Sunday, October 20, 2019

REVIEW: 'Watchmen' - The Police Rally After One of Their Own is Attacked in 'It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice'

HBO's Watchmen - Episode 1.01 "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice"

In an alternate America where police conceal their identities behind masks to protect themselves from a terrorist organization, Detective Angela Abar investigates the attempted murder of a fellow officer under the guidance of her friend and chief, Judd Crawford. Meanwhile, the Lord of a Country Estate receives an anniversary gift from his loyal servants.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of HBO's Watchmen.

"It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice" was written by Damon Lindelof and directed by Nicole Kassell

Slavery is the original sin of the United States of America. It's a stain on our collective identity to this very day. The actions from the past still have eery reverberations that inform so many decisions. This drama envisions an alternate present. The timeline diverged from real-life a few decades ago. And yet, there are a fair number of similarities that parallel the societal issues we still face today. Communities of color have always been under attack. It was true in 1921. It is still true today. This drama opens with a visceral display of terror and oppression. A young boy may look to a silent film and see himself as the hero of the story. A black marshal is the one who saves the community from the corrupt sheriff. However, the outside world is absolutely vicious to anyone with his skin color. People are being shot by white supremacists on the ground and from the sky above. The world is ending. Even the possibility of escaping seems futile. This young boy presents as one of the few survivors. This is more than just a tragedy that should forever be remembered to ensure the same mistakes don't happen again. It highlights just how little the world has actually changed in the following century. The world of Watchmen may be radically different than our own. It's a world that was once defined by masked vigilantes and people with powers. That informed history in ways that forever shaped the country. Vietnam is part of the United States now. Richard Nixon was never impeached. He served multiple terms. And now, Robert Redford has been President since the early 1990s. It's an aspirational world in which people hope that things are better now than they were in the past. But the yearning for what used to be is overwhelmingly apparent as well. When the show first depicts this alternate present-day, it does so with a traffic stop between a police officer and a white supremacist. The action points out just how eery it is for this officer to be wearing a mask. The need to hide one's identity has a very different connotation in this world. Masks are so common as a form to protect one's privacy that it is a requirement on the job. However, it has emboldened others to act as well. The white supremacist group known as the Seventh Calvary is much more dangerous because its followers hide behind masks. They are adept as an organization. They understand the power of the collective image. Strength and resilience comes from that. The police may have had several years of peace. However, it was only a matter of time before disaster occurred once more. That may be such a nihilistic view of the world. It presents an argument that tragedy and human suffering will always be present no matter what is done. This officer is shot because of the color of his skin. He may have the support system of a police department willing to give him the best care possible. However, it's still a life defined by secrecy and the need to always present some false narrative. Instead of comforting the officer's wife, police chief Judd Crawford has to rationalize a cover story. He also has to motivate the men and women of his department to act swiftly. That just comes with the understanding that more violence is inevitable in this world. Even in a state of reformed policing, there is forever the fear that anything and everything is dangerous. Embodying that mindset at all times can be so corrosive to a person's mentality and actions though.

Angela Abar presents as the protagonist of this story. She's not introduced until after these actions are taken. She is a detective with the police. Her cover story is that she left the job after the previous attack on the institution by the Seventh Calvary. That was the event that forced the mandate for masks. However, that ensures that the police are now the masked vigilantes of society. They are the ghosts of this world who are also in charge of policing it. The rules may be more strict. They have to record everything. They need authentication in order to discharge their weapon. But they still wield the power to do a great deal of harm. When Angela is called in to work, she breaks into a man's home and locks him in her trunk. She knows that he is a white supremacist simply because she can smell it. She has the freedom to punch and hurt those who wish to disregard her in the world. That can be powerful. However, it can also enable her into believing certain actions are right and just. She beats a man into submission just so he can provide the information the police needs. Her fellow detective, Looking Glass, can interrogate him and glean the answers based on the nonverbal reactions. However, Angela is the one who gets to the truth. That pursuit of immediate results no matter the risks is what seems to define Angela and Judd on the job. Because they emerge unharmed from all of this and can return to their loving families, it seems like it is fist-pumping action that should be celebrated. They still put several lives in harm's way. The Seventh Calvary is a looming presence. One working a mysterious agenda that must be stopped at all costs. The rules that dictate how people act in society though need to be plain and simple. When the alarms sound throughout the city, the people stop knowing that it means squids will be falling from the sky soon. That's an alarming and weird visual. One that showcases this as a strange and foreign world. But it has such a strong basis in what the viewer already knows and understands. There are aspects of a better society. However, there is the fear that it can all sink into chaos and despair at a moment's notice. When the police go to the ranch hoping to put a stop to this long-simmering conflict once and for all, they have to shield themselves with the dead bodies of cows. That is a gruesome visual. But Angela and her colleagues are more than willing to storm up and shoot the individuals lethally when an opportunity presents itself. When Judd finds himself chasing after another aircraft, he is more than willing to compromise his own safety in order to destroy the target. Again, it's such a cavalier approach to life. Judd feels invincible. He is the police chief of this world. He can sing and he's charming. And yet, the premiere ends with his death because he believes he no longer needs protection from his officers. He believes he can handle any threat. The final image confirms that he can't. People in this world may be caught up in their bubbles. There is a strange detour to a man in a castle far away that doesn't seem to connect to anything else currently going on. How the narratives collide should be a fascinating story because this Lord presents with such a drastically different life. It's one of privilege and servants more than willing to do anything for him. They idolize him in a way. Of course, the officers revere their chief as well. He authorizes free weapons to eliminate this threat because their lives could be at risk. However, he is the one caught out in the open. It's such a viscerally stunning image to see him lynched. Angela is distraught and may even realize that the people who live behind masks aren't as protected as they would like to think. That too is a vital message. Masks may embolden people to act a certain way with more confidence. However, the consequences of their actions may always be chasing after them. The time simply seems to have run out for Judd. Angela too finds herself face-to-face with a man who has survived so much and has figured out who she truly is in this constantly changing and tragic world. That's thrilling while also showcasing this drama as one truly on the pulse of the weighty issues of our time.