Watchmen Decoded s1ep2: What really happened on the White Night

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Regina King and Andrew Howard in Watchmen,
Image: Mark Hill/HBO

Over the next few months, the Burn-In will recap every episode of HBO’s “Watchmen.” Like the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel that inspired it, the series is incredibly oblique. As such, Decoding Watchmen will delve into the program’s many mysteries, ambiguous details, and obscure references to its source material.

**This article contains spoilers for “Watchmen,” the graphic novel and TV series **

White Night Secrets

In “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship,” the show flashed back to a pivotal event in its history, the White Night police massacre. Following the coordinated murder of 40 police officers, the Tulsa PD began concealing their identities. However, while “Watchmen” has now discussed and depicted the occurrence, some elements of the attack remain ambiguous. Specifically, Angela Abar’s memory of the White Night doesn’t add up.

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The program’s second episode revealed two members of the Seventh Kavalry invaded the police detective’s home on Christmas Eve. During the assault, Angela sustained a shotgun blast to the chest. Subsequently, the Kavalry terrorist walked up to her prone body just as she passed out. However, “Martial Feats” doesn’t explain how the future Sister Night survived her encounter with the White supremacist group.

In the “Watchmen” graphic novel, the comic’s central superheroes are only gathered together on two occasions. One instance is the story’s finale, and the other is a meeting in which an older hero attempts to form a new super-team called the Crimebusters. Ultimately, the group never comes together, but the series reveals the conference has a profound impact on the cast.

Right now, the White Night seems like the TV shows version of the Crimebusters meeting. Like the graphic novel, the series will likely return to the event multiple times to reveal new information. In particular, the show will almost certainly depict how Angela lived through the night. Presumably, the detective owes her life to a sympathetic Kavalryman, possibly her now-deceased boss, Police Chief Judd Crawford.

Scene from Watchmen, "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship"
Image: Mark Hill/HBO

Old Superhero Tech Powers the Modern World

In the first Decoding Watchmen, we discussed how the show’s world lacks modern technological advances like the Internet. However, “Martial Feats” revealed the program’s universe also features some tech that isn’t present in the real world. For instance, “Watchmen’s” paparazzi take illicit video photos using rigs that grant the user a moth-like flight. Moreover, the episode showed the police have access to highly advanced x-ray goggles.

Besides, “Watchmen’s” series premiere showed the Tulsa PD had access to an electric aircraft capable of taking down a small plane.

Notably, all of the program’s fantastic technology comes from the original graphic novel. In the ‘50s, a superhero called Mothman patrolled New York City in a winged suit. Also, a second-generation hero called Nite Owl used special goggles and a custom airship to fight crime. Clearly, someone has patented and commercialized the equipment used by yesterday’s superheroes.

Currently, two “Watchmen” characters might be the series’ version of Steve Jobs. One is Ozymandias, a.k.a. Adrian Veidt. In the graphic novel, Veidt made millions selling toys and other paraphernalia based on his and other heroes’ likenesses. Though presumed dead in the TV show, the hero could’ve licensed superhero tech to the masses sometime in the past. He’s also responsible for mainstreaming technologies like electric automobiles in the 1980s.

Alternatively, Nite Owl himself might be the program’s resident Tony Stark. In the graphic novel, the character is a technical maven who builds a Batman-like arsenal to fight crime. However, in the show’s present-day timeline, the ex-hero is in federal prison for violating America’s anti-vigilante laws.

Consequently, Veidt is likely the “inventor” behind the police and paparazzi’s wonderful toys.

The Ambitions of Senator Joe Keene, Jr.

“Martial Feats” features the introduction of a previously mentioned character, Joe Keene, Jr.  In the show, Keene serves as a Republican senator for Oklahoma and a long-time friend of the Crawford family. He is also the son of an important figure in the “Watchmen” graphic novel.

In the comics, Senator Joe Keene Sr. introduced a bill that outlawed the activities of costumed heroes. The politician sponsored the legislation in response to a large-scale police strike that took place in 1977. Law enforcement officers across the country conducted the work stoppage in protest of the work of murderous vigilantes like Rorschach. As a result, several major East Coast cities experienced intense rioting. Ultimately, the passage of the Keene Act restored order.

In “Watchmen’s” series premiere, a radio broadcast mentioned Keene, Jr. is running for President. Given his seeming ardent support of the police, it’s likely the young senator will use the activities of the Seventh Kavalry to support his campaign. As the current Commander-in-Chief is a staunch liberal, Keene, Jr. has likely positioned himself as a tough on crime conservative.

Also, given Chief Crawford’s possible connection to the Kavalry, it’s likely the Senator is a member/leader in the group. Indeed, Keene could benefit immensely by using the organization to stage a false flag attack on the Tulsa PD.

The Inexplicable Castle

One device the “Watchmen” series brought over from the graphic novel is the use of recurrent imagery. The comic used inkblots, stained smiley faces, and analog clock faces to subtly imply connections between different events, settings, and characters. Accordingly, the TV show has made Wales’ Penrhyn Castle one of its reoccurring symbols.

So far, the country manor has chiefly served as the living space for the older Adrian Veidt. However, the series premiere showed satellite footage of Dr. Manhattan erecting and destroying a sandcastle version of the estate on Mars. Moreover, “Martial Feats” showed Angela’s son, Topher, building a model of the same structure from a box of “Manhattan Blocks.”

At this point, it’s unclear why “Watchmen’s” producers have made Penrhyn Castle a focal point of the series. However, it is implied that the setting will play a significant role in the show’s remaining seven episodes. Ostensibly, the program is indicating that the previously absent Dr. Manhattan has returned to confront Ozymandias. Specifically, the show seems to be implying that the superhuman will tear down the false and increasingly frayed utopia Veidt built after killing 3 million people.

However, that conclusion does not explain Topher’s connection to the manor, and by implication, to Veidt and Manhattan. Perhaps, by the end of the series, the young boy will be instrumental in creating a new world free from the influence of superheroes.