‘Watchmen’ S01E04 Review – “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own”

Just when days of tragedy begin to settle down, the unusual happens. In this article, we discuss and analyze the fourth episode to HBO’s Watchmen.

“If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” is directed by cinematographer Andrij Parekh (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, 13 Reasons Why) and written by Damon Lindelof and Christal Henry.

If you haven’t seen the previous three episodes (or this one for that matter) and want to avoid spoilers, do so now then return to this article. You may also check out the reviews on the aforementioned episodes of Watchmen:

Pilot – “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”

Episode 2 – “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”

Episode 3 – “She Was Killed by Space Junk”

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This week’s episode of Watchmen continues to show that the series remains consistent with a few things: the egg symbolism, the squid allusions,  the show’s vigilante theme, and overall, a compelling story.

We start off around the same time the previous episode ended, now presenting an introduction to two new characters – Lady Trieu and her daughter Bian. They meet a man and wife who run a farm. Their failure to conceive or to sell chicken eggs corroborates to the symbolism of eggs: This oval-shaped object represents life. In the pilot, we learned about fortifying walls, and in last week’s episode, we learned about population control. Here, we learn that eggs are a source of life and power, but more specifically in the case of the couple, legacy and wealth. This is a good reference to stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk, where the titular character involves himself with a goose’s golden egg. As Lady Trieu says, “Legacy isn’t in land. It’s in blood, passed to us from our ancestors and by us to our children.” She offers to purchase the couple’s 40 acres of land in exchange for a legacy that includes “five million dollars [and] a child.”

Speaking of storybook tales, Angela Abar plants her own seed in the Ances Tree, and in turn learns a bit more about her grandfather’s background. The character, in her Sister Night guise, breaks into the Greenwood Cultural Center to discover that (with “99.947% certainty” that he is her grandfather) William “Will” Reeves had a World War I veteran father and a mother, both of whom died in the Tulsa race riot. She later learns that he was “a cop in New York City during the 1940s and ’50s, retired young, [then] fell off the grid.”

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The episode also continues to give us the nihilistic feel that the 1986-7 comic book run had.

  • Abar’s husband Cal tells his children that “Heaven is pretend,” that people are born from nothing, live, die, and are then “nowhere…again.”
  • Wade Tillman (Looking Glass’s civilian identity) monitors the squid fall: “Thirty seconds of life, and they spend all of it dying.”
  • Laurie Blake (now Tulsa’s substitute police chief) refers to fate or coincidences as “thermodynamic miracle[s],” which is her way of saying “It’s all connected.”
  • Trieu refers to pills as “passive-aggressive exposition.”
  • Finally, we have Adrian Veidt’s clone-making process. The man finds his offspring caught in cages left in a lake then puts them into a machine. He then gives the developed clones servants’ and maids’ uniforms and has them catapult the clone cadavers into the air. This is probably the strangest part of the show thus far. In addition, he tells the clones:

You are flaws in this thoughtless design, for while I may be your master, I am most definitely not your maker.

Veidt tells those under him that the world in which we live is not paradise, but rather a prison.

Blake gives us a perspective on vigilantism that perhaps we all know:

People who wear masks are driven by trauma. They’re obsessed with justice because of some injustice they suffered, usually when they were kids. Ergo, the mask that hides the pain.

The former Silk Spectre teaches us that vigilantes use masks as protection from this reputed pain, and with this, she and Abar begin their bond on a wonderful start.

“If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” has some interesting Easter Eggs of its own:

  • Vietnam
    • This Asian country seems to be a place for said thermodynamic miracles. It is here where Abar was born and where she met her husband, where Lady Trieu was from, and where the Comedian and Doctor Manhattan were during the War. Then there’s Abar’s bakery slogan: “Let Saigon be Saigon.” Trieu’s Millenium Clock has a Vietnam-like atmosphere, and it’s constructed to be “the First Wonder of the New World,” impenetrable from natural and nuclear disaster.
  • Laurie Blake’s background
    • FBI Agent Dale Petey tells Abar about The Comedian’s attempted rape on the first Silk Spectre, which is just as vivid as the comic book’s telling of this scene.

What’s important to note is that, if examined thoroughly, the events of the show recreates the events of the comic book arc. Here’s what we have in just four episodes:

  • A man with a dark past has been fighting crime for decades and suddenly he is killed by an unseen individual. This refers to Chief Judd Crawford and The Comedian.
  • A lead character who thinks themselves to be doing right by fighting crime as a vigilante. First was Rorschach, and now we have Sister Night.
  • A sidekick-ish character who has an underground lair, and we don’t really think much of them. They have a badass mask and an even cooler vigilante name: Nite Owl and Looking Glass.
  • Old-timers who have left the game. In the comics, they’re Sally Jupiter and Hollis Mason. In the show, they’re Laurie Blake and Adrian Veidt.
  • Meta-commentary in the media: Mason’s book Under the Hood, and the television show American Hero Story.
  • We have a wealthy genius who watches over the world. Lady Trieu is introduced as a trillionaire who takes over Veidt’s company.
  • And there’s probably more.

Aside from Trieu and her daughter, a third character is introduced. Not sure what to make of him, but Damon Lindelof refers to him as “Lube Man.”

Watchmen‘s fourth episode continues to expand the alternate universe that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons made while simultaneously remaining successful in its cinematographic and musical aspects. (I somewhat favor how Veidt’s flying clone corpse neatly transitions into the next setting, a nighttime scene that includes the moon.) The episode solves the mystery of Abar’s grandfather but brings in a new mystery: What is his role in the events of the story? He tells Trieu that he is betraying his granddaughter, but how so and in what way? Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel Things Fall Apart serves as an excellent parallel to Watchmen; both involve the historicity and milieu of an oppressed character and their peoples as well as the impact of oppression at the hands of a colonist population. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” and Irma Thomas’s “Time is on My Side” are some good songs to add to your playlists.

“If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” does right by showing us what’s wrong in the world.

10/10

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What do you think? Are we missing anything? Have you seen Watchmen yet? Have you read the comic series? If not, do you plan to? Let us know! For more DC-related news and reviews follow The Cinema Spot on Twitter (@TheCinemaSpot) and Instagram (@thecinemaspot_).

Watchmen is out on HBO now!