Watchmen sure knows how to start it’s episodes. This one in particular begins with a logo flip, as the Watchmen title font is blown with smoke and turns into a purple Minutemen logo. It’s the little touches, you know?
The episode begins with a scene from the “American Hero Story” show that’s been airing within the show itself. Hooded Justice is being questioned by Feds, and it concerns Hooded Justice because they know he’s been fucking Captain Metropolis and the Feds happen to know that Metropolis is also having an affair with FBI Director, J Edgar Hoover. This ties in with the rumors that Hoover was a closeted homosexual and the show make it seems that to be the case. The Feds don’t want anyone seeing the film Metropolis has of them, as it would damage the FBI’S reputation and they task Hooded Justice with getting the film. In now classic AHS fashion, Hooded Justice kills the feds in spectacularly gruesome style and we pan out of the show to jump back into reality.
Angela swallowed her grandfather’s nostalgia pills and is awaiting for them to kick in. Laurie storms in and demands Angela to sign the waiver so they can proceed to pump hwmer stomach. Seeing as how these pills are the only way to learn more about her grandfather, Angela silently refuses as the memories of her grandfather begins to play out in real-time.
We see Will being inducted into the local police force, amongst an all white cadet class. Will is proud to be an officer of the law, being that his childhood hero was Marshall Bass Reeves, he wants to protect and serve his community. Even more so, he wants to be an officer to make sure nothing happens the way it did in Tulsa when he was a child. However, upon receiving their badges, Will is overstepped by the Chief and is instead given his badge by a fellow black officer. The subtle racism is not missed by Will, but he doesn’t care as the man giving him his badge is the man Will looked up into within the force and joined because of him. The Lieutenant offers his apologies for that reasoning and tells Will “Beware of the Cyclops”. Confused, Will just moves on and celebrates his achievement with his wife June, a local newspaper reporter.
As they drink, June questions why he really wanted to be a cop. She mentions that now he’s one of them, how is he going to use his new power of the law? She asks, after all he’s witnessed, how is he not angry? Will replies with how he doesn’t live in thr past and thus doesn’t want to be angry, despite watching Tulsa be ripped apart at it’s very seams. Later on, Will is out on patrol when he witnesses a man toss a Molotov cocktail through the window of a Jewish deli. Will calmly walks over and attempts to arrest the man, bringing him in for process when a fellow officer takes over the situation. Flashing a hand symbol, the officers in the precinct allow it even though Will is the arresting officer and thus the one to handle the processing.
Frustrated at the fact that this man didn’t even respect the fact that he’s a cop simply because he’s black, it cuts to the next day and Will is on patrol. Stopping by a newsstand, he chats with the owner who is reading Action Comics #1, the debut of Superman. The man retells what he’s read to Will and Will realizes the similarities to Superman’s origins and his own. Both were sent away/out of a home soon to be destroyed, by parents who loved them so much, they were willing to make sure their son made it out alive even if they weren’t going to. Will is suddenly bumped into by the man he arrested, walking away free. Will charges back in the precinct demanding to know why he was left go, with the officer at the desk warning Will to drop it and walk away. Growing more frustrated with his new job, Will goes for a walk when a squad car pulls up with three white officers in it, asking Will to grab a drink. Will declines and when he walks into an alleyway, the car pulls around the men beat Will unconscious. Will wakes up and hes being dragged to a tree and is being lynched. Right as he was going to fade away, they cut the rope and warn him to “keep his nigger nose out of white people’s business”.
Distraught and hurt that his fellow officers would do this, Will shuffles his way home…when he heard a scream. A couple is being mugged and Will makes a choice. He rips eyeholes in the hood he was wearing, and fights the attacking men, saving the couple. Will returns to his apartment, confirming to his wife that he is indeed, very angry.
Will awakes the next day hearing that the newspaper has deemed him a hero for saving the couple, and the two realize that if the public knew he was a black man, they would call for his arrest or even death. Will recalls to June that growing up he believed in Bass Reeves, that the one holding the badge should uphold the law. But they realize the only way to get true justice, is wearing a mask. If the Klan wears mask to terrorize innocents, then Will shall wear one to terrorize criminals. So they decided to paint around his eyes with a white tone to make it appear that Will is a white man, because then people will cheer for their new vigilante.
And hear we get the big reveal: Will Reeves is Hooded Justice! Will hears word that the man who burned down the deli owns a market himself, which means he was burning the Jewish deli not only out of hate, but out of greed as well. Will watches as the officers that attacked him go tbrough the backdoor, flashing tbe hand symbols they did in the precinct. Will marches up to the door, and begins his assault. Beating four men, who are now wearing Klansmen robes, Will finds a book that is meant to be used to hypnotize people into commiting acts that aren’t of their own free will. He then gets tossed through a door and continues fighting inside the market, with the Anti-Semitic arsonist watching. He grabs his shotgun and proceeds to shoot as Will jumps out the window, reverse mirroring how we saw Hooded Justice be introduced in the first episode of American Hero Story, back in episode 2. Right as he jumps, time freezes and we see Laurie trhing to speak to Angela.
