In the “Watchmen” recap, Hooded Justice’s origin story is revealed through a series of flashbacks that tie him to Angela Abar…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Damon Lindelof has taken a lot of chances in his sequelized version of “Watchmen” but the sixth episode in the first season was by far his most daring yet and the payoff was huge.
When he first decided to do the series, Lindelof proclaimed the original “Watchmen” comic books from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons as canon — he was going to treat that text as if it was religious text that absolutely would not be rewritten.
With that said, Lindelof knew there was one very specific corner of “Watchmen” lore that remained untouched, which gave him the perfect opening to help craft his futuristic version of this story.
While the crux of “Watchmen” involves a mystery in 1985 surrounding the death of The Comedian — a masked vigilante who worked both with The Minutemen and the Crimestoppers — and the vast and insidious conspiracy that led to his murder. Throughout the book, however, there were several flashes back to the days of the Minutemen — the original group of masked vigilantes — as written by Hollis Mason, who was the original Nite Owl, in his autobiography.
There were plenty of details about the majority of the group with the exception of one person — Hooded Justice, who just so happened to be the first masked vigilante who inspired everybody else to follow in his footsteps. Hooded Justice didn’t remove his mask and his true identity was never revealed.
There were rumors about Hooded Justice being a German strongman, who disappeared and later turned up dead but there was never confirmation that he was the man behind the mask. Moore and Gibbons never definitively stated who was the man behind Hooded Justice and that’s the sliver of an opening that Lindelof needed to craft a change to the “Watchmen” universe that would then allow him to connect that origin story back to the one he was telling from 2019.
It’s a brilliant stroke of genius that Lindelof took that fork in the road but it’s even better than he made the first masked superhero a black man, who couldn’t even reveal his own racial identity because of the fearmongering and hatred shown towards people of color during those days in the late 1930’s.
In reality, black culture has been appropriated by white people for many, many years, most noticeably in arts such as music and film. It’s rather befitting that Lindelof turns that around on its head with this particular revelation because in his story the entire idea behind masked vigilante justice starts with a black man, who is then copied by white counterparts who decide they want to be heroes just like him.
It’s a bold choice in storytelling — one of many on “Watchmen” throughout the first season — and likely not the last one we’ll witness.
With that said, there’s a lot to get to this week so let’s recap the latest episode of “Watchmen” titled “This Extraordinary Being”…
Beware the Cyclops
The episode actually opens with a scene from “American Hero Story: Minutemen”, which has been featured throughout the first season of “Watchmen”. The series is an obvious take on Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story,” except this version is telling the “origin story” for the world’s first superhero group.
Of course, the series has been wildly inaccurate, which is displayed once again in this scene when Hooded Justice is brought in for questioning and coerced by the police because his Minutemen pal Captain Metropolis has been attempting to blackmail J. Edgar Hoover after they had an affair together. When Hooded Justice finally pulls off his mask, the person revealed is a white guy (Cheyenne Jackson to be precise) but the entire exercise is really just a set up to show how wrong that series has been portraying the origin of the Minutemen when compared to the events that actually led to the group’s creation.
Back in the Tulsa police station, Laurie Blake is trying to get permission to pump Angela Abar’s stomach before the Nostalgia pills she took start dissolving into her system. Nostalgia was a type of drug developed by Trieu — the company started by trillionaire Lady Trieu, who we met a couple episodes back — that was meant to help patients suffering from dementia or diseases like Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately the drugs were eventually banned because people started taking the drugs to solely live the past and it was causing a real break from reality.
Fast forward to Angela swallowing an entire bottle of Nostalgia pills that belonged to her grandfather, Will Reeves, in order to protect the secrets contained inside. Angela got busted last week for covering up Chief Judd Crawford’s murder but in order to protect her grandfather, she swallowed the pills.
By the time Laurie arrives to get Angela’s signature on the consent form to pump her stomach, she’s already starting to dissolve in the memories that actually belong to her grandfather. The bulk of the episode then follows Angela’s waking dream as she follows along the path that her grandfather walked from police officer to masked vigilante to the moment when Judd Crawford was found dangling from a tree with a noose around his neck.
The first memory that Angela sees is the day in 1938 when Will Reeves graduates the police academy and he’s sworn in for the first time. While the rest of the white cadets receive their badges and a handshake from the chief, he can’t even be bothered to look in Will’s direction. Instead, Will has his badge pinned on by Sam Battle — a real person who was actually the first black officer in the NYPD — along with a warning “Beware the cyclops”.
