Watchmen: 1.03 She Was Killed by Space Junk
Episode three of HBO’s comic book adaptation really kicks into high gear as the narrative shifts focus to one of the original Watchmen. A bank hold-up turns out to be a sting operation designed to lure a masked vigilante out into the open. Using herself as the bait is FBI agent Laurie Blake a.k.a. Silk Spectre II, former girlfriend of Dr. Manhattan and daughter of The Comedian. Later that night Senator Keane requests that Laurie travels to Tulsa to take the reins on the investigation into the murder of Judd Crawford. Laurie soon finds herself butting heads with the local law enforcement, masked and otherwise.
Jean Smart is extraordinary in her portrayal of the troubled but still brilliant Laurie Blake. Fresh from her stint as Melanie Bird in the other groundbreaking comic book adaptation Legion, Smart absolutely owns the role of the classic hero. From the get go, you absolutely get the sense that Laurie is always the smartest person in the room. In the scene where she questions Looking Glass inside his interrogation pod , you can feel him getting more and more uncomfortable as she verbally toys with him. It’s actually a very funny scene as she continually calls it a racism detector and he keeps trying to correct her to no avail.
The whole episode actually has an undercurrent of humour running through it, much more so than the previous two with their focus on the race war. She Was Killed by Space Junk is also the episode, so far, that is absolutely dripping in the look and feel of the original comic. As well as obviously giving us Silk Spectre, albeit not in her full costumed glory, we also get a massive nod to The Comedian with the reoccurring theme of jokes and humour running through the episode. The setting of Judd’s funeral also echoes that of The Comedian’s. Camera setups appear to mirror those of panels from the comic.
Laurie tells a joke that threads through the narrative very much in the manner of Rorschach’s Pagliacci one from the original books. The fact that she is telling the joke whilst using a phone booth that apparently allows you to leave messages for Dr. Manhattan on Mars, brings more flourishes of the source material. After having spent more than twenty years with the once Jon Osterman, it’s not surprising his ghost hangs over Laurie and the episode as a whole. You can tell she still has a complicated relationship with her feelings for him, once a lover and then abandoned, just as he has abandoned the whole human race for the last thirty years. It would seem he never actually replies to any of the messages left for him by people, desperate to reconnect with the closest thing they’ve ever had to a real god amongst them. Maybe Laurie’s message will spur him on to return to Earth. I hope so, as I think his presence in the show could be something really special. There is also a very surprising tribute to him as Laurie pulls what can only be described as a god-sized blue sex toy from her bag; maybe she isn’t quite over him after all.
Dan Dreiberg a.k.a. Nite Owl II, also gets a shout out in this episode. Laurie has an owl in a cage and Senator Keane makes a very obvious allusion to the possibility of freeing the owl from custody should Laurie accept his offer to head up the investigation in Tulsa. Supplemental materials online show that Laurie and Dan were arrested in 1995; Laurie subsequently started working for the FBI whilst Dan remains in Federal custody. Whether we get to see Nite Owl fly again remains to be seen.
Rounding out the references to the original Watchmen is of course our regular journey to Jeremy Iron’s castle of clone based insanity. This time out, he’s testing a homemade suit of armour by firing one of his butlers from a trebuchet. Obviously this is not an experiment the clone survives, much like last episode's incineration. Adrian Veidt certainly doesn’t see his companions as anything more than expendable lab rats. Yes that’s right, Adrian Veidt. We can finally say that with conviction as we see him dictate a letter to another clone. I honestly thought when he got to the end he was going to finish with “ yours sincerely etcetera etcetera” and keep the suspense going a bit longer. Instead he gives up his real name and then, as if to underline the point, we see him don his full Ozymandias garb.
More of his strange predicament is also revealed when he attempts to shoot a buffalo but is stopped by a mysterious masked man known only as the Gamekeeper. Adrian, it seems, is being held captive and has rules to follow as part of some agreement. Someone is keeping him captive/safe, possibly as punishment for his psychic squid attack? This part of Watchmen is especially intriguing and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
As befitting an episode based around a joke, the denouement is a punchline as the car from the end of the last episode hurtles from the sky narrowly missing Laurie. She is literally almost killed by space junk, the episode title being taken from a Devo song that she was listening to earlier. Watchmen continues to go from strength to strength and the additional of Jean Smart’s Laurie has only improved things further. I’ve compared them before but Watchmen and Legion really do feel like interpretations of their respective source materials that totally transcend what a comic book show can be. Long may it continue.