HBO's Watchmen Episode 3: All The Big References To The Original Comic Book

watchmen tv show ozymandias jeremy irons
(Image credit: hbo press)

Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched the latest episode of Watchmen! Be sure to catch up before reading on.

Unsurprisingly, Watchmen's third weekend on HBO did not answer every single one of our overarching questions about Damon Lindelof’s increasingly intriguing comic book follow-up, but it certainly did inspire a slew of new opinions and theories about the TV series. “She Was Killed By Space Junk” introduced an extremely important Watchmen character from the source material, creating interesting character dynamics with Regina King’s Sister Night. In more than a few ways, the episode mirrored “Absent Friends,” Watchmen's second issue.

Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake (formerly Laurie Jupiter/Juspeczyk) was the central hook of Watchmen’s latest chapter, but she was far from the only comic-familiar element on display. Below, I’ve rounded up another mostly sequential selection of the biggest comic book references sprinkled throughout Watchmen Episode 3, and how they factor into the show’s storyline.

Let’s kick things off with the aforementioned former Silk Spectre, and in case you missed our previous Watchmen features, check out our comic reference rundowns for Episode 1 and Episode 2.

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Laurie Blake Arrives!

Having gone through quite a lot since the events of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ comic book narrative, Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake immediately shined as a fully rounded character in Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen TV series. (Arguably not always the case in the comic.) Now a vigilante-hunting FBI agent whose gruff exterior tests (and sometimes consumes) others’ mettle, Laurie adopted more than just her biological father’s surname, as revealed by HBO’s supplemental Peteypedia materials. More details from Laurie’s introduction will be discussed below.

The Importance Of Titles

Episode 3’s title, “She Was Killed By Space Junk,” is in reference to Devo’s 1978 song “Space Junk,” which Laurie listens to upon arriving home in the opening minutes. (Via CD, in a nod to this universe’s lack of Spotify, or any internet streaming.) For those looking for deeper meanings, the oddball track’s titular space junk kills a woman named Sally, which is the name of Laurie’s mother, also the first Silk Spectre.

It’s unclear at this point what Sally’s final days entailed, but now it feels sensible to believe that she was a victim of…junk from space? Perhaps Adrian Veidt’s squid aftermath, or maybe something that could be sourced to Doctor Manhattan?

Laurie’s Current Status With Doctor Manhattan

The world’s fascination with the Mars-settled Doctor Manhattan resulted in call stations where people leave recorded messages for the superhuman to either listen to or ignore, though he might already know about them before they get there. In any case, it appears that Laurie has kept up a somewhat regular pattern of one-sided contact with her detached former lover. Jean Smart hits the full range of character thrusts in those scenes, too.

Laurie's call in this episode seemingly hints at big things to come, while also dipping into her past as The Comedienne, in honor of her father’s vicious alter ego. Laurie tells a “joke” that was sopping wet with metaphorical goodness, and also had a surprising break in structure. What will it mean that the brick-launching girl not only returned from the botched opening joke, but also killed God and/or Doctor Manhattan? Regardless of what does happen, it looked like Jon sent a pretty bright and timely response in the end. But what does that mean?

Laurie’s Got An Owl

More owl references! On top of all the other visual callbacks to Watchmen’s Nite-Owl, Laurie has an actual owl as a pet, presumably as a reminder of her romance and vigilante spree with Dan Drieberg (currently keeping mum in prison in this universe). The owl’s name, Who, provided an amusing “Who’s on First?” homage with Senator Keene that felt right in line with this show’s bizarre humor.

Of course, it’s also a clever way to evoke that most ubiquitous comic book question: “Who” Watches the Watchmen? I think it’s also quite meaningful that the covered cage limits such watching, since Laurie isn't exactly the most by-the-books federal agent.

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Silk Spectre Pop Art

The episode makes it abundantly clear that Laurie’s current FBI status does not imply she has turned her nose up at her former life. Case in point, she has a large Andy Warhol-esque painting of the Crimebusters quartet Silk Spectre, Doctor Manhattan, Nite-Owl and Ozymandias. Of all the visual styles that could have been used, the pop art motif is the most reminiscent of the Watchmen comic’s uniform panels.

