Time to take a look into the Looking Glass.
The episode begins with a group of young boys arriving in Hoboken on the year of 1985. The leader prays for God’s protection as they enter the whore’s den as the world is apparently on the brink of extinction. One member, a young Wade Tillman, played by Philip Labes, is reminded one key thing: one minute before midnight. Wade attempts to tell some folks about the Doomsday Clock moving one minute closer to midnight.
One man asks about the pandas on his pamphlets while another knocks away his papers. A woman, Roxy, played by Julia Vasi, takes Wade by the hand and leads him into a fun house and asks where he’s from- it’s Oklahoma. She asks whether Nixon was telling the truth about a bomb killing them all, and Wade believes that. He’s not afraid, though. He’s not afraid of this woman, either. So what is Wade afraid of? Nothing.
Roxy takes off Wade’s shirt and asks if he’s ever had sex before, and he hasn’t. Well, this may be Oklahoma’s Boy’s last chance, so she strips him down to his underwear until he’s naked as the day he was born. Sadly, this ends up being a ruse, as Roxy just ends up taking his clothes, leaving him with nothing but his socks.
I hate when that happens.
As Wade laments his stupidity, the earth all around him begins to shake and the fun house glass shatters from the shockwave. When Wade awakens later, his hearing is fucked and he’s covered in scars from all the glass that cut around him. He heads outside and finds the woman, as well as most of the people nearby, dead. Wade screams to high heaven to know just what the hell happened.
We then head to New York to see the remnants of a giant fucking alien squid that has suddenly appeared in the city.
In present-day, we see Wade consulting a focus group- Clarity Consumer Research- that’s trying to get people to come back to New York. From what Wade saw, the people watching were afraid. All the ad does is remind people that three million suffered an inexplicable death, 30 years ago or not.
Following this, Laurie holds a briefing with the officers. Well, more like she’s impatient with no new information on the Kavalry. They’re now going to play by her rules. They can’t see who the Kavalry members are, but if they find the church in the 7K’s video, maybe that will help. So Laurie advises that the officers search nearby churches in Tulsa to narrow the investigation.
Looking Glass asks Red Scare if the lettuce on his sandwich came from the truck driven by the Kavalry member who shot Sutton. It did. Angela asks Wade if his ex has any new information, and she doesn’t because she’s doing a favor for him. Frankly, Angela wants him to speed things up, but all of a sudden, Laurie requires Mirror Guy’s attention.
Wade heads into Judd’s office and isn’t in favor of taking off his mask due to protection and protocol, even though Laurie knows who he is. Sure, he doesn’t think she’s a Seventh Kavalry member, so he unmasks. She goes over his background, he was in New Jersey on 11/2, and asks if he’s still affected, just like anyone else in the psychic blast zone. He sleeps just fine.
After the White Night, he joined the force, and this mask allows him protection from psychic blasts. Supposedly. Wade isn’t a fan of Laurie continually calling him ‘Mirror Guy,’ but luckily, the conversation is quickly over. Except not really: Laurie wants to know about the pills: she bugged his cactus on his desk. Wade says this would be a violation of his and Angela’s medical privacy.
Wade heads home and puts on another mask as “Some Enchanted Evening” kicks in. He watches what I’m guessing is a hardcore episode of American Hero Story. In tonight’s installment, we see Hooded Stranger giving it to Captain Metropolis, played here by Chris Whitley, who wants Hooded to remove his hood so he can see his face. Good luck with that, Metropolis.
An alarm goes off and Wade rushes outside to his bunker, sealing himself inside. He turns off the alarm, but it activates yet again no matter how many times he tries to stop it. So he rushes back home and tries pulling the wires from another alarm in his closet. He finally gets it to stop after he kicks the shit out of it.
Wade delivers an angry call to Extra Dimensional Security and explains that he’s used the unit over five thousand times, yet it now malfunctioned. He demands a new unit and will need it sooner than next Thursday. He’s even willing to pay extra for overnight fees. That’ll no doubt be pricey, but hey, it’s your money, Wade. He finally heads back home and lays down to get some sleep.
