‘Watchmen’ S01E05 Review – “Little Fear Of Lightning”

Watchmen‘s narrative changes this week as it focuses primarily on Wade Tillman aka Looking Glass. In this article, we review and analyze the fifth episode of HBO’s hit new television series based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s comic book series of the same name.

“Little Fear of Lightning” is directed by Steph Green and written by Damon Lindelof and Carly Wray (Mad Men, Westworld).

If you haven’t seen the first four episodes (or this one for that matter) of the season and want to avoid spoilers, do so now then return to this article. You may also check out our reviews on the previous episodes of Watchmen, which include the 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;” and Episode 4 – “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own.”

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Watchmen reaches new heights this week by finally showing us who Looking Glass is. Wade Tillman is a Tulsa policeman who didn’t get his vigilante identity from Alice in Wonderland (as we thought) but from a hall of mirrors at a carnival in New Jersey. As it turns out, the character was a young religious boy from Oklahoma who was affected by Adrian Veidt’s giant alien squid. In alternate present-day 2019, Tillman does marketing research as his civilian career. He also owns a storage unit, where he dons the Looking Glass mask. Even his seven years of bad luck with his ex-wife Cynthia Bennet contributes to his reflective personality.

Laurie Blake has the Tulsa police taskforce locate the church that the Seventh Kavalry operates from. Matters get worse when Tillman is lured there unexpectedly by a woman who he thought was joining his support group. The church is revealed to be an abandoned department store, and it is here that the Kavalry tests a portal for “something new”. (To be technical, Tillman refers to it as a “CX924 teleportation window just like the one they were playing around with at the Institute for Transdimensional Studies in Heral Square on 11/2.”) Tillman is tricked into going to the hideout, where Senator Joe Keene Jr. reveals himself to be a member of the white supremacist group and helped lead the White Night event.

The Senator tries to show Tillman the truth by playing his pirated copy of Adrian Veidt’s message to President Robert Redford. (The tape was recorded a day before the Squid attacks — that is, recorded on November 1st, 1985– and sent to the President seven years later on January 21st, 1993 during his inauguration.) Veidt predicted the President would be elected because he set this up to happen, and he also predicted the nuclear holocaust between the United States and Russia. The Senator also blackmails Tillman into turning in Detective Abar for the death of Chief Crawford.

Laurie Blake appears shortly for a few scenes with Adrian Veidt and Angela Abar in one scene each. Veidt travels to the clone gravesite to spell out a message to a satellite: “Save me.”

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The episode tones down a bit on its lovely cinematography and soundtrack, relying more on its plot surrounding Looking Glass. What seems to be new this time around is its theme on trauma and fear. Since that fateful day on November 2nd, 1985, Tillman couldn’t get the ringing out his ears. He purchases emergency alarms that he uses nearly every night to prepare himself for any imminent disaster, and when this doesn’t happen, he convinces himself that this needs to work for him. He attempts to console his support group:

That enormous tentacled abomination teleported into New York. If it hadn’t arrived when it did, we would all be ash. It united us against the common thread. Does it ever end? Of course, it does because we are in a tunnel, and every tunnel ends. It ends with light, and if you trust me, I will do my best to show you to it.

When this fails, he succumbs to the wrong side of history because, as he is told, “people buy things out of fear all the time.” He realizes that vigilantism is not the way to go about things. He learns that the truth, or rather fear, has to heal him. In his pre-recorded tape, Veidt refers to “a weapon more powerful than any atomic device.” He says:

That weapon is fear, and I am its architect. The monster will not have come from another dimension at all. It’ll come from me. An elaborate meticulously engineered hoax to save the world. The transition won’t start immediately. The world will need time to heal.

Tillman learns that what triggered his trauma was all a lie. In addition to his trauma and fear, the character learns about truth. The Senator asks him, “Is anything true?” and now the character questions everything about reality and the world around him.

This week’s episode of Watchmen has some interesting Easter Eggs to take note of

  • Doomsday Clock
    • The episode begins with a warning about the squid attack: “Doomsday Clock standing at one minute to midnight.” This line might pretty much be an obvious reference to those who pay attention to Watchmen and its comic book sequel arc.
  • Smiley-O’s
    • One of the iconic symbols of the 1960s and also a prominent symbol present throughout the Watchmen comic arc. In this episode, Tillman is researching children test-eating a new cereal with a taste and name akin to that of Cheerios.
  • Pale Horse A fictional 1992 film that Steven Spielberg made in this alternate reality. The pale horse is also an allusion to the Horseman of Death in the Book of Revelation (from the Bible). This is a reference to those who perished in Veidt’s attack in 1985.
  • “The End is Nigh.”
    • The Senator tells this to Tillman. As a villain (and a predictable reveal at that), he sure knows his Rorschach. In the comics, Rorschach’s civilian identity carried a sign around that read, “The End is Nigh.”

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“Little Fear of Lightning” continues to deliver on the show’s greatness. The episode weighs heavily on trauma, fear, pain, and truth than with its prior episodes have with the vigilantism theme. The mirror becomes a symbol, representing a reflection of ourselves, of our reality, and of the truth. We also end on yet another cliffhanger: Does Looking Glass survive from his deception? We don’t know for sure. Also, what are these memory pills that Abar tasked Tillman to search for? With some classical music in the soundtrack (including “Some Enchanted Evening) and the little Mercy transition in the end, the episode promises us that the series is still worth all the trouble, although the twist with the politician is predictable.

9.5/10

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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!