[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Watchmen. Like, all of them.]
Peteypedia, found at hbo.com/peteypedia, appears as the personal files of agent Dale Petey (a character original to the Watchmen TV series, played by Dustin Ingram), who also serves the FBI’s brand new role of Information Technology Administrator. Peteypedia here is presumably derived from “encyclopedia,” not “Wikipedia,” as it seems likely that Wikipedia does not exist in the Watchmen TV series.
Peteypedia currently contains links to four PDF documents, each of which is full of backstory-shaping tidbits. They explain a lot about how the state of Watchmen’s already divergent American history continued from the events of the comic in 1985 to the events of the series in 2019. We’ve read all of them, and here’s the vital information.
The EDBE dissolved into a watery substance before it could be properly studied, just like the sporadic rains of fetal squid all over the globe, which science cannot explain despite the fact that they have been going on since the DIE.
What happened after Watchmen
The four documents offer clues as to the post-DIE lives of the comic’s leads in the show’s continuity. As hinted at in the conclusion of Watchmen, Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg and Silk Spectre/Laurie Juspeczyk went back to a life of costumed vigilantism. Laurie took on a new name as the Comedienne, in honor of the Comedian, who she had recently realized was her father. And though she and Dan were arrested in 1995 for violating the anti-vigilante Keene Act, she is now an FBI agent.
But what Peteypedia really spends the most time on is the later life of Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt and the fallout from the publication of Rorschach’s journal detailing his conspiratorial actions.
Veidt got his world peace, but not much else
After the DIE, Adrian Veidt financed democratic causes, helping to put Robert Redford in the Oval Office, and he donated to hospitals treating post-DIE PTSD. In the world of HBO’s Watchmen, his plan to create world peace through a massive hoax worked.
But it also destroyed his fortune, or nearly so.
Documents towards the end of the Watchmen graphic novel hinted that Veidt was throwing all of his resources behind the assumption that after the DIE, humanity would embrace a new hope for a technology-assisted future. He planned to capitalize on that with an all-encompassing line of products and services, marketed under the name “Millennium by Veidt.”
According to Peteypedia, one of the lasting consequences of the DIE was a widespread and deep fear of technology. Something called the Tech Recall and Reintroduction Act of 1993 created a 30-year, five stage plan that, presumably after a massive recall, gave the president “authority to draft federal employees into the work of reintroducing technologies once deemed unsafe or illegal back into the public space.”
And the FBI appears to only be starting to reintroduce computers to its operation in August of 2019 — hence Dale Petey’s new role as IT admin.
This luddite wave lead to the destruction of phones, communications towers, and many other technological advancements out of fear of cancer risk from materials altered by Doctor Manhattan (a fear that itself was a false flag secretly created by Veidt). For example, the US government had used Manhattan’s matter manipulation abilities to synthesize large quantities of lithium, which made possible the widespread use of electric cars by the 1980s.
The recall and destruction of those technologies until scientists could definitively state that they were safe tanked the asset that had built Adrian Veidt’s fortune: a patent on automobile charging ports. The world did not turn towards his expected utopia, his Millennium campaign tanked, and his companies suffered major losses, only climbing back to relevance in the late 1990s by licensing previously proprietary technology.
Veidt himself was last seen in public in 2007. In 2012, international conglomerate Trieu Industries — run by the mysterious Lady Trieu, played by Hong Chau — acquired Veidt’s holdings and became administrator of his estate. Veidt Industries’ board of directors discovered that they couldn’t actually find the reclusive billionaire in order to get his blessing on the sale, and he was subsequently declared missing.
Almost no one believes Rorschach’s journal
In September 2019, with no evidence of either his demise or continued existence, Veidt was declared dead. This seems to have raised the ire of agent Dale Petey, who believes that such a declaration will rile up extremist groups in the US — namely, the Rorschach-worshipping Seventh Kavalry.
