Two episodes in, and although I am still not certain how the Tulsa characters tie in to the heroes from the Watchmen comic book, nor how all the various plot threads will connect to each other, I can state with confidence that I love this show.
It’s edgy, no two ways about it. This episode opens on a troop of black soldiers during World War 1, reading German propaganda urging them to switch sides, but using very powerful arguments to do so, about the vile racism and limited options they face in the United States. In my review of the previous episode I mentioned my feeling that this series was going to really push the envelope when it comes to racism, and that is made blatant here.
President Robert Redford has instituted reparations for the survivors and descendants of the Tulsa Massacre, something with inflames the resentment of the white supremacists. It’s difficult not to think of the reactions of many white people, both in the US and here, when the discussion of reparations for slavery, residential schools, or the thefts of native lands come up.
And yet when the police head to a supremacist enclave, Nixontown, to round up suspects after the murder of the chief, they go out of their way to incite the bigots to violence. Angela Abar (Regina King) herself, immediately after commenting about how there is no need for such provocative and violent action, winds up beating a man into submission with her bare hands.
We get to see the White Night, referred to in the first episode, which lead to the police becoming masked and shielding their identities. And a number of other secrets get revealed as well, which I will not spoil.
The references to the comic are more frequent in this episode. I love that we get to meet another newsstand owner and the younger man he chats with, paralleling the ones on the New York street from the original.
And I really really love the use of television and stage performances to expand on this world.
We get to see part of a tv biopic about Hooded Justice. In the comic, Hooded Justice had been identified after his death as Rolf Mueller, but there was always a feeling that his whole story had not been told. I am not certain we are meant to trust the tv biopic, but it sets out to tell the “true” story.
I also neglected to mention Jeremy Irons in my previous review. He plays an unnamed character. I had suspected that he is really Adrian Veidt, and that seems even more certain now. Irons’ character has written a play, the Watchmaker’s Son, and we get to see a truly awful production of the dismal script in this episode. There are few things more entertaining than intentionally bad theatre. The play turns out to be the origin story of Dr Manhattan, a treat for readers of the comic, and some needed information for any viewers who are new to the material.
Which brings up the only real flaw in the series. I am highly entertained, even though I am lost in the mystery. But I cannot imagine what this series would be like for anyone who had not read the comic. I fear they would be so at sea that they would simply turn it off. Now it is true that Watchmen has been in print for more than 30 years, so I guess they are counting on the large readership the series must have had. It seems like a big risk to me, but clearly HBO felt it was worth it.