Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Watching Watchmen 5: Scared All the Time
Episode 5: Little Fear of Lightening
One of the things I love most about Watchmen is its ability to balance focus among its characters and histories, while craftily weaving them together while you were looking at something else. In the fifth episode of Watchmen, we focus in on Looking Glass, played by Tim Blake Nelson. To do that, we step back to Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1985, with one minute left on the Doomsday Clock and nuclear armageddon imminent.
The bright lights and shrieking sounds of a carnival crash against our ears as a small group of church boys get off a bus and join hands in prayer. They will speak truth to the sinners. One boy – our boy – attempts to bring the Word to a group of malcontents, but the two men start to harass him. Thankfully, the girl pulls him away, rescues him, leading him into the funhouse. She draws him in, leads him on. And then – in a room full of mirrors – she undresses him. If the world is about to end, this may be his last chance… And then, when his eyes are closed, she jets.
With an “FU, Bible Boy!” she dashes off with his clothes, leaving him naked – scrawny and pathetic – in a room of mirrors. He stares at himself. He condemns himself. He names himself a sinner and said he is deserving of this shame. And then the world seems to tremble and shatter into a million pieces. Our boy walks out, naked and bleeding, through shards of glass to see the dead spread out before him. “What happened?!!” he screams, again and again, as we leave him.
I’ll be honest. The origin story of Looking Glass really bummed me out, because I liked the guy. To see the degree to which fear – false fear – had tragically altered this man’s life was sad. To see others, especially a politician, capitalize on that fear to drive their plans forward was worse. In the end, fear has its way and Looking Glass plays his role in getting Agent Abar to implicate herself and get arrested. The poor man never makes it out of the tunnel and the episode ends with the Seventh Kavalry on his driveway. It gives new resonance to his comment about the squid fall, “Thirty seconds of life, and they spend all of it dying.”
Fear. This episode shows us the power of fear – real or not. Apart from the squid fall, we don’t have to squint very hard to have this look really familiar. It’s not just the fear-mongering politician or the blonde radiologist who’s also a devout white supremacist, it’s the guy in the Squid Anonymous meeting, who feels fear is encoded in his DNA. It’s the boy we like, all grown up and seeing through everyone’s lies, but still wearing the ultimate tinfoil hat.
At one point when the radiologist is drawing Looking Glass in, she says, “ …‘cause I’m scared all the time, ya know? I mean, there’s a squid-fall and people just pull their cars over and turn their wipers on like aliens aren’t falling from the fucking sky?! Why isn’t everybody petrified?!”
I don’t like identifying with her, but I do.
Most days, I’m fairly successful at putting my partial blinders on and focusing on family, work, etc.… But there are days when I find myself wandering around the produce section wondering why we are all pretending to be normal. Sometimes I just want to pick up a sweet potato and throw it. Because that’s how ridiculous everything is.
The Amazon is burning, apparently, a great deal of Africa and India is way too hot, there’s a garbage ocean and, basically, a global cascade of death of the Earth’s wildlife, and the honeybees… oh, the honeybees. And those aren’t even the human tragedies. Kids in cages, native and trans women disappearing, gay conversion, kid jails, more deaths by cops… BUT DO I CHUCK THIS CAULIFLOWER OVER MY SHOULDER?! DO I PUT MY FOOT THROUGH THIS MELON?!!
No. No, I don’t. I check my list. I ready my coupons. I make sure to get toilet paper.
Because here in America, it’s always business as usual. We grew up against the ticking of the clock.
By Jaimie K. Wilson