SPOILERS AHEAD!! If you’ve been reading these recaps all season, then you know there are spoilers ahead, but if this happens to be your first time reading one of my Watchmen recaps, then I felt the warning needed saying, because episode 6 of Watchmen, more than any other episode, is like a giant space squid bursting information straight into our brains.
As the episode opens, a blow of smoke changes WATCHMEN to MINUTEMEN and I immediately say “Whoaaaaa.” We’re jumping back to the Before Watchmen days. A couple of lawmen interview Hooded Justice. They want him to both unmask for them and let them photograph him. They try to blackmail him into doing it by letting him know they know about his secret love affair with Captain Metropolis. If he agrees to retrieve a photo from Captain Metropolis of Captain Metropolis with someone who “looks like” Hoover, they’ll rip up the unmasked photo of HJ. They really are protesting too much about it not really being Hoover in the photo. It works, and we see Hooded Justice’s face, a rather handsome white guy. But when they go to take his photo, he viciously beats both of them, and I mean viciously, before they can snap a photo.
It turns out this was all part of the American Hero Story miniseries that’s been running throughout Watchmen. A big hint that this scene was not part of the actual Watchmen world was how it was lit. It was lit much brighter than the rest of the Watchmen series. Also, the blood flowed in an over the top manner as Hooded Justice fought the two feds. Everything about it said schlocky movie.
The Tulsa cops are watching American Hero Story in the station. Laurie (Jean Smart) storms in and tells them to shut it off. She’s there to interview Angela (Regina King), who is in lockup. Angela isn’t looking so good. Laurie gives us a rundown on what Nostalgia is and the problems with it, which are many. She wants to pump Angela’s stomach to save her life, but can’t do so without Angela’s consent. Angela is barely hearing her though as she falls headfirst into William’s (Louis Gossett Jr) memories.
Surprisingly, his memories are in black and white. This seems like something Nostalgia 2.0 could fix. The Nostalgia memory is a very Quantum Leap like scene. We see Angela as William (Jovan Adepo) as a young adult. He’s being sworn in as a New York City police officer. The white chief of police pins the officers’ badges on all the new policemen, but skips over William. A black officer, Lt. Battle, pins the badge to him and quietly warns him to “Beware of the Cyclops.” The what now?
We next see William talking with a woman at a nightclub table. Is she a reporter? She says she worries about someone giving him a gun, because he’s an angry man. He denies that. She knows about the Tulsa Massacre and that he survived it, and William doesn’t flinch. She must know him to know his story this well, right?
The lone spot of color in the memory world is of William’s mom playing piano in the movie theater the day of the Tulsa Massacre. Her piano playing seems to always be in the back of William’s mind.
William patrols the streets in the lead up to World War II. He spots a man throwing a molotov cocktail into the window of a Jewish deli. The man, Fred (Glenn Fleshler), isn’t bothered at all by William stopping him, and even calls him boy. William arrests him, but at the station Fred denies it and even calls William a spook when William brings him before the desk sergeant and some other cops. Fred gets called out on calling William a spook, and a white officer flashes the desk sergeant an OK symbol, walks away with Fred to make the arrest, despite it being William’s collar.
Leaving the precinct, he comes upon a newspaper man reading Action Comics #1. He tells William about Superman’s origin, which makes William think about his own father putting him a truck to rocket out of Tulsa. He’s then bumped by Fred, who was released from the precinct immediately. William storms back in but the desk sergeant tells him to forget the whole thing, for his own safety.
An off duty William is offered a ride home by three other cops. They want him to get in their car, but he’s not interested, even at the offer of free beer. As they drive off, his memory muddles and it looks like they’re dragging two dead black people behind them like the car in the Tulsa Massacre scene from episode 1.
They intercept him around the corner and beat him with their nightsticks. They drag him to a tree that looks surprisingly like the one Judd (Don Johnson) was hung from, tie a noose around his neck and hoist him up. Just as William starts to black out, they cut him loose. This is a warning for him to keep his “nose out of white folks business, n*****r.” It’s the same officer who came to his defense when Fred called him a spook.
A battered and broken William walks home. When he comes across a mugging, he dons the hood they strung him up in and takes action. He beats all the assailants and saves the couple, a well to do white couple. Oh man, I think I see where this is going, but how can there be two Hooded Justices, one black and one white?
William arrives at the home of the woman from the nightclub, now his wife? It’s not clear. He admits to her that he is angry, she was right. He wakes up the next afternoon on her couch. The paper wrote up the crime he broke up last night, calling him a hero. She wants to know why he wore the hood. It all comes back to the movie a young William was watching the day of the Tulsa Massacre. William still remembers every line of the movie. As he’s talking, she applies makeup to the area around his eyes, putting him in white face. Oh man, this might be the biggest comics revelation of 2019, up there with Moira X’s secret history in House of X #2.
William, now Hooded Justice (!!!), stakes out Fred’s business. Some men knock on a side door and make the same OK symbol on their head that the cop who arrested Fred made. The OK symbol they make on their forehead does look like a Cyclops’ eye. William heads to the side entrance they went through and knocks. When the doorman opens the peek-through window, William punches him through it. It’s a secret New York klansman headquarters. William tears through them.
The battle with the klan takes Hooded Justice from the backroom into the front of Fred’s shop. Fred pulls a shotgun, despite there being customer’s in the store, and fires. Hooded Justice escapes through the picture window.
