By far one of the most intriguing characters in HBO’s Watchmen is Looking Glass, played by Tim Blake Nelson. That’s largely due to the mystery surrounding him, but also the fact that he’s reminiscent of Rorschach. He’s clearly tied to his mask, lives a sad solitary life, and puts everything into his work. It’s no surprise the opening minutes of episode 5, “Little Fear of Lightning,” focus on an innocent Mormon boy who is changed forever after being embarrassed moments before the alien monster took millions of lives in 1985. From this moment the episode unfolds, revealing different layers of Looking Glass so that we are ready for his grand next step in a whole new outlook on life. Well, sort of.
Tim Blake Nelson does an excellent job with this episode, playing the part when Looking Glass is alone and frustrated, at his weekly anonymous meeting with other alien monster survivor meetings, and eventually coming across the secret headquarters of the Seventh Kavalry. This episode works largely due to the narrative, hooking itself into Looking Glass’ great shame the night the monster killed millions when he was only a teenager. On that night he allows a girl to convince him to take off his clothes only to run off with them. This means looking like a fool and a sinner in the eyes of his fellow Mormons. He lives with this shame and also the fear that came with it after walking out of a mirror maze at a carnival to find thousands dead. It explains not only why he joined the police force, but why he is so scared and unable to open up. Nelson makes you feel for Looking Glass and relate making his experience a painful one to watch.
Possibly the biggest revelation of the episode comes later on when Looking Glass discovers who runs the Seventh Kavalry. Once again someone wants to use him and it’s only effective due to the truth bomb dropped on him. Viewers who read the original Watchmen source material will know what is coming, but in a recorded video by Ozymandias, we learn the alien attack was planned to prevent the world from reaching doomsday. We also learn Robert Redford was picked by Ozymandias to become president, and thus everything Looking Glass believes and every reason he joined the police force was due to manipulation. You can understand why this man would crack and go along with the Seventh Kavalry’s plans even though he likely doesn’t trust them either.
This leads to a crackerjack scene with Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons) that pays off all the testing he’s been doing in the previous episodes, jettisoning his clones into the sky. The show is over halfway over, but it’s becoming clear Dr. Manhattan is coming ever closer into the picture. It’s also becoming more clear that while this season is an explanation of what happened after the Watchmen comic took place, season two will likely be all about getting the band back together. Or at least that’s my best guess!
Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) continues to be an intriguing character. Her disgust with police wearing masks certainly shows a disdain for the superhero profession and she also continues to show she’s smarter than she looks to these cops. Angela Abar’s (Regina King) character gets an ever so slight push in the right direction thanks to Looking Glass, furthering her journey in the series too.
One weakness of this episode is how much time is focused on Looking Glass. Focusing each episode mostly on one character helps flesh them out, but in the case of Looking Glass his flashback is easily deciphered. Since this show tends to revolve around the character rather than progress others in each installment, we’re left sort of spinning tires waiting for more to be revealed. Not much is, but at least Nelson does a great job with what he is given. Moments showing a cloning center for pets–and how they dispose of imperfect clones–is interesting, but the episode doesn’t add a lot to the world-building like previous episodes manage to do.
This is a sharply written episode if you like plot development and the juicy details connecting everything to the source material. So far the show continues to pique interest while developing character, and when it comes to sci-fi dramas like this, that’s a rare thing to pull off so consistently.