Masked vigilantism begins here. In this article, we review and analyze the sixth episode of HBO’s hit new television series.
“This Extraordinary Being” is directed by Stephen Williams and written by Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson.
If you haven’t seen the first five episodes (or this one for that matter) of the season and want to avoid spoilers, do so now then return to this article. Major spoilers are ahead. You may also check out our reviews on the previous episodes of Watchmen. Also, HBO issued a warning to those who have photosensitivity.
The folks involved here (Lindelof, Williams, Jefferson, etc.) did an outstanding job at pulling off this week’s episode, which primarily takes place in a black-and-white setting. The episode begins with a fabricated version of Hooded Justice’s story in the fictional television series American Hero Story. As it turns out, the civilian identity of the vigilante is not that of a white man but rather none other than Angela Abar’s grandfather William Reeves.
We resume where we last left off. Angela Abar is turned into authorities and has downed a bottle of her grandfather’s nostalgia pills. Now, we see that the pills were never meant for her. According to Laurie Blake, they are “supposed to be for older folks [used as] dementia treatment.” The manufacturing of these pills were discontinued by Lady Trieu’s company. Having consumed a lethal amount of the pills, Abar overdoses and slowly falls into a comatose state of mind. In her unconscious rest, she watches the life of her grandfather (Will Reeves) transpire as if through his eyes.
As a young adult, Reeves was a policeman in New York City during the 1930s and ’40s but the presence of racism prevents him from resolving any actual crimes. One night, he finds a man set a Jewish delicatessen ablaze. Reeves turns the man into the police department but his white colleagues set him free. The black officer takes matters into his own hands, and before he knows it, he is nearly dead from a lynching by his own fellow policemen. This event inspires him to put on a sack, or rather a “hood,” and call himself “Hooded Justice.” Reeves is recruited into a team of vigilantes called the Minutemen, but even they will not solve the racism issue on the streets. In order to be accepted as a vigilante himself, the man is urged by Captain Metropolis into disguising himself as a white man under the mask, and in the process, the two also establish an esoteric homosexual relationship.
One day, a riot between African American residents occurs at the Capitol theater. A survivor claims the audience was brainwashed into attacking each other. Reeves, as his vigilante guise, reports this to the Minutemen, but Metropolis says that is not a crime they’re meant to take down.
While trying to fight crime on the streets, Reeves also faces conflict with raising a family who knows his lifestyle. The man has met his wife practically since she was born. The couple has survived the Tulsa riots–Reeves was a 6-year-old who found his wife, a baby at the time, lying on the outskirts of the town. The couple eventually has a son, who further attempts to be like his father. However, Reeves refuses to allow his son to follow in his footsteps due to his own hardships and experiences living as Hooded Justice. His wife expresses her abjection as to what he’s become that she leaves him and takes their child with her. Reeves’s wife and son move back to Tulsa.
In the immediate past, an elderly Reeves travels to Tulsa, where he confronts Chief Crawford for his supremacist background. Using strobe lights like that which were used to mind control the Negroes in New York, Reeves brainwashes Crawford into lynching himself.
Like previous episodes of Watchmen, “This Extraordinary Being” continues to perform well in every aspect. The black-and-white cinematography and musical score are beautiful, including The Ink Spots’ song “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.”
The episode extends its commentary on vigilantism, this time teaching viewers that everything comes at a price when you don a mask. June Reeves initially convinces her husband to be the hero that the world needs when she tells him, “You won’t get justice with a badge, Will Reeves. You gon’ get it with that hood.”
A new theme to the show that we get insight on is identity. That is identity as a civilian, identity as a vigilante, and overall, identity as a human being. Will Reeves is stripped of what he’s supposed to be responsible for that he no longer knows nor understands who he is as a person. When he takes down crime as an officer, the suspects get away with their heinous acts, and when he puts on a mask, he’s told to avert the racist crimes. Even in exacting justice, he loses those closest to him: his family. As he was told from the start, “The uniform a man wears changes him. Make sure yours changes you for the better.” We’ve seen this time and time again in the superhero genre. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Kick-Ass, etc. When we present ourselves to the public eye, we dress to convey a purpose. In Hooded Justice’s case, it’s to combat racism, specifically white supremacism.
“This Extraordinary Being” has a couple Easter Eggs worth noting:
- Action Comics Issue #1
- This comic book issue introduces the first appearance of fictional superhero Superman, and it is an excellent mirroring of Reeves’ life. Clark Kent’s and Will Reeves’s origin stories bear similarities: They both were sent into a new world by their parents while their homes were tragically destroyed. The young hero sets off to become the first of many to do what is right.
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- This mid-twentieth-century film is what was supposed to be screened at the Capitol when the African-Americans turned against each other via mesmerism. The movie portrays a character who fantasizes about the perfect life but realizes by the end that he cannot have everything.
Overall, we get a clear sense of who Abar’s grandfather is and what his role in the series could be. Through the lenses of vigilantism and sociopolitical identity, we learn more about what it takes to be a hero in our own story. Hooded Justice is the model of responsibility that we need in our world today. As it has been said, “Brave men like him are rare specimens. And why fight alone when you can have true companionship?” This episode of Watchmen opens our eyes–quite literally–and shows us that what shouldn’t be seen can still be seen by the watchful eye. Listen to your own instincts and you’ll get to where you need to be, and remember: “Beware the Cyclops.”
Thank you, Lindelof, Williams, Jefferson, and everyone else involved in the show for this great episode!
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!