(Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 18, 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 and clues about where the story is headed, and the episodes that followed offered even more Easter Eggs. 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, Easter Eggs, and story hints from episode 5.
(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 fifth episode of the series is titled “Little Fear of Lightning,” and like previous episode titles, it is borrowed from another work with thematic ties to this particular chapter in the series. In this case, the title comes from a line in Jules Verne’s famous 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: “If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning.” The line suggests that it’s easy to overlook even the most deadly threats if they don’t capture our attention.
The episode has Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson), aka the lie-detecting vigilante Looking Glass, discover the truth behind the giant squid creature’s attack that was both the grand finale of the original Watchmen and a life-altering moment for Wade.
From the squid attack itself — which could be seen as thunder to the extinction-level lightning of a looming nuclear war — to Wade’s interactions with his law-enforcement colleagues and the 7th Kavalry, to his own conspiracy-fueled obsessions, there was a lot of attention-grabbing thunder and far-more-dangerous lightning at play in the episode.
Of course, all of those allegorical possibilities are secondary to the fact that the episode’s title comes from a story best-known for featuring an attack by a giant squid.
The opening scene in episode 5 unfolds just as Adrian Veidt’s diabolical plan came to fruition in 1985, and offers the first live-action depiction of both the giant squid creature’s arrival in Manhattan at the climax of the Watchmen comic book and the accompanying “psychic blast” that killed millions of people in and around New York City.
While that final shot of the squid draped over (and through) Manhattan is certainly the most memorable scene in this prequel sequence, the lead-up to that moment also included plenty of references to the original story. For example, one person can be seen reading a magazine with an ad for The Veidt Method, a fitness and self-improvement book published by Adrian Veidt that is mentioned in the original comic.
Later in the scene, young Wade approaches several edgy-looking men with their hair knotted on top of their heads, members of the fictional “Knot Top” gang appearing throughout the Watchmen comic.
In the alternate timeline of Watchmen, it isn’t just the U.S. Presidency that has gone in some unexpected directions. The November 2, 1985 arrival of the giant squid creature — known as “11/2” in the same way we regard the September 11 terrorist attack in the U.S. as “9/11” — even changed the course of Hollywood history.
The woman Wade meets at his extra-dimensional support group explains that one of the only things that calms her fears about another 11/2 attack is watching Pale Horse, a fictional film directed by Steven Spielberg. As she continues to describe the movie, which is named after a band that was playing at Madison Square Garden when the squid creature attacked, it becomes increasingly clear that this is the Watchmen timeline’s version of Schindler’s List — complete with a little girl whose red coat is the only splash of color in the black-and-white film.
Not at all coincidentally, in the Watchmen timeline Pale Horse was indeed playing at the Manhattan venue that night, and the band was a favorite of the Knot Top gang.
In a revelation that seems to support some of the rumors regarding Adrian Veidt’s imprisonment, the latest episode finally saw the eccentric genius escape the clone-filled world he was stuck in — only to be yanked back into it after calling for help.
Various theories pointed to Veidt being imprisoned on Mars by Dr. Manhattan, and now it looks like that might be close to the truth (not specifically on Mars, that is, but close to it). Whether Veidt himself was aware of this remains to be seen, but the timing of his arrival and that of the satellite watching Mars certainly suggests that he knows more than we realize.
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