Who knew Jean Smart had it in her? She was... okay in Legion. She's bounced in and out of plenty of shows, from Designing Women to Kim Possible to Frasier, but in "She Was Killed by Space Junk" Ms. Smart brings her 'A' game to the proceedings. This episode of Watchmen is the best of the three so far, not that the other two were bad, but this is the first one that feels like it's solidly in the comic-book camp. The first two episodes had Easter eggs and references, this is the first one that gives the viewer some information on one of the actual characters from the original comic book series.
It focuses on Laurie Blake, who was arguably the least of the six "heroes" in the comic book series. There was plenty to the character because Alan Moore wrote her, but at the end of the day, she was mostly the defined-by-others heroine. She becomes a vigilante because her mother trains her to be a vigilante. Laurie is romantically involved with Dr. Manhattan, and then Nite Owl. Much of her life is shaped by her absent father, the Comedian. Her shooting Ozymandias is just as ineffectual as Nite Owl and Rorschach attacking him.
The episode begins and ends with Laurie telling a joke. She calls up Dr. Manhattan on Mars, using a Blue Booth system where people regularly "call God". The Blue Booths are set up by Ms. Trieu, who bought out Adrian's businesses after he disappeared. Apparently Trieu is the mysterious "she" who was mentioned last week, and Bian from last week is Trieu's daughter.
After a seemingly botched joke about a bricklayer who ends up with an extra brick, and his daughter tossing the brick into the air, Laurie spends the rest of the episode telling a seemingly unrelated joke about God sending three heroes to Hell. An owl-themed hero who didn't kill anyone, Ozymandias who killed three million, and Dr. Manhattan, who God sends to Hell just because.
During the recitation of the joke, the rest of the episode is told from Laurie's point of view. She now works for the FBI, and we start with her setting up a honeypot trap to sucker in a vigilante, Mr. Shadow (Lee Tergesen), to a supposed bank robbery. Laurie shoots him as he tries to flee. Then Senator Keene (James Wolk) asks her to go to Tulsa to investigate Judd's death. The FBI agrees and sends Agent Petey (Dustin Ingram) with her. He's a fanboy of the 80s, and knows Laurie used to be Silk Spectre.
Smart does a great job of portraying Laurie as a jaded agent who doesn't think much of vigilantes. We also get some references to the comic book series. Laurie has a poster of her and Manhattan (among other vigilantes) up in her apartment. She has a Silk Spectre glove in a drawer, and keeps a caged owl. Keene mentions pardoning Laurie's "caged owl", which suggests Nite Owl is in prison.
Laurie gets to Tulsa and begins investigating Judd's death. She learns about the police's efforts to bring in the Seventh Kavalry (i.e., "7K"), and doesn't think much of Tulsa's masked policemen program. She tracks down Looking Glass and clearly isn't impressed by him or the other masked cops. After taking a seed out from between her teeth using Looking Glass' mirror mask, Laurie learns Angela is at Judd's funeral giving the eulogy.
At the funeral, Laurie greets Angela and Cal like old friends. A 7K bomber sneaks up and threatens to blow everyone up with an explosives vest if Keene doesn't surrender himself. When Keene does so, Laurie shoots the bomber in the head. But the bomb is tied to his heart, and when he dies it arms itself. Angela dumps the body into Judd's grave and then shoves Judd's coffin on top of it, absorbing the blast and saving everyone.
That night, Laurie meets with Angie, and Laurie apologizes for thinking the bomber was bluffing about the heart link. The agent tells Angela she knows she's Sister Night, and knows about the secret compartment in Judd's closet with the KKK robe. Someone took the robe, and Laurie figures it's Angela. Angela walks out on Laurie, and Laurie and Petey go back to their motel where Laurie has sex with Petey after having him wear a mask.
In the end, Laurie finishes her joke by having the falling brick from the first joke killing God in the second joke. She then tells Manhattan she doesn't think humanity is worth much and he's right... and Manhattan drops some space junk on her car. Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum.
Mixed in with this are more adventures of the "Lord of the Manor". He makes a crude spacesuit and shoots a hapless Mr. Phillips clone into space via a trebuchet. Phillips ends up frozen solid, and the Lord rides to a nearby herd of bison and kills one. Before he can skin it for thicker skin for a new spacesuit, a mysterious "Game Warden" shows up and fires a warning shot at the Lord.
Back at his castle, the Lord gets a letter from the Game Warden warning him not to circumvent his captivity. The Lord gets all huffy and dictates a letter saying he has no intention of circumventing his captivity and he's just engaging in personal entertainment. He signs the letter "Adrian Veidt" and dons an old Ozymandias costume, confirming he is indeed Ozymandias from the comics.
There's a bit of confirmation of the link between the TV series and the comic. Laurie's joke reveals Ozymandias used a giant squid, rather than the energy wave from the movie. We do find out the events of the TV series take place 30 years after the events of the comic book. In other words, our present. And as noted, we get confirmation the Lord of the Manor is Adrian. Which was a well-known secret up to now.
As Laurie, Smart saunters and jokes her way through the episode, taking nothing seriously. Being the joke member of the original 60s-80s vigilantes gives Laurie a unique viewpoint: did anyone in the original series respect Silk Spectre? She was basically the joke character. Comedian was a bastard; Ozymandias was the "world's smartest man" and the secret villain; Nite Owl was a super-scientific genius; Rorschach was the obsessed psychopath who scared the bejesus out of practically everyone and shrugged off Antarctica cold; Dr. Manhattan was a god. Silk Spectre... wore a costume barely one step up from lingerie and assaulted a few guys. Woo. Hoo.
Laurie has not-so-thinly disguised contempt for everyone. She insults Mr. Shadow, Keene, Petey, a police prisoner, Looking Glass, and Angela. She's the only one who seems to think of Dr. Manhattan as anyone short of a god, and describes Ozymandias as "Mr. Smarty Pants". Every other line out of her mouth is quotable, and she brings some levity to the proceedings. Louis Gossett Jr. wasn't bad last episode, but Jean Smart is several steps above him just because she's playing a character who isn't part of some secret conspiracy. She doesn't act mysterious and all-knowing: she's just the everyman character who knows what vigilantes are really like. And they're not much.
It also helps Laurie is asking some of the questions, and bringing the conflict, that didn't really exist before she showed up. Angela and her detective buddies are interested in bringing Judd's murderer to justice, but they don't seem to care about why Judd was killed. What was Judd's secret connection to the KKK? Why did someone want him dead? Angela seems more concerned with covering up the information then getting at answers. Laurie wants answers, and there needs to be someone around like her who does want answers.
So I look forward to Laurie in the remaining episodes. She serves in the role of both everyman, and seeker of answers that folks don't want the questions to be asked. Watchmen gets a huge boost from having Laurie, and Ms. Smart, added to the cast.
But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
Written by Gislef on Nov 4, 2019