Watchmen has kept a string of endlessly interesting opening sequences that immediately grab your attention and won’t let you go until they take you where you need to be. Tonight is no exception and a major piece of the puzzle is dropped on the viewer’s head.
This recap of Watchmen Season 1, Episode 5, “Little Fear of Lightning”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Watchmen has kept a string of endlessly interesting opening sequences that immediately grab your attention and won’t let you go until they take you where you need to be. Take the episode tonight, “Little Fear of Lightning”, for example, which focuses on a group of young men, dressed in what looks like their father’s suits, and walk around a pier on the Jersey shore spreading the good word a few minutes before the rapture begins. It’s one of those typical television scenes where a bunch of crazies are preparing for the end to spread the truth and reach out to the sinners who think they are going to be saved by a ship that will drop from the heavens, lifting their doomsday cult to travel and see Zorp the Surveyor (extra points for anyone who recognizes this reference in the comment’s section). The young man from Tulsa, with a slight southern twang, walks down the peer with a hundred or so of less than desirables with the Howard Jones ballad “Things Can Only Get Better” playing as his theme song. He begins to speak the truth to a couple of punk rockers who don’t care for his type of mainstream religious views. Just before a towering male thieving punk is about to put a foot up his ***; the left is named Social and the right he called Discontent.
Thankfully, the female counterpart, dressed from head to toe in anti-fashion, leather-bound, aggressive, and archaic, sees the young man has a heart that can only be described by Bruno Mars as 24-karat. Naturally, she leads him to an empty house of mirrors, begins to strip him from head to toe, and is ready to deflower him over his many objections, even though his, um, body, is saying yes. Closing his eyes, asking God to forgive him, while standing naked as the day he was born, his new and remarkably welcoming friend grabs his clothes, runs out of the room, and laughs girlishly with great glee. While standing there, seeing every angle of his birthday suit, desperately trying to find a way out of the situation, all the mirrors explode, and that young man named Wade walks outside. The year is 1985; it appears the rapture has actually occurred, and hundreds upon hundreds of lifeless bodies line the street while the Ferris wheel keeps spinning. The naked man is Detective Wade Tillman, before he entered the force, and before he was known as Looking Glass.
Cut to the present day in “Little Fear of Lightning”, Detective Wade Tillman is attending a marketing meeting, and he is asked to focus on a focus group watching a new ad spot hoping to attract more tourists to visit New York. Wade only sees the fear in all their eyes and “all their ads do is remind folks that three million people suffered a horrific, traumatizing, and inexplicable death.” He even sheds light on the reason the squids keep falling from the sky; it appears it started since the incident on 11-2 and tells the suits adding the actors eating calamari didn’t help. Things aren’t exactly going well for Wade at this point. He walks into his station wearing a shiny version of the hat Dumb Donald had on while running around with the Junk Yard Gang. He sees the members of his squad making sandwiches out of the lettuce heads from the evidence locker that fell out of the 7K pick-up truck that killed their officer. Sister Night, rather rudely, pushing him to get an answer from his ex on what the medication was Will Reeves left in her car. We then are treated to another Laurie Blake sighting (Jean Smart, displaying an endless amount of whip-smart remarks) as she asks, “mirror face” to come into her office, so she can see those sad green eyes. As usual, she gets the drop on him and Sister Night, as she tells him, she bugged the cactus on his desk and asks what the pills are he is testing. This is all matched by her concern about how he sleeps at night, asking if he wakes up screaming since he survived that day on the pier. He says no because he is a self-respecting hot-blooded Oklahoma-male, but in reality, he begins to freak out when his alarm system breaks, and this alternative universe still hasn’t invented Amazon Prime for next-day delivery for free.
This Looking Glass centric episode “Little Fear of Lightning” then treats us to a look at his back story, when he leaves another focus group, and visits his ex Cynthia (Eileen Grubba) who has the results of the medication she tested. He walks into her lab, where she is closing some of the cutest poodle puppies you will ever see. In a matter of small talk, she asks, with his naked eye, are they identical. He comments the one is slightly taller than the other. So, naturally, she takes the cute squeaky pup, places him in what can only be described as a dishwasher that doubles as a dog synthesizer, and then immediately pushes the button to get rid of the flawed product. She tells him the pills are called Nostalgia, and “they outlawed those because it turns out putting memories into pill form led to psychosis.” It’s clear to me that they both still have feelings for each other, Wade carrying the torch most of all, while Cynthia comments that their seven-year relationship ended because she could never convince him she wasn’t going to turn around, grab his clothes, and leave him naked all by himself.
Wade leaves her, walking through the exit with an acoustic version of Never Gonna Fall in Love Again plays in the background continues his streak of being a Saint, by holding a meeting of survivors and family members of those who made it out of 11-2, called Friends of Nemo. Wade follows a pick-up of a new member that has several heads of lettuce bouncing up and down in the truck bed, falling to the wet asphalt below. He follows the truck, that he believes was involved in the 7K-office shooting, and calls in back-up. He searches the truck, finds a gun, enters the building, and everything changes. I’m not sure for the better, either.
It turns out it was all a setup because as Wade approaches, he tries to shoot a bad guy who creeps up on him from behind, but discovers he has filled him with nothing but blanks. They led him there, even planned for the lettuce to fall out of the truck at the perfect time, and the hacked into his radio frequency when he called in backup. Then, the biggest bombshell of all in “Little Fear of Lightning”, which I predicted last week, Wade tells the obvious leader of the Klan, “Are you going to even try to disguise your voice, Senator?” That’s right, Senator Joe Keane is the leader of the homegrown domestic terrorist group. He wants him to set up Angela Abar and find out if she killed Judd Crawford or knows who did. If he doesn’t, he will go into her home and kill the entire family. Why? Because Judd was part of a two head Klan monster who was the head of the Tulsa Police force, Keane of the Kavalry, in order to keep the peace (think Snowpiercer, without the train).
In return, he plays him a video that sets him free. It’s The Architect, Master Adrian Veidt, who is talking into the camera, that was recorded seven-years prior, and directly to a just inaugurated President Redford the day before 11-2-1985. Everything that has shaped Wade has been a lie! The rapture was a meticulously orchestrated hoax to save the world from nuclear annihilation of an imminent war between Russia and the United States. It’s like saying 9-11 was a hoax, and it was done to save all humankind (this is nearly the biggest secret in the comic book’s history, so, this being written very early, is quite a reveal). Of course, this cuts to Veidt finally catapulting himself into the air with his medieval astronaut suit, as he lands on Jupiter, with hundreds of Mr. Phillips cloned bodies covered by dust. As he celebrates the accomplishment, he is pulled back to earth by what appears to be a portal and is arrested with no mercy.
As “Little Fear of Lightning” ends, Wade turns Angela in as the only way to keep her safe and save her family, but not before she swallows the entire bottle of Nostalgia. What will this do to her? Did Veidt land on Jupiter or Mars? Is he close to Dr. Manhattan’s residence? Who is the masked man who pulled Veidt back in from the portal? The real question is, if Wade’s whole life has been fake news, you need to ask yourself how much of what we have already watched is real?
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.