Laurie Blake Arrives in Style in ‘Watchmen’ Episode 3 (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Watchmen, Episode 3, “She Was Killed by Space Junk”]
The first two episodes of Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen were, what I would call, world-builders. The focus was primarily on introducing new characters while presenting Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a living, breathing entity in its own right. Any links to the Watchmen of the past were mostly in the tone and aesthetics — or purposefully hidden in background as easter eggs. The message was clear: this is a new chapter in the Watchmen universe.
“She Was Killed By Space Junk” (written by Lindelof & Lila Bycock and directed by Stephen Williams) is the first episode of the season explicitly centered around the original Watchmen. There are direct references to events from Alan Moore’s work, as well as reappropriated quotes ripped straight from pages of the comic book. It’s a proverbial pleasure dome for diehard fans, as OG characters are reintroduced — some in surprising ways — and effortlessly inserted into the larger story taking place in Tulsa.
There is no denying this episode belongs to Laurie Blake, played with world-weary coolness by Emmy Award winner Jean Smart. She’s all aviator shades and acerbic quips — a woman who does not suffer fools gladly. To Watchmen fans, Laurie is better known as the second Silk Spectre, a vigilante bombshell and former long-term girlfriend of Jon Osterman, aka Dr. Manhattan. The Laurie we meet in 2019 is still taking down criminals, but not as a costumed crusader — instead as a gun-toting FBI agent working for the Anti-Vigilante Task Force.
What led her from independent street justice to government-sanctioned law and order is left unexplained, for now, but it’s clear that Laurie is a formidable agent. Her experience on the field is a sought-after resource for a country determined to stamp out a potential resurgence in vigilantism. That’s why Senator Keene (James Wolk) sends her to Tulsa to take the lead on the Chief Crawford (Don Johnson) case, as Keene believes the murder could have been the act of a vigilante.
Laurie’s arrival in Tulsa brings a different kind of energy to the series; her wit and ability to cut through the bulls**t is a welcome tone-changer to what has been quite a gloomy show so far. “You wear a mirror on your face, people are gonna use it,” she casually tells Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) as she checks her teeth in his mask. She doesn’t want to deal with pleasantries or waste time questioning the local racists from the Seventh Kavalry — Laurie wants real answers, and she knows exactly who has them.
Angela (Regina King) might be able to hide her identity from the average joe on the street, but there is no fooling Laurie, who knows what it’s like to live a double life. There is no doubt Laurie recognizes part of herself in Angela — after all, Silk Spectre and Sister Night are cut from the same cloth, they just took opposite paths. Laurie is a vigilante turned cop; Angela is a cop turned vigilante. “Do you know how you can tell the difference between a vigilante and a masked cop?” Laurie asks. “No,” Angela replies. “Me neither.”
It’s magic whenever Laurie and Angela share the screen together, each woman sizing up the other, calculating what to reveal and when to reveal it. Things get particularly tense after Crawford’s funeral, which is hijacked by a 7K member with a bomb connected to his heart. While Angela does her best to calm the situation, Laurie decides to hell with the theatrics and shoots the man in the head. Tragedy is averted when Angela drags the body into Crawford’s open grave and shoves the coffin on top to take the brunt of the explosion. “I thought he was bluffing,” says Laurie.
This whole situation is weird to Laurie, and she makes sure Angela knows she knows. Inside the walls of a mausoleum, Laurie needles at Angela for answers. Why was the funeral so soon when an investigation is still pending? Why aren’t any other possibilities being explored? What about the wheelchair tire tracks near the crime scene? Not to mention Crawford’s secret closet compartment, which was empty when Laurie found it? “Men who are hung, with secret closets, tend to think they’re good guys, and those who protect them think they’re good guys,” Laurie tells Angela. “I eat good guys for breakfast.”
Laurie’s history is littered with men and women claiming to be good guys. But she knows better than most that even those with good intentions are capable of terrible things — that is practically the story of the Watchmen, which is told in bits and pieces throughout the episode. In what is essentially an intergalactic jail call, Laurie leaves a recorded phone message for the Mars-dwelling Dr. Manhattan, where she recites a joke about three heroes awaiting judgment at the pearly gates — all of them sent to hell for their crimes and atrocities.