Now Angela has been reliving these old memories as Will but every so often, Angela is in the memory herself and it’s while being frozen mid-air that Laurie tries to wake Angela up from the coma she’s now in. They even bring in her husband Cal to try to wake her up by restating simple facts about Angela to help her brain differentiate the two times. But it doesn’t work and Angela falls back I to the memories.
Will and June prepare to eat dinner, when someone knocks. At the door, is Nelson Gardner, who fans will recognize is Captain Metropolis. Nelson states that they’re forming a team of heroes, inspired by Hooded Justice, and they know Will is the one feeding Hooded Justice Intel. Keeping his cover, Will says he may know who HJ is but doesn’t know if he should let him know about the Minutemen team Metropolis is forming. Nelson leaves his card, and next thing we see is Will and Nelson having sex. This does confirm from the AHS docu-series that Metropolis and Hooded Justice were having affairs.
Will returns home and retells his wife how they first met. It’s revealed that the baby Will saved when he woke up after the Tulsa Massacre was actually June. She then tells him she’s pregnant, and Will reflects on that thought. He later accepts the invitation to join the Minutemen and they have a press conference where he wants to reveal the case they’re working on about the Cyclops, when Captain of Metropolis interjects with his own theory and draws the reporters attention away to some sponsored ads he’s gained for the team. Will leaves, feeling like the team isn’t real and only for publicity.
Time goes on, June raises their son and works while we only see Will putting on his makeup to go on costumed patrol. Will is growing tired and sees he isn’t helping as more attacks on black citizens by the KKK increases and Nazis hold rallies I’m cities across the country. One day on police patrol, a movie theater was attacked and Will sees that once again, it’s a black crowd being attacked and police blaming them for it happening in the first place. Will walks in to survey the scene, and begins talking with a witness in the seats. The woman says that when the movie started, there was a flicker in the lights and that a voice in her head told her to hurt people around her. Will remembers the book he saw in the market backroom and believes it’s tying into the Cyclops case. Will sees a man walking through the backdoor with film projectors in his arms and realized that Cyclops is using subliminal tricks to get blacks to riot and destroy themselves, a more insidious plot that Will ever thought to be.
When he contacts Nelson to tell him what he knows, Nelson brushes it off and says the black communities riot on their own volition and how dumb it is to think the Klan is using mind control to do this. Will is angry, more than usual because this whole Minutemen team was supposed to help each other, especially the original costumed hero. It’s then the arsonist, Fred, sees Will in the phone booth and reacts to his phone slamming. He says that despite not knowing Will as the usual officer to patrol this area, he’s willing to give him some steaks as a thank you for serving the community, but doesn’t recognize Will as he believes all black look alike. But he doesn’t get to finish that racist statement, as Will proceeds to shoot him in the face.
Furious and tired of his work meaning nothing, Will dons his mask and walks into the warehouse, ready to do what is necessary. He begins to kill every person inside the slaughterhouse, seeing that every person is a Klansmen working with the projectors he saw them carry out. He goes into backroom to fins the recording setup for the subliminal messages they’re putting in the movies. The messages are aimed at having blacks attack each other but not whites and as Will goes to finish off the officer recording this, he proceeds to strangle him instead with his own headset cable. Only now has Will actually done something as compared to the Minutemen, who rather not get involved with the “black unrest” growing across the country. Will then burns down the warehouse and takes a projector, only stopping to watching it all burn as he once watched Tulsa burn.
Will returns home to find his son in his costume, putting on the makeup. He doesn’t like this, more so when his son says he’s like him now and begins washes the makeup off vigorously. June rushes in and says you can never wash it off, telling Will that being Hooded Justice only made his anger worse. She leaves him with their son back to Tulsa as we see Will in 2019, waiting for Judd to pop his tires and to hang him as Will said he did way back in episode 2. Will has Judd push him up to the tree, strobe light in his face. Will tells Judd he knows about the Klanrobe in his closet, Judd replies it was hia grandfather’s ans he has a right to keep it, that it’s his legacy. Will proceeds to turn on his strobe light, and tell Judd to hang himself. The reveal being that Will has learned Mesmerism and uses the light to command people and that he actually didn’t kill Judd, just simply told him to do it. It’s a huge reveal that gives Angela the answer she’s been looking for and now, it’s up to her to find out what her grandfather’s plan is. Angela begins to have all the memories she’s watched compress into one all at the same time. Angela wakes up in Lady Trieu’s facility and she has a new mission now.
This may be my favorite episode so far, it dives into the lore of the Minutemen and is basically an origin story for Hooded Justice. What we’ve learned here will definitely influence the next three episodes, hopefully more if HBO can find reasons to extend the Watchmen world.
Rating: 10/10. Masterful storytelling once again, this episode is the linchpin of the series as it gives us the meaty answers that we’ve been waiting for. Knowing Lindelof however, I’m sure we’ll get more questions next week.