Will doesn’t know what that means but he soon finds out after busting a man he catches throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of a local Jewish delicatessen to set it on fire. The man is brazen at best while essentially discounting the orders given to him by the police officer until he’s finally arrested and brought into the station.
Once they arrive, Will’s fellow police officers back him up after he claims to have seen this man set fire to the Jewish deli. The suspect is taken away in handcuffs and all seems right with the world.
Will ends up across the street at a news stand where he hears about Superman for the first time as the vendor reads “Action Comics” and tells him about the little boy who was sent away by his parents, who sacrificed themselves to save him from a dying planet. Will then flashes back to that tragic night years earlier when both of his own parents were killed during the Tulsa Race Massacre yet they gave their own lives to ensure he made his escape.
Just when it seems like Will is feeling a bit of hope after hearing about Superman and making his first big arrest, he runs into the guy he busted for burning down the deli. He’s already been released and he’s back on the street.
Will bursts into the police station, irate that this man was set free without any punishment for his crime. The desk officer tells Will to stop pressing buttons or something bad is going to happen to him.
Later that night, the bad thing happens when Will is jumped by four of his fellow police officers, taken to a remote wooded area with a hood over his head and a noose placed around his neck. Will is hoisted into the air for a few seconds before he’s lowed back down to the ground again. Will is warned not to rock the boat any further or the next time they won’t stop him from being hanged.
The attempted lynching frightens Will as much as it makes him angry. He goes back into town with the noose still around his neck and the hood in his hands. When he spots a couple being attacked by a group of thugs, Will decides to put the hood back over his face as he attacks the gang members and helps to save the day.
The next day after returning home to see his girlfriend Jane, Will is stunned to see a story about this masked vigilante who saved a couple from possibly being murdered the night before. Will begins to think that perhaps this is the way he could actually exact some real change in this city by working outside the system as a masked vigilante.
Jane suggests one more addition to his costume — she colors the skin around his eyes to make it appear that he’s a white man. She knows a black man, no matter how heroic, will be vilified by the public but a white vigilante tasked with doing nothing but good deeds while almost certainly be hailed as a hero.
She reminds him of the movie that he loved so much as a child — the one Will was watching in the first episode of “Watchmen” — that told the tale of Bass Reeves, the first black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi. In the film that Will loved as a child, Bass wore a hood over his face before revealing himself to the townspeople after arresting their corrupt sheriff. In real life, Bass Reeves would actually wear disguises during some of his operations in order to get the job done and catch the bad guys.
So Will puts the noose back around his neck and the mask over his face and Hooded Justice is born.
His first order of business is investigating Fred, the grocery store owner who torched the Jewish deli and got released from police custody just minutes later. It was because of Fred’s arrest that Will was given that rather horrifying warning not to interfere with Cyclops business any further.
After tracking down Fred’s business, Will spots the three cops who assaulted him dressed in civilian clothes entering a private entrance around the back. Will tracks them and then bursts through the door, where he discovers that the cops are part of a backdoor Ku Klux Klan group who set up shop in the back of this store. Will lays waste to all of the members and then he gets a look at a map that shows several targeted locations from Boston to Los Angeles and everywhere in between. He also sees a book related to ‘mesmerism,” which is trance-like state used for suggestion.
Before he can read too much into what the group is doing, one of the members attacks again and the fight spills out onto the floor of the grocery store. This mirrors one of the earlier scenes from “American Hero Story” where Hooded Justice allegedly busrt into the store to stop a robbery and he saved the day.
In reality, Hooded Justice was busting up a KKK meeting and he ends up jumping through the window to escape the store after Fred pulls out a shotgun and opens fire. Just as Hooded Justice bursts through the window, everything pauses momentarily as Laurie Blake tries to reach Angela as she’s suffering through this psychotic break.
She tries to bring Angela out of the memory-induced catatonia but even a message from her husband Cal can’t pull her back to reality.
Once she fades back into her grandfather’s life, Angela sees the moment when Will Reeves is visited by Nelson Gardener — better known as Captain Metropolis, one of the founding members of the Minutemen. Nelson did his own investigating and he tracks down Will in hopes of convincing Hooded Justice to join the group. Considering Hooded Justice was the inspiration for all masked vigilantes, his addition would be a huge boost to the Minutemen.
At first, Will laughs off the invite but then he gives it a second thought. His acceptance comes through a homosexual affair with Captain Metropolis, which was previously suggested in the comic books as well. For Nelson, the novelty of hooking up with Hooded Justice is almost a kink for him — he even suggests they both wear their masks next time but for Will this is chance to expose the vast and insidious conspiracy that he’s started to uncover through this group known as Cyclops.
