Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Watchmen episode two.
The most infamous vigilante of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen was Rorschach, an uncompromising and violent sociopath dedicated to his twisted ideal of justice. Since his death in 1985, his iconic white mask with a swirling black mass has been adopted by the Seventh Kavalry, as seen in HBO’s new sequel series. That unsettling visage is a fitting one for a group of white nationalists who idolize a fascist. But it’s another character, one who stands against the domestic terrorist group, who is more like Rorschach than any of them. Tulsa police’s Looking Glass shares more in common with him than just a disguise. And if he follows a similar path in life to Rorschach’s, then Looking Glass could end up seeing himself in the dead vigilante’s ink blot.
The silver, form-fitting mask worn by Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass stands as the spiritual descendant of the one by worn by Rorschach, both in style and intent. The ever-changing ink blot face challenged Rorschach’s enemies with a question: “What do you see?” Each answer revealed something about themselves, and since those who saw that mask were usually terrified of the man wearing it, their responses were unguarded and honest even when their words were not. Looking Glass’ mask also asks those who gaze upon it to reflect on who they are. And as the light around him shifts and changes the shadows and contours of his mask, what they see does too, like a shifting ink blot.
That both men adopted masks that make it hard for criminals to hide who they are is fitting, since both excel at high pressure interrogation. Rorschach embraced physical violence when questioning people, innocent and guilty alike, and he was greatly skilled at determining who was lying and who was telling the truth. Looking Glass shares this ability, as seen in the first episode when he rightfully determined the suspect he was questioning was a member of the Kavalry. And while he didn’t use physical torture like Rorschach, Looking Glass did use psychological torture. The off-putting music and intense images of the “pod” were the virtual equivalents of a fractured thumb. And just as effective.
Even the way Looking Glass speaks, deliberately and without inflection, echoes that of Rorschach, whom Silk Spectre described as having a “horrible monotone voice.”
But it’s something Looking Glass does in the second episode that connects the two in a way that should worry anyone who cares about Tulsa’s chief interrogator staying on the right side of the law. When he sits alone at home, safe and away from the public, Looking Glass keeps his mask on. He pulls it up above his mouth, just enough to eat, exactly like Rorschach did long ago when he sat at Dan Dreiberg’s table and ate cold baked beans from a can. In this moment, Looking Glass mirrors Rorschach’s troubled past, around the point when the line between man and vigilante was erased forever.
Rorschach used to take his mask off when he was at home, but that was a strategic choice to make sure he wasn’t accidentally spotted in a busy New York City apartment building full of prying eyes. But more than that, taking off his mask was Rorschach’s way of putting on his “secret identity” as Walter Kovacs. He considered his ink blot mask to be his real “face.” After investigating the unthinkable murder of a young girl, he truly became his alter ego: an uncompromising sociopath who acted independent of the law as judge, jury, and executioner.
If Looking Glass already wears his “face”—the exact term Judd Crawford used to refer to his mask in the premiere—the same way Rorschach wore his, how close is Looking Glass to also losing himself to his alter ego entirely? What horrible event might push him over the edge the way Walter Kovacs was lost forever? One day Walter Kovacs woke up a masked vigilante who arrested people and served the public good. That night he went to bed Rorschach, a murderer not unlike the very people he hated.
Angela calls her colleague Looking Glass a “cold motherf***er” as he not-so-discreetly interrogates her about Chief Crawford’s death in Watchmen‘s second episode. He challenges that by telling her that he is crying for his dead boss under his mask. Those tears are a sign that a person still exists underneath his “face.” But if Looking Glass really is the modern day Rorschach, how much longer will he be capable of any emotion beyond hate? How long will he keep his humanity?
If the two men are fated to take similar paths soon, what we will all see when we look at his mirrored mask is an ink blot, and it will only reflect back darkness.
Featured Image: HBO/DC Comics