Watchmen series premiere recap: It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice

Photo: Regina King. Andrew Howard.. Watchmen.. Photo Courtesy: Mark Hill/HBO
Photo: Regina King. Andrew Howard.. Watchmen.. Photo Courtesy: Mark Hill/HBO /

HBO’s Watchmen series premeire, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice,” had a vendetta, high tension, and lots of masks. We’ve got the recap!

Watchmen pulls zero punches and defines its tone immediately. The episode was written by series creator Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers) and directed by Nicole Kassell (The Killing). It starts out in a silent movie within a historical flashback to what has become known as The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. A young black man was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white female elevator attendant. He was later exonerated. But, the white community wanted blood. They leveled the segregated town of Greenwood and its booming business district known as Black Wall Street. It was bloody. It was horrific. And, it’s still not widely known about to this day.

Lindelof had mentioned in interviews at New York Comic Con that the massacre influenced Watchmen. Regina King said the inclusion of Black Wall Street played a major role in drawing her into the series. It’s far more than an influence, though. It defines the tone of the show and has a distinct through-line for the premiere episode.

Watch Over This Boy

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The first images of Watchmen have the choppy frame rate of a silent movie. Someone is playing the piano over a short movie about Bass Reeves (Jamal Akakpo). He’s a real, historical figure who arrested thousands of felons in his years as a lawman. He was the first black Deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River. In the movie, Bass Reeves wears a mask over his face and a dark hood over his head. He catches up to a sheriff that he’s been chasing on horseback. White folks pour out of a church demanding answers. Who is this masked man accosting their sheriff? Bass Reeves takes off his mask and identifies himself. He declares the sheriff as the perpetrator who has been stealing the town’s cattle. The congregation is horrified, but hail Bass Reeves.

Photo: Dajour Ashwood, Steven Norfleet, Alexis Louder.. Watchmen..
Photo: Dajour Ashwood, Steven Norfleet, Alexis Louder.. Watchmen..Photo Courtesy: Mark Hill/HBO /

The camera slowly pans off of the silent film and onto the woman (Alexis Louder) playing the live piano soundtrack. She’s crying. The camera pans and shows us a young boy (Danny Boyd, Jr.) who is loving every minute of the movie. The woman is his mom. She’s playing just for him. His dad (Steven Norfleet) runs in as we start to hear the violence outside. We are in the middle of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Dad hands mom his long gun and he takes the boy. As they flee, we see war zone images. Businesses being looted. Black women being thrown down and shot for trying to defend their brothers and husbands. There’s a toddler holding a dead infant. And grenades are being dropped on innocent black civilians from World War I fighter planes.

The young boy’s parents get him out of town in a chest in the back of a mechanic’s (Dajour Ashwood) car. His father gives him a note that says “Watch Over This Boy.” The boy wakes up at night in a field. The car has been overturned. The mechanic and his wife (Sasha Morfaw) are dead. The boy has blood on his brow, but he and an infant have survived. As he starts to walk through the dark field, the title card for the episode appears in 3D Watchmen font: block yellow letters. “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice.”


In the Tulsa, Oklahoma of September 2019, uniformed police wear yellow masks that come up from their necks. Detectives and elite police are allowed to assume their own persona’s. Still. They all keep their identities secret. Life is more complicated and dangerous for those who are identified and outed as police. Angela Abar (Regina King) was attacked and identified during an event known as the White Night. She’s still a detective, but she has to keep it on the down-low.

Photo: Regina King.. Watchmen..
Photo: Regina King.. Watchmen.. Photo Courtesy: Mark Hill/HBO /

At a show and tell for one of her kids, Angela explains that she’s retired. She now has a bakery that offers a wide variety of pastries, including Bánh Tai Heo cookies from the state of Viet Nam. Yup. It’s a state now under our current president, Robert Redford. Yes. The actual Robert Redford. Angela has brought cookies and things are going fairly well until a big kid with attitude for days asks if Angela paid for the bakery with “Redfordations.” That’s the slang for the reparations that President Redford paid out to help narrow the economic gap caused by slavery that remains real.

Angela’s sun punches the kid. He gets sent home. She’s upset and tells her son that the boy isn’t racist. He’s just off to a good start. When she gets home to her husband, Cal (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), and the rest of her family, she finds out that she’s been paged with the phrase “Little Big Horn.” Angela immediately leaves for her bakery, which has never opened. An old man (Louis Gossett, Jr.) sees her unlocking the door. From his wheel chair, he asks when the bakery is going to open. Angela tells him two more months. He then asks if Angela thinks he can lift 200 pounds. She says sure.

The bakery is a front for Angela’s work space or lair. She quickly picks out weapons and adorns her costumed-hero persona of Sister Night. It includes tights, a leather tunic jacket, a black mask that comes up from her neck, face black for her eyes to cover her skin tone, and a hood. She looks like a modern version of Bass Reeves. Sister Night speeds out in an all black car, places a knocked-out perp in trunk, and heads to police headquarters.

