Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Watchmen‘s third episode, specifically about Laurie Blake’s long joke.
Watchmen‘s “She Was Killed By Space Junk” reintroduced the world to the former masked vigilante Silk Spectre II, who now goes by Laurie Blake, having adopted the name of her late father Edward Blake. He was also the “superhero” The Comedian; it was poetic the episode focused on his daughter telling a joke. And while it might not have had the funniest punchline, it did reference the comic book and give us an insight into the woman the former Ms. Juspeczyk has become. More importantly, though it might have foreshadowed the major role she still has to play.
What thought she was telling two separate jokes. However, it ultimately turned out to be one elaborate gag. Laurie didn’t actually mess up the bit about the bricklayer’s daughter who throws a single leftover brick into the sky, it was an intentional misdirect. She was using an old trope designed to leave the listener hanging and frustrated, only for the payoff to come later when they aren’t expecting it during a seemingly unrelated joke.
Laurie’s bricklayer bit itself might have been a multi-layered reference to the comic book. Long before Jon Osterman became Dr. Manhattan, the god-like person she was calling, he was the son of a watchmaker. After the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, Jon’s father threw all the pieces of the watch his son was repairing off their fire escape, taking a proverbial sledgehammer to Jon’s own budding career as a watchmaker. Also, just like the bricklayer wanted his daughter to follow in his footsteps to maintain his legacy, Laurie only became a masked vigilante because her mother pushed her into it.
There’s no question the second part of her joke was a direct reference to past events though. The three “heroes” who arrive for Judgement at the Pearly Gates are Nite Owl II, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan. The first to stand before God is Nite Owl. Laurie said God gave him the ability to create amazing things. But rather than send Nite Owl to Heaven for not killing anyone, God damned him for “being too soft.”
Since the real Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, is currently sitting in a jail cell, it seems like this is her own judgement of her former lover’s personal failing. Nite Owl was brilliant and kind, but he might have been too kind in a world so hard and brutal (echoes of her father’s own nihilistic views). Maybe if Dan wasn’t so “soft” he’d be a free man and they’d still be together now.
The second hero to stand before God was Adrian Veidt, the smartest man in the world. Ozymandias says he used God’s gift of genius to “save” mankind by dropping a giant alien squid on New York City, killing “three million, give or take.” Arrogantly assuming he could beat this “game,” Veidt seems shocked when God says, ‘Christ, you’re a f***ing monster,” right before snapping Ozymandias to Hell too.
The third and final hero to learn his fate is Dr. Manhattan, a man gifted with actual superpowers. God asks how many people he killed, and Manhattan says it doesn’t matter. “A live body and a dead body have the same number of particles,” he says. This isn’t just Laurie describing her other former boyfriend as cold and unloving, it’s something Dr. Manhattan actually said in 1985 when he was losing his final shred of humanity. But the blue god doesn’t need someone to judge him; he already knows he’s going to Hell because he’s already there. Dr. Manhattan can not only see through time, he experiences it all at once. He’s watching his father throw his watch pieces over the fire escape in 1945 at the exact same moment he’s sitting on Mars in 2019.
Laurie’s comments on each of the three men, and her own Judgement on why they are all doomed, reveals what she thinks about them, how they used their incredible gifts, and the lives they led. Dan didn’t do enough. Adrian did too much. Manhattan didn’t do anything. It’s a hell of a joke, the kind Eddie Blake might have told.
But then God notices someone he didn’t even know was there, a woman “standing behind those other guys the whole time.” God gave her no talents to speak of, and he’s embarrassed he doesn’t know who she is. “I’m the little girl who threw the brick in the air,” she says.
The little girl with the brick from the first joke is Laurie herself, who unlike her male superhero counterparts had no special ability. And just like the God of her joke did, it was easy for others to overlook her. She wasn’t a hero as much as she was just Dr. Manhattan’s girlfriend, starting at the age of 16. Yet while Nite Owl sits in a jail cell, Adrian Veidt has been declared dead, and Dr. Manhattan lives alone on Mars, she is working as an FBI agent, still serving the public.
Laurie Blake’s life doesn’t seem especially happy. She seems lonely, leaving messages for an old boyfriend she doesn’t even think he listens to or cares about. She keeps an owl to remind her of the man she can no longer be with. She lives with the impossible burden of what Ozymandias did. And her joke reveals what she thinks of each of those three men, of who they are, what they’ve done, and what awaits them all.
But it’s the punchline that might be most telling, because it could tell us about what awaits her. God never saw the brick coming, and it smashed him in the head and kills him. And where does god go when he dies, Laurie asks? “He goes to Hell.”
What “brick” has Laurie thrown in the air no one will see falling until it is too late? And what “god” will it kill when it lands? Will she finally reveal the truth of what Ozymandias did? Will it doom mankind to Hell, the same fate as everyone else in her joke? Or will this brick actually kill a god, a blue one?
As she looked to the sky after Angela’s car dropped from space almost killing her, Laurie saw a red flare from Mars, as though Jon Osterman on did hear her message. In the words of Rorschach which Laurie referenced, did Dr. Manhattan think it was a “good joke?”
Will he still think so if it proves to be a distraction from the brick that is about to hit him and mankind?
Featured Image: HBO