The Watchmen TV series has finally landed on our screens – the first episode of it, at least. And if you’ve skimmed through our Watchmen beginner’s guide, you’ll have a decent understanding of how the original Watchmen comics have cast a shadow over the action.
But the best TV shows are never easy, and you might be wondering what to make of Watchmen episode one – or if there’s something you missed while texting, blinking, or chatting about the show in your living room.
This page will guide you through the key questions you may have about Watchmen episode one – obviously with some spoilers – or discover how to catch up with our guide on how to watch Watchmen online.
1. What’s all this about the Seventh Cavalry?
The story kicks off 30 years after the events of the graphic novel, which is taken as canon for the events happening onscreen. In an alternate timeline to our own, masked vigilantes not only exist, but are treated as outlaws. At the same time, state police officers resort to donning masks themselves to protect their own identities in the fight against a band of white supremacists, the Seventh Cavalry – who, much like show creator Damon Lindelof, have riffed on their source material, taking the writings of the deceased character Rorscach as gospel for their racist ideology.
We’ve seen at least one police officer killed by the group, and the police force has been granted access to more firepower to meet this threat.
2. What were the Tulsa race riots?
The historical flashback that the show opened with was the Tulsa race riots of 1921, a real-life event where swarms of white American citizens descended on the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma – trashing businesses and killing hundreds of black residents. It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.”
A young boy caught up in the violence is shown wandering away from the wreckage of a carriage shot from behind – and seems to be the same person found with the body of police chief Judd Crawford (more on that later).
The brief mention of “Redfordations” in the classroom appears to be a system of reparations granted under Robert Redford’s presidency, allowing descendents of those affected by the riot some kind of financial support – and it’s clearly a sensitive subject within the TV show.
3. What is American Hero Story?
American Hero Story would be a somewhat clumsy name for a TV show, if it wasn’t such a clear play on words around the American Horror Story anthology series. You’ll catch sight of the title on various vehicles – and a blimp – in the first episode, with an audio announcement stating that “tomorrow night, the countdown ends. American Hero Story: The Minutemen.”
It seems that the history of the comics is being adapted for TV in HBO’s TV adaptation too – though how they’re represented, and how it matches up with reality, may well be explored in later episodes.
4. What was White Night?
The chillingly named White Night sounds like a classic Christmas horror movie, and its use in Watchmen episode one isn’t far off. It marks the Christmas eve when members of the white supremacist group Seventh Cavalry attacked the homes and families of Tulsa’s police force, leaving many dead and others injured – and sparking the use of masks for police offers wishing to keep their identities safe.
5. Where is Nite Owl? Have we seen him yet?
While there’s no explicit mention of Nite Owl, the owl-themed vigilante from the Watchmen comics, there’s plenty to suggest his presence in the story. Regina King’s character is seen holding an owl-shaped mug in the police chief’s office, while Nite Owl’s flying contraption (“Archie”, as its known in the comics) is seen flying, diving, and crashing while under the command of the same police chief.
The Nite Owl persona was passed down to Daniel Dreiberg in the comics (as seen in the 2009 film), so it’s possible we’ll see a brand new character who’s taken on the mantle – or an old character returning to do so.
6. Did squid really rain from the sky?
It’s likely a reference to the giant squid that demolished Manhattan in the comics – which was the original endgame threat that brought humanity back from the brink of annihilation, though it’s unclear whether Adrian Veidt’s hoax was ever revealed as such to the American public. And if the original squid was a fake, we’re unsure where these squid rainstorms may have come from.
7. What’s in the pod?
Tim Blake Nelson takes on a curious role as the police interrogator, though it’s not the vein you usually see in American crime dramas. Nelson’s character – Looking Glass – wears a reflective mask and asks a suspect leading questions in some kind of interrogation chamber filled with flashing images, seemingly to confuse or disorientate those brought in. While not a mind-reading superpower, it’s a good example of the enhanced, trained abilities of the heroes in Watchmen, as well as harking back to the psychological examinations Rorschach went through in the comics.
8. Who killed Judd Crawford?
Chief Judd Crawford is found hanged at the end of the episode, but the circumstances around it aren’t exactly clear. While the Seventh Cavalry seems the obvious choice, the mysterious wheelchair user seen earlier in the episode is the only one nearby, and seems to be the one who summoned Sister Knight to the spot. His prior lines also asked whether he “he could lift 200 pounds”, which could have been foreshadowing to him lifting the police chief’s body.
9. What is Jeremy Irons even doing?
Hard to answer this one. The Tony, Emmy, and Oscar-winning actor is clearly up to something as billionaire Adrian Veidt, though how his time spent in the countryside with a number of servants – with terrible table manners, apparently – is yet to be revealed. But the use of a horseshoe for a knife, and seemingly lacking mental faculties of Veidt’s butlers, suggests something is amiss – and we wouldn’t rule different dimensions out.
10. When’s the next episode out?
You can look forward to more confusion – maybe with some answers – next week at the same time. Head to our how to watch Watchmen online piece for more details.