Laurie Blake tries cutting through to Angela as she lives through William’s memories, but Angela doesn’t respond. Cal is there. He reads biographical information about her to get her out of the past and into the present. Color peeks in, which makes me think it’s working. But then Angela falls into another of William’s memories.
William and the nightclub woman, now definitely his wife, are interrupted by Nelson Gardner, who pays a visit. This is a business call. Nelson is “representing” Captain Metropolis. Captain Metropolis is forming a group called The New Minutemen and wants Hooded Justice, the hero who inspired them all, to join. Nelson thinks William is feeding information to Hooded Justice. William’s wife calls out Nelson as Captain Metropolis. He tries to stammer out a reply, but is saved by William, who wants to know if The New Minutemen would be interested in taking down organizations like Cyclops. Gardner says yes, leaves his card and bids William farewell.
One thing the show didn’t change was making Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice lovers. They’re lovers before Hooded Justice even joins The New Minutemen. Captain Metropolis thinks its a good idea for William to stay in whiteface and hooded around their new teammates. He says it’s for William’s safety, blaming his teammates on not being as open minded as he is. I believe him on his teammates not being open minded, but I don’t think he’s saying this for Hooded Justice’s safety as much as he doesn’t want anything to rock the boat of his nascent team. Captain Metropolis also wants the two of them to wear their masks in bed. Hey, who am I to judge another’s kink?
William’s wife is the baby he picked up as a boy at the end of the first episode when the truck overturned! Bombshell for the audience! And a different bombshell for William! She’s now pregnant!
When Captain Metropolis introduces Hooded Justice to the press, William is about to out Cyclops, who he has a file on with him, but Captain Metropolis interrupts and pivots to a story about needing to take down science villain Moloch the Magnificent and then pivots again to an ad for a local bank. Hooded Justice feels hoodwinked.
William’s son is born, and grows through adolescence. He’s around when William applies his makeup and costume; William doesn’t hide it from him. All the while, his Cyclops case file grows and grows.
William kept his day job as a police officer. He comes upon the scene of a riot that broke out at a black theater. A white cop tells William to go inside, since he “speaks their language.” The police are rounding everyone up. Dead bodies litter the seats. A woman, Lorna, is crying quietly inside. William interviews her. She tells him that when the movie started, a flickering light started, and a voice inside her head told her she had to hurt people. William suspects Cyclops, thinking back to a book on mesmerism he spied in the klan building.
Outside of Cyclops’s headquarters, he calls in backup from Captain Metropolis, who writes off everything William says as nonsense. Captain Metropolis refuses to provide the Minutemen’s help. Fred sees the end of William’s call and questions him, saying he knows all the cops on this beat. But Fred just thinks he’s there for some free steaks. He actually doesn’t even remember William from earlier. William shoots him in the head and walks inside his warehouse, but he’s not there for steaks.
Off duty cops pack up altered projectors. William, in his police uniform and hood, shoots everyone inside. In another room, a man is recording hateful instructions to the projector’s strobe for black people to hurt each other, but not whites. William goes to shoot him, but he’s out of bullets. He opts for strangling him instead. William burns their bodies, their equipment and the entire warehouse.
He returns home with one of the projectors and finds his son applying his makeup to his face, wearing his costume. The son says, “I’m like you,” but William tells him “No” repeatedly and washes him clean.
His wife announces she’s leaving with their son. She said she hoped being Hooded Justice would free him of his thing, and I can’t tell if she’s talking about his anger or his homosexuality. The more she talks, the more I think she’s referring to his secret love life, not his secret vigilante life.
William, elderly, in his wheelchair, a noose hung over his shoulder, watches Judd run over the tire spikes. He flashes the mesmerism light on Judd, who falls under a spell. He has Judd push him up to the tree. Judd has no idea who William is. William knows about him though, including his hidden klan robe. Judd says he has a right to keep it, it was his grandfather’s and is his legacy. Judd claims William doesn’t know him, but William says he does and makes the Cyclops symbol. He then offers Judd the noose and tells him to hang himself. Judd complies. Angela, as William, watches her friend and boss hang himself.
We then see William’s wife’s parting words to William, which are to stay out of Tulsa and stay away from them. As far as he’s concerned, she says, they don’t exist.
Angela awakes in the home of Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), who is there to calmly greet her when she wakes.
There were two major bombshells this episode, the expansion of Hooded Justice’s backstory and that fact that William was not lying when he told Angela that he killed Judd. For those who haven’t read the Watchmen comic, Hooded Justice was one of the original heroes of the Watchmen universe. Little was revealed about him in the comic, other than him being angry and violent, and his secret lovelife with Captain Metropolis. These new revelations tonight are a bold choice by the creators of the Watchmen show, majorly opening up the backstory and history of a character we really didn’t know much about. And the beauty of it is that they did it without contradicting the original Watchmen comic source material.
The other bombshell, being that William was behind Judd’s death, answers the mystery that’s been at the heart of the Watchmen series since the end of episode 1. William wasn’t lying. Okay, maybe he can’t lift 200 lbs, but with the mesmerism light, he didn’t need to. Judd did the hard work himself at his command. And Judd’s grandfather was likely at the Tulsa Massacre that killed William’s parents. We still have plenty of mysteries yet to be answered though, namely what are the 7th Kalvary up to? What brought William back to Tulsa? Was it the 7th Kalvary’s plot? Who is Ms. Trieu and how does she link to William? And outside of Tulsa, what’s going to connect Ozymandias to all this? When are we going to see the return of Dr. Manhattan (I’m guessing in the season finale)? And how on earth did Judd end up with Nite Owl’s ship?