Please note, the following contains spoilers for episode five of Watchmen.
For observant viewers of Watchmen, there has been a clear visual and symbolic theme of reflections throughout the series and it has never been more visible than in episode five, “Little Fear of Lightning.” It makes sense, as this episode focuses heavily on the character of Wade Tillman, aka “Mirror Guy”—sorry, Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson). We learn the reason he wears a reflective mask. We learn of his paranoia. We learn how it began. And we learn it is all based on a lie.
SQUID PRO QUO
Yes, the term “squid pro quo” was spoken in this episode. Senator Keene (James Wolk) presents Wade with this proposition prior to sharing the truth about the event that shaped his and the rest of the world’s reality for the past thirty years. The interdimensional event that brought a giant alien squid to Manhattan, leading to the death of three million people and causing countless others severe psychological damage—including Wade—was a hoax. As explained by a younger Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) in a video recording to then future President Robert Redford, the squid and entire psychic event was planned and executed by a group of artists and scientists at his direction in order to save humanity from nuclear annihilation.
Readers of the comic knew this coming in. Veidt gathered a team on a remote island to design and build the giant creature under the guise of using it as a special effect for a movie production. When their work was done, Veidt detonated a bomb on the ship transporting the group back to the mainland, leaving no witnesses to blow his cover and allowing him to preserve his world-saving swindle.
From Watchmen Chapter VIII
While the actual squid event was fake—and this includes all subsequent squidfall activity—the trauma of those who lived through the ordeal was very real. Wade was one of those individuals. He was in Hoboken, NJ on Nov. 2, 1985. He saw the aftermath and the bodies in the streets. He was fortunate that, following a prank by a local knot-top girl, he was stranded in a fun house full of mirrors when the event took place. The reflective surfaces shielded him from the horrific fate suffered by so many others.
These reflective surfaces were his protectors and have since become his emotional and psychological shield. It’s why he wears the mirrored mask as Looking Glass and lines his hat with reflective tape as Wade. The revelation that the entire event was a hoax causes his world to crumble, leading him to second guess everything in his life.
SOMEBODY SAVE ME
Another major revelation in this episode also involves Veidt. We now know where the catapulted corpses of the Mr. Philips and Ms. Crookshanks clones have been landing after they vanished through the sky. When Veidt himself hops in the catapult for a ride through the great blue yonder, he lands on what appears to be one of the moons orbiting Jupiter. There, he arranges the many, many frozen corpses of his cloned servants into a message as a satellite floats by, capturing the image. From what we can see, the message reads “SAVE ME D.” One can assume that the completed message spells out “SAVE ME DOCTOR MANHATTAN.” Who else would be able to read a note written in cloned corpses on the surfaces of a rock orbiting Jupiter?
Dr. Manhattan has spent some time doodling on the surface of planets himself, having prettied up the Mars landscape with the iconic smiley face before he and Laurie transported back to Earth.
From Watchmen Chapter IX
The revelations keep coming in this one. The pills that Will (Louis Gossett Jr.) was carrying turned out to be Nostalgia, memories in pill form. Angela (Regina King) had Wade call in a favor with his ex-wife for help identifying the substance. Nostalgia has been outlawed as they lead to psychosis in those who took them. Will clearly left these for Angela to find and she’s in for quite a trip as she downed the entire bottle before being handcuffed by Agent Blake (Jean Smart) and the Tulsa Police. Her admission to Wade that she covered up the fact that Will was at the crime scene and claimed to have murdered Chief Judd Crawford was caught on tape thanks to Blake bugging the station. There will surely be more revelations to come for Angela.
And once more, we have a connection to Adrian Veidt. Back in the 80s, Veidt Cosmetics & Toiletries sold a perfume named Nostalgia. Its imagery is scattered through various panels of the comic and a full page of backmatter is dedicated to a letter from Veidt outlining their marketing plan.
From Watchmen Chapter X
Oh, how the ghost of you clings…
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.
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