Watchmen is Becoming the Show Fans Have Been Waiting For
Laurie Blake likes to tell jokes these days. Thirty years after she—then known as Laurie Juspeczyk—failed to stop Adrian Veidt from killing millions in New York, she sits down in a booth designed to contact her ex-boyfriend Doctor Manhattan on Mars. She has a joke for him that frames the entirety of Watchmen Episode Three. And it seems—along with taking his last name—that Laurie has embraced the identity of her biological father Edward Blake (known as the Comedian, who sexually assaulted Laurie's mother before a consensual affair between the two, in one of the original Watchmen comics' most problematic storylines). But, in HBO's continuation of the series, Laurie appears to have also inherited (or developed) her own cynical outlook on life. And who could blame her? After seeing firsthand how ineffective even the world's most beloved heroes can be, after her lover Doctor Manhattan left humanity to fend for itself, after her other lover Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl) is suggested in this episode to be currently in prison—it tracks that she would have a sardonic point of view.
With Laurie's arrival into this narrative it seems that Damon Lindelof's Watchmen is finally giving fans a semblance of the sequel they crave. While far right trolls criticized the show for being "too woke," other actual fans appeared to be pissed off that HBO's Watchmen series didn't focus on the original characters. Well, here we are, with the introduction of at least one original character played to perfection by Jean Smart. There are echoes of Rian Johnson's bitter Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: The Last Jedi in her character—a beloved hero who now sees the hubris and failures of people who were once trying to stop the bad guys. She even has a kill the past kind of attitude that's at once an important character trait and a meta middle finger to fans who are constantly begging for everything—all nostalgic reboots—to remain the same. Things change. People get hurt. Life brings them down, or builds them up, or warps them into rearranged versions of the people they once were. Smart's Laurie is a recklessly confident FBI agent who tracks down and stops illegal masked vigilantism—the very vigilantism that she once took part in. She's tragically alone after the loss of her two former lovers, she's disenchanted with society, with the government, with herself as an arbiter for good, with the people—like Regina King's Angela Abar—who are still putting on masks and trying to stop the bad guys. It's a nihilistic, but not at all wrong, view of the world. And so, she tries to laugh about it. She tells jokes, like her father did before he was murdered for discovering the ultimate punchline of humanity's hypocrisy.
Episode Three focuses on Laurie, as she's sent to Tulsa to investigate the murder of Chief Judd Crawford. She's damn good at her job and quickly sorts through all the masked cop bullshit in Tulsa and comes face-to-face with Angela, who is also investigating the same murder. Here we have a fascinating conflict between two incredibly complex characters: On one side there's Angela, a former cop who moonlights as Sister Night trying to stop the growing threat of white supremacists. On the other side, there's Laurie, a former masked vigilante herself, who now knows that there is no good, there is no evil—that everyone is equally capable of horrible things. So, they're both naturally distrustful of each other, even though they're technically on the same side of this mystery. I'm looking forward to seeing these two interact with each other more. In Episode Three they meet at Crawford's funeral, which is crashed by a member of the white supremacist group the Seventh Kalvalry. The Kalvalry member—wearing an explosive vest—takes an Oklahoma senator hostage, calling him a "race traitor." Laurie shoots him, despite his threats, and Angela bravely protects the group of innocent people from the explosives. They make a pretty good team, even if they don't see eye-to-eye on the whole good and evil thing. Later, when Laurie and Angela are both investigating the tunnel that the Kalvalry member used to get into the funeral, they run into each other again. Laurie tells Angela about the secret compartment where Crawford's KKK robes were being stored. It seems like they're both onto the same lede in this murder mystery.
At the end of the episode, Laurie finishes her joke to Doctor Manhattan and exits the interstellar phone booth. As she steps outside Angela's car falls in front of her like a gift from the heavens. She takes this as a sign that her superhuman lover is out there somewhere and has heard her message. As we know, that's the car that was hyjacked by an unknown person at the end of Episode Two. But, was Doctor Manhattan behind it? Where is Will Reeves? I should also note that we get a hint in this episode that the Russians are developing an intrinsic field generator, which is not a good sign, considering this is what turned Jon Osterman into Doctor Manhattan. We last see Laurie when she returns to her hotel room, where she opens her locked briefcase to reveal a big blue dildo (which must be some fun Doctor Manhattan merch!) and an old copy of Esquire magazine with her and Doc on the cover. "Silk Spectre Takes Manhattan," the cover headline reads, showing her looking at the camera straddling a blue man. I actually sent a screenshot of this cover to Esquire's contributing editor and master historian Alex Belth, who told me that it didn't appear to be based on or inspired by any actual magazine. However! The fake magazine does serve as a good satire of the historically misogynistic nature of men's magazines. And, at least within the fiction of this universe, it also serves as a window into Laurie's longing for the life she once had, as that naive young hero who was partnered with the most powerful man in the universe.
Speaking of longing for one's past, let's talk about Jeremy Irons's character, who is finally revealed in this episode to be Adrian Veidt (which we knew but not explicitly yet). He's been having a weird one wherever he's at in this series. And in this episode he attempts to build some sort of suit that kills one of his clone servants and gets reprimanded by some shadowy figure. These scenes appear to give credence to a popular fan theory that Veidt is being held captive on Mars by none other than Doctor Manhattan as punishment for the millions he killed. This would track that he's trying to create a space suit to exit wherever he's being held. And it would account for the imprisonment undertones in his correspondence with whom must be Doctor Manhattan.
We don't know for sure, yet, though. What we do know is that two of our beloved former characters have officially returned. It's what fans wanted, but also not what they expected—which is the beauty of this HBO series as a whole. And, isn't the unexpected part of the divine comedy of life? Funny joke.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.