Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Watchmen Wednesdays: Episode 6

Watchmen Wednesdays!

The meta gets real!

In episode six of Watchmen, "This Extraordinary Being," very few narrative plot lines resurface, but important content regarding the themes of this show is explored more fully, from racial violence to police brutality to white-washing superheroes. While exploring all these themes in nuance and detail, it's still an entertaining--if brutal--episode.

As seen at the end of episode five, one of the last things Angela Abar does before her arrest is swallow all the pills left behind by Will Reeves, her grandfather. These pills are a drug called Nostalgia, which basically contains individual memories of that person's life, allowing that person to relive the memories in detail. So, the episode is almost entirely Will Reeves' story, told in black and white. Honestly, it's a magnificent episode. The black and white choice doesn't feel gimmicky, and POV shots from Will Reeves are used with great precision, particularly during violent moments.

The basic plot unfolds as a story of a black police officer turned vigilante. Will Reeves is immediately discriminated against, even during his graduation from the police academy. He's warned by multiple people in the force to beware of "cyclops," which turns out to be the shorthand for KKK in the police department. The secret symbol for the "cyclops" group is a twist on the current popularity among the alt-right to flash the "okay" hand symbol, which did make me crack up. Will Reeves turns vigilante after some of the KKK cops pretend to lynch him before cutting him down. On his walk back, the noose still hanging around his neck, he encounters a mugging and he pulls on the hood.

He becomes Hooded Justice, one of the first vigilantes that later joins the Minutemen. Earlier in the season, we'd been introduced to Hooded Justice through the documentary that is meta-commentary throughout the episode, but in that documentary, Hooded Justice is clearly white. Part of the documentary is shown in this episode, and Hooded Justice does reveal his face--a white guy. Through the black and white footage, Will Reeves is shown putting on white make up around his eyes because that was the only way his vigilante work would be accepted.

Will Reeves in white make-up, a mirror to Sister Knight's black mask.

This is proven true when he joins the Minutemen. While the leader of the Minutemen and his gay lover says he's "open-minded" but tells Will to not take off his hood, even among the other Minutemen. Their racism is confirmed when the Minutemen do an advertisement at a press conference that uses racists imagery. Similarly, in small gestures, this episode deals with other themes that have been an undercurrent throughout the show, such as police violence, Will Reeves/Angela Abar as black police officers, and historical foundations of white supremacist groups (such as the KKK to Seventh Kavalry).

The episode ends on one important plot point with reverberations for the future. The KKK cops are using a type of visual hypnosis to brainwash people into fighting each other--particularly black people in this episode. In 2019, Will uses this same technology to hypnotize the police chief and make him hang himself.

While this episode didn't necessarily advance the plot (and was the first episode that didn't feature an Ozymandias storyline), it did so much to advance the themes and provide historical context for not only Will Reeves' actions, but that of the Seventh Kavalry and the current police institution.

Young and older Will Reeves.

After that emotional ride, I'm interested to see how the next episode will pick up the plot threads. With only three episodes to go, my hope is waning that we will have a satisfactory or fulfilling ending as too many mysterious have been posited at this point, but if the last few episodes can stay true to the emotions of the season, it will be satisfying. Here's to next week!



Phoebe Wagner currently studies at University of Nevada: Reno. When not writing or reading, she can be found kayaking at the nearest lake. Follow her at phoebe-wagner.com or on Twitter @pheebs_w.

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