Sunday, November 24, 2019

REVIEW: 'Watchmen' - Angela Embraces a New Identity as the First Masked Hero's Story Is Told in 'This Extraordinary Being'

HBO's Watchmen - Episode 1.06 "This Extraordinary Being"

Deep under the influence of Nostalgia, Angela gets a firsthand account of her grandfather's journey.

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 next episode of HBO's Watchmen.

"This Extraordinary Being" was written by Damon Lindelof & Cord Jefferson and directed by Stephen Williams

A version of Hooded Justice's story has been told already. It's the basis for the first season of American Hero Story. That first presented as a case of the series mimicking the culture to reflect the different ways stories could be told in entertainment in this alternate reality. Here, it's much more complicated than that by highlighting the importance of storytellers to be authentic with the narratives they have crafted. American Hero Story has been a hyper-violent and intensely sexual version of a superhero story. It's the public perception of who Hooded Justice was behind the mask and in his personal life. He comes across as a man of mystery. He doesn't explain every detail of his costume or why he decided to put on a mask. Nor is he quick to describe the various relationships he has with his fellow heroes and romantic partners. Instead, it's a story all about the fighting and the sex. It plays into the narrative that people put on masks in order to fight the villains who couldn't be stopped by conventional justice. These otherworldly threats seemed beyond the capabilities of the regular systems to handle. As such, it took someone equally special who decided to take fate and justice into their own hands because humanity needed that salvation from these massive conspiracies. Of course, that's not true at all. In fact, it's anger and vengeance that ultimately created the first masked vigilante. The 1921 massacre in Tulsa was more than just the entry point into the story this series is telling with its specific characters in the years since that tragedy. This hour argues that that event fueled the entire culture of masked vigilantism. It may be outlawed to wear a mask now and take justice into one's own hands. However, the police in Tulsa are masked individuals who now operate with the confidence that they can do whatever they want. They can appear as completely different people who allow their true colors to fly with no fear of actual consequences for their actions. The world that Angela lives in is incredibly violent as well. That's more than just the fictionalization of the world as seen through the lens of American Hero Story. This is still a place where incredible and inexplicable things happen. A squad fell out of the sky after all. But this is also an incredibly personal tale. One where a black man felt more capable of making change while wearing a mask instead of a badge. Will Reeves survived the massacre in Tulsa. He saved another life. Their journeys would be always intertwined because of that tragedy. Will wears his anger much more blatantly though. It doesn't matter that he is a member of the NYPD. He is still seen as a black man in America. He doesn't have the authority that naturally comes with the profession. In fact, his fellow officers are willing to condemn him with the threat of a lynching. That is so terrifying and claustrophobic. A noose is a powerful image for a specific reason. It was used to commit acts of violence against specific people solely for the color of their skin. That's completely lost in American Hero Story. In the adaptation of Hooded Justice's life, the symbol of the noose is simply a mystery to be speculated about - with most seeing it as a sex thing. He is positioned as the aggressive individual who will kill whomever stands in his way. But he's also a white man whose face is seen. His story is dramatically told even though it's complete fiction. Will Reeves always felt the pressure to remain masked. He could never show his true face because that would expose the illusion of what he had created.

Of course, it was fundamentally an illusion regardless. Hooded Justice's adventures with the Minutemen were nothing more than a publicity stunt. Will took to action in the first place to save a husband and wife from being mugged. He had survived his own fight with death. His fellow officers wanted to intimidate him into submission. That didn't work. But their actions served as a constant reminder for what all can be lost in this world because of the horrendous and violent views of others. This story builds in violence as it goes along. It ends in a place where Will is just as lethal as the Hooded Justice seen on American Hero Story. However, it's an epic journey where he continues to feel isolated and rebuffed. He may have meaningful connections with his wife and Captain Metropolis. However, there is something lost to his own pursuits of combating white supremacy. That is the true and genuine threat that vows to destroy American society. It's not some elaborate supervillain who has concocted some ingenious plan that threatens large swaths of people. Instead, it's an ideology that has infected crowds of individuals to condemn people of a specific race. Will understands that fully. He is the only one who can take action. He is frustrated and angry. He allows himself to become the sheriff the world depends on just like the film he loved so much as a boy. His world was destroyed once because of terrorism from white supremacists. He won't allow that to happen again. And yet, his life is destroyed anyway. He loses his family for good because of the actions he is willing to take. He eventually becomes horrified by the image he has created as Hooded Justice. It's not an aspirational idea for people to look up to. It's not something he wants for his son as he grows up. Pushing his family away is so devastating though. This is part of Will's story that he wants to share with Angela. She is the one going on this journey throughout the hour. She steps into Will's life knowing fully well that the events in 1921 Tulsa robbed all sense of innocence and color for him. Everything after that fact is painted in stark black or white terms. Angela has had a similar mentality towards the world because of what she has seen on the job. Things have to be that simple in order to issue justice. Of course, it's also important for people in positions of power to see the nuance of the situation and the cost to any particular action. Judd Crawford and Senator Keene may believe that they are keeping the monstrous forces of the world at bay so that a mass slaughter doesn't happen once more. But that may be nothing more than grandiose thoughts of self-importance. Will doesn't have any empathy for Judd and the work he claims to be doing in the city. He views him as just as guilty as his grandfather who wore that klan hood. Judd still having a sense of loyalty to that heinous image showcases just how toxic his heritage really is in the scope of this world. It's a sin that still leaves a major stain over the country. It doesn't matter that laws have been made to promote racial equality. The divisions may run too deep. As such, Will is still taking matters into his own hands to kill those who espouse these views even though he is 105 years old. He conditions Angela into accepting that as part of this mission and way of life as well. It may not matter that Agent Blake and Calvin are trying to get her back. Now, she may be amenable to whatever Will and Lady Trieu have planned for this world. This conditioning is vital while also highlighting the importance of these stories being shared in every true angle no matter how ugly that actually is.