What is a legacy? Is it in the land you leave behind, passed down through generations? Is it in the land that was stolen from you, passed down through generations of settlers? Trinkets, memorabilia, some small and tangible item you physically carry with you? Or is it something less material than that?
People find legacies hidden in different places, things, even beings. Many of us want a part of ourselves to exist once we’re gone. There’s a comfort in knowing that during some hazy, humid morning when our bodies no longer function, a part of us still lives on. It’s believed that a legacy is a thought that bridges the gap between our fleeting existence and our future deaths. It’s one of the only things that can help us process whatever happens after we die, and that gives legacy power.
Lady Trieu (Hong Chau) understands the power of legacy. Legacies are warped into existence through our actions. They matter more as we age because of the pressing reality of our mortality inches closer and closer. Those actions, become more critical as we age and can reveal the legacies people are seeking. The couple Lady Trieu visits are happy seem content together, but there is an emptiness there; you sense that there is something they’re longing for. It’s evident in their expressions as they stare wistfully at a car passing by, and there’s something to suggest that they’re upset about something more than their eggs not being purchased (speaking of which, at two dollars a dozen for fresh farm eggs, what a deal). Then Lady Trieu shows up, and she knows that the couple’s legacy takes the form of a child – they’ve tried to conceive but had not succeeded. She offers them a biological child of their own and five million dollars, and which secures their legacy.
Familial trauma is a legacy in and of itself, one that usually isn’t intentional. It’s a trauma that Lady Trieu keeps alive in her daughter through a nightmare where men came to burn down a village and then forced them to walk for an unspecified amount of time. It strikes a familiar note to what many immigrant families struggle with as they raise their children in a foreign land with the hopes of providing them with a better future. They want their legacies to live on through their children, but they also want those legacies to carry the memories and traumas of the past. You never entirely wish to let go of what made you who you are, no matter how painful some of those memories may be. You want your legacies, the ones carried in your children, to not experience that exact pain but to be able to understand its gravitas, importance, and history.
Angela (Regina King) is struggling with a legacy of her own. She is wrestling with the legacy that her colleague left behind – a legacy she had perceived to be one of honour, and now she is forced to question if that life and legacy was, in fact, hollow. She kneels down before the image of her grandfather as a child, wrestling with the presumed legacy of the trauma that has spilled down her family tree from the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 and the pain from slavery that likely came before that. It’s destabilizing on its own, but even more so because Angela is dealing with the legacy she wants to leave behind.
Agent Blake (Jean Smart) has a legacy of trauma of her own. It’s a legacy whose vestiges have been warped by storytelling not entirely true, but whose beginnings are entrenched in sexual violence. It’s a quietly powerful scene because of what it says her character and how it remarks upon the reality that legacies are not always chosen. We have some choices, but our input in what our legacies are going to be is just as shaped by others. Especially by those who came before us, people whose legacies are unknown, horrifying, and or deified in a statue surrounded by a place with conflicting legacies of its own.
+I liked this episode on a thematic level quite a bit, but I’m not yet entirely sure that the series can transcend that thematic strength and also manage to grasp narrative strength.
+I am a complete novice to most of Watchmen and comic book lore overall, so there are bits and pieces that are escaping me, just to note.
+I’m still divided on how Watchmen tackles race. I appreciate its contributions to racial representation on screen, but there are two areas in particular where I want to see it improve. One is addressing race relations regarding police officers. The second is making sure that Lady Trieu’s character becomes something more than the Asian stereotypes she seems to be unfortunately saddled with here.
+The acting is so superb. Jean Smart, Regina King, and Hong Chau together in one room? Yes, please!
+I will never get tired of Regina King running in her costume to that score – the first volume of which is now available for streaming!
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