Dan Dreiberg's Current Whereabouts

While the episode didn't call out Dan Drieberg by name, Joe Keene's conversation with Laurie referenced information shared on the Peteypedia website, concerning Dan "Nite Owl II" Drieberg being in prison and refusing to talk about anything involving anything. The higher-reaching Keene made the not-so-subtle comment that a Presidential pardon would allow Laurie's owl to get out of his cage. Will we see a prison break like the one in the comic, or will Dan's appearance have to wait for a later season?

Rorschach’s Journal

One of many important texts within the Watchmen mythos, the finalized version of Rorschach’s journal popped up in slide form – technology! – during Laurie’s FBI meeting, when we first meet Dustin Ingram’s Agent Dale Petey, of the Peteypedia tie-in site. Petey perhaps unwisely included a slide featuring two excerpts from Rorschach’s October 13 entry, as seen in the comic's “Chapter One.”

The first journal entry covered the vigilante's first attempt to gain information about The Comedian’s murder. Was that a purposeful play by Petey to get a rise out of Laurie? The second entry was about how Rorschach had a bad taste in his mouth after meeting with Veidt, which is possibly a hint of what’s to come with Jeremy Irons’ storyline.

The Millennium Clock

The massive Millennium Clock is another multi-faceted element within the Watchmen TV show, and it’s no coincidence that the owl-loving Laurie gets a “bird’s-eye view” of it from the plane. The clock – note that this is a standalone clock entry aside from the general one – is being developed by Trieu Industries, the global conglomerate that took over Adrian Veidt’s estate in 2017. Petey shared that Its head Lady Trieu even dropped Ozymandias’ “Look on my works…” quote at the Clock's groundbreaking. An innocent homage, or a middle finger to the missing Veidt?

It’s unclear at this point whether Watchmen’s structure has anything to do with the real world concept for the Millennium Clock. Also note that the clock shares half of its name with the “Millennium by Veidt” marketing that served as the company’s post-Squid alternative to the “Nostalgia” promotions. Considering the Peteypedia notes how poorly Veidt did with the push, it’s interesting that Trieu Industries kept that name going.

Gotta Have Squids!

This week’s squid-related moments include a gorgeous still shot of one inside Looking Glass’ Pod, and the episode's first moments in Adrian Veidt's home give viewers a magnified shot of an illustrated sea creature. The latter is our first direct sign of proof that Veidt definitely still has squids on his brain, even in…wherever he is.

Black Freighter References

It’s pretty clear that Jeremy Irons’ largely standalone storyline serves as the TV series’ take on Watchmen’s allegorical “Tales from the Black Freighter” comic-within-a-comic. However, it was Laurie and Petey who found themselves staying at the could-be-worse Black Freighter Inn. Sadly, no pirate-themed rooms yet, but all the parking spots do have charge stations.

Episode 3 also featured the shot of Veidt riding his horse past the skull-and-crossbones flag that was first revealed in the trailer. Judging by the similar seal applied to Veidt’s letter, one might surmise that the flag specifically marks off the character’s property. Also, that gear in Veidt’s house kinda looked like a ship wheel, right?

Who Polices The Police?

Of the signs that protesters are holding outside the Tartarus Acres cemetery, the one that probably stood out the most to comic fans was “Who Polices the Police?” That phrase echoes the signature “Who Watches the Watchmen?” phrase that gives the entire series its name. Kudos to the creative team for spinning it via cardboard sign – a possible reference to Rorschach’s “The End Is Nigh” sign – rather than spray-painted on a wall.

The Funeral Scene / Assassination Attempt

Though the Seventh Kavalry bomber situation did not mimic anything from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graveside service in the comic, Watchmen’s funeral issue was quite important in laying out the various characters’ troublesome relationships with The Comedian. HBO's Watchmen used its funeral to combine the old and the new regimes, which are still bristly at this point. (That overhead shot of the open grave and Judd’s casket was a nice visual callback to one of Gibbons' panels, also.)

