(Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 25, 2019, and has been republished now that the entire series is available to watch for free on HBO.com.)
HBO’s Watchmen series has swiftly become one of television’s hottest series, and the show based on the groundbreaking comic book series isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Episode 1 of Watchmen was filled with call-outs to its source material and clues about where the story is headed, and subsequent episodes offered even more Easter Eggs and mysteries for fans to ponder. Show creator Damon Lindelof has given audiences a lot to absorb in the hit series, so we’re taking a deep dive into some of the key comic references, Easter Eggs, and story hints in each episode. Here’s what you might have missed in episode 6.
(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.)
Fresh off getting arrested for hiding the identity of Judd Crawford’s murderer, Angela Abar ingests an entire bottle of her grandfather Will Reeves’ memories — in pill form — and relives the experiences that brought him to the tree where Crawford was hung. She learns that her grandfather, a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, became the costumed vigilante known as Hooded Justice after finding himself terrorized by Ku Klux Klan members and white supremacists — some from within the very same police force he served on.
She experiences his early years with the Minutemen, his romance with fellow vigilante Captain Metropolis, and his frustration that even as the most prominent vigilante in America, the color of his skin kept him isolated and endangered. After learning about the circumstances that separated her grandfather from his own son (her father), as well as how Reeves used a device made by the Klan to murder Crawford decades later, Angela finds her way back to her own mind and memories, and wakes up in a room with the mysterious Lady Trieu.
The drug Angela takes in the episode is essentially distilled memories, ostensibly created for the purpose of helping older people whose memory is beginning to fail them reclaim their history. It’s a clever plot device that allows her — and the audience — to learn about her grandfather’s life and delivers a major revelation about the identity of the very first costumed vigilante, Hooded Justice. If the name of the drug sounds familiar to fans of the Watchmen comic, it’s because Nostalgia was also the name of Adrian Veidt’s popular line of unisex cosmetics in the story’s timeline. Nearly every major character in the comic is seen to use it at one point or another — even Rorschach.
In keeping with the themes of the episode, Veidt’s Nostalgia perfume was marketed as a scent evoking the power of the past, and lingering long after the person wearing it has left. It doesn’t take much of a metaphorical leap to connect the Nostalgia of the comics to the effects of the Nostalgia drug in this episode, as Angela eventually learns that her present is inextricably tied to her grandfather’s past.
At one point in the episode, Will Reeves is seen walking down the street after earning his police badge, and pauses to talk with a newsstand operator reading a copy of Action Comics #1. The newsstand owner describes the plot of the famous comic, which introduced the world to a boy from an alien planet who’s sent off to Earth by his parents before the planet explodes, and grows up to be one of the world’s greatest heroes. The parallels between Will’s own story and that of Superman are made abundantly clear, and we see the initial idea that inspired him to don a mask and fight injustice.
In the Watchmen comic, it was the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, who began his career as a police officer and was eventually inspired to become a masked crimefighter after both reading Action Comics #1 and seeing Hooded Justice in action. The episode of the series seems to blend the origins of the two characters, finding common ground in their experiences, but offering a much darker spin on what really pushed Will Reeves to become a violent vigilante.
In the Watchmen comic, the true identity of Hooded Justice was never revealed, although Hollis Mason penned a popular tell-all novel Under the Hood that hinted at who he — and the rest of the Minutemen — believed him to be. This episode finally pulls the mask off that mystery, but only after a few narrative feints along the way.
Early in the series, it was suggested that Hooded Justice was a circus strongman who was eventually murdered. American Hero Story, the series-within-a-series playing out during the show explores that angle, with episode 3 unmasking Hooded Justice early on to reveal an unnamed character played by actor Cheyenne Jackson. We later learn how far from the truth that is, though, as Will’s own, painful story is revealed, and with it the true identity of Hooded Justice.
How the older Will is still alive in the current Watchmen timeline, as well as his connections to Lady Trieu and the grand plan she has for the Millennium Clock and other mysterious elements, remains to be seen. However, where we find Angela in the episode’s closing moments suggests that we’re likely to find out some of the answers to those questions soon.
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