This article contains Watchmen episode 2 spoilers.
HBO’s Watchmen episode 2 continues the pattern of the first episode, not only reminding audiences of its ties to the comics, but also offering echoes of the original story in unexpected places. And just as we did with episode one, we’re here to track down all of the Watchmen Easter eggs on the HBO series.
If you spot something we missed, let us know in the comments or on Twitter and we’ll get this updated!
The episode’s title, “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” references the painting that the camera ominously lingers on in Judd’s house during the wake. That painting is a 1834 work by George Catlin, known for his depictions of Native Americans. Weirdly the episode title has rearranged the original name of the painting a bit as it’s titled “Comanche Feats of Martial Horsemanship.” The Comanche were accomplished horsemen, and often fought on horseback. I’m not fluent enough in Native American history or 19th century art to fully explain the possible significance, historical or otherwise of this painting. Please enlighten us in the comments.
THE SQUID RAIN AND THE NEWS
– This episode gives us our first mentions of both the New Frontiersman and Nova Express, the right and left wing papers (respectively) of the Watchmen universe. Rorschach was a massive fan of the New Frontiersman, which in this timeline is also owned (surprise!) by Roger Ailes.
– While the squid rain showers appear to have been going on for quite some time, it appears that the one that we saw in episode 1 was particularly widespread, with people talking about them happening simultaneously in multiple cities across the globe. It’s also interesting to note that people in this world consider them “false flags.”
– And, of course, we get the newsvendor giving the audience the running commentary on the state of the world, just as we did in the original book. While not the same character as the one from the book, this guy, Seymour, is roughly the same age and played by Robert Wisdom (The Wire), and also made his first proper appearance in the second chapter. Also note that in a world without the internet, newspapers are still far more important than they are to ours.
– We finally meet Senator (and Presidential hopeful) Joe Keene. Robert Redford is currently serving his 7th (!) term in office and isn’t planning on running for an 8th. Keene is the conservative candidate most likely to make a run for it. His father was responsible for the Keene Act which outlawed masked vigilante activity in the wake of the police strike of 1977.
– To say that Detective Looking Glass is the Rorschach of this show would perhaps be a little too obvious, hence his display of emotion with “then why am I crying under here.” On the other hand, later in the episode we see that even at home he eats with the mask on, Rorschach style. This COULD play into the idea that, like Walter Kovacs, Looking Glass sees his mask as his true face.
We wrote more about Rorschach and his connection to the 7th Kavalry right here.
SISTER NIGHT and THE WHITE NIGHT
– The flashback to “the White Night” is the first piece of Angela’s Sister Night origin story that we get in this show, and like it was for characters in the original book, this will be teased out over future chapters.
– The version of “Santa Baby” that plays during the flashback sequence to the White Night appears to be Eartha Kitt’s. Eartha Kitt wore a mask herself as Catwoman during the third season of the 1966 Batman TV series. It’s interesting to note that the song slows down as danger increases, perhaps to illustrate how time slows and senses sharpen in moments of great duress.
– Also, when Cal wants to open his present it’s “two minutes to midnight.” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists tracks how close humanity is to annihilating itself via its “Doomsday Clock.” The clock began at “7 minutes to midnight in 1947, hit “two minutes to midnight” in 1953, and has been as far away as 17 minutes in the ensuing decades. It is at this moment once again set at “two minutes to midnight” in part to reflect the growing threat and reality of climate change, as well as reckless nuclear saber rattling by world leaders who probably should know better but obviously do not.
It’s also a killer Iron Maiden tune, but you knew that.
– The blood spatter on Angela’s face almost could be another mirror of the “minutes to midnight” blood spatter pattern on the Comedian’s badge which has long been considered Watchmen’s logo.
– Note that during the flashback in the hospital, Judd’s bandages correspond to the old bullet scars we saw on him in episode 1 when he was putting his shirt on.
– Angela’s phone number is 539-176-2442. At the moment nothing happens if you call it. Not that I’ve tried or anything.
– In Nixonville, Red antagonizing a crowd and then losing it when somebody throws a bottle feels very much like the similarly antagonistic Comedian, back when he was partnered up with Nite Owl, taking on a crowd of rioters during the police strike in 1977 before the passage of the Keene Act. Of course, Red and the Comedian would share very little in common politically.
– Angela’s discovery of Judd’s…um…costume…directly mirrors Rorschach’s discovery of the Comedian’s costume in Edward Blake’s closet in the first issue of Watchmen. Like Angela, Rorschach had no idea of his colleague’s double identity. The difference here is that Rorschach and Comedian worked together professionally as masked adventurers, and didn’t know each other’s secret identities. Rorschach instead stumbles on Blake’s true identity while investigating his murder.
– Angela and Cal’s children are wearing “pirate” and “owl” costumes. The pirate remains a key pop cultural touchstone in the Watchmen universe, as pirate comics filled the void that superhero comics never needed to fill, as illustrated by the “Tales of the Black Freighter” story that runs through the Watchmen book. “Feed ‘em to the sharks” feels like a reference to that particularly macabre supernatural pirate story.
The “owl” is a reference to Nite Owl, and while Dan Dreiberg has so far been absent from this show, he’s here in spirit in a number of ways, perhaps especially in the goggles we Angela using to search Judd’s closet at the end of the episode, which look suspiciously like Nite Owl technology. In fact, between the Owlship style hovercraft we saw used as a police vehicle in episode 1, this, and the revelation via HBO’s official supplemental materials that Dan Dreiberg was arrested in 1995 for actions that violated the Keene Act, it might be possible that his punishment might involve creating technology for the police. Or it was simply handed over, confiscated, and then duplicated.
