As HBO’s dystopian superhero drama Watchmen nears its season finale, showrunner Damon Lindelof has started tying together some of the show’s many storylines. One of the biggest mysteries since episode 1 has centered around the death of Sheriff Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) and the question of his role in the white supremacist group Cyclops, aka the Seventh Kalvary, a shadow arm of the Ku Klux Klan.
Towards the beginning of the season, we saw Detective Angela Abar, aka Sister Night (Regina King) discover a KKK-esque robe and hood in Judd’s closet. Thus began our introduction to the Cyclops, a shadow organization whose aim to start a race war was the likely related to of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 that started the series.
In the Watchmen universe, we can trace Cyclops back to 1938 (or the Nostalgia Pill-induced flashback episode, “This Extraordinary Being”). Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.) discovered the group when he broke up a KKK meeting, and also discovered that the group had mind control technology. This realization led Reeves to understand the conspiracy behind a 1947 theater brawl, in which a group of Black moviegoers started attacking each other for unfathomable reasons; Cyclops was sending subliminal messages to the audience, pushing them to murder each other. We learned that Reeves used this technology, called mesmerism, to ultimately hypnotize Judd into killing himself.
What we don’t know is if Crawford was a member of the organization, though all signs point to yes. We left off in episode 9 with Agent Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) figuring out that he had something to do with the Cyclops, and seemingly being on to their next plot. When she went to his home to confront his widow Jane Crawford (Frances Fisher), she sent Blake through a trapdoor and into the basement, which houses the Cyclops’ headquarters. There, the tables turned when Sen. Joe Keene (James Wolk) revealed he is in charge of the organization now and their plan is to kill Doctor Manhattan (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) in order to turn themselves (or at least Keene) into Doctor Manhattan — with all his extraordinary abilities.
So what are Cyclops? Racists who want the powers of superheroes. Considering that their plot against Doctor Manhattan worked, it seems like they may get their wish. What do they plan to do with his abilities to see the future, bend space and time, duplicate himself, and make humans disappear by manipulating matter? Nothing good.
Though the show is set in an alternate universe, Watchmen’s biggest themes — inherited trauma and loyalties, and America’s racist history — are alarmingly true to life. The Cyclops organization, too, is somewhat based on reality: KKK has historically designated an “exalted Cyclops” to initiate new members.
Watchmen’s season finale will air Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.