Rorschach’s journal, as the Watchmen graphic novel showed, accused Adrian Veidt of a vast conspiracy, clearly pointing to the cause of the DIE and the falsification of the EDBE. But it contained no actual proof, as it was written just before Rorschach and Nite Owl left for Antarctica, where Ozymandias finally revealed the full details of his plan. Nevertheless, the final image of Watchmen — of the journal in the slush pile of far-right newspaper The New Frontiersman — is often seen as a hint that Veidt’s new peace will come crumbling down.
According to a memo written by Dale Petey himself, that’s not what happened. Rorschach’s journal was neither proven to be true, nor conclusively proven to be a hoax. It has remained a notorious example of a conspiracy theory, but not one that almost anyone believes. Except, of course, for the white supremacist group known as the Seventh Kavalry, who not only believe that the journal is true, but also that Adrian Veidt killed Rorschach in order to cover up his crimes.
Petey passionately argues that declaring Veidt’s death, even though there’s no more evidence of it now than when he was last seen, will smell like further cover-up to the extremist group, and cause them to lash out at authorities. Which is exactly what they do, in the first episode of Watchmen.
A bit on Bass Reeves and ‘Trust in the Law’
One of the four documents on Peteypedia is less integrated with the others, but still interesting. It includes some background on “Trust in the Law!” the Bass Reeves biopic (he was a real guy who may have inspired the creation of the Lone Ranger) shown at the Dreamland theater in Tulsa, OK.
“Trust in the Law!” is a fictional film, but the document establishes it as a lost work of the real African-American film director Oscar Micheaux. He wrote, directed, or produced 44 movies between 1919 and 1948, for black audiences, often with largely black casts about the black experience in America.
Another fun tidbit: Petey makes liberal use of something called “the Wertham Spectrum” to classify costumed vigilantes, a nod to psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, whose work had, let’s say, a significant effect on the history of America’s comics industry. This would seem to imply that in a setting where comic book superheroes never caught on because there were real superheroes, Wertham’s focus also shifted from the psychology and effects of fictional superheroes to real ones.
Fans of hardcore survival shooter Escape From Tarkov are looking down the barrel of a major update. The developers at Battlestate are calling it the biggest in the game’s history and it’s expected to arrive soon, although no release date has been given.
Even if you haven’t played Tarkov, you may have heard of Battlestate’s history of harassing its detractors. Many players have fixated on the game’s connectivity issues, which have plagued the beta since its launch several years ago. This new update moves the game over to a new version of the Unity engine, which developers say has allowed them to do “serious work to optimize the network and server components,” squash bugs, and implement new graphical improvements.
Despite all that, Tarkov has established itself as one of leading tactical shooters on the market right now, with ballistics and weapon modification systems that are second to none. Battlestate’s approach to the survival genre is unique. The developers built Tarkov as a session-based game where players risk losing whatever gear they bring with them onto the map. Players show up and fight their way through both AI-controlled and human enemies, fulfilling missions along the way, before making their way to the map’s exit. There’s also a leveling system, not unlike a traditional role-playing game, that relies on basic stats as well as perks.
The upcoming patch also adds a player hideout which will give folks a den to upgrade and “restore the basic characteristics of his character.” From today’s press release:
The regeneration rate will be directly related to the internal management of the Hideout: the construction and improvement of various zones, the creation and use of consumables for everyday life. Here, the player can increase the size of his stash, create first-aid kits and cartridges, as well as organize a full-fledged shooting gallery for training, use food, water, and medicine, build a bitcoin farm and much more. The functionality of the hideout will be supplemented and improved over time.
While I’m not keen on the idea of packing my own shells and setting up a GPU farm to mine in-game currency, it’s a nice change of pace from what basically amounted to a series of spreadsheets in previous iterations of the game.
A new trailer, which is embedded above and available on YouTube, hypes up a big new map and the enhanced multiplayer aspects of the game. Previously, and especially on Twitch, Tarkov was mostly the domain of highly skilled solo players using their reflexes and long-range optics to take down less skilled players. Enhancements to the game’s back end should make life easier for small groups. Meanwhile, new heavy weapons like automatic grenade launchers and mounted machine guns will make quick work of inexperienced fireteams out for a stroll.
