Watchmen star Regina King reflects on shocking episode 6 twist: “It’s a wonderful pay-off”

Everything comes together in an arresting flashback episode of the Alan Moore sequel/adaptation **CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 6**

Deep under the influence of Nostalgia, Angela gets a firsthand account of her grandfather's journey.

**Warning: do NOT read this article unless you’ve seen Watchmen episode 6 on HBO or Sky Atlantic**


This week’s episode of comic-book sequel/adaptation Watchmen was an absolute gamechanger, casting new light on the world of Damon Lindelof’s TV series and Alan Moore’s original comic as it cleverly tied the drama’s ongoing theme of racism into Moore’s masked vigilante backstory.

Recently, had a chance to catch up with series star Regina King about the episode, what it means for her masked detective character Angela Abar/Sister Night and what’s coming next in the series – and from the sounds of it, this is a particular story she’s been looking forward to seeing for a while.

“There’s just this wonderful pay-off in episode six, and it only feels like a pay-off if you’ve watched one to five, because they kind of set you up for it,” King told us.

“Just as an audience member I was able to like step out of it, and I felt rewarded. And I hope that’s what the audience feels, and I hope the series continues to feel provocative, which I think it will.”

Be warned – from hereon out we’ll be dealing exclusively in Watchmen episode 6 spoilers, so if you haven’t caught up yet please look away now.

In the episode, via use of flashback/made-up “memory drug” Nostalgia Angela, relives the memories of her recently-discovered grandfather Will Reeves, a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre-turned cop whose struggles to find justice (and near-lynching by his colleagues) inspire him to become a masked vigilante.

Specifically he becomes Hooded Justice, the very first vigilante in Moore’s fictionalised universe who appears in flashbacks and archive material in his original comic. In Moore’s work, Hooded Justice’s identity was never revealed (though he was rumoured to share Nazi beliefs, which is an odd detail now), and in the TV adaptation we see how he and Captain Metropolis (Jake McDorman), also a background character in the comic, founded the original hero team The Minutemen in the 1940s in the midst of a clandestine love affair.

The episode gives a contrast to the schlocky, TV version of Hooded Justice we’ve glimpsed in the fictionalised TV show American Hero Story, and reveals that masked cop Angela is the granddaughter of the original vigilante. And for hardcore fans there was a clue to this hidden in her superhero name Sister Night, which is a riff on Moore’s original codename for the Hooded Justice character before he rewrote it. Originally, he was supposed to be called… Brother Night. Though perhaps Will’s clothes, which match the purple and red of Hooded Justice’s costume, could also have been a clue.

Anyway, overall the TV Watchmen just rewrote the backstory of the comic, paid off the connection to the Tulsa massacre introduced in the first episode, set up some intriguing new conflicts for the rest of the series and truly became a significant successor to Moore’s original work. Quite a task for one episode.

Deep under the influence of Nostalgia, Angela gets a firsthand account of her grandfather’s journey (pictured: Regina King for Sky Atlantic)

“It’s a big episode,” agreed King, adding that she hoped the episode’s unusual flashback structure didn’t put anyone off it.

“I want those fans who’ve read the novel to just understand, when you look at how Damon’s structured the story and how it plays out, again, that’s in the style of the comic book.

“It bounced back and forth between present time and earlier on, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

The themes of the episode make for heavy watching, with Will facing significant racial prejudice in work at on the streets, forcing him to pose as white under his mask while his heroic teammates dismiss his (legitimate) concerns of a Ku Klux Klan plot. And according to King, some of this storyline is what appealed to her about the series in the first place.

“Race is at the heart of America,” she told us. “I feel like just as I’ve grown, I’ve gravitated to stories that kinda hold a mirror up.

“As the scripts were going I just wanted to make sure we were always being responsible with our storytelling. And I feel like Damon made sure he surrounded himself with a writing team that kept his feet to the fire. And they all did that for each other, because it is a writing team.

“So there was never a point where I felt like ‘What are we doing here?’– it felt like, we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr) as an older man in Watchmen (Sky Atlantic)

And in King’s mind, the superhero trappings – and the connections to Moore’s original comic – make the truth of Will’s story shine through even more clearly.

“I think it helps you receive a lot of the mirror-holding up that’s happening in the show, the way this is packaged,” she said. “I think you receive it more openly.

“Or you consider someone else’s perspective more openly, or without even knowing that you’re considering it.”

Going forward, King says that the revelations – and the series’ central thesis about race – will only grow in the final three episodes, which were not screened to press before broadcast.

“After six, you’re kind of like ‘Woah…’ and then seven, eight, nine just continue to keep it going,” she says.

“They will bring up different things for different people. I do think people are going to tap into maybe emotions that they’ve never really discussed, or even knew that they had.

“I hope that we do express them, so that we can start to have a different relationship with race in America.”

And with plenty more still to discover about the plans of the Seventh Kavalry, Will’s deal with Lady Trieu, the fate of Jeremy Irons’ Ozymandias, the location of Dr Manhattan and much, much more, we’ll all have a lot to talk about as Watchmen begins its endgame.


Watchmen airs on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Mondays