Watchmen Doubles Down on its Superman Metaphors

Watchmen Superman feature

WARNING: The following contains spoilers through the fourth episode of HBO's Watchmen, "If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own," which is now streaming.

When Watchmen premiered four episodes ago, it began with a flashback sequence taking place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. During what is now known as the Tulsa Race Riot, an African-America couple rushed their young child to safety amid death and destruction. As all-out chaos erupted in the streets, the mother and father shepherded their son to a man who would drive out of the city, in the hopes that he could take the child to safety.

The scene was a bold statement that set the tense, political mood of the television series, but it also echoed a familiar story: one about a young Kal-El, being sent away from a dying planet by his parents, into the safety of the unknown. However, for Watchmen's young Will Reeves, there was no loving couple there to adopt him and raise him to be someone who values truth, justice and the American way. Instead, the truck he was escaping in crashed, and he found himself the caretaker of an even younger orphan.

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From its opening scene, Watchmen made it clear that this is not your typical comic book story. While certain themes are familiar, this is a dark twist on what we know, a deconstruction that lays bare the ugliness of the world. And now, with its latest episode, Watchmen doubles down on its Superman metaphor.

The opening scene of "If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own" is a flashback sequence set a few years before the start of the events of the series. In it, we follow the daily routine of a loving couple on their farm. This couple, as we come to learn, are named the Clarks, and they are unable to conceive a child of their own.

However, a knock on their door changes everything -- in under three minutes, no less. The eccentric trillionaire Lady Trieu walks into the Clarks' home and offers them the deal of a lifetime: a child of their own (made from their own genetic material) and five million dollars. In exchange, she wants their house and all the land it comes with by the end of their conversation.

Before the time of the offer is almost up, the Clarks sign the contract and agree to Lady Trieu's terms -- just as a meteor crashes down into their backyard. Whatever it is that fell from space, it now belongs to Lady Trieu, the newly-minted owner of this land.

Once again, the Superman parallels are apparent here. First of all, the 'Clarks' is an obvious reference to Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent. What's more, the farmers are clearly similar to the Kents in that they are a warm, loving and happy couple who only wish to have a child of their own. Then, if that weren't enough, there is also the mysterious fall of something that came from space on their farm. However, before they can claim whatever it is that fell from the sky, they sign away the deed to their land to someone else.

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Once again, the setup is similar, but the outcome is largely different. Watchmen plays on what is familiar to pull the rug out from under us. By lulling us into familiarity, the mystery surrounding Lady Trieu deepens. How did she know something would fall from the sky in three minutes, at this exact location and, more importantly, what is it?

Whatever fell from space, it was important enough to cover up by building a giant clock tower worth millions of dollars. We don't yet know its purpose, but Lady Trieu and Will Reeves, who are both somehow connected in their Superman adjacent story, are counting down to something very big.

Developed by Damon Lindelof, HBO's Watchmen stars Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, James Wolk, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith and Adelynn Spoon. The series airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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