Watchmen season 1, episode 5 recap: Little Fear of Lightning

Photo: Tim Blake Nelson in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Photo: Tim Blake Nelson in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

The backstory of Looking Glass, a giant squid, and some Harry Potter technology are featured in Watchmen’s “Little Fear of Lightening.” We’ve got the recap!

“Little Fear of Lightning” had Watchmen’s most direct narrative of the season to date. It needed it. There were a lot of revelations and callbacks that were too important to get lost in “did that just happen” moments. The episode was written by Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers) and Carly Wray (Westworld). It was directed by Steph Green (The Deuce). There is a ton of exposition, but it’s revealed organically. Yes. There’s one huge bit of straight exposition, but it was awesome. So it gets a pass.

The episode felt like television. It was cool, sleek, and cinematic. But it told a good story. Lindelof and Wray constructed scenes that had beginnings, middles, and ends. Green lets it all unfold on camera and only embellishes Looking Glass/Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson). That fits because the whole episode revolves around our beloved Mirror Guy.

November 2, 1985

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Young Wade Tillman (Phillip Labes) gets off a charter bus in Hoboken, New Jersey with what looks like a few fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s November 2, 1985. The Doomsday Clock has just reached 11:59 PM. The United States and the Soviet Union are about to nuke every living thing off the planet. Wade and company have come from Oklahoma to spread the Word: Everyone is saved if they believe. The group disperses into a carnival that a reverend refers to as a whore’s den. Wade, armed with a few copies of The Watchtower, is afraid to talk to most of the people he sees. They’re his age. But they’re all making out, doing drugs, or having fun. These are things Wade seems to have been sheltered from in Oklahoma.

Wade decides to talk to two dudes with knot top hairdos. They look like they’re about to throw down on him when a young girl with them takes Wade by the hand. Roxy (Julia Vasy) leads him to a house of mirrors. Wade starts to talk about the power of faith, but Roxy just wants to know if he’s a virgin. Wade asks Roxy if she’s afraid of the nuclear holocaust. Roxy says no and starts to undress him. It seemed like Wade looked at one of his own reflections for help. Roxy strips Wade naked and tells him not to worry. Then she immediately runs out while yelling, “I got his clothes!”

Photo: Tim Blake Nelson in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Watchmen – Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

Wade is embarrassed. His reflections seemingly start to close in on him. He mutters that he’s going to get exactly what he deserves. Then, his face starts to contort. There’s some kind of vibration that climaxes into a shock wave. It floors Wade and breaks most of the mirrors. He grabs his tender parts and makes his way out of the house of mirrors. There are piles of dead carnival-goers. He finds Roxy. She has a horrified expression on her dead face.

Wade collects his clothes. There are a few other survivors. Wade starts to yell “What is happening?!” The camera pans out as Frank Sinatra’s version of New York starts to play. The camera stops on a giant, dead squid slowly crushing a skyscraper. Its psychic blast has left millions dead. This was Adrian Veidt’s plan to save the world from mutually assured destruction from the original Watchmen comic.

Focus Group of One

In present-day Oklahoma, Wade audits focus groups from behind a double mirror. He knows when people are lying. He did not know when Roxy was lying to him back in Hoboken. So, either the trauma of him getting pants-ed with the squid attack gave him the ability to determine the truth. Or, the psychic blast altered his brain in some way. He was likely saved by being in the house of mirrors, which reflected the full psychic blast from hitting him.

One thing is clear. Wade is still traumatized 30 years later. This is why he’s so fascinated by the baby squid showers that happen every so often. There’s always fear of another giant squid, but the smaller extra-dimensional events allow him to relive and learn more about his trauma. It’s not a kink. It’s part of how trauma works.

Photo: Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Watchmen – Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

Also, Wade feels safe. There’s a material called reflectitine that is thought to block psychic waves. You’ve seen it. that’s what the Looking Glass mask is made of. He also lines a Tulsa Tornado baseball cap with it to blend in during the day. In order to help people feel safe, there are alarm systems that you can buy to warn you of squid showers. Wade over tests his and needs a new one ASAP.

Meanwhile, Wade runs a support group that is a little like a twelve-step group. Instead of friends of Bill W., folks identify themselves as friends of Nemo. There’s even a version of the serenity prayer that admits there are extra-dimensional beings but declares the strength of humanity. Wade encourages others to overcome their fear even though he’s crippled by his own.

The Bugged Cactus

Sister Knight (Regina King) wants an update from Wade on the pills she found. Laurie (Jean Smart) overhears this because, as she tells Wade, she bugged the cactus plant on his desk. In this office encounter, we learn that Wade didn’t join the police force until the White Night happened. Laurie knows that Angela is up to something that may include covering for Judd’s (Don Johnson) killer.

