(Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 4, 2019, and has been republished now that the entire series is available to watch for free on HBO.com.)
HBO’s Watchmen series is off to an explosive start, and the show based on the groundbreaking comic book series isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Episode 1 of Watchmen was packed with call-outs to its source material, clues about where the story is headed, and plenty of Easter Eggs, and the second episode offered more of the same. TV series creator Damon Lindelof has given audiences a lot to absorb in each episode, and there’s a good chance you might have missed some intriguing elements. To help you get the most out of your Watchmen experience, we’ve put together a list of some of the key comic references, story hints, and Easter Eggs from episode 3.
(Note: Plot details from the most recent episode of Watchmen will be discussed below, so make sure you’re caught up with the series to avoid spoilers.)
The world of Watchmen is one in which celebrity is a valuable commodity and has pushed more than one household name in our world to some of the nation’s highest positions of power in the series’ fictional timeline. The first episode of the series introduced audiences to a timeline in which actor Robert Redford succeeded Richard M. Nixon as U.S. President after the latter served at least five terms in office. (The 22nd Amendment was repealed in the Watchmen timeline, and reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were murdered before exposing the Watergate scandal, likely by The Comedian.)
In this episode, we learn that celebrated legal thriller novelist John Grisham — author of The Firm and The Pelican Brief, among other bestsellers — was appointed to the Supreme Court at some point in years past, and will be retiring soon. The newspaper headline announcing his impending retirement is another reminder that the world of Watchmen isn’t all that different from our own, with the same pieces in different places.
FBI Agent Laurie Blake (played by Jean Smart) makes an explosive debut in episode 3 of Watchmen, and it’s soon revealed that the tough-as-nails agent is actually the woman formerly known as Laurie Juspeczyk, a.k.a. Silk Spectre. A second-generation costumed vigilante, Laurie was a central character in the plot of the original Watchmen comic and was romantically involved with both Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl.
That she goes by the surname Blake is noteworthy, as she appears to have taken the name of her biological father. Edward Blake, better known as The Comedian. The book revealed that The Comedian sexually assaulted Laurie’s mother early in their respective crimefighting careers, but the two later developed a romantic relationship.
Although Laurie appears to be anything but friendly to costumed vigilantes now (and more like her father than ever), there are more than a few nods to her being unable to leave her vigilante history — and the colorful characters that surrounded her — in the past. Early in the episode, we see her keeping an owl as a pet — likely linked to Nite Owl — and an Andy Warhol-style art piece on her wall featuring stylized depictions of her and the members of her former vigilante team.
Another suggestion that she’s holding onto the past is, well … a large and unmistakable element in one of the episode’s final scenes.
Episode 3 introduces a few more subtle mysteries to the story’s ever-expanding canon with the introduction of the Millennium Clock and mention of a character named Lady Trieu. During their trip to Tulsa to investigate Chief Crawford’s murder, Agent Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram) and Laurie look out the aircraft’s window to view the Millennium Clock.
The massive structure doesn’t get any additional explanation, but Petey sees fit to quote Percy Bysshe Shelley’s classic poem Ozymandias, uttering “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” He adds that he’s simply echoing the words of a currently unknown character, Lady Trieu, after she bought Adrian Veidt’s company.
A new character introduced in the HBO series, Lady Trieu is played by actress Hong Chau (Big Little Lies), and that’s pretty much all we know about her at this point. (Her name is shared with a female warrior from the 3rd century, so that might play into her character.) What she did with his company and the meaning behind the Millennium Clock remains, like so many other elements of the series, an intriguing mystery.
In the original Watchmen comic, Tales of the Black Freighter was a story that appeared throughout the series in one form or another, serving as sort of a story-within-a-story that mirrored elements of the characters’ own experiences. (There’s a reason Watchmen is regarded as one of the most cerebral, meta-textual comics ever created.) Black Freighter tells the stories of sailors and other seafarers who damn themselves in one way or another and end up crossing paths with the titular phantom ship.
The infamous ship appears to be sticking around in the HBO series, as we see Laurie book a room at the Black Freighter Inn and Suites when she arrives in Tulsa. Whether this a simply a nod to the comic-within-a-comic or an ominous hint about what’s to come for her remains to be seen.
Music was a key element in the original Watchmen story, with creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons inserting snippets of music in both subtle and more overt ways throughout the narrative. The love Dan Dreiberg (a.k.a. Nite Owl) has for classic jazz was symbolic of his reverence for the past, while living-in-the-moment Laurie was a big fan of modern hits from the 1980s, when the story was set. In one scene from the comic, Laurie references Whip It band Devo while trying on Dan’s Nite Owl goggles. The episode 3 title, She Was Killed By Space Junk, comes from a line in the Devo song Space Junk.
Nite Owl and Silk Spectre aren’t the only characters to declare their musical preferences in the original comic. Adrian Veidt also reveals in the comic that his musical interests are a bit more forward-looking, and he cites a then-new form of Jamaican music he describes as “a hybrid between electronic music and reggae,” called “dub music.”
The music we hear (and see, via the album cover) playing in Veidt’s workshop later in the episode is from Lee Perry’s Megaton Dub 2. A singer, producer, and inventor, Perry is a pioneer in the dub music genre, creating new, remixed versions of existing reggae tracks.
The aforementioned scene set in Adrian Veidt’s workshop is full of call-outs to the comic and Watchmen lore, including a magnified sketch of squids and the domino mask he wore with his Ozymandias costume. However, the most striking scene just might be Jeremy Irons — as Veidt — finally donning Ozymandias full outfit from the comics in all its gold and purple glory.
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