For the HBO series, the funeral scene set up how each Laurie and Angela will exist in the other’s world, and also put a target on Senator Keene’s back. While Laurie is the one who killed the bomber, and Angela is the one who limits the explosion’s damage, this scene was also fairly reminiscent of Adrian Veidt’s unsuccessful hitman in the Watchmen comic, whose assassination attempt was ordered by Veidt himself. What’s up with that, Senator Keene? (That thought train continues in the next entry.)

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Ozymandias Finally Arrives!

In his reactionary letter to the buffalo-protecting game warden – who interestingly refers to himself as “Your Humble Servant,” which sparks clone-related theories – Jeremy Irons’ character actually self-identifies as Adrian Veidt. Finally, confirmations that Veidt isn’t dead, and that Irons is Veidt! (At least until some possible point later when it’s revealed he’s someone else entirely.)

Helping the assumed confirmation along is the fact that Irons can soon be seen dressed from head to toe in Veidt’s comic-sourced Ozymandias suit, whose purple mask had already been shown earlier in the episode. Very telling, I do believe, is the way the scene ends on Veidt’s face while Joe Keene Jr. is saying, “I am not a hero here.” Not only does that speak to the dual nature of Veidt’s deadly plan for world peace, but it also adds to speculation that Keene’s story mirror’s that of Watchmen’s self-proclaimed genius.

The Comedian’s Closet

Though The Comedian has yet to get a verbal name-check, Laurie’s conversation with Angela did directly reference Edward Blake’s secret closet that contained all of his vigilante gear. The closet was discovered by Rorschach in the Watchmen comic book, while Angela found a badge-boasting KKK outfit in the TV show. It is amusing that Laurie even commented on being connected to two cases involving sub-closets. Kismet, surely.

Clocks And Circles

To be expected, this third episode didn’t hold back on clock visuals. As far as I could tell, though, the clocks that were set between Watchmen’s all-important 11-12 o’clock span numbered fewer than the ones that were set at other points of the day. The most important time, seemingly, was Petey’s watch (atop The Rorschach Journal) that read 11:50 p.m. Not such a great omen for Laurie and Petey.

Beyond the clocks, “She Was Killed By Space Junk” was seemingly rife with more circular imagery than earlier eps, from the stained glass window in the tomb to the bank’s floor to Veidt’s mysterious schematics. Not to mention the Doctor Manhattan call stations, or the shot of Laurie through Sister Night’s goggles, or Laurie’s CDs, etc. Okay, so maybe there are tons of circles in every episode, but I picked up on more of them for whatever reason. Perhaps Looking Glass knows what that means for me.

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The Doctor Manhattan Sex Toy

In Episode 2, Watchmen made the viewer-approved move to visually represent Doctor Manhattan’s blue dong in the comic books, though the penis belonged to Tom Mison’s clone character Mr. Philips. (In reality, the penis was not Tom Mison’s at all.) In this latest installment, Laurie’s continued fascination with her off-Earth ex-boyfriend extends to her possession of a rather sizable vibrator that is SO blue that it literally glows from an open briefcase, Pulp Fiction-style. It might have been a buzzy coincidence had she not carried it around in a briefcase with a magazine cover set on the inside cover.

The Newsstand’s Location

Though HBO’s Watchmen is obviously set at a different place and time from the comic book series, I think it’s important to note how the episode’s final shots somewhat reflect Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons set decoration. On the Watchmen pages, it isn’t immediately obvious how many of the narrative beats occur at the same NYC intersection that featured Bernard’s newsstand and the “Institute for Extraspatial Studies,” though that fact intentionally becomes more pronounced as the issues go along.

In the TV show, for a comparison, it’s now confirmed that the Seymour’s Mister News stand is set up in close proximity to the Doctor Manhattan call station. Both of them are near Angela’s faux-bakery Milk and Hanoi, also. I’m guessing that info was already known by whoever returned the car to its previous spot in the parking lot. Again, it's not a huge deal, but the gradual build-up of a central hub is very on point with Watchmen's comic run.

It’s almost hard to believe that all this time is spent talking about comic references and not even all the TV-specific theories and speculation jostling around inside my head. I guess that stuff will come later, perhaps riding in on the smelliest raft possible, so stay tuned.

With decent ratings that should be better, all things considered, Watchmen airs Sunday nights on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.