Watching Watchmen: Laugh to Keep from Crying
Episode 3: She was Killed by Space Junk
In episode three of Watchmen, FBI agent Laurie Blake is almost killed by space junk. After watching the first half of the episode, I might have been fine with that.
This episode opens with a masked hero attempting to foil a bank robbery, only the “robbers” and “hostage” are actually FBI agents with Blake, played by Jean Smart, leading the faked heist. When our masked hero tries to flee, Blake shoots him in the back several times. As she walks away from the scene, another agent asks her how she knew the hero’s body armor would stop the bullets. She doesn’t answer and she doesn’t turn around.
Laurie Blake seems to enter Watchmen as a counterpoint to our protagonist, Angela Abar, played by Regina King. She’s cold, crass and condescending, and she’s been sent by the FBI to investigate the lynching of Judd Crawford. It doesn’t take her long to uncover Abar’s secret identity as Sister Night, and when she finds Abar searching for clues after a bombing attempt at Crawford’s funeral, she confronts her. The gloves start to come off, one finger at a time.
We aren’t supposed to like a woman that shoots a masked hero in the back. That’s clear. But there’s so much more that bothers me about Laurie Blake.
For those who don’t know, Blake was a central character in both the novel and its movie adaptation. She was groomed to continue her mother’s role as Silk Spectre (one of the original Minutemen) and had a relationship with Dr. Manhattan, and later, the second incarnation of Nite Owl. During this time, she is devasted to learn that her father was actually The Comedian, Edward Blake, an original member of The Minutemen who once tried to rape her mother.
So, when Laurie shows up in our Watchmen world (sans mask) working for the government, bearing her father’s name and gunning for masked vigilantes, I have questions. None of them are nice.
Angela Abar is likable. She’s a mother trying to survive, attempting to protect her family and community. She’s a badass, and capable, but doesn’t engage in violence she doesn’t see as necessary, particularly admirable when she was one of the few survivors of the White Night murders. I found myself identifying with Abar from the first episode… as a POC, as a mother, as a believer in truth, and as someone who refuses to remain a victim. And that feels good.
What doesn’t feel good is identifying with Laurie Blake.
The entire third episode is framed by a joke Blake is telling inside a Call-Dr. Manhattan-type phone booth. It’s blue and glowing and probably totally pointless, but Blake speaks into the phone about three superheroes (Nite Owl, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan) meeting God. After asking each of them what they accomplished with the gifts He granted them, He snaps his fingers and sends each to hell. He is surprised to see a girl standing there – no gifts, no powers – so un-special He doesn’t even know her name. He also didn’t notice the brick she threw into the air as a child… until it strikes him dead, right then and there.
I’ve been that nameless girl with a brick.
I’ve also been cold and crass and alone because I felt it kept me safer.
I’ve remade myself when the old me wasn’t sufficient.
I’ve loved someone waaaaaay past wanting to.
I’ve used sex and people to help get through that.
I’ve spoken things to someone who wasn’t listening, just to say the words.
Laurie Blake is a summation of my many personal tragedies, upright and walking as a snarky white woman with a gun and good aim. I’m may dislike her, but I still have to claim her.
And in the end, when Mars flared bright and a broken car falls from the sky, almost killing her, I laughed right along with Laurie. The world may be shit, and your greatest comfort a massive blue dildo, but someone – someone – might still be listening out there. Might still toss some space junk to make you laugh, keep you on your toes.
And if we’re laughing, we’re still living, right?
By Jaimie K. Wilson