The Seventh Cavalry
A lot has been said about Watchmen’s long awaited opening episode and a lot of it has been incredibly polarizing. While some have heaped lavish praise on this mini-series, with some publications calling it the best pilot episode ever, through to disappointed die-hard fans calling it terrible, everyone’s talking about Watchmen and these sort of shows are the ones I’m the most fascinated by. I loved the original film and have read up on the original story but I must admit, I haven’t actually read the comics. With that in mind, Watchmen is a grim, thematically relevant series that sets the foundation to come for what should be a very interesting 9 episodes to follow.
We begin in 1921 with the Tulsa race riots breaking out as a young boy watches a movie before heading outside to look upon the chaos. Hurrying through the streets, the young boy is taken to a safe space before being bundled into a box and driven out of town. Unfortunately an explosion sends him hurtling out en-route and when he awakens, the ones he’s with are dead. A single note remains which he clutches tightly – “watch over this boy”.
We then jump forward to 8th September 2019 as a white man is stopped by a masked police officer. As the man opens the glove-box to show his licence, our officer sees a rorschach mask there too. His concerns are well-placed too and despite managing to release his weapon from his car, the man shoots him in cold blood and leaves him for dead.
Word of this murder gets back to the rest of Oklahoma as two men, Wade and Judd, lament the wars of old being brought up again. He heads to the dead policeman’s address and tells his wife the bad news before we catch up with Angela and her son as the skies rain down squid. Soon after, she receives a message on her pager – “little bighorn”.
Angela makes it to the diner, the spot she needs to visit, and after heading to the back she enters a secret room and gets her gear, donning her disguise. As she does, she heads in to the main chambers and sees a man claiming to be from the Seventh Cavalry, donning Rorshach masks, on a video message playing to the rest of the group.
Having seen 3 years of peace, Judd rallies the troops and, ignoring the warnings from Panda, tells them all to mobilize. As they do, Angela tells Judd she’s already ahead of the call and has a man she suspects to be part of the Cavalry in her possession. She convinces Wade to dress as Looking Glass to interview the man and he asks him if he’s part of the Seventh Cavalry. After some deliberation, he heads out and tells Angela that the man knows more than he’s letting on.
After interrogating him further, Angela learns the cavalry are hiding out at the farm and they head out to get the jump on them. When they arrive though, the cavalry are clearly waiting for them and a shoot-out ensues soon after. Despite managing to capture one of the men, he decides to commit suicide rather than reveal any home truths. As things reach fever pitch, Judd shoots down the escaping remnants of the cavalry before crash landing in his ship.
We then cut to Ozymandias in his estate celebrating his anniversary. Sharing a drink with his two workers, he tells them he wants them to star as the leading roles in his upcoming play. Chinking glasses together, we then cut to our group of aging heroes sharing drinks together. After heading home, Judd speaks to the Governor on the phone and reassures him that the threat of the Cavalry has been dealt with and heads back on the road. Only, he’s ambushed and a line of spikes pop his tyres before someone flashes lights in his eyes.
Angela, intent on finding out what’s happening, heads out soon after too and finds Judd strung up on a noose hanging from a tree while the old man from earlier in the episode clutches his note. The same note, as it happens, that reads “watch over this boy”.
As far as pilot episodes go, I still think Breaking Bad, Chernobyl and Lost have stronger ones here. The latter, of course, infamously resulting in one of the most expensive TV pilots ever created on-screen. Despite all that, Watchmen is not the worst TV show out there, nor is it a masterpiece either. It’s an intriguing, thematically relevant piece that speaks to the political commentary of today in an uncomfortable and faithful way to the source material. However it does so in a relatively pedestrian manner, with nothing too shocking or tense to speak of. For now.
Watchmen has always been an overly political and almost satirical play on the world around us and although some may find the racism angle a little heavy-handed, Watchmen actually does well to rekindle what made the original material so endearing. The cast are interesting and Ozymandias’ brief stint on screen certainly poses a tantalizing prospect going forward. With a strong foundation set, whether Watchmen can capitalize on this and live up to the hype this has riding on it remains to be seen.