?
If he knew the answer to that, he wouldn’t be wearing a fucking mask, now would he? Now, you and I may know who this masked hero is, but we’ll get to that later.
Anyway, Angela arrives at Jane’s home, which is packed with other visitors. Then Senator Joe Keene, played by James Wolk, introduces himself and offers any assistance to the police. However, Angela says that she’s not an officer of the law anymore.
But then Angela passes out. Jane takes care of her, even though Angela tells her to get back to the party. She tells Angela about how much Judd loved her, and she wants Angela to get the fuckers who did this to Judd.
When Jane leaves, Angela puts on some fancy night vision goggles and searches the premises.
She opens a closet and is surprised to find, of all things, a Klansmen’s uniform with a badge on the cloak.
But enough about that. Let’s check in on Veidt. He goes for another ride on his horse and tastes a tomato before it’s yet again another day worth celebrating. He asks his servants when a lie isn’t a lie, and it’s when there’s no acting. So there will be real tears tonight. However, Mr. Phillips needs Veidt’s watch as a prop, but it turns out that he himself is the prop.
So the two servants carry out the performance of The Watchmaker’s Son to their audience of one. As Phillis gets the watch, he is locked into his chamber. Janey-oh, so that’s her name- tries to open the door, but the lock is impenetrable. As Phillips is burned to a crisp, Janey brings on the waterworks.
However, then ‘John’ descends- reborn as Dr. Manhattan himself- blue penis and all. Veidt is elated, congratulating everyone on a job well done. Now if Mr. Phillips’ corpse could be removed, that would be great. Montreau asks about putting the body with the others, but instead, Veidt makes him the new Mr. Phillips. Before the body is removed, however, Veidt retrieves the pocket-watch. Janey asks if it’s stopped, but no.
It’s only just begun. After a quick tap, the watch is working again.
Angela returns to the bakery and finds Will has not only escaped the his handcuffs, but also managed to get some eggs. Angela is surprised that he escaped, but Will isn’t done talking to her. She brings up the skeletons that he apparently meant in Judd’s closet and she presents the Klansmen’s robe, asking if Will put it there to set Judd up. If so, the robe was pretty easy to find.
But of course, Will can’t go up stairs, but he can apparently hang a man from a tree. However, Will can’t explain why Judd would have a robe in his closet. He’s not worried since Angela would’ve taken him in by now if she wanted to, plus he has friends in high places. Then, the phone rings.
It’s the center with the results of the DNA sample- the provider is liable to receive compensation and two direct ancestors and descendants have been found. When Angela provides her name to confirm the relationship, she’s surprised to learn that she is Will’s granddaughter. Angela wants to know why Will is here. His answer? He wanted to meet her and explain where she came from.
But instead, Angela declares will under arrest. As she does, though, a space ship from above drops a magnet by rope and pulls her car and Will away. Left for her is the flier that Will had been holding.
Try explaining that to your coworkers!
Episode two of Watchmen gives more questions than answers in light of the revelations discovered this week. I like this slow burning approach because there’s more intrigue brought about and will leave me wanting for more as we go through each episode. There’s building escalation with the police’s war on the Kavalry, but that’s in the background compared to the focus on Angela’s investigation.
Like the pilot, the episode kicks off within the framing of a specific moment in American history for Blacks. In this case, it’s Germans during the war asking Blacks the question of why they fight for a country that hates and despises them. Why fight when you will return fighting? There’s a specific historic pull here.
The fliers used are reminiscent of “And you are lynching Negroes” propaganda carried out during Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union. It’s not an unfair question to propose: what sense does it make for a Black soldier to lay down his life for a nation that, upon his return, would send him back to his position as a second-class citizen always marked with a sentence of death?
This is another instance of the series showing us the world that Will grew up in, but how it ties into present-day affairs with the police, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Talking about the racial angle, it’s been fascinating to observe people here and there who are learning about the Tulsa massacre for the first time. Me? I’m a sucker for learning about the uglier sides of the Civil Rights struggle, so Tulsa wasn’t a surprise to me.