It doesn’t take a Watchmen fanatic to work out that she’s talking about Nite Owl, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan. The great inventor, the smartest man in the world, and the blue god who gave up on humanity. “All the heroes have gone to hell,” Laurie states. These are not “good guys,” these are flawed men with troubled pasts and questionable motives. Even God himself goes to hell in this joke. That’s why Laurie doesn’t consider herself a hero. “I’m just a woman,” she says. “I was standing behind those other guys the whole time, you just didn’t see me.”
Laurie’s view of humanity is bleak and unforgiving. “We’re not worth giving a s**t about anyway, are we?” she says in her phone message. But there is still a part of her that clings to hope that humanity can be saved, that maybe Dr. Manhattan still cares. After all, she lived with the passive-aggressive blue nudist for 20 years; there’s a reason she keeps going back to the phone-box, even if it’s just to pretend. And someone who didn’t care about Dr. Manhattan probably wouldn’t carry a giant blue dildo (with attachable scrotum) with them on business trips — the best dick joke since The Leftovers penis scanner.
After Laurie sends her message to Mars, a car comes crashing down to earth directly in front of her — presumably Angela’s car which was sucked up by a spaceship last week. Laurie can’t help but burst into laughter at this sign from above. “He’s not a hero, he’s a f**king joke,” she said at the start of the episode after apprehending a Batman-looking vigilante. Laurie has realized what a joke everything is, and being able to laugh at it all is the only thing that makes sense… something her father knew all too well (check the Additional Notes for some comic backstory on Laurie’s parents).
While Laurie inserts herself into the main narrative, there is another OG Watchmen character who remains on the periphery. As expected, Jeremy Irons’ reclusive playwright is revealed to be millionaire smartypants Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias (he even dons the costume!). This week he’s traded in the art of theater for some scientific experiments — sadly, we lose yet another Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) clone in the process (this time frozen to death). “I think we’re gonna need a thicker skin,” Veidt remarks, which could be a tagline for the whole series.
Is Veidt trying to make his own Dr. Manhattan? I’m not sure, but I do know that he seems to be reliving his glory days in exile. There is this strange rivalry with a masked neighbor, who is referred to only as “the game warden.” The two men send verbose letters back and forth as Veidt prepares for combat. “You seem to think I’m a villain,” Veidt writes. “My activities are purely recreational in nature.” Veidt comes across as the type of guy who’d enjoy Civil War reenactments. Who’s betting the game warden is just another clone created for Veidt’s amusement?
I’m itching to find out how the Veidt storyline ties into the larger goings-on in Tulsa. He’s obviously not dead, as the newspaper headlines claimed, so there is some sort of cover-up happening, and I suspect others know about it. Laurie’s underling, Agent Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram), certainly has his suspicions, though Laurie is reluctant to talk of her Watchmen past with the young detective — she does sleep with him though. I guess that’s one way to shut him up.
Watchmen continues to expand its world in impressive ways, connecting old and new in a way that feels fresh. Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake is a brilliant addition to an already stellar cast, and Jeremy Irons is so perfectly Adrian Veidt it hurts. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and I do think those with no prior familiarity with Watchmen could be in danger of getting lost, but the show is bristling with such style and confidence it is hard not to get wrapped up in it.
Additional Notes (contains Watchmen comic book spoilers)
- Laurie Blake (born Laurel Jane Juspeczyk) is the daughter of Sally Jupiter (aka the original Silk Spectre). She took her mother’s mantle and became a crime-fighting vigilante, though her heart was never really in it. Towards the end of the comic, she learns that her real father was Edward Morgan Blake (aka The Comedian), a violent, amoral superhero later employed by the U.S. government. The news initially came with shock and disgust, but over time it appears Laurie has accepted this and has not only adopted her father’s surname but now works for the government herself.
- Early in the episode, we see that Laurie keeps a pet owl, surely a reference to OG Watchmen character Nite Owl, who became Laurie’s close confidant and later romantic partner.
- If you want some extra reading, HBO has unveiled a Watchmen companion site named Peteypedia, which contains files and documents compiled by Special Agent Dale Petey. It’s not essential to the series, but from what I’ve read so far, it does help fill in some gaps and provides informative background history. There is analysis of Rorschach’s journal and why it’s become somewhat of a bible to the Seventh Kavalry. There are references to what happened to certain Watchmen characters after the 1985 “alien squid” attack. And there’s an explanation of why America has a severe case of “techphobia” (which explains why there are no mobile phones in the series).
Watchmen, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO