Watchmen S1E4: If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own
Hong Chau, and her delightfully unsettling trillionaire Lady Trieu, is at the centre of this episode of Watchmen. And, for an episode titled If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own, what a gift her introduction has been.
That title feels like it could be minor middle finger from Damon Lindelof and company, given the diversion from what everyone who seemed to think Rorsach was such a great guy took from the comics, but more than anything, it’s an underlining of the self-determination and reclamation at the heart of this hour of television.
Lady Trieu and her magnificent introduction really underline this notion more than anything else. She marches into the house of an unassuming couple in the middle of the night and offers them five million dollars and a fully-grown baby in return for their house, as long as they make the decision before the literal sand in her literal hourglass runs out. This is a woman who has never come into a single interaction unprepared for what it might take to win it, and, thanks to that, she’s utterly and completely in charge of her destiny. Chau is a commanding screen presence here, superficially likeable with an edge of coldness, and a worthy central character after Jean Smart’s killer performance last week.
And make no mistake, we’ve still got a lot of Laurie in this episode; in fact, the highlight probably comes as she casually psychoanalyzes Angela’s involvement with masked vigilantism, as well as her own trauma – sure, it fits into the theme of claiming one’s fate and choices, but mostly, it’s just a chance for a motormouthed Smart to tear chunks out of the abjectly hand-wringing analysts of the characters in this show (see also: myself). Her first encounter with Chau’s Trieu, where the two of them debate the relative merits of Trieu’s depiction of Adrien Viedt, is honestly just one of those pieces of television that I forget I even have to write about afterwards because it’s so utterly engaging and deeply watchable.
Speaking of Viedt, the bluntest depiction of the self-determination game comes as he cooks up another set of Tom Misons and Sarah Vickerses and delivers a monologue on their purpose as his servants. To him, this is a gift, the gift of giving them the purpose that allows their life meaning – but, judging by the looks on their faces as they are confronted with dozens of corpses of their prior versions, they don’t seem too taken with the idea. I’m interested to see where this plot goes, if only because Jeremy Irons waving his arms around and catapulting dead bodies into the atmosphere is more fun than it should be.
And, of course, Watchmen has so far been driven by Angela Abar, and the show doesn’t want her to be left out in the self-determination stakes. She disposes of Judd’s KKK uniform before anyone can find it, securing his legacy as the one that she wants people to remember; she begins to unpeel the layers of her family tree, though that’s really raising more questions for her than answers at this point. Even behind her mask, Regina King still has such presence as Angela, and seeing her slowly begin to unpick the stories that she has been told that have made up her identity thus far presents a compelling conundrum for her character.
Watchmen, in case you didn’t guess already, is on a roll. Self-determination is a common theme for shows and movies about superheroes to take on, but Watchmen is interested in what that means for people who aren’t hiding behind masks – and when those people are played by Hong Chau cracking jokes about murdering babies, who are we to complain?
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(header image via Bleeding Cool)