“The What?” seems to be confirmation that The Watch isn’t going to make an effort to assuage the worst fears of die-hard Pratchett fans, though anyone who enjoyed the first two episodes will find this one confidently continuing along the same lines.
This recap of The Watch season 1, episode 3, “The What?”, contains spoilers.
The Watch episode 3, “The What?”, felt to me like the show making a point – one that is inevitably going to displease the hardcore Pratchett fans who had already been somewhat turned off by the first two episodes. This, it seems, is what the show is going to be going forward; a free-wheeling punk-rock – literally, in this episode – extension of “characters created by Sir Terry Pratchett”, rather than a direct adaptation of them. I’m mostly okay with that but I can totally understand and empathize with the people who aren’t. Still, it is what it is.
Nevertheless, we open with some context for the murder of Lady Sybil’s parents, an act she not only witnessed as a youngster but that was perfectly legal according to the logistics of the Assassin’s Guild, which is rather childishly shortened here as the Watch plan to heist an artifact from the guild’s basement. This setup forms the bulk of the episode, with Lady Sybil infiltrating the guild through the front door by wearing an assassin’s mask she has kept as a memento since childhood and the rest of the Watch posing as a punk band named The What? in order to infiltrate the Musician’s Guild next door.
There was a moment during the so-called band’s performance of a dwarf classic in The Watch season 1, episode 3, when Carcer is magically spying on what’s taking place, and I thought that maybe he’s supposed to represent the audience or at least the portion of it who’ll be thoroughly annoyed by this whole sequence. The villain looking disparagingly on as these beloved characters are made something of a mockery of felt like quite a daring metaphor for entitled fans raging over the treatment of their favorite thing. It might be a bit too smug and mean-spirited to actually work in those terms, but it’s what sprang to my mind, at least.
Of course, the heist doesn’t exactly go to plan, leading Sybil to follow a man with a missing finger who she remembers from the past, leading her directly – albeit briefly – into the path of Death, who gives her a cryptic clue as to how to deal with the man, whose name is Inigo Skimmer (Paul Kaye, because of course.) As it turns out, tax evasion is a problem even for professional assassins.
Things don’t exactly go swimmingly from there, but membership of the Musician’s Guild is enough to temporarily stave off an inter-guild calamity, thanks in large part to Carrot leading the Assassins right to the Watch. There’s a testy rivalry developing here, and some offhanded comments about the other guilds help to give this version of Ankh-Morpork some texture. Of course, it won’t do much to assuage the worst fears of those who didn’t like the first two episodes, but you can’t please everyone, can you?