Season 1, Episode 3 – “She Was Killed By Space Junk”
Written by Damon Lindeloff & Lila Byock
Directed by Stephen Williams
As I am watching Watchmen, I’m often wondering what this experience must be like for someone who has never read the graphic novel. This episode, in particular, will not hit a viewer as hard if they aren’t already familiar with Laurie Blake, formerly Laurie Juspeczyk, aka Silk Spectre. Knowing the story of Laurie’s mother, the revelation of her father, and the complexity of her relationships with Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl adds so much to the experience of watching this chapter. But I also think seeing Laurie as a blank slate could provide a fresh understanding of who she is as an aging woman, turning on the masked vigilante community that she was once a part of, and immediately clashing with the Tulsa police.
Jean Smart plays Laurie, and she, like in everything she does, is fantastic. The difference here is that Smart is getting a more prominent role than she has played in recent years. Often Smart is cast in crucial supporting roles, which lead to her stealing the show in whatever project she’s working on. She is pitch-perfect as Laurie, calloused from years of trauma trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps, jaded yet charming enough to do her job well, but also going through the motions while trying to belie her true feelings. We learn that Dan Drieberg, aka Nite Owl, is locked up in federal prison, likely for violating the Keene Act, which made vigilantism in all forms illegal. Her other former lover, Manhattan, is in a constantly observed exile on Mars.
This episode is framed around a joke that Laurie tells into a phone that appears to be designated to broadcast messages to Dr. Manhattan on Mars. Her joke is about three of her former colleagues dying and standing in judgment from God. Nite Owl is sent to Hell for being too weak. Ozymandius is sent to Hell for the atrocities committed in the conclusion of the Watchmen comic. Dr. Manhattan is sent to Hell for presuming that he is God. There’s a brilliant twist that occurs in the punchline that I won’t spoil here, but it is evidence to me that Watchmen is going to be in par with The Leftovers in terms of being one of the best television series of all-time.
Laurie is partnered with Agent Petey, a younger FBI employee but one who wrote a dissertation on masked vigilantes. He’s a variation on a fanboy, attempting to be lofty and academic about the whole thing, but also eager to slap on a mask to blend with the “natives” on the Tulsa PD while he’s visiting. Laurie sees beyond the public love of “superheroes” and clashes with her partner about his beliefs. She explains, without going into too much detail, that the people Petey admires are not who he imagines they are, especially Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandius.
Speaking of Veidt, we get more information on what exactly is going on with him. He is not the lord of the manor but a prisoner in some impossible locale. The “Game Warden” watches over him, prohibiting Veidt from crossing a boundary, presumably outside of this prison. However, Veidt still thinks himself the smartest man alive and dons his old Ozymandius get-up with plans of using a medieval catapult to escape. There’s a briefly glimpsed pirate flag bearing a yellow skull & crossbones, which reminded me of both the Watchmen logo and that in-universe obsession with pirate comics over our world’s superhero fixation.
Not much happens in terms of furthering the Angela Abar story in this episode, but like some of the best work Lindeloff did on Lost and The Leftovers, this character spotlight sets a bar for quality. Of all the television I’ve watched this year, this might be the best episode of anything I’ve seen. I cannot wait to see more of Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake and see where she is at the end of this season.