A co-worker of mine shared a Watchmen theory this week that Looking Glass, the masked detective played by Tim Blake Nelson, could be a secret racist like (maybe) Judd. That sounds entirely logical to me, because through four episodes Tim Blake Nelson hasn’t done a whole lot, and you do not hire an actor of Tim Blake Nelson’s caliber unless he is, eventually, going to do something spectacular. Well, the upcoming episode of Watchmen looks like the Tim Blake Nelson episode, where we will maybe, hopefully, find out what Looking Glass’s whole deal is. He has a house but prefers to live in a bunker, he wears a mask that sort of recalls Rorschach’s look, he seems to be Angela’s ally, but he is, again, played by Tim Blake Nelson, so there is definitely something else going on.
One clue in the promo spot for episode 5 is that Looking Glass attends a group therapy session for people with “extra-dimensional anxiety”. This would be another legacy of Adrian Veidt’s “space” squid from the Watchmen graphic novel. If this is in fact the case, then Looking Glass, despite his Rorschach-eqsue mask, doesn’t believe Rorschach’s journal and genuinely thinks a giant space squid crashed into New York through an inter-dimensional portal. In the 1980s, the space squid was coded as a nuclear attack, but today it’s impossible not to see traumatized citizenry anxious over urban disaster as an analog for 9/11. I’m curious to see if Damon Lindelof and the Watchmen team tease that out and reframe the disaster politics of the novel to a disaster more suited for our time, or if they just let our generational psychic scar do all the heavy lifting.
Since it looks like we’re branching off in yet another direction with the next episode, I continue to wonder when Watchmen stops setting the table and starts serving the meal. We are still moving in the direction of the Seventh Kavalry and whatever the f-ck Judd was up to, but every episode of Watchmen so far has piled on more and more story points, to the extent I wonder how many are left hanging by the end of episode nine. This is the red flag with Lindelof, always. The constant resetting of plot is why I did not stick with Lost, and it’s why I didn’t trust The Leftovers and so didn’t bother with it until it was entirely complete (it is worth the journey, for sure). It’s also why I’m still mad about Cowboys and Aliens (fantastic first half, completely sh-ts the bed in the second half).
Lindelof is great at the setup, but doesn’t always deliver on the follow-through. Watchmen, so far, has been all set up. Episode 5 looks like more setup. With only nine episodes in the season, I am getting nervous about the follow-through. I am super enjoying this show, and I am hoping all this wonderful worldbuilding and setup pays off, but Lost also seemed promising at the beginning, only to become very, very stupid. I’m also nervous about the new HBO’s tolerance for expensive shows that don’t become watercooler hits. Thus far, Watchmen is averaging less than half the weekly viewers of Game of Thrones in its season one. Old HBO probably would stick with it, because Richard Plepler’s regime was famous for nurturing projects they believed in, even if ratings weren’t great (see also: The Leftovers). New HBO has a much itchier trigger finger. My concern is if Watchmen doesn’t pull it all together and resolve all these many story points by the end of episode 9, we’re going to be left hanging forever. Ambiguity is okay, unfinished storytelling is not. I really hope Watchmen ends up being more The Leftovers, less Lost.