Please note, the following contains spoilers for episode two of Watchmen.
Questions and answers continue to ebb and flow in Tulsa and beyond in the second episode of HBO’s Watchmen, “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship.” The episode title is a reference to a 1835 painting by George Catlin, a painting that we get a very close look at as it hangs in the home of deceased police chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson). The painting depicts a group of Comanche warriors enacting defensive maneuvers on horseback, using the horse itself as a shield while drawing their bows upon the enemy. Expert defensive maneuvers in enemy territory may be a skill that plays out over the course of this series. Especially after Angela (Regina King) makes a shocking discovery in the home of her fallen friend.
With clear attention paid to the power of images, Watchmen rolls along with additional references to some of the most influential images of the comic. Let’s focus on a few from this episode.
Angela rolls Will (Louis Gossett Jr.) into her bakery and, following a quick change into her Sister Night ensemble, begins interrogating the 105 year old man on how he claims to have hung up the chief. He makes the intriguing statement that, “maybe I’m Doctor Manhattan.” Angela refutes this, saying that he “can’t do that… look like us.” But Will has done his homework, adding that Dr. Manhattan can “make copies of himself. He can be in two places at the same time. He can grow up to one hundred feet tall.”
We’ve seen these feats in the pages of the Watchmen comic. Doctor Manhattan’s towering presence in the Vietnam War led to the surrender of the Vietcong and his duplication ability causes some complications with Laurie.
From Watchmen, Chapter IV
The Watchmaker’s Son
In the first episode of Watchmen, we learned that Jeremy Irons’ mysterious character was writing a play called “The Watchmaker’s Son.” Keen observers have noted that this must refer to John Osterman, aka Dr. Manhattan, and in this episode we see that proven correct. There are several versions of the characters known as Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks inhabiting the grounds where Irons’ character is living. We do not yet know their origin, but they have clearly acted out Dr. Manhattan’s origin several times for Irons.
In the comic, as in the staged reenactment, Osterman is trapped inside an intrinsic field test chamber with no escape. The doors auto-lock and cannot be opened as the machine prepares for an experiment. The atoms of Osterman’s body incinerate into nothingness. Over time, his body reconstitutes into the all-powerful being, Doctor Manhattan.
From Watchmen, Chapter IV
New Frontiersman & Nova Express
This episode gives us direct references to both the New Frontiersman and Nova Express. At a Tulsa newsstand, the setting itself a familiar locale for characters talking politics and social injustice, we get a good look at a New Frontiersman newspaper with the headline “GLOBAL SQUIDFALLS BAFFLE SCIENTISTS.” In this same scene, the newsstand worker announces to an unknown character that “there’s no Nova Express until this afternoon.”
In the comic, the New Frontiersman and Nova Express were news outlets of vastly differing political ideologies. As mentioned previously, the New Frontiersman was the landing place for Rorschach’s journal and we’re not yet sure to what extent the outlet ran with that story. But one thing’s clear, the media is as active as ever in its attempt at steering public opinion. Whether or not the public buys in is a different story, as the gentleman from the newsstand states, “I read it… I just don’t believe it.”
From Watchmen, Chapter VIII
The newsstand conversations also give us tidbits on President Redford, who is alleged to be using the squidfalls as a distraction (does this mean that the public isn’t aware of the transdimential event caused by Ozymandias?), references to Keane (the Keane Act outlawed costumed vigilantism for heroes working outside the government’s orders) and tee up more questions about motives and mysterious characters. We cannot wait to see how things continue to unfold as the season progresses.
Watchmen airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. The Watchmen graphic novel, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is available wherever books and comics are sold.