Wade pays a visit to his ex, Cynthia’s (Eileen Grubba), lab. They clone pets. One of the poofy little doodle mixes isn’t quite an exact clone. Cynthia offers it to Wade. When he turns it down, she places the poofy clone into what’s basically a garbage disposal. It’s destroyed. Yikes. Wade changes the conversation to the pills. They are Nostalgia, which are the literal memories of a person in pill form. Usage can cause psychosis. Also, it sounds like a highly clinical version of the pensieve from the Harry Potter books minus the silvery goop.

Photo: Regina King in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Watchmen. – Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

Later that night, Looking Glass has dropped off his truck. Wade drives to his support group meeting in his Prius. A new person shows up late at the meeting. Unbeknownst to Wade, but painfully obvious to us, Renee (Paula Malcomson) lures him to drinks at a bar. As she’s leaving the bar with a friend, lettuce falls from the truck. A lettuce truck was used by the cop killer in “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice.” Wade pursues the truck to an abandoned mall. It turns out to be the home of the Seventh Kalvary.

They easily corner Wade. It’s not his fault. He’s fascinated by the basketballs being passed through the same kind of inter-dimensional portal used in 1985. The 7th K is planning something awfully big for all those watch batteries that they’ve been collecting. One of the head members takes his mask off and reveals himself to be none other than Senator Keane (James Wolk). He confirms, as I thought after “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship,” that Judd was also 7th K. They’re not racist, you see. They just want to control the racists. Yeah. Ok. Sure thing. I now wonder if Keane was the 7th K member who shot Angela.

Wade believes he’s dead. Not yet. Keane needs him to keep Angela busy for the next few days while he works on the 7th K attack. If Wade can’t do it, Keane will have to kill Angela and her whole family. In order to convince Wade, Keane shows him an official video message from Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) to Robert Redford from 1985. In it, he claims responsibility for the squid attack, explains the need for the continued squid showers, and declares the greatest bomb you can drop is fear.

Photo: Jeremy Irons in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Watchmen – Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

The next day at the squad, Wade gets Angela to incriminate herself by the bugged cactus. She’s immediately arrested by Laurie. As she’s being pursued, Angela yells “What did you do?!” at Wade and swallows her grandfather’s Nostalgia. Wade doesn’t feel good, but he thinks he’s saved Angela’s family. When he gets home, he throws away and then reclaims his replacement squid alarm. Then a van full of 7th K pulls up. They exit the van locked and loaded. They march towards Wade’s house meaning to kill him. He’s worn out his usefulness. Wade was played again.

This Week at Veidt Manor

Adrian has constructed his spacesuit and has his new crop of Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks literally catapult him into space. He survives and lands on a surface that could possibly be the moon. There is a massive pile of freeze-dried Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks. In a scene that would have fit in perfectly on NBC’s Hannibal, Adrian cracks body parts off of the corpses and aligns them in big piles that spell out “SAVE ME” in block letters. A satellite passes nearby and Adrian feels that he will be saved. By Dr. Manhattan? Some other alien entity? MTV?

All of a sudden Adrian gets yanked back to the manor by the Game Warden, who appears to be the real Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) with a mask on. Are the clones of him Adrian’s way of taunting him? Or, are the clones of the Game Warden there to taunt Adrian? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that the Game Warden kicks the poop out of Adrian.

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This Week’s Music:

  • Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones. This plays when Young Wade exits the bus at the height of the fear over nuclear annihilation.
  • Careless Whisper” by George Michael. This plays during Wade’s encounter with Roxy.
  • How the West was Really Won” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. This plays as Wade freaks out at the carnage from the psychic blast.
  • Theme From New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra. This plays as the camera glides from Hoboken to New York, New York on November 2, 1985.
  • Some Enchanted Evening” by Frank Sinatra. Plays as Wade gets his Rorschach on by eating baked beans from a can with his mask on. Also, on American Hero Story, Hooded Justice (Cheyenne Jackson) is having sex with Captain Metropolis (Chris Whitley) as Wade watches.
  • Turtles All the Way Down” by Sturgill Simpson. This plays on Wade and Renee’s date.
  • Lacrimosa” by Mozart. This plays as Wade comes upon the truth about the Seventh Kalvary. It was also used when Angela found Judd’s KKK cloak in “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship.”
  • Claire de Lune” by Claude Debussy. This plays when Adrian lands on his clone burial planet in space.
  • Careless Whisper” by Nataly Dawn. This plays when Wade is trying to decide whether or not to sell out Angela.
  • Some Enchanted Evening” by the Castells. This plays us out of the episode.

What did you think of “Little Fear of Lightning? Do you think Wade is a goner or will he survive the 7th K attack on Watchmen? Let’s discuss in the comments!