– The weird, floating magnetic castle that Topher is building looks very much like the red sand castle we saw Dr. Manhattan building in the first episode. The big blue guy also dismissed that with a wave of his hand. Both structures look suspiciously similar to the castle occupied by the guy who is most certainly not Adrian Veidt (ahem) that Jeremy Irons is playing.
– In the background of Topher’s room there’s a reproduction of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” the “melting pocket watch” painting that could be the surrealist’s most famed work. Considering Jon Osterman’s (and now theoretical Adrian Veidt’s) love for pocket watches, this could be significant, especially when paired with the apparent affinity Topher has with the dwellings/constructions of both characters.
– The play that the “mysterious gentleman” is putting on at the end of the episode is a dramatization of Dr. Jon Osterman’s transformation into Dr. Manhattan, right down to one of the “clones” (if that’s what they are) adopting the character’s blue skin tone and traditional nudity. It wouldn’t be a Watchmen show if there wasn’t some blue dong. If only it was glowing. I’m sure we’ll get there.
AMERICAN HERO STORY AND HOODED JUSTICE
– Opening with “Fraulein Mueller” typing a piece of propaganda can’t be a coincidence in the same episode where we have the “American Hero Story” episode about Rolf Mueller, Hooded Justice.
– The propaganda leaflet dropped on black American soldiers marching towards the line in World War I is word for word from an actual historical leaflet from 1917.
– The FCC warning on American Hero Story: Minutemen feels like a jab at the kind of self policing common in liberal circles. Robert Redford is apparently an exceptionally liberal President, and not everyone is thrilled about it. Note, for example, how the newsvendor jokes about Redford’s “libstapo.”
– American Hero Story focuses heavily on the early days of Hooded Justice. The painting on the back of Rolf’s corpse’s jacket is from a particular Dave Gibbons illustration in the book, meant to be a photograph of Muller as a circus strongman in his prime. The fact that the narrator hints that this isn’t him is a nod to the fact that the corpse was so badly decomposed that they weren’t able to make a positive identification on him.
We wrote much more about the convoluted mystery surrounding Hooded Justice right here.
You may also note that, like Judd’s dead body, “Rolf” is only wearing one boot.
– Incidentally, the style in which American Hero Story is presented, from the use of slow motion to the speed-ramping to the oversaturated colors and absurdly self-serious and unintentionally hilarious narration and tone, all feel a little like how Zack Snyder envisioned this world in his 2007 Watchmen movie adaptation.
– Interestingly, they use a kid hawking newspapers to set the stage for Hooded Justice’s first major adventure, and he’s referring to Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast and hoax. However, Welles’ broadcast took place on Oct. 30, 1938, while Under the Hood sets the supermarket fight as Oct. 13, 1938. This isn’t an inaccuracy on HBO’s part, and is likely instead just an example of the American Hero Story producers taking artistic license to place the Hooded Justice fight in the fall of 1938 rather than tie it to a specific date.
– Based on the candles on the cake, it appears to be Veidt’s SECOND anniversary wherever he is, even though only one day has passed for everyone else. Is this a sign of how time passes where he is, or perhaps the perceptions of those around him?
– “Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends,” were Dr. Manhattan’s last words to Adrian Veidt before departing for…redder pastures…at the end of the book.
– The stopwatch kicks off at 9 minutes to midnight. There are nine episodes of this show, hence “it has only just begun.” Incidentally, the Doomsday Clock has been set at 9 minutes to midnight twice in history, once in 1974 and again in 1998.
THE GORDIAN KNOT
A Gordian Knot is an unsolvable problem, literally a knot that can’t be untied. Legend has it that it was Alexander the Great, Adrian Veidt’s hero, who solved the problem of the actual Gordian Knot.
From a Watchmen comics perspective, when Rorschach kicked in Dan Dreiberg’s door, it was the “Gordian Lock Co.” who came and installed a new, stronger lock.
– The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion” plays as Angela heads back to Judd’s murder scene, which…seems a little on the nose as far as music cues go.
– The episode ends with “Egg Man” by the Beastie Boys over the closing credits. The egg has been a recurring theme in these two episodes, whether it was Angela making the “smiley face” with the yolks in episode 1, or Will’s affinity for hard-boiled eggs (and the egg timer) in this episode. Look, any time we get a deep cut Beastie Boys needledrop anywhere it’s cause for celebration, and this song, which comes from their second LP, Paul’s Boutique. The song is a simple ode to the joys of throwing eggs at people. Considering the original Watchmen story takes place around Halloween, and this episode airs mere days before “Gate Night” when egg throwing and other mischief is a New York (and elsewhere) tradition, this is both playful and brilliant.
– The paparazzi are wearing wings, and referred to as “moths.” This is likely an evolution of the crude flight technology that former Minutemen member Byron Lewis, the Mothman wore. The last we heard of Mothman in the original Watchmen book, he had suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. His fate is explored further in DC’s Doomsday Clock comic book sequel.
– Henry Louis “Skip” Gates is indeed a real person, a prominent African-American historian, teacher, and literary critic and scholar. We wrote more about him right here.
– In the alley behind Angela’s bakery you can see the same graffiti that the Knot-Top gang in the Watchmen comic painted. It’s a silhouette of two lovers, intended to evoke the shadows burned into the walls of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb. Somehow that motif made it to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
– Will is 105 years old. He jokes about being Dr. Manhattan, which obviously he is not. One thing notable is that the Bass Reeves silent film in episode 1 featured him wearing a costume that looked an awful lot like Hooded Justice. And Will is fond of the red and purple color scheme of that old masked vigilante. It’s probably a coincidence, though. Right? Oh wait, there are no coincidences in the world of Watchmen.
Did you spot anything I missed? Let us know in the comments!