HBO’s Watchmen series spent the first two episodes building a new world inspired by the events of the celebrated comic filled with new original characters — and whatever’s going on with Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons). But with Episode 3, “She Was Killed by Space Junk,” Watchmen saw the return of an original character in a major way when Jean Smart‘s Laurie Blake (formerly, Laurel Juspeczyk, aka Laurie Jupiter, aka Silk Spectre II) turned up on the scene.
With Laurie’s arrival came our first good look at how the original players fit into this new world of Watchmen, and how much they may have changed since the events of the 1986 comic. And when it comes to Laurie, there have been some serious changes so we caught up with Watchmen series creator Damon Lindelof about why she was the perfect original character to bring back into the action and what to expect from the woman Laurie has become. But first, let’s take a look back at the character’s comic book history.
The main female protagonist of Alan Moore, David Gibbons and John Higgins‘ story (played by Malin Ackerman in the 2009 film), the Watchmen comic series introduced us to a younger, more idealistic Laurie; the daughter of Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre, who trained her daughter to become her superhero protegee since childhood. Laurie was never all that big on the hero thing despite her mother’s best attempts, but she did become a hell of a fighter and ultimately joined the Crimebusters; the second vigilante team after the Minutemen — which is the hero team-up seen in Watchmen‘s show-inside-a-show “American Hero Story,” and was also where Laurie’s mother met her father. A fellow masked vigilante with extremely dubious morals, Eddie Blake, aka The Comedian, first tried to rape Sally before fathering Laurie in a subsequent consensual affair.
Laurie’s love life is pretty complicated in its own right. She falls for none other than the blue god-man Doctor Manhattan as a teen and spends a decade with the world’s one true “super” hero before he grew tired of humanity and she grew tired of his distance. Laurie left him and he left Earth, relocating to Mars, where he’s still keeping home base in the Watchmen series. After their separation, Laurie started seeing Dan Drieberg, aka Night Owl II. The near-apocalypse on 11/2 brought them all together when Doctor Manhattan transported Laurie to Mars, where she tried to convince him to care about the human race again enough to prevent nuclear war while the Doomsday Clock counted down to midnight.
It was there that Laurie first learned the truth of her father’s identity, and it was her very existence — a “thermodynamic miracle” — that convinced Doctor Manhattan to save the world. Unfortunately, Adrian Veidt beat them to the punch and his version of salvation came with a giant monster and a lot more casualties. Veidt cloned a squid monster from the mind of a psychic and unleashed it on Manhattan, costing millions of lives, but preventing World War III in the process. The last we see Laurie in the comics, she’s come to terms with the fact that she’ll never understand her mother and father’s relationship, and she takes off with Dan with a pair of new false identities as Sam and Sandra Hollis.
Turns out those last panels were what inspired Lindelof to bring Laurie back as a key player in the series. He explained,
I was really captivated by the idea that at the end of the original Watchmen — again, I feel like it’s a complete story that doesn’t require a sequel of any kind. I felt like I was ok leaving all those characters there, ad infinitum. But Laurie says something in her final panel to Dan Drieberg, her boyfriend at the time… She basically says, “I was thinking of getting some guns,” an implication that she wants to get back into being a vigilante again. But she’s not going to be Silk Spectre, this time’s she’s going to be the Comedienne.
Indeed, in her final comic appearance, Laurie writes off the idea of having kids, saying she wants more adventures. But she also writes off the idea of picking up the Silk Spectre mantle again, saying it sounds “too girly” and she wants “a better costume” with better protection. “Maybe something leather,” maybe something with a mask, and maybe she oughtta carry a gun.
Readers have long made the connection that the description sounded a whole lot like The Comedian’s change from his Minutemen costume to the more tactical gear he wore as a government operative, and in the Watchmen series companion site Peteypedia, we learned that Laurie did indeed follow in the footsteps of her father, adopting the mantle of The Comedienne for a period, seemingly until she and Dan Drieberg were arrested in 1995 for violating the Keene Act.
“This idea of embracing — she’s just found out who her father really is. She’s like, ‘I tried being my mom in iteration 1.0 of my costumed adventuring, I wonder what it would look like if I was my dad.’ So we sort of skipped that step of what it was like for her to be The Comedienne as a vigilante in the 90s, and now we’re on the other side of that where she’s become nihilistic and pessimistic and cynical like her old man Eddie Blake, but she’s now hunting down vigilantes because she’s sort of seen the errors and the dangers of that lifestyle.”
