Watching the Watchmen. A Deep Dive Into “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”

Watchmen

HBO‘s Watchmen has debuted and the first episode exceeded expectations. The show called for multiple viewings and deep examination of scenes, characters, scenery, and so much more.

Below is what stood out in the first episode… warning, spoilers!

Bass Reeves – The show opens with a silent film featuring Bass Reeves. Reeves was real and the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. He mostly worked in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Reeves is rumored to be the inspiration for The Lone Ranger. The silent film features a masked Reeves with a rope around a white police officer’s neck bringing him to justice. It echoes the end of the episode where Don Johnson‘s Judd Crawford is hung by it looks like Louis Gossett, Jr.‘s Will Reeves.

Tulsa Race RiotWe’ve written about this real-world event. There’s a lot of solid details included like the soldier wearing a WWI uniform. Some of those who took up arms served in the war. The inclusion of the planes as well is a nice historical touch. This scene sets up the young boy at the end with the note and the baby he picks up. It’s likely that Louis Gossett, Jr.’s Will Reeves is this boy grown up as he has the note in his lap (he could be the baby instead). During the teaser, Reeves says he’s 105 years old which would make him about 7 years old during the riot. It also hints as to who Reeves might be.

Hooded Justice – Hooded Justice first appeared in 1938 in the Watchmen world as a vigilante. His identity is never revealed and there are enough contradictions it’s unclear as to who he might be. There’s a good chance that Reeves is indeed Hooded Justice. That’d make him 24 when he first became a hero so his character would be the right age to be a member of the Minutemen.

The show is one that also is about the details. Hooded Justice is seen on the side of the bus as Angela Abar heads to her business. Hooded Justice also is seen in the animated video playing behind Judd Crawford. There are strong hints that HJ plays a role in the show as he’s one of the few original heroes from the comic shown multiple times.

Hooded Justice also was a closeted gay man in the comics who faked dating Sally Jupiter. At one point Sally’s daughter Laurie believes HJ is her father. He was really in a relationship with Captain Metropolis. He’s the character who beats the Comedian for raping Sally. Laurie also is in the show as Laurie Blake, an FBI agent. Blake is the Comedian’s real-world last name.

Watchmen Smiley Face

Yellow bandanas on the police – The standard police officers cover their faces to protect their identity. The bandanas they use are yellow, like the iconic smiley face from Watchmen.

At the end of the episode we see blood dripping from Crawford’s body onto his badge. It’s similar to the blood drip on the Comedian’s smiley face pin in the original Watchmen.

The scene in the school – Angela Akbar is talking to a class about her cooking business. She initially makes eggs into a smiley face, a yellow one. Other things that are noticeable in this scene:

  • Vietnam is referred to as a state
  • Robert Redford is shown in a grouping of four important Presidents. Richard Nixon is next to him. In the trailer park, Nixon is a statue on the outside and a trailer says something negative about Redford. Later, Don Johnson’s Crawford is listening to talk radio where they’re talking negatively about Redford and a gun program.
  • A poster of a squid is shown in the back echoing the alien attack at the end of the Watchmen comic.
  • Reparations are mentioned which could be a reference to the Tulsa Race Riot which reparations were recommended for families impacted by it. It could also be a broader program involving slavery.

The squids – There’s the poster of the squid in the schoolroom and they fall from the sky like rain. It’s bad enough there’s a cleanup crew dedicated to them that we see working in a neighborhood. This is a reference to the “alien attack” that happened in the comic which looked like a giant squid. Later in an interrogation scene, there’s a mention of a government conspiracy about interdimensional attacks.

7th Cavalry – This was another nod to real-world history. The 7th Cavalry was lead by Custard and battled in Little Big Horn. This is why Angela Abar was texted that. There’s a lot of history with this military unit to unpack but they’re known for numerous battles against Native Americans.

Watchmen End is Nigh

Future is Bright – When Angela is going to her business a man is holding a sign that says “The Future is Bright.” This is the exact opposite of Rorschach’s “The End is Nigh” from the comics.

Jeremy Irons’ Adrian Veidt – Veidt is one of the few characters from the original comic. A newspaper article says Veidt is dead but he’s clearly not. He’s living in a castle with two servants who are most likely created by Veidt as part of whatever plan he has. Mr. Phillips, his butler, hands a horseshoe to cut a cake and Veidt’s look is one of confusion and disappointment as something is off. There’s rumors as to who these two characters might be but so far there’s no indication this is true.

Watch and clocks – The clock is an important motif of the original Watchmen. Veidt is given one as a present. In the next scene during a dinner between Crawford and Abar, the overhead shot looks like a clock. 7th Cavalry is after watch batteries. We hear tic-toc in numerous scenes.

Unanswered questions:

  • Why does everyone think Veidt is dead?
  • When Don Johnson’s Crawford is leaving from his home a picture is shown that we assume is him and his father. Whatever history is there might be why he’s killed.
  • Why was Oklahoma chosen for the musical other than the show takes place there? I just don’t know the musical much.
  • The police have an Owlship. Is this the new heavy armored vehicle like real-world police are buying from the military?

Visual standouts:

  • There’s the shift from Veidt and the watch to the dinner with the chandelier looking like a watch.
  • The overturned truck at the end of the Tulsa scene looks like the front windows of the Owlship.
  • When the kids at the end of the Tulsa scene are looking at the burning city you can see the title of the episode a bit above them as the viewer is situated behind the title.

So, that’s everything that stood out to me. What’d I miss? What stood out to you?