Tim Miller should feel confident. Nearly 20 years after founding Blur Studio, the animation company known for cinematic video game cutscenes and mind-bending CG sequences, he’s directing and producing Hollywood movies. Deadpool put him in demand. He and David Fincher made Love, Death, and Robotsfor Netflix. He’s producing the Sonic the Hedgehog movie for his Blur colleague Jeff Fowler, and committed to getting it right.
When I speak to Miller over the phone, he’s preparing to unveil his next directorial effort: Terminator: Dark Fate, a direct continuation to 1991’s Judgment Day that, in true Terminator fashion, undoes any and all timelines established in previous sequels. James Cameron is on board as a producer. Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, starring alongside up-and-comers Mackenzie Davis, as robotically enhanced future soldier Grace, and Natalia Reyes, the Terminator’s latest target. A new T-800 means Arnold Schwarzenegger “is back,” too. The pieces are there, but Miller expresses some anxiety about the whole thing.
“There’s a lot of ennui around being the sixth version of a movie in the franchise,” he tells me, “but I really hope that people will be surprised.”
Dark Fate is a genuine surprise. Long assumed to be Arnold’s franchise, the movie asserts Hamilton as the heart and soul of Terminator. Her one-liners are fire, but her arc, as a survivor and fighter, hits hard. Miller wraps timely social themes and run-and-gun action around the star in a way that helps Dark Fate standout from both the misfires and Cameron’s original films.
In anticipation of the Nov. 1 release, I spoke to Miller about the origins of the story, getting into the nitty gritty of the sci-fi, and how worked with Hamilton to reinvent Sarah Connor for a new era.
[Ed. note: this post contains general plot and scene descriptions for Terminator: Dark Fate that some may consider spoilers.]
Polygon: The film has a few credited screenwriters, and of course James Cameron is back as in a producer role, so when did you get involved with the project? Which aspect of the movie helped you connect to the material?
Tim Miller: The easy answer for that one is Linda Hamilton. That’s, to me, the thing that makes it all work.
But I was actually in from the very beginning. [Producer] David Ellison had seen Deadpool. Actually he’d seen an early cut because I was going to do something else with him and we both are sci-fi nerds so we talked about Terminator at some later point, like after Deadpool 2. When that didn’t happen, Terminator got pushed to the front of the queue. I believe that David had talked to Jim, but there was a lot of stuff around the rights and all that other stuff. So Jim wasn’t even a definite when I started talking to David, then it all came together sort of after that.
Just to clarify that the writers, the story stuff, was really this team effort where first we had novelists. Again, I’m a sci-fi nerd, so I wanted to bring in novelists to some really broad-swab world-building. Five guys came in and Jim came in for a couple days of brainstorming.
Joe Abercrombie, who writes my favorite books of all time, the First Law books. He’s more fantasy, but I know Joe, he’s wonderful. Greg Bear was there. Warren Ellis was there. Neal Asher was there. Neal Stephenson was there. That was pretty cool.
So we did that for the initial brainstorming, and then we came out of there with a bunch of ideas and brought screenwriters in. The plan was to sort of have an idea for three movies. So we brought in three writers — or four, because David Goyer works with a guy named Justin Rhodes as a partner. So it was David and him, Josh Friedman, and Chuck Eglee. You know, it’s weird because it looks like — and in this would be a warning sign to me too, if I was just your average moviegoer — but it looks like “holy shit, there’s a lot of writers on that fucking thing, so beware!” But it really was a story that we all broke. David Goyer wrote a draft, and then David had go on to do other projects and Billy Ray pretty much rewrote it from scratch with me. I wrote all the action, and then Billy, who’s great with character, Billy handled all that stuff.
You directed second unit [action] for Thor: The Dark World for Alan Taylor, who also directed Terminator: Genisys. Do you have any relationship with him? Did you talk about his experience before going into your own Terminator sequel?