Enter the Laurie Blake we meet in HBO’s Watchmen. An FBI agent on the Anti-Vigilante Task Force, she makes one thing very clear: she’s no friend to masked would-be heroes, be it those holding a badge or those following in her footsteps and working outside the Keene act. “I eat good guys for breakfast,” she tells Angela.
But Laurie isn’t just at odds with the idea of masked vigilantism — a perspective that Lindelof promised we’ll learn more about in the first episode of the official Watchmen podcast — she’s a woman at war with herself.
In “She Was Killed by Space Junk,” Laurie square off with just about everyone who crosses her path; with the knockoff Batman called The Shadow, who she lures into a sting and shoots square in the back; with her superiors, who send her to Tulsa despite her protests; with her young new partner Agent Petey, who she ridicules for his fascination with her past before taking him to bed (in a hero mask, no less); and of course, with the Tulsa law enforcement, who found a new way to embrace the concept of masks she loathes so much. But most of all, with herself.
In 2019, Laurie is haunted by her past and locked in an internal battle with her own nostalgia — nostalgia being a key theme of the comics and the series alike. For Laurie, that manifests in the ways she surrounds herself with signs of the past while rejecting the ideals of what it stood for. She keeps a pop art painting of herself and her fellow heroes on her wall. The episode also revealed that Dan is still incarcerated (I’m guessing that, like her father did after the Keene act, Laurie got into government work to keep herself out of prison following her and Dan’s arrest,) and Laurie also keeps a pet owl in a cage in her apartment. In fact, part of what lures her to Tulsa is the potential of a presidential pardon for Dan.
And then there’s the Doctor Manhattan of it all. Laurie’s intro episode is structured around the framework of a joke — a joke she tells in a phone booth that sends recordings direct to Doctor Manhattan on Mars, something she’s obviously done many times before with no answer. Decades later, he’s still an imposing figure on his life despite the lack of contact for the last thirty-plus years.
In the episode, his presence is felt in more ways than one. Sure there’s the call box, but there’s also a constant presence of his signature glowing blue light throughout. Lindelof explained,
“The blue light is evocative of Doctor Manhattan, who is someone — if you basically dated a god, the most powerful being in creation, for a decade of your life, even three decades later, they’d be on your mind constantly. We wanted to make sure the audience knew that Doctor Manhattan was present even if he’s on Mars.”
And if that didn’t get the message across, that giant blue dildo probably did the trick. Tucked away in her mystery case — complemented by an old magazine profile of the couple, no less — Laurie keeps another constant primal reminder of her attachment to her past, literally under lock and key.
In the episode’s final moments, Laurie finishes her joke and makes an emotional confession to her long-lost love on the other side of the line. “You’re never going to hear this anyway probably, but sometimes it’s nice to pretend. The assholes down here still think you give a shit even though you’ve been living on another plant for thirty fucking years. But we’re really not worth giving a shit about anyway, are we?” The phone booth tells her that her message will transmit in 40 seconds, and 45 seconds later Angela’s car plummets from the sky. Laurie, quite the Comedienne, laughs hysterically. Good joke.
Lindelof spoke about the decision to end the episode on such a WTF cliffhanger and what we should take from the literal plot devices falling out of the sky.
“One of the things that is exciting to me about Watchmen is that there’s this degree of absurdity and ridiculousness that is happening in the real world, and the characters are openly commenting on the ridiculousness of it. I think that you have characters that are larger than life and they are using quite literal deus ex machinas in order to tell their story instead of just explaining exposition in a traditional way. We have a character in the fourth episode saying ‘it’s a little bit too cute by half’ but it wouldn’t be Watchmen if it didn’t go a little over the top.”
Was the car a sign from Doctor Manhattan that he’s still listening? (There’s certainly some evidence for that, and you can read more in Vinnie’s great theories piece.) Another powerful presence we’ve yet to meet? For now, it’s another major question mark hanging over the world of Watchmen, but Laurie’s reaction to it tells us a lot about who our old hero has become. With just one episode, Watchmen has given us a complex, sometimes confounding look at who Laurie is now. She’s more her father’s daughter than ever, for better or for worse, and her attachment to his image and his name after the events of the original series pose some complicated questions that will have to be reckoned with in the episodes to come.
For more on Watchmen, be sure to check out our extended non-spoiler interview with Lindelof and stay tuned for more spoilery bits from the episodes to come.