On Friday, January 20th, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States of America. In his inaugural address, he made what can be considered to be a moral plea, a call to service to the American public. This plea was, on the page, quite simple: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The identity of patriotism and indeed, a patriot, in this call to service is enshrined entirely within the idea of dedicating one’s self to the country. But what if the country you serve doesn’t serve you back?
The opening of “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” focuses on just that question. A German military leader dictates to his Secretary a letter, a letter that would fly from the air and into the hands of the young father who sacrifices his life so his son can escape the Tulsa Massacre of 1921. In this letter, he asks about the existence of American democracy for Black people. What is such a democracy, he asks, if you cannot even use the same water fountains? Where white people will actively spit upon Black soldiers who risk their lives on the front lines in Europe and are still treated as subhuman. He conveniently ignores the racism within Germany, its empire, and the Herero and Namaqua genocide Germany committed in Namibia at the turn of the twentieth century. His question nevertheless remains pertinent for the hour.
Angela (Regina King) is wrestling with the questions of what it means to serve a service that may not have served her back. Devastated by her colleague’s death, she spends the hour trying to understand what relationship Will (Louis Gossett Jr.) had to the death. He, the young boy who escaped the Tulsa Massacre, happens to be her grandfather. He tells her of a vast conspiracy underway in Tulsa, of skeletons in Judd’s (Don Johnson) closet. Those skeletons, found quite literally in Judd’s closet, are Klan robes with a police badge firmly etched into its fabric. Angela is unbelieving, for believing it would question the very foundation of who she has shaped herself to be.
If Judd was indeed a member of the Cavalry, and there certainly is all the room in the world to believe that he was, what does it mean for Angela’s service as an officer? What does it mean for the ideals that she holds herself to, the worldview that is so firmly entrenched? What if the service that she dedicated herself to in order to fight racist terrorists did not serve her just as well in return? When the White Night happened and a plethora of her fellow officers resigned en mass because their identities and addresses had become public, she stood by Judd’s side and refused to give up the service. The mere suggestion of such a profound betrayal is enough. For it to be real would be devastating.
These questions are enough to shake anyone to the core, so it is hardly surprising that when Will tells her that he wanted to show her where she came from, her patience with her grandfather runs thin and she brings him in. Or, she thinks she is. A ship arrives and casually takes Angela’s car with Will in it. He turns around and smiles before being whisked away, leaving behind the same letter, on the back of which was a message to keep the boy safe, in the hands of his befuddled granddaughter.
- Is Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons) creating a more humanlike Dr. Manhattan?
- The dialogue continues to be largely delightful. “Some bakery” was particularly hilarious.
- The trigger warnings were an interesting, and welcome, touch.