Next focus group: some kids are trying some cereal and are asked their opinions on how it takes. Wade gets a message from a Cynthia, who informs him to get his pills, so luckily, Wade doesn’t have to deal with more research.
He heads to a facility and explains that he’s here to meet Cynthia Bennett. We then meet Cynthia, played by Eileen Grubba, who is in the middle of research at what appears to be a cloning facility. She asks Wade if the three dogs look exactly the same, and he says that one looks smaller than the other. Bye-bye, small dog. Wade’s anxious because of his squid problem, but Cynthia is focused on Judd’s death.
She then tells Wade that the pills are ‘Nostalgia,’ which are outlawed. These pills induce memories, which can lead to psychosis. Eileen asks if Wade got these pills from a woman and wonders why he getting involved with women who eventually fuck him over. Eileen, though, he says is a good woman. It helps that she won’t leave him naked and without most of his clothes. Always a positive.
Then we cut to an Extra Dimensional session of survivors talking about the night of the nuclear blast. One talks about nuclear trauma and how it feels like he inherited his mother’s pain. One woman enters and Wade asks immediately welcomes her aboard to join the group.
This is Renee, played by Paula Malcomson. So this is where Abby ended up after she died on Ray Donovan, I guess. The man continues- he calls Extra Dimensional Security, but he keeps hanging up. That’s fine for him, because he doesn’t want to end up wearing some sort of tin foil on his face. It feels like it’ll never end.
Wade explains that he was where this man once was. He thought about that one-eyed fucker all the time, but he’s not terrified of the squid anymore. The Soviet Union was ready to wipe out the U.S., and America would’ve retaliated. But then that enormous squid teleported into New York. If it hadn’t, everyone would be dead.
They united against a common threat. It ends because they’re in a tunnel and every tunnel has an end. This tunnel, though, ends with light. If they trust Wade, he will do his best to show them to it. They join hands and recite the mantra about how, despite there being other dimensions, they will not live in fear.
After the meeting, Wade spots Renee and explains that this group also meets on Tuesdays. Fine, but Renee doesn’t believe in there being a light. She says that Wade is still in the tunnel and probably as batshit as the others. However, Wade can’t settle that bet until Renee shares her trauma. Sadly, she won’t be coming on Tuesday.
The two head to a bar and talk about how Dr. Manhattan won Vietnam and how Wade can tell when people are lying. Renee explains that she’s a waitress, but Wade doesn’t buy that. Not even working in foreclosure either. Finally, she confesses that she’s a radiologist. Now that jobs have been established, Wade wants to settle who is indeed more batshit insane.
Renee doesn’t think her story is all that interesting. She was at a screening of Steven Spielberg’s Pale Horse, which she’s seen 1000 times and counting. It’s about the band that was playing in Madison Square Garden when the squid appeared. Watching the movie makes her feel better, but now she can’t believe how people just go on like it’s normal when squids rain from the sky. More people should be petrified, in her opinion.
Renee only feels fine when she’s watching the movie or fucking. Now a bit tipsy, the woman decides that it’s time to leave, even though Wade offers her a ride home. She suggests that Wade ask a friend, but as Wade notes, he has no friends.
He heads out and finds Renee offering him a cigarette, which he turns down. As Renee’s ride arrives, something falls out of the truck: it’s a head of lettuce.
He immediately radios to the officers and asks if the Kavalry truck from Sutton’s shooting was ever recovered. It wasn’t, so Wade heads off in pursuit.
At an abandoned department store, before heading in, Wade radios for backup. With backup on the way, Wade investigates the truck and, finding a gun, heads inside the parking store. Inside, he finds a setup of a church that looks very similar to the church from the Kavalry video shown to the officers.
