Who Is WATCHMEN’s Will and What Does He Really Know?

Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Watchmen‘s second episode.

As of the second episode of Watchmen, we’ve learned a lot about the child who survived the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, depicted in the show’s premiere. In 2019, Louis Gossett Jr.’s Will is now 105-years-old, and he’s carried with him all these years the message his father wrote on the back of a WWI German leaflet: “Watch over this boy.” We also now know that he is Angela Abar’s previously unknown grandfather, and finally that he claims to have strung up Judd Crawford for having “skeletons in his closet.” And he definitely has “friends in high places,” the kind who can pick up cars from the sky. But every fact about Will raises more questions, all of them connected to the “vast and insidious conspiracy” at the core of the show, one that predates any giant squid.

Nearly a century of Will’s life remains a mystery. Who raised him after the horrific events in Tulsa? What happened to the baby girl he picked up in that field? Why did Angela’s parents, whose fate also remain a mystery to us, never speak about him to their daughter? And who is his other living descendant unearthed by his DNA test?

Louis Gossett Jr as Will in WatchmenHBO

But while we know few specifics about him, we have been given glimpses about Will that paint a broad picture of someone who knows a great deal about the world, both big and small. He knew Judd Crawford was hiding something dark and sinister about himself, even though Judd’s own best friend, a skilled detective, did not. And in a world constantly threatened by “alien” squid rain we know to be fraudulent, Will’s claims of an unthinkable conspiracy in Tulsa are anything but the ravings of an old man. Will does not live in ignorance like those around him.

His uncanny awareness of the truth about the world proves Will is a major player, both in his granddaughter’s own story and in the larger one unfolding around them both. However, the flying apparatus that rescued him from arrest  (a machine whose existence itself is revealing) shows Will’s significance expands well beyond that of his own life and family. Someone truly powerful and with incredible means is doing what his father asked of the world in 1921: they are watching over this boy. Will and what he knows must be powerful too.

That power and knowledge seem grounded in his past as much as it does in the present, because Will has not forgotten his father or where he came from. He still reads the paper his father’s note was printed on, just like he did as a child when he wore his father’s uniform. That leaflet, based on one really dropped by the Germans during WWI,  underlined that black soldiers were fighting for a country that treated them as undeserving of the very freedoms the were protecting. Those pamphlets might have been released as propaganda, but they they told no lies about America. Those letters told a truth Will’s father carried home with him, and those words still mean something to Will a hundred years later as he reads them beneath Judd Crawford’s hanging body.

WWI leaflet from WatchmenHBO

The world of Watchmen is built on a lie that landed in New York City in 1985. But what was the America of Watchmen built on? The paper Will dropped to his granddaughter is a reminder that it too was built on a lie: the lie that it was a new nation that believed all men were created equal.

Will learned in 1921 that the United States—and its laws and officials and police—didn’t believe he and his family were equal. For everything we don’t know about Will, we know he’s never forgotten that lesson. And now, while the world looks to the sky and worries about falling squid, a new generation of white nationalists are readying for another war in Tulsa. The last time they waged one an affluent black neighborhood was destroyed, its citizens killed and its buildings burned, and for decades America kept it a secret as part of a vast and insidious conspiracy.

Louis Gossett Jr and Regina King in WatchmenHBO

In his final moments, Will’s father asked the world to “watch over this boy,” and now Will has a powerful friend who does just that. Why? It seems because for one hundred years Will himself has watched over the world and learned the truth of what it really is.

Featured Image: HBO

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