You know, I met Alan once in passing for about 10 minutes. And then I went and did my thing and worked with one of the editors, Kevin [Feige], and Craig [Kyle]. So I didn’t talk to him. I had heard enough — I’m also friends with Laeta Kalogridis who wrote that script and is a huge Terminator fan. And, of course, David Ellison told stories, too. But I watched all those movies, and there were a lot of times in the writer’s room where an idea would come up and David Ellison, who was there for all of the writer’s room stuff all day, every day, David would say, “Oh yeah, we did that in Genisys.” And I’m like, “Oh yeah, I forgot.” “Oh yeah, we did that in Genisys.” “Oh yeah, I fucking forgot.” It had a lot of interesting ideas in it.
How did you talk to Linda about making Sarah Connor’s return meaningful? She became an emblem for the “strong female character” after Terminator: Judgment Day, but so often over the last 30 years, Hollywood’s understanding of strength has revealed itself to be surface level.
We talked about this with the ladies a lot, and Natalia actually said, in another context, being strong doesn’t mean you have to be masculine. And so there was a lot of that thinking with both her and Mackenzie’s character. To be a strong woman, you don’t have to act like a man.
For Linda’s character, originally, she was a little more Rooster Cogburn than she actually ended up being in the movie. Two things happened: One, there was a lot of chemistry between these three actors. They really loved each other off screen. And so that started to creep into it. Then there was an inherent illogic to Sarah fighting [with everyone]. They all had the sort of same agenda.
Aside from Dani, the primary arc in the movie is Sarah. She’s [basically] a Terminator when we come into the movie. Grief has made her want to be an emotionless killing machine. And at the end of the movie, she’s allowing herself to care again, she comes back to humanity. Her shriveled heart has blossomed again. That was the journey, but we just didn’t want to make it unwatchable. It’s unpleasant to watch people being unpleasant. So we tried to split the difference and I think we did. I think Sarah is tough, but it’s not uncomfortable to watch.
Was it challenging to find a new side of Arnold’s Terminator performance? This is not the same T-800 we see in Judgment Day, of course, but he is a familiar robot.
Not really. I would say Arnold is a really wonderful actor and he knew his character. It required very little coaching from me. He understood that he would never be completely human, but you can imagine like where that T-800 got in two days of sort of being around humans in T2, and Arnold’s been around in this movie for 20-plus years. So you can imagine he did a lot of learning there. I think he split the line very well.
He says a line to Linda, “I used to think that having feelings was in a disadvantage. It isn’t.” And it’s really interesting because he feels like he knows what it is to be human, but knows he cannot be human. I thought he played it well.
The Comic-Con crowd went wild when you announced the film would earn an R. Did the rating give you any particular freedom? The slicing blade hands in this movie are particularly effective, and maybe an R gives you the latitude to push the effect.
As you probably know, the difference between PG-13 and R is that the blades can go in PG-13, they just can’t come out, and the blood is not going to be there. While we shot, it was not planned to be R — at at best it was a dual release. So I knew that I was going to add the blade hands in post[-production] and the blood was all going to be added in post, not because of a rating issue, but because that’s the most efficient way to do it. We were always gonna push it right up to the edge.
And you know, personally … only a few times if you look at Deadpool, did we really kind of step over the line. I’m not a big fan of like slo-mo bodies being split open my blades right in front of camera, and I wouldn’t have done that had we been R right from the start. However, once we decided to go R, I kind of let myself cut loose. Like a scene with Mackenzie being dragged into the hallway, and she’s just covered in blood — that was shot in the reshoots after we’d decided to go R and we could really fuck her up. So anyway, it was really just like the cuffs were off. I got lots of F-bombs in the dialogue during the shoot because I wanted to, like I said, at the very least, do an R-cut of the movie that would be released either simultaneously or sometime in the future.
You founded Blur, a visual effects studio which became well known for video game cutscenes and animation-heavy sequences in movies. Were there specific moments in the film where your background in animation came in handy?
I didn’t do a lot of live-action/CG visual effects in the past. Blur does mostly game stuff, and we did some of the stuff in Deadpool for sure. And in this movie we did the Dragonfly sequence, which is the future flash-forward stuff where we’re Grace is fighting. I proudly say it’s one of my favorite scenes. But I think where it makes a difference is that I’m comfortable with visual effects. In post, it really becomes more of my vision because I can interact with the visual effects artists in a very direct way. When I make a note, I know how bad it’s going to fuck things up or whether it can help them.