As a ball suddenly drops out of nowhere from some sort of portal, Wade hides as a Kavalry member retrieves the item. He follows the Kavalry member and sees them tossing balls into some sort of dimensional portal. He demands to know if the Kavalry are opening portals. Renee and explains that she wanted to bring Wade in and even rigged the lettuce to fall off the truck to get him to follow.
Instead, Wade turns around and opens fire on a Kavalry member, only to discover that the gun is filled with blanks. Despite being found by a Tulsa officer the Seventh Kavalry remains calm. Also, the Kavalry was on his radio as well- they boosted the signal. This was the only way to show him the truth.
As Wade is taken into another room, Renee tells Wade that she really is a radiologist. Another member chats with Wade- as another ball falls in from a portal- about his mask. He knows that Wade is actually Looking Glass. However, Wade recognizes that this very familiar-sounding Senator is disguising his voice.
Yes, this is none other than Senator Joe Keene. He came down to assume leadership of the Kavalry to prevent something like the White Night from happening again. Judd did the same thing for his officers as chief of police. As for the inter-dimensional portal, Wade guesses that the Kavalry is going to open a portal in Tulsa and drop another squid. However, that’s not the plan.
Keene is going to show Wade something that will make him unafraid of giant squids ever again. Keene wants some squid-pro-quo, though: Angela Abar either killed Judd or she knows who did. She threatens the peace, and Keene knows that Laurie suspects Angela. Wade just has to go along with that suspicion and get Angela off the board for a few days while Keene wraps things up.
Otherwise, Keene will tell the Seventh Kavalry to kill Angela and her family. Keene explains that after he was elected Senator, he was appointed to the Appropriations Committee, which he didn’t want. However, on his first day, he was shown the same video that he’s about to show Wade.
If Wade goes about Keene’s activities in the Kavalry, Keene will just discredit him. He hands Wade a remote and invites him to finally be free. Either way, Keene leaves it in Wade’s hands.
Wade turns on the monitors: it’s a video message from Adrian Veidt to President Robert Redford on the date of January 21, 1993. He congratulates Redford on his recent victory that he somehow predicted. How? Because he planned it. In 1985, the end is nigh. A nuclear holocaust between America and Russia is imminent, and the only way to starve off mankind’s extinction is the most powerful of all: fear.
Veidt is the architect of said weapon. In 24 hours time, an extra-dimensional monster will appear in New York and release a psychic blast that will kill millions and traumatize millions more. But this monster will come from Veidt because it’s a mere, meticulously engineered hoax. So what’s next? The transition won’t start immediately, as the world will need time to heal and Veidt must put on the occasional extra-dimensional events.
The world will head towards true equality, and Veidt assures Redford that this only works if they become partners in building a utopia. But first, Veidt must earn Redford’s trust. So for the next two hours, it’s time to dive right in.
In present-day, though, Veidt is suited up as the Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks clones get him fitted. This time, he’s in the catapult. He’s launched into the air and somehow winds up in space.
He lands on…somewhere- I can’t make heads or tails of what planet or moon he’s on- and sees the surface littered with the corpses of his servants.
He arranges them and spells out a message, which, as far as we can tell, reads “SAVE ME D” and is able to get the attention of a satellite…just as he’s roped right back to Earth.
The Game Warden is here. As Warden of these lands, he cuts open Veidt’s helmet and places him under arrest, reminding him of their prior agreement that Veidt has violated. As Veidt lashes out against God, the Game Warden kicks him in the face. He agrees that their God may not return, so he kicks Veidt in the face yet again. The Warden agrees that it’s unlikely their God will return. No mercy it is, then.
So he kicks Veidt in the face again.
Wade heads into work just as Angela calls to ask about the pills. In response, he asks if anything is true, so Angela heads right over to his desk. He pulls out the pill bottle and explains that they are indeed ‘Nostalgia.’ Angela tells Wade that these are memories, and he asks whose memories? As he unmasks himself, Wade tells Angela that he wants to help.
Angela tells Wade that the memories belong to her grandfather who, despite being 100 years old, apparently killed Judd. Doesn’t seem plausible, so Angela covered it up. Wade apologizes to Angela. Why?
