This article contains major Watchmen spoilers for episode 3 “She Was Killed by Space Junk” and the book.
Watchmen episode 3 is perhaps the biggest, most explosive (in at least one instance literally) episode of the series yet. Not only do we meet a legacy character from the original book, in the form of FBI Agent Laurie Blake (the former Silk Spectre, brilliantly and perfectly portrayed by Jean Smart), but we finally learn the answer to the mystery that pretty much everyone has known the answer to almost since the very first Watchmen trailer was revealed: Jeremy Irons’ character is Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias. Both of these make for an episode that is far more connected to the world of the book than the previous ones, while the world of the HBO show continues to build outward in new and inventive ways.
Here’s everything we found in Watchmen episode 3. Let us know what you caught!
“She Was Killed by Space Junk”
This episode’s title is “She was killed by space junk.” It’s a line from a Devo song titled (you guessed it) “Space Junk.” Laurie was a Devo fan in the comics, and her fandom continues here on the show.
The “space junk” in question could also be the brick in the joke Laurie tells. It could be a reference to Angela’s car plummeting out of the sky at the end of the episode. Or maybe “space junk” could be a reference to Dr. Manhattan’s iconic glowing blue penis.
– FBI Agent Laurie Blake is the woman formerly known as Laurie Juspeczyk, the masked adventurer known as the Silk Spectre. Laurie was the daughter of the original Silk Spectre and the Comedian, although she didn’t learn that the Comedian was her father until much later in life. Laurie was never fond of her father, in no small part thanks to the fact that he sexually assaulted her mother, but she certainly has inherited a lot of Edward Blake’s cynicism by this stage of her life.
You can read much more about the history of Laurie Blake and her connections to Watchmen right here.
– Laurie asks her home system to “play Devo.” Laurie is established as a Devo fan in the comics, and Devo also gives us the episode’s title.
– On Laurie’s apartment wall you can see a Warhol-esque depiction of Comedian, Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, and Laurie as Silk Spectre. Laurie was romantically involved with the latter two and is the daughter of the Comedian. This is almost like a family portrait.
– The combination to Laurie’s epic Dr. Manhattan dildo briefcase is 667. 666 is, of course, “the number of the beast.” Which would make 667 “the neighbor of the beast.” But seriously, I’m having trouble finding specific significance for this number or her apartment number, which is 406.
– The fact that Laurie let Petey put the mask on during sex is a sly reference to her early relationship with Dan Dreiberg, Nite Owl. Dreiberg was unable to maintain an erection the first time they were intimate, but once they put their costumes on, things took off.
– The episode’s framing sequence revolves around Laurie telling a joke in a bizarre blue phone booth meant to allow people to talk to Dr. Manhattan on Mars. Trieu Industries purchased Adrian Veidt’s company and is now the primary provider of futuristic tech in the Watchmen universe.
– We learn via a reporter’s question that the Russians are building an “intrinsic field generator,” which was the focal point in Dr. Jon Osterman’s transformation into Dr. Manhattan (and this was, of course, referenced during the “Dr. Manhattan Origin Sequence” scene in Adrian Veidt’s bizarre play, “The Watchmaker’s Son” in episode 2). It would seem that the Cold War never truly ended, it just metamorphosed into a different kind of arms race.
– We can also spot Doctor Manhattan on an old Esquire magazine cover with him embracing Laurie in her Silk Spectre garb.
– The American Hero Story advertisement that’s on the top of the cab appears to feature the Comedian (the domino mask on the left) and Captain Metropolis (the red mask on the right). Perhaps we’ll see more than just Hooded Justice as this season goes on.
– Laurie talks about “when my dad was murdered” and how they discovered a costume in his closet. This is because her father was Edward Blake, the Comedian, and Rorschach discovered that costume while snooping in his closet post-mortem just as Angela did with Judd’s in the previous episode. That specific event takes place in chapter one of the book.
– The fact that Laurie is telling a joke throughout most of the episode is revealing, and a nod to the fact that her father was Edward Blake, the Comedian. In it, she refers to a number of key characters from the original book.
The “owl guy” is her ex-boyfriend and crime fighting partner, Dan Dreiberg, Nite Owl. Note that Nite Owl was averse to killing and generally the “nicest” of the heroes depicted in Watchmen.
The “smartest guy in the world” is Adrian Veidt, who indeed did kill millions of people by teleporting a genetically engineered giant squid with the brain of a psychic into the middle of New York City. We, um…we wrote more about that here.
The third hero in the joke is Dr. Manhattan, and the line about how a live body and a dead body “contain the same number of particles” is lifted right out of the comics, and it’s a line that particularly infuriated Laurie when he said it to her.
The bricklayer himself could very well be the Comedian, which would make Laurie the bricklayer’s daughter, and thus the little girl who kills god at the “punchline” of the joke.
– The “punchline” of the joke, “good joke, curtains, etc” is taken from the version of the Pagliacci joke that Rorschach recounts in his journal as an allegory for Edward Blake’s cynical, difficult life.
We wrote more about the joke in detail here.
– Laurie keeps a pet owl named “Hoo” (or “Who” depending on “who” you ask. I’m sorry, trying to delete it). Is this her owl, and a reminder of Dan Dreiberg, or was it Dan’s owl that she’s housing for safekeeping? Senator Keene implies that he could offer a presidential pardon for her owl in a cage, essentially hinting that Nite Owl is in prison, likely for refusing to give up his costumed adventuring after the events of the book.