Gabriel Luna’s Terminator can liquify, bud off, reform, and barely be killed. The visual logic has limitless possibilities, but maybe that makes your job tougher. What moment in the film helped you understand what you wanted to accomplish with villain?
There are a lot of them and I was really happy with the way our R&D shot for Gabe forming into the liquid Terminator was not the first time he did it. It’s after the car crash when he kills Dani’s brother Diego and he’s reforming. I very much wanted a kind of a logical, fractal way where it’s formed as a central stem and then sort of spread out from there because ultimately, he had to be sort of like a hollow chocolate Easter egg bunny with reinforced structures. If you still-framed some of the shots where he’s forming, you’ll see that he’s kind of empty inside. The visual metaphor was intended.
Like I said, I wrote all the action scenes myself. I would write them out as beat sheets and then we would pre-[visualize] them. We did a lot of pre-vis before the script was even finished. Then I’d hand those cheats to Billy and Billy would infuse them with character. I think you see that in our turbine fight where, I don’t think maybe the audience is aware of it — and maybe I could’ve done a better job of that — but at the turbine fight, you want to have Dani have a heroic role. She knows she’s a quarterback in the pocket. She knows that the Terminator has to come for her. So she’s always keeping her protectors between the Terminator and her so that they have to go through either the T-800 or Grace or Sarah and each time they do, they’re going to inflict some damage on that motherfucker. And so that’s kind of Dani’s strategy, to always sort of stay in the pocket and make him come at her and take damage. And the whole fight is designed with that in mind. If you watch the fight with that sort of strategic imperative, I think it makes sense.
The use of real locations and atmospheric effects really complements the CG in a way I rarely see. There was a lot of diesel smoke. The movie has a smell. It’s grimy.
But it doesn’t lack color! Especially the last sequence —it’s pretty colorful for me. I have a fear of color. I don’t know, [color] just somehow doesn’t feel as grim and serious. I have to force myself to do it most times. But our last sequence, with all the fire and electricity, is particularly beautiful.
The film grapples with immigration issues, societal fractures, technological doom, and a general inevitability to humanity’s demise. There’s hope, which makes it a Terminator movie, but are you channeling your own worries about America here?
I’m generally speaking more positively than Jim is about the future and about technology. I also think that the only way out is through. We’re not gonna stop it.
It’s funny, it kind of all came down to one night. Jim brought this artificial intelligence researcher in to speak with us because we’d been talking with all these prophets and he had met her and she was very smart. At the end of this discussion, Jim said, I think what really has to happen is that, before this thing gets out of control, we have to teach AI to be more human. And I thought, oh my God, we have to do the opposite.
Look at the choices that we’ve made as a species. I wouldn’t say that we have some kind of moral high ground when it comes to our place in the universe. We could certainly design a better system than ourselves if we were given a chance. And that’s what I mean by being a little more positive about the future. I don’t really think that AI will destroy us because I just don’t think it will care that much.
I do think about this stuff at night and I read a lot of nonfiction as well as fiction. Max Tegmark’s book, Human 3.0, probably has the best sort of spread of the eight possibilities for the evolution of AI. Seven of them aren’t good if that tells you anything.
But the worry in Dark Fate isn’t only about AI. Sarah, Grace, and Dani illegally cross the border and wind up in a detention center. That’s a pointed reference to make in 2019.
I tried to walk a line there because it’s a terrible situation, but I didn’t want to vilify border guards. They’re people doing a job. The system is the problem. And even the choice to do it really wasn’t a statement. It really was a function of us putting the story’s beginning in central Mexico and then traveling. It was just a natural evolution of the story rather than me saying or Jim saying or anybody saying, “Hey, we got to make a social comment here.” It was really just an interesting story. I didn’t want to vilify anybody. I have a lot of sympathy for immigrants and the whole process.
How wound up in the time travel logic did you get during the making of this film? The aftermath of each Terminator movie is filled with flowcharts. Do you expect the movie to click in to the established logic?
I’m a nerd but, but I never make the mistake of thinking the