Because Laurie’s been listening this entire time and rushes out as she holds Angela at gunpoint. As the officers place her under arrest, Angela downs the bottle of Nostalgia pills as she’s hauled off.
Wade heads home, contemplating the decision he just made, and at first tosses the new EDS alarm system the trash, but he heads back and retrieves it.
As Wade heads inside, a truck full of Kavalry members arrive to pay him a visit…
Remember how Rorschach would never compromise, even in the face of Armageddon? Even though he knew Dr. Manhattan could and would vaporize him in an instant? True to his word, Rorschach never compromised his morals or philosophy, despite the earth-shattering events unfolding around him.
Looking Glass feels like this show’s modern-day take on Rorschach because Wade comes off as the same sort of loner type who has a strict code. This episode serves as our literal look into the Looking Glass and gives us the human perspective of what it was like during the November 2nd squid attack. In the comics, we know how Veidt reacts to his hoax, but what about someone who was unaware of what would happen?
Because this is a series where Damon Lindelof is showrunner, I can’t help but make comparisons to The Leftovers. That series also started with the Earth-shattering event that was The Departure, where people just up and disappeared without a trace or explanation.
Here, some giant fucking alien squid just appears in New York out of nowhere, followed by a psychic blast and the end result of three million people dying. That’s enough to turn anyone’s world view upside down, and Wade Tillman was forever changed that day. He wears that mask not just to protect his identity, but shield him from psychic blasts. He’s been running that unit nonstop, and even leads a group of 11/2 survivors.
But Wade doesn’t fully seem to believe what he’s selling to survivors. They’re looking for hope, and here, Wade is the one who will lead them to the light. Problem is that Wade himself looks to be stuck in the tunnel. The absence of hope in his eyes is all too apparent, helped by a great, understated performance by Tim Blake Nelson. He offers hope, but has none left for himself.
There are glimmers of it, yes, and I did like his conversation with Renee. Just like when he’s in the pod, Wade is able to read anyone like a book and he had her figured out. But Renee says what everyone else is probably thinking: why isn’t everyone freaking out about a giant alien squid dropping in New York out of nowhere? How come they aren’t petrified for life?
Again, going back to The Leftovers, the Guilty Remnant came about as a result of the Departure and were reminders of their life before the Departure. While everyone else in the world attempted to move on, the Guilty Remnant did not.
The world has, for the most part, moved past the giant squid attack, but they can’t entirely escape the aftermath, as seen through things like the squid rain. Still, for people like Renee, that’s not enough when you have a catastrophic event that led to the deaths of millions.
Especially when you’ve been fed the story about how this attack led to the world uniting against a common threat: a common threat that ended up being a hoax orchestrated by Adrian Veidt. Like Laurie Blake’s backstory, the series manages to integrate the events of the graphic novel into the narrative. Wade is, for my money, the best person to see this unfold because his entire worldview has now been shattered.
When he asks Angela is anything is true, it’s not just about her true intentions for asking about the pills. He’s been leading survivors back to some semblance of normalcy after the squid attack and believed the narrative, but that’s all bullshit now.
The difference between Rorschach and Wade is that Rorschach refused to be a pawn in Veidt’s game, so he paid the price at the hands of Dr. Manhattan. Here, Wade has no choice but to comply with Senator Keene’s instructions. This is why I’m not bothered by Wade supposedly selling out Angela because he’s doing this for her protection.
Wade isn’t trying to see Angela get killed because of her keeping secrets on Judd’s death. So even if it means complying with what the Seventh Kavalry wants, he’ll keep his head down and take the order given to him if it keeps Angela out of harm’s way. Ultimately, I think Angela being in custody will do more good than harm, especially if the Kavalry will no longer be gunning after her.
