Season One, Episode Seven – “An Almost Religious Awe”
Written by Stacy Osei-Kuffour
Directed by David Semel
I recently saw an acquaintance who just watched the first episode of Watchmen remark that they were confused about what this show had to do with the 1980s comic book and why they should watch the next chapter. People read Watchmen as a whole; only the original readers experienced it as a monthly, which could have led to someone reading issue one and wondering what the big deal about this series was. It’s not the individual piece, but the whole that matters with Watchmen. Seemingly unimportant background matter in issue one gains more considerable significance the deeper you get into the story, the same thing goes for the Watchmen series. Each piece leads to a greater whole.
Doctor Manhattan is present throughout this entire episode, framing young Angela Abar’s tragic childhood in the 51st state of Vietnam. He’s turned into a legend by a documentary that retells his origins and role in the American conquest of Vietnam. Puppeteers on the street tell stories about his defeat of the Viet Cong. Performers paint themselves blue and take photos with tourists. Lady Trieu owns and operates the blue phone booths that purport to send messages Manhattan during his self-imposed exile on Mars.
“An Almost Religious Awe” explores the idea that someone as powerful as Manhattan would draw not just admiration but resentment. One of the more understandable arguments Lex Luthor puts forward is that he hates Superman because he represents the inadequacy of humanity. In the face of a living, breathing god, what purpose does humankind serve any longer? The population came to rely on Manhattan to solve their problems, and in turn, this takes away their agency. It’s never explicitly stated, but we see a Vietnamese terrorist attack American soldiers. I can infer that the hatred grew when they saw the United States wielding their own god, making it not a war but a massacre.
Senator Joe Keene, Jr. is a character I haven’t talked about a lot, but he was a clear villain to me from the get-go. It seemed apparent that he was pushing forward a public image while hiding his true intentions. We saw his allegiances revealed when Looking Glass came across the scene in the mall. Here we go a little deeper into his actual plans. It should be noted that this character is the son of Senator John Keene, the man who introduced the legislation known as the Keene Act. This law outlawed masked vigilantes in 1977 and is what led to mass riots and disbanding of the Minutemen. It’s interesting to note that Junior passed the Defense of Police Act that allowed police officers to operate masked & with their identities concealed, allowing them the freedom to disguise themselves that Joe’s father denied the private citizens.
The conspiracy that is revealed is ideally introduced with Laurie Blake at the center of Senator Keene’s rant. What he plans to do strikes at her heart personally and creates a connection between herself and Angela Abar that I suspect will shape the final act of this story. Remember, this is not necessarily a season one, but is being billed by HBO as a mini-series. I really hope we have a definitive ending and complete story.
This episode, in particular, serves as not quite an exposition dump but provides lots of answers & revelations that help contextualize past moments. The flashbacks to Angela’s childhood in Vietnam are pretty effective, but it’s hard to top the origin of Hooded Justice from last week. We don’t get a sense of Angela’s relationship with her parents beyond the surface level, and I would argue we don’t see how bad it truly got for her being alone in that faraway place. For all the answers, though, we are left with questions. Looking Glass is MIA, but made short work of the attackers last seen approaching his home. It’s not entirely clear what Senator Keene will do when he acquires the power he seeks. Lady Trieu’s clock will be switched on imminently, and the consequences of that are unknown. Adrian Veidt’s role in all of this is a mystery, but I hope we get a concrete reveal of how his story ties into what’s going down in Tulsa.
Only two more episodes left, and I am excited to see where things end up.