Watchmen: Unpacking Looking Glass and what his story means

Photo: Tim Blake Nelson in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Photo: Tim Blake Nelson in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

Watchmen finally dissolves the mystery behind Looking Glass. But what can we learn about Watchmen and where it’s going from his story?

Not even the comics can help you if you’re trying to make heads or tails about the plot of Watchmen. This story is new, and the source material is only the playground where the narrative takes place. So, there isn’t much you can actually know about any of the Watchmen. And there’s even less that can be said about someone as newly invented as Looking Glass, who never existed in the comics.

“Little Fear of Lightning” is an episode that puts the spotlight on Looking Glass and fills us in on who he is. The only thing that we know going in is that Looking Glass has the makings of a younger and more gentle Rorschach. The two are a lot alike. They have a passion for justice, the truth, and investigation, even if their views differ. From the masks that completely hide their identities to their dedication to justice, the resemblance is uncanny.

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What we learn is that Looking Glass was present the day that Adrian Veidt transported a squid, with the cloned brain of a psychic over New York City. The people that didn’t die from the impact of the massive squid died from the psychic blast that had a range that reached as far as New Jersey. Wade Tillman was with a group of Christian youth who intended to spread the word of God on what everyone assumed would be Armageddon because of a looming nuclear war. The sin-deprived teen was tricked by a female gang member to undress in the mirror house of a carnival with the hope of sex, and the unfortunate dupe saved his life.

Wade, the Looking Glass, is a man that is still dealing with the psychological impact of that blast and a constant fear that at any moment something’s going to happen that would cause the same devastation. Looking Glass even uses the reflective material on his mask and headwear to protect him from psychic interference. He also tries to manage his fear by running a support group for survivors that struggle with nightmares and anxiety related to the psychic blast.

Photo: Regina King in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Photo: Regina King in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

In reality, Looking Glass doesn’t have a grasp on his fear. He sleeps with his mask every night and screwed up his emergency response system because he’s tested it 500 times. And who could blame him after walking out of a mirror house to an entire city of bodies? Looking Glass is a man teetering on edge at all times, just waiting for the last shoe to drop, which is why it was so easy for him to deceive Sister Night.

Looking Glass was lured into the 7th Calvary home base by a lead and surprisingly found Senator Joe Keene. Finding out that the squeaky clean senator is a white supremacist is a big reveal indeed. Keene joined after Judd Crawford’s death because apparently, the way that local government in Oklahoma went about managing the white supremacist threat was by becoming members and making sure they didn’t step too out of line. Keene promises if Looking Glass can help serve Angela Abar up to Laurie Blake, he won’t allow the Calvary to kill her and her entire family for disturbing the peace that he’s been maintaining.

Looking Glass chose the better of two evils. He allowed Abar to confess to evidence tampering over a cactus that was bugged by Laurie Blake, and now Abar is in jail. Essentially, it is this level of chaotic good that the Watchmen comic warns about with Rorschach and Veidt serving as prime examples. Is it really a greater good if people suffer? And who determines all of this or who watches the Watchmen?

Photo: Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO
Photo: Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart in Watchmen.. Image Courtesy Mark Hill/HBO /

But is Looking Glass doing good by keeping quiet about Keene’s involvement with the 7th Calvary? The part that makes me think that Looking Glass will come to regret all of this is that he saw the Calvary’s portal. The same type of portal that Veidt used to transport the squid from Antarctica to New York City. Now that Keene showed Looking Glass that the squid wasn’t a real alien, there is nothing to fear anymore. Even so, I don’t think Looking Glass will want them doing anything with portals either way since the last time he was traumatized by the repercussions.

So, if Looking Glass’ trajectory is meant to almost “mirror” that of Rorscarch, then keeping silent is something that he’s not going to be able to do. Rorschach wanted justice, but he also wanted the truth at all costs. Rorschach was willing to take the risk of killing thousands as long as everyone knew the truth, and that’s why Dr. Manhanttan killed him without remorse.

But in this case, it seems that Looking Glass is withholding information for the greater good. And that may be an indicator that Looking Glass will have to blow the lid off this whole white supremacist operation. The other way this could pan out is that we lose Looking Glass to the 7th Calvery even if it’s just because he believes Keene is making peace. Should this be Looking Glass’ current crossroad, he may experience a fate worse then Rorschach.

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Watchmen airs every Sunday at 9 P.M. on HBO.