Will decides to join the Minutemen but at the unveiling ceremony where he tries to speak about Cyclops, Captain Metropolis cuts him off and instead diverts he group’s attention towards Moloch (another famed villain from the comics). This is an iconic scene from the comics when the Minutemen are first introduced but in this shot we only really see Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis.
A few minutes after this meeting happens, the Comedian will attempt to sexually assault Silk Spectre (Laurie Blake’s mother) and it’s Hooded Justice who stops him. In this version, however, we just witness Hooded Justice growing angry that his plan to bring down Cyclops was essentially discounted in order for Captain Metropolis to tout this new super villain along with an advertisement for the group’s partnership with a bank.
Back at home, Will is struggling just as much because his relationship with June is becoming more and more estranged — possibly because he’s actually gay but also due to his obsession over this case. It turns out June was the little baby that Will rescued after the Tulsa Race Massacre several years earlier. She was wrapped in an American flag and tossed from the car that crashed as the family escaped the horrors happening in Tulsa.
Will rescued June and the two of them group up together before eventually becoming husband and wife.
When he wasn’t acting as Hooded Justice, Will Reeves was still a police officer in New York and one night he gets a call to a theater in Harlem where riots have broken out and several people have been hurt or killed. Once he goes inside, Will speaks to a young woman who says she has no idea what came over her but she just got this irresistible urge to hurt people after seeing a strobe-like effect that happened when the movie started.
After leaving the theater, he spots a group of men packing projectors and films into a car and he follows them as they drive away.
Will decides to call on the Minutemen to help him investigate because he believes this ties back to the mesmerism book that he found in the Cyclops hideout. He thinks that this secret society of Klan members are somehow putting black people into a trance and then forcing them to kill each other.
Captain Metropolis isn’t interested in Will’s wild theories and he tells him if he wants to investigate black unrest, he can do it on his own time. Just then Will runs into Fred — the store owner who held those Klan meetings in the back of his shop. Fred doesn’t remember Will from the earlier arrest and he offers the police officer a nice cut of meat as a reward for all his hard work. It turns out Fred owns the warehouse where the cars took those projectors after leaving the theater.
Rather than have a conversation with him, Will pulls his gun and shoots Fred in the head. He then puts on his hood while still wearing his police officer’s uniform, goes inside the warehouse and kills everybody.
The last person left alive is one of the cops from his precinct who is recording the embedded messages in films that the group is using to make black people kill each other and then themselves. He strangles that guy to death, steals the projection equipment and then sets the entire building on fire.
After returning home, Will finds his son dressing to look just like him as Hooded Justice. He lashes out at the boy, which in turn gets a reaction from June, who is fed up with his erratic behavior. She declares that she’s moving back to Tulsa and she doesn’t want Will anywhere near them. This would explain June’s roots in Oklahoma and how her son would eventually become Angela’s father without any real connection or ties to Will because they largely grew up without him in their lives.
Will is grief stricken by his decisions — but then a moment later the scene flashes forward to the night of Judd Crawford’s death.
It seems Will set the trap for him but then used that mesmerizing equipment to put the police chief into a trance and force him to follow every instruction he was given. Will forces Judd to push his wheelchair up that hill and then put the noose around his own neck. The flashing lights serve as a powerful weapon for Will as he conveys to Judd that he knows all about the KKK uniform in his closet that belonged to his grandfather.
While never confirmed it seems likely that Judd’s grandfather was connected to the same group of Cyclops’ members who were killed and burned back in 1939. Judd tries to tell Will that he hasn’t even scratched the surface when it comes to this particular conspiracy but he’s not interested in listening any longer.
Will tells Judd to hang himself — and that’s exactly what he does.
After witnessing a man she admired and once revered kill himself, Angela finally snaps out of the effects of the Nostalgia — after first seeing glimpses of June’s transformation into her grandmother — before she awakens in a bed with an IV tapped into her arm. She’s greeted by Lady Trieu, who has apparently developed some kind of antidote to the psychosis experienced in this severe trauma while living through someone else’s memories.
Angela now knows her grandfather’s past as Hooded Justice and the conspiracy he’s been tracking for more than 80 years. Now we’ll have to wait to find out how that ties back into the Seventh Kavalry, Senator Joseph Keene Jr. and the plans that group apparently has to expose the truth about Adrian Veidt’s catastrophic strategy to save the world.
“Watchmen” returns with a brand new episode next Sunday night at 9 p.m. on HBO.