But I imagine that’s the opposite for many. It makes me wonder what sort of conversations could be had for other less-discussed racial incidents in American history, like what happened in Rosewood, for example. Then again, that’s me putting unrealistic expectations on the series. I’m not expecting Watchmen to uncover a new racial incident every week.
At the same time, Tulsa was tied into the plot well, so nothing is impossible, I suppose.
Talking about the officers, though, they put their lives on the line for a society that, let’s be honest, doesn’t respect them. In our world, especially now, there’s a lot of distrust for officers whom, we feel, abuse their authority. Police brutality was touched upon in the pilot and we get it in full force here when Red Scare leads the officers to Nixonville.
Here, though, the rage is justifiable from the perspective of the cops. They’ve just lost their captain right on the heels of learning that the Kavalry has resurfaced. Without a calm leader to guide them, the officers opt to take matters into their own hands. To their credit, no one dies when the officers attack the Nixonville residents, but their tactics are still extreme, even for Sister Night.
Lindelof and Kassell- back in the director’s chair for this episode- give us enough moments with the officers we know to understand their grief, but also show that their actions are not 100 percent noble. They aren’t attacking out of obligation or to solve a case- it’s revenge on people who are just suspected to be Kavalry members.
Sister Night looks to be the one officer trying to keep the peace, but even her calm can only be taken so far when one Kavalry takes a swing at her and Looking Glass. That she beat the resident so brutally showed that even she’s heated over the loss of Judd.
How could she not be, given what we learn about their relationship? The ‘White Night’ incident was just a random, throwaway line in the pilot, but given how it was part of Angela’s history, we were going to learn about it. I just didn’t expect it in the second episode, but hey, with Lindelof, I should know by now to expect the unexpected.
This coordinated attack on all police officers on Christmas Eve was quite chilling to see, even though we only saw it happen at Angela’s home. For one, come on, Kavalry? Christmas Eve? That’s just a dick move. Second, this attack on all officers revealed that Angela had a partner. I don’t recall off the top of my head if she mentioned them in the pilot, so in the grand scheme of things, perhaps they weren’t that important to her.
After all, Judd notes Angela’s lack of a response when he mentions that her partner died. If anything, the loss of her partner and the attack itself served to solidify the bond she had with Judd. They were both officers of the law attacked simply for being police officers, and some paid the price with their lives. This goes to explain why the police wear masks to protect their identities and, by extension, their families.
We’ve seen this often in comic book properties. The best example that immediately comes to mind is from The Dark Knight Rises, where Batman tells Blake that the mask isn’t to protect him, but the people he cares about. If someone were to find out that Angela was an officer, for example, her family would be in danger. Well, again.
Going back to the Klan for a moment, as far back as Reconstruction, they were masks not to protect their families- what Black would dare rise against them?- but just to conceal their identities. Fast forward to their first rebirth after the release of The Birth of a Nation and onward and you’ve got Klansmen who are more willing to reveal their faces.
Of course, back then, there’s no Twitter so random people can’t put Klansmen on blast to try and ‘expose’ them. Today, though, you have people online taking matters into their own hands and shining a light on Klansmen or similar types in an attempt to ruin their lives. Make of that what you will.
I say this all to say that, if given the opportunity, both the police and Kavalry would do the same thing to each side and try to expose one another if their identities were revealed. It’s why both sides wear masks. You may ask ‘Why would someone like a police officer even need to wear a mask?’ Well, the White Night shows that they don’t want their lives or their families put in that kind of peril again.
In the same way that the Klan attacked Blacks for simply being Black, the Kavalry attacks the officers simply for being officers. That Angela specifically is Black and a police officer is merely incidental, as the Kavalry doesn’t see her race as the priority for attacking her. But this tragedy helps her grow close to Judd.