The Seventh Calvary

The Seventh Calvary are white supremacists. They hate black people. They hate reparations. And, they wear Rorschach masks like the character from the 12 part Watchmen comic and the 2009 film. The night before, a man named Carmichael (Michael Graziadei) gets pulled over by officer Sutton (Charles Brice). When Carmichael opens his glove compartment, Sutton notices a Rorschach mask. Police are not allowed to just draw their guns. They have to be buzzed out of their holsters like we have to get buzzed into the bathroom at a restaurant. Wow. Sutton has difficulty getting clearance. In the meantime, Carmichael shoots him multiple times.

Photo: Regina King.. Watchmen..
Photo: Regina King.. Watchmen.. Photo Courtesy: Mark Hill/HBO /

Sheriff Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) learns about this while he’s with his wife, Jane (Frances Fisher), at an all black cast performance of the musical Oklahoma! When he rounds up his detectives, he’s warned that not notifying Sister Night right away will piss her off. The next day it does. Her and Crawford have words. She mentions that she’s brought in a suspect (Wayne Pére) that’s so white power he smells of bleach. He’s interrogated in the pod by Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson).

Looking Glass wears a silver, latex looking mask that goes on over his head. He looks disheveled. His voice is a little burnt. When he interrogates people he plays images and gauges a suspect’s reaction to them as he asks them questions. I would guess that this is how he got his name. As those images reflect off of his mask, the shadows create different patterns. Like a Rorschach test. Like Rorschach the character.

While Looking Glass confirms the suspect from Sister Night’s trunk is likely down with the Seventh Calvary, he can’t get their location from him. So, Sister Night beats it out of the suspect. This leads to a spectacular raid at night on four of the Calvary. They are collecting old, synthetic lithium watch batteries. When they are alerted to Sister Night, Looking Glass, and Red Scare’s (Andrew Howard) presence, they open up on them. The group take cover behind cattle, which are torn apart by bullets.

Photo: Don Johnson.. Watchmen.. Photo Courtesy: Mark Hill/HBO
Photo: Don Johnson.. Watchmen.. Photo Courtesy: Mark Hill/HBO /

Sister Night gets the upper hand and kills one of the Calvary. Carmichael kills himself with cyanide. And, two of the suspects get away in a plane. They are chased by Crawford in Archie, Nite Owl’s Owlship in the comic and the film. They catch up to the plane and destroy it, but Archie crashlands. Everyone survives and the Watchmen laugh at how crazy the raid was.

He Really Could Lift 200 Pounds!

If you’ve never read the comic or seen any version of the film, you’re fine. Watchmen doesn’t require it. But, it was cool to see Archie. There was also a parallel storyline that ran in the comics. Here, it appears as if the Minute Men who made up the original Watchmen are being glorified in a new show that we constantly see ads for in a similar way. It’ll be a story within a story.

It was also a trip to see squid storms, which seem to be a common occurrence. That’s a callback to the comic version of the doomsday device used by Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias. We see his older self (Jeremy Irons) riding a horse up to a castle. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major is playing. That’s the same song used to introduce the Bond Villain Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me.

We had previously seen a newspaper headline that declared Veidt dead. When we see him here, he’s quite eccentric. He’s writing a play in the nude while getting his raw thighs massaged on his “Anniversary.” There are some fun callbacks to the comic in this, but trust and believe I had no idea what the hell was happening here, either.

When we get back to the main story, the Crawfords are having dinner at the Abar’s house. It’s charming. Judd sings a song from Oklahoma! and snorts some darker version of cocaine. Good times! Angela is worried that the Seventh Calvary are up to something major. Judd is worried, but he can’t do anything about it now. Later that night, he gets a call that Officer Sutton is out of surgery. Judd heads to the hospital in full uniform. He never hides his identity. While he’s getting ready, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack gets eerie. Is Judd a Seventh Calvary bro? The camera stays on a picture of young Judd with a fierce looking old white guy. Back on the road, someone has laid out spikes that blow out Judd’s tires.

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Angela and Cal are having hot sex when she gets a phone call. She’s upset because she was so close. A familiar voice tells her to see an old oak tree on a certain road. Angela doesn’t costume-up, but she turns into Sister Night. She tells Cal to shoot anyone that approaches the front porch. When Angela gets to the remote tree, she finds Judd Crawford hanging from it. He’s been lynched. Next to him, in a wheel chair, is the old man from the front of Angela’s bakery. He pulls out the note from his dad that reads “Watch Over This Boy.”

That fierce old white guy in the picture must have been part of the law during the Massacre. The boy waited a long time for this revenge. As the camera pans on the lynched Judd Crawford, a song from Oklahoma! plays. It’s called Poor Jud is Dead. It stops on the lyric wondering if they can keep his dead body like this forever and ends with “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice.”