Watchmen S1E5: Little Fear of Lightning

by thethreepennyguignol

Can we take a minute right here up top to appreciate Tim Blake Nelson?

I really haven’t talked much about his performance in this season of Watchmen so far; with so many character-establishing episodes filling out the opening salvo, it’s been hard to find the time when he hasn’t been the centre of anything of them. But my great and good goodness, has this been the performance to beat: this is a man who can somehow imbue a character with a ridiculous amount of character and watchability from behind a completely face-obscuring mask with nothing but a monotone, dry-ass Southern drawl in his arsenal. In a show with as many big performances as this (Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons, Hong Chau), there’s something more than a little discomforting about how pointedly reserved Nelson’s Wade/Looking Glass has been over the course of this season so far; of all the compelling supporting-cast members, he has been the one with the most intrigue surrounding him, the most depth contained. And this is apropos of nothing, but I could listen to him say Oklahoma all day long. Something about that combination of vowels and letters and syllables coming out of his mouth pleases me in ways I didn’t think possible before this show started.

But my strange psycho-sexual obsession with Nelson saying the name of a state aside, we’re finally at the Tim Blake Nelson-centric episode of this season. And I’m sure it goes without saying, but this was yet another string to the ridiculously in-tune bow (yes, I know you don’t tune bows, I played cello for seven years, let me enjoy my metaphor, alright, you fiends) that Watchmen has managed to piece together so far.

He’s an interesting character around which to base an episode, is Looking Glass – because, as his name suggests, he’s often on the outside looking in. With Laurie and Angela, we’ve had people on the inside, sometimes uncomfortably close to the action. But Wade is someone who’s been too close to the action (particularly the squiddy kind), wound up with profound emotional and physical wounds as a result – and, instead of pulling himself out, went deeper than ever before.

There’s something profoundly twisted about the way that Wade has pushed himself to get involved with the masked-vigilante crew when he himself was injured by Ozymandias’ attack on Hoboken decades earlier; his grizzled, almost cold attitude makes a lot more sense in that context, not to mention the protective mask he hides behind (if Jean Smart’s superhero analysis from last week fits anyone to a tee, it’s him, though I doubt he’d be pleased to hear it).

His lack of emotionality makes him the prime candidate for diving deep into the world of the Kalvary, and he finds that he’s not the only one hiding out behind a persona – Joe Keene (who I would like to point out here is played James Wolk, by the lead of Zoo, a show so insanely stupid and brilliant that I was only recently convinced that I had actually watched three seasons of it) is working with the Kalvary, to the surprise of literally nobody. After all, like Wade himself pointed out about Judd – he’s a white man in Oklahoma. What did you expect? Wade reflects back the world he sees around him in stark detail, flattering or not, warts and all, and this is just another depressing example of the honesty that he can’t escape from.

Appropriate, really, since it’s honesty that lands Angela in a heap of trouble this week – she unwittingly reveals the truth about her grandfather’s involvement in Judd’s murder, and Laurie (an ever-delicious Jean Smart, who came late to the game but honestly might well be the best thing about TV in 2019) pounces to arrest her – but not before, lest we forget this is actually a sci-fi show, Angela manages to knock back a big stack of someone else’s memories, a promisingly existential-mind-journey-esque set-up to what I hope will be a Legion-esque episode of ridiculous trippiness. And, I’m not sure how I can tie this into the honesty theme, but Jeremy Irons (I refuse to refer to him by his character name lest I break my dearly-held belief that this is just the actor himself in his off-hours) launches himself off the moon of Jupiter he has been trapped on and uses some corpses to spell out a message to a passing spaceship, a slow build to what I presume will be him catapulting himself back to Earth and into my knickers in one fell swoop in the season’s cliffhanger.

At the halfway point, and Watchmen seems to have everything comfortably in place – we know our characters, our history, our setting. And now all that we have to take care of is what happens next. I’ve got a few ideas as to what’s going to go down (and a few hopes as to how much Tim Blake Nelson is going to say Oklahoma), but, for now, I’m more than happy to just sit back and see where the show takes me next.

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(header image via Den of Geek)