The reveal of the Seventh Kavalry having a deeper motivation than war with the officers was a huge moment not just for Wade, but us as well. Like Veidt’s ultimate plan and the world uniting against some common, phantom threat, the same applies with the Kavalry and police. Judd and Joe had a sort of controlled opposition going on in order to keep something like the White Night from happening again.
So if it’s not war with the police, then we now have to reconsider everything the Seventh Kavalry has done since the White Night. They’re playing around with portals and have knowledge of what Veidt did to fool the world. But Angela threatens that peace and stability, so she has to be quietly pushed to the side for a moment. That and because she’s clearly hiding something.
More than ever, I’m now left questioning who knows what. Keene being part of the Kavalry puts Judd’s funeral scene in a new context. Think about it. If he’s been part of the organization, it would explain why he was so willing to go along with the Seventh Kavalry member who was supposedly looking to kidnap him. The only problem was Laurie putting a bullet in the Kavalry member’s head.
There’s another question, though: just how much does Laurie actually know? She’s bugged Wade’s cactus of all things and she is a federal agent with knowledge of the officers. Who is to say she hasn’t already figured this out?
Watchmen often has us questioning whether the heroes we root for truly are the “good guys.” Veidt was supposedly a hero, but his grand hoax that killed millions served a greater purpose. Does that make him a villain, or an unsung hero for seeking a greater good? What does it say when people like Veidt, Lady Trieu, or the Kavalry play with powers or technology they may not fully understand?
Same goes for people like Cynthia, who just disposes of cloned animals that don’t fit her criteria. That, by the way, was a dick move, but I enjoyed her conversations with Wade and her warning him not to let himself be hurt again by a woman who would fuck him over. There’s a lot of history between these two that’s not spelled out, which I like, but I do enjoy that Wade does have someone outside the force he can turn to for help.
Back to the main plot, in essence, what’s at the end of the tunnel they’re all going through? Is there even light at all? Given what we learn about the police and 7K, the officers are just hapless pawns being moved across the chess board by higher-ups who are looking at the bigger picture.
Even before learning about the Seventh Kavalry’s intentions, Wade is unwittingly tricked when it’s revealed that Renee rigged her truck to make the lettuce fall out, coupled by the Kavalry being on his radio. His moves have been mapped out before he could even consider them.
Brief aside on Renee, by the way, why did nobody tell me that Paula Malcomson was gonna be in this show? I’ve always loved her work and admired her performance as Abby on Ray Donovan, as well as the brief role she played in another corner of the DC multiverse on Krypton. She’s very playful and coy, but as we see, she’s more steps ahead than you’d anticipate. I hope we see more of her in the episodes to come.
Now, to get all comic book-y on you for a moment, there was a lot of love for the source material this week.
Not just the giant squid, but Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice having sex- knowledge courtesy of Hollis Mason- Happy Harry’s Smiley O’s and Happy Harry being the name of the bar Rorschach frequented for intel, the Gay Women Against Rape symbol on the walls during the flashback, the Veidt Method advertisement, and Keene telling Wade that he leaves it entirely in his hands.
Just like the very last line in the graphic novel itself.
And I haven’t even touched on Veidt yet. He manages to get himself into space- again, where is he? I’ve seen some say that he’s on one of Jupiter’s moons- and we see that his servants were all sent into the stratosphere just so he could spell out a damn message! Is it for Dr. Manhattan? No clue, but with the Game Warden on his ass, who knows if Veidt will get to add to his message going forward?
HBO’s Watchmen is giving me the same vibes I got when watching Legion. Each episode manages to add another layer of intrigue and mystery and keep me captivated with so many questions. This episode put Looking Glass front and center and gave us a deep dive into his backstory, made all the better by Tim Blake Nelson’s performance.
The squid attack from the graphic novel and its aftereffects finally received prominence this week and now that Veidt’s plan, as well as the Seventh Kavalry’s intentions, have been made clear to Wade, how long will he allow himself to be a pawn? And what sort of trip is Angela headed on now that she’s downed those pills?
Until next week, friends. Tick-tock, tick-tock.