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‘The Watchmen’ Episode 5 Review: Tim Blake Nelson Locks in His Emmy Nomination

Watchmen Episode 5
Photo Courtesy of HBO

The Watchmen Episode 5, ‘Little Fear of Lightning’ is an amazing piece of television. Let’s throw the gauntlet down now. This could be one of the Top 5, if not Top 3 best episodes of television HBO as a network has produced in 2019.

The episode takes the formula Watchmen has employed oh so well — letting a member of their insanely talented cast be the straw that stirs the drink for an individual episode. Their characters’ story becomes the lynchpin not just for great character development but unravelling the tightly spun mystery of the Watchmen universe.

Episode 5 places the incomparable Tim Blake Nelson and his character Wade Tillman aka Looking Glass in the driver’s seat. While a background player for the majority of the series so far, Looking Glass serves as both our direct link to the original Watchmen storyline, and the story unfolding in the series. Yet rather than be an episode of exposition, ‘Fear of a Little Lightning’ is an examination of trauma and how that trauma fuels a person — for good, and bad.

The episode starts with a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses exiting a bus outside a carnival in Hoboken, New Jersey on November 2, 1985. A young Wade Tillman is part of the group, and his quest to convert to the unclean finds him being seduced and strip naked by a young woman. She steals his clothes, running off in laughter, but not before the actual squid attack — the end to The Watchmen comic — happens across the river in New York City. Wade, who was in a hall of mirrors, walks through a sea of bodies bloody, naked, and screaming in fear. It’s an amazing audio visual moment, and it’s a also one that strikes you right in the soul.

The fear and trauma of “11/2” remains with Wade to present day. His Looking Glass mask’s material actually prevents him from suffering psychic attacks. The events lead to the dissolution of his marriage. He leads a support group for those affected by the event, and the subsequent “squid attacks.” And despite his faceless, cold, calculating manner, he is riddled with anxiety, and fear every moment of the day. It both fuels him, and destroys him from the inside.

If you’re wondering,  yes this plays out in the episode as a parallel to 9/11. Without spoiling the episode the fall out of Veidt’s plans — stopping the US/Russia Nuclear War by introducing a new element of fear that unites the world is not unlike what we see unfolding in our country now. We’re a nation once united by the fear and trauma of 9/11, and now we find ourselves still riddled with trauma and fear and it motivates us in divisive ways.

Tim Blake Nelson is absolutely brilliant in the episode. He is able to pivot through Wade’s constantly wavering mental and emotional state with seemingly no effort. The pain and fear etched across his face during the climax of the episode heightens the drama of those big reveals, twists, and shocks. Yeah, not spoiling any of that for you, it’s too damn good.

Watchmen Episode 5 is yet another phenomenal episode of this unexpectedly great HBO series. Tim Blake Nelson has an Emmy nomination locked in for damn sure with his performance here. Run, don’t walk to watch this.

The Watchmen Episode 5, ‘Little Fear of Lightning’ is currently streaming on HBO NOW

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


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