– This episode confirms a lot of information present in HBO’s Peteypedia supplemental materials and our own article about the 7th Kavalry and the Rorschach connection, notably that Rorschach’s journal was indeed published and inspired the 7th Kavalry, but has only ever been taken to heart by kooks.
– The FBI director also mentions that it’s “Custer’s Last Stand shit” with the Kavalry, thus bringing the focus back to their name.
– However, on the screen at the FBI, we do see a single page from Rorschach’s journal in his original handwriting. It’s the entry dated Oct. 13, 1985. It’s the second entry that Watchmen readers got to experience, and it’s taken from page 14 of the book.
ADRIAN VEIDT and OZYMANDIAS
– The mysterious Lady Trieu (who we’ll meet in the next episode) created the bizarre Millennium Clock sculpture after buying Veidt Industries. She dedicated it to Adrian Veidt with the “Look on my works ye mighty and despair” quote from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Ozymandias.”
– The “mystery” is solved, and this is indeed Adrian Veidt, the “smartest man in the world” who once went by the nom-de-superhero Ozymandias. He is seemingly in exile or captivity. We know from HBO’s supplemental materials that he disappeared in 2007, and was recently declared dead. His connection to the giant squid that killed millions of people in New York City was made public, but nobody believes it.
– It appears to be Veidt’s third anniversary. One for each episode. Time passes differently wherever he is.
– Veidt is listening to “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker, whose lyrics would seem to reflect the sentiment that Veidt is being held in some kind of “captivity” as the letter from the Game Warden puts it. Somewhat related: none of you are listening to enough Desmond Dekker and you should rectify that immediately.
– Interestingly enough, in the interview Veidt gave to Nova Express circa 1977, he expressed an early interest in dub, so it makes sense that he would be listening to early Jamaican ska/reggae here.
– The domed plant that Veidt removes the glass from sure looks like a model of his vivarium/domed arctic hideaway (Karnak) from the book.
– I’m not up on my art history, but I’m pretty sure the bust that Veidt has placed his old Ozymandias domino mask on is of Alexander the Great, likely based on the one sculpted in 330 BC by Lysippos.
– There’s a pirate flag on Veidt property, and the “Game Warden” seals his letters with a skull and crossbones. Not only that, but the motel that Laurie and Dale Petey stay at is called “The Black Freighter.”
Pirate comics were the big deal in the Watchmen universe instead of superhero comics, and a story from Tales of the Black Freighter played a major role in the original book.
– Veidt’s letter to the Game Warden includes two turns of phrase that are uniquely his. The bit about not being a “Republic serial villain” comes from his confession to Nite Owl and Rorschach about his giant squid plan to bring about world peace, essentially telling them that he wouldn’t tell them about a plan if he hadn’t already executed it.
What are Republic serials? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Serials were a staple of the pre-television era of movie theaters. You’d go see a movie, and before it would begin you’d get trailers, a cartoon, a newsreel, and a chapter of a serial. Serials were usually told in 12 or 15 installments of 15 minutes each. The very first superhero movies were all movie serials (see: three Flash Gordon adventures in the 1930s, two dreadful Batman serials in the 1940s, Superman in 1948 and its sequel Atom Man vs. Superman in 1950 and many others). While many studios produced serials, Republic Pictures made the best of the bunch, and were also responsible for the best superhero serial of the era, the original Shazam movie: The Adventures of Captain Marvel.
The OTHER line in question is the “all best wishes and encouragement” sign off. This comes from the introductory letter to “The Veidt Method,” a self-help program that Veidt launched in the late 1980s that promised to turn everyone into a heroic master of their own destiny.
– During the staged bank robbery, you can spot a newspaper headline that says “Grisham to retire from the Supreme Court.” That can only be noted legal thriller author and former House of Representatives member John Grisham.
– The dipshit that Laurie stops is named “Mr. Shadow,” not to be confused with “Revenger” who Laurie apparently caught in a previous sting operation. His parallels to the Christopher Nolan version of Batman are obvious, as is that scene, which feels like the Joker gang bank heist from The Dark Knight.
The public sentiment on display after Laurie brings down the vigilante is the exact opposite of the scene from the book where the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan confront an angry crowd of pro-police demonstrators in the leadup to the passage of the Keene Act which outlawed masked vigilantes. Superheroes seem very much in fashion in the 2019 of HBO’s Watchmen.
– Joe Keene’s father passed the Keene Act, which outlawed masked vigilante activity. DOPA is the Defense of Powers Act (Laurie’s incredulous “you called it DOPA?!?” is a TV moment of the year candidate) is what allows police to operate masked.
“Petey” is FBI Agent Dale Petey, and while this episode marks his first time on screen, Watchmen scholars will recognize him as the curator of HBO’s official Watchmen supplemental materials, “Peteypedia.” He did his graduate thesis on police strike of 1977.
Petey is staying in Room 238. Not to be confused with Room 237 from The Shining.
– Tartarus Acres is a hell of a dark name for a cemetery. It’s where the Titans, the beings that preceded the more well known Greek gods, were imprisoned after Zeus led a revolt against them. At one point there’s a shot of an angel statue that almost seems to mirror a panel from Edward Blake’s funeral in the second chapter of the book.
– The song Angela sings at Judd’s funeral is Gene Autry’s “The Last Roundup.”
Did you spot anything we missed? If so, drop it in the comments or let me know on Twitter!