That was deep. And insightful. And probably doesn't make any sense to anyone not steeped in Watchmen lore.
In fact, I'm not sure it does. Yes, it gives us an insight into the 1940s and Hooded Justice and the Minutemen. But it doesn't shine much light on the present of the show. It's a powerful story that is the kind of thing you'd expect in a theatrical movie, not a TV show. Even a HBO TV show.
So what kind of light does "This Extraordinary Being" shine on Watchmen? It picks up where last week's episode left off, with Angela (Regina King) swallowing a bottle of Nostalgia. Which is essentially her grandfather Will's (Louis Gossett Jr.) memories in pill form. This lets Angela experience Will's memories of his life history. There's a lot of imagery involved: Will's mother plays the piano, planes from the Tulsa race riots roar overhead, Will's son/Angela's father grows up over a period of minutes, and the silent Bass Reeves movie Trust in the Law plays in the background from time to time.
There are bits of the present, with the "real" Hooded Justice on American Hero Story beating up two FBI agents, Laurie trying to get Angela to sign a consent form to have her stomach pumped, Cal reading a statement to try and bring Angela out of her memory-coma, and Trieu showing up at the end. But it's basically the story of Will Reeves (Jovan Adepo). He somehow makes his way from Tulsa to New York City, becomes a police officer, and meets discrimination among his fellow white officers. And deals with the Klan in NYC.
After three white officers put a hood on Will, hang him, and then cut him down, Will decides to wear the hood and the noose, don a costume, and becomes the world's first vigilante, Hooded Justice. He paints the skin around his eyes white to conceal his identity, and is soon sought out by Nelson Gardner (Jake McDorman). Who is the costumed vigilante Captain Metropolis, and has worked out Will and Hooded Justice are connected. Originally, Nelson figures Will is feeding Hooded Justice information on criminals, but upon seeing him, realizes Will is Hooded Justice.
Hooded Justice joins the Minutemen, the 1940s group of eight costumed vigilantes. He pursues his own battle against the Klan, or an organization within them going by the name "Cyclops", and discovers they're using subliminal voices in movies to start race riots in Harlem. Will finds out, kills the people responsible, and burns down the warehouse. Nelson doesn't believe him, and Will's wife, June (Danielle Deadwyler), leaves with their son Marcus after figuring Will will never let go of his anger.
We finally get a memory of the near-present, when elderly Will uses the mind-control technology to force Judd to hang himself. Then Angela wakes up and finds Trieu at her bedside having transfused clean blood into Angela to keep her from falling into psychosis.
The big revelation is Hooded Justice was black, not white. Which doesn't contradict anything in the comics, because there was never much revealed of Hooded Justice's background other than Hollis Mason claimed he supported Hitler. He was strong, he was near-psychotic judging from his wide-eyed bloodshot expressions. Hooded Justice was the first vigilante. How Will ends up in bed with Nelson isn't at all clear, as there's no indication Will is bisexual either before or after.
The Klan/Cyclops/mesmerism angle is out of left field. And it doesn't seem to tie into much in the TV series. What does mind control have to do with Trieu's Millennium Clock? Will's mind-control device is pretty effective: are the Seventh Kavalry using it? Did Will burning down the warehouse and taking the projector prevent them from developing it? Is the mind control related to the teleport technology we saw 7K using last week? What does the collection of lithium batteries have to do with either technology?
So this episode doesn't tell us anything at the moment about what's going on in the present day. There's no mention of Adrian on Jupiter. We don't find out if Looking Glass is alive or dead after 7K broke into his home last week. We don't find out anything about what Will is up to, with or without Trieu. Will had Judd kill himself, but why? Did he know Judd was a Klan member? Was Judd a Klan member? Judd denies it when Will confronts him, claiming the Klan robes belonged to his grandfather.
Even from a Watchman standpoint, there is a lot left unstated. Nelson was decapitated in a car crash. Did he fake his death as some have claimed? What happens to Will between the 1940s and the present day?
Cinematically, "This Extraordinary Being" is breathtaking. And it shows us Will's background. What it all means isn't at all clear. Why does the man who became Hooded Justice work with Trieu? What is Trieu up to? Apparently Trieu is feeding her memories to her daughter, but why? Are Trieu and (now) Will part of Cyclops, or are they opposed to it and Judd was part of Cyclops?
Maybe it will all make sense in retrospect by season's end. While "This Extraordinary Being" is an amazing character study of a 1940s black man in America, it doesn't shine any light on the modern-day shenanigans of Watchmen. Maybe it doesn't have to, but with only nine episodes in the season it seems like an odd detour that doesn't go anywhere.
But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
Written by Gislef on Nov 25, 2019