So the discovery of the Klansmen uniform in Judd’s closet is a giant smack in the face and gut punch for her. Kassell takes her time with the slow build as Angela searches the Crawford home with those spiffy X-ray vision goggles. This reveal could have been anything, but a Klansmen’s robe in particular is a massive revelation for her and us as well.
Angela did say she had a nose for white supremacy, but somehow this slipped past her radar.
Anyway, in general, a police officer being a Klansmen, especially decades ago, isn’t that much of a surprise. Hell, it might even be expected. I think of the line from the Malcolm X film, where during a speech, Malcolm points out that Whites traded in the sheets- some of them, anyway- for police uniforms. As for Judd, we only spent one episode with him in present-day, but given his bond with Angela, I never got any Klansmen vibes.
Doesn’t mean he could just be keeping his Klan side a secret. Judd is an officer. Is it possible that he’d become an officer to go to war with the Kavalry? The hatred towards the police would, in turn, make people sympathetic to the Kavalry’s mission. Then again, this is me going too far down the rabbit hole. The Klan robe could be a relic of a relative, but then why the police badge where the Blood Drop Cross symbol should be?
Or maybe I’m going to deep into this and the Klansmen’s robe was planted there. Will did say that he has friends, so perhaps one of them planted it? Also, if Judd was a Klansmen, I assume that Jane knew. So if that’s the case, I would think she’d hide it. But that’s the thing about Watchmen, as well as a series under Damon Lindelof: it’s not spelled out and by episode’s end, we don’t have a clear answer.
Whether planted or actually belonging to Judd, it’s enough to fuck with Angela, and Regina King is great in showing Angela’s distress when she finds the robe. I’ve heard a few times that Kassell uses a split diopeter when focusing on Angela during the scenes. I’ll admit, I’d never heard of this diopeter prior to this episode, but upon reading about how it focuses on both the background and foreground, I love it.
The way that certain shots are framed using this illustrates what’s going on in Angela’s head as she processes what’s before her, all done without cutting or employing an over-the-shoulder shot. It’s brilliant filmmaking, not just for a comic book series or television series, but in general.
Back to the series, though, Angela’s got more history rooted in Tulsa than she realized with the discovery that she is Will’s granddaughter. So not only is she a direct descendant of someone whose life was affected by the Tulsa massacre, but now she’s tied into this mysterious man who, as he claims, was able to hang Judd Campbell.
As for Will’s friends in high places, who knows? That he escaped his handcuffs no problem and had time to make eggs shows that this man is more than Angela could have imagined- even without the familial connection. As the series progresses, I’m certain we’ll dig more into his history.
Sticking with history, let’s talk about American Hero Story. These vignettes, to me, serve the same purpose as the Black Freighter storyline in the original graphic novel- an ongoing story that has no direct ties to the main plot, but has similar themes present. The same applies here with the show’s take on Hooded Justice, one of the original Minutemen.
His brutal beatdown of the perps was entertaining to watch and a nice nod to the level of brutality we got in Zack Snyder’s film. Like the officers in present-day, he never felt comfortable as who he normally was, so he decided to wear a mask. I continue to enjoy the nods to Watchmen lore, both comic and film, and look forward to future references.
As for Veidt, that’s anyone’s guess? Again, I’m wondering why he’s living in seclusion. After all, the giant squid idea of his is what united the world. Wouldn’t he be celebrated for that? Or perhaps it’s self-exile. Either way, Jeremy Irons continues to be great in the role, provided you don’t care about his servants being burned to a crisp for the sake of art.
Also, he seems to have quite the interest in Dr. Manhattan. This play of his depicted Manhattan’s origin- I forget if Veidt even knew how Manhattan was created- and going back to the sand castle, it can’t be an accident that Manhattan’s castle on Mars looks similar to where Veidt lives. We see this castle again when we catch up with Topher, so this isn’t just a coincidence.
The mysteries and complexities of the Watchmen world continue to build now that Angela has made some huge discoveries. What will she do with this new information, and how the hell will she explain that her car was stolen by some space ship?
See you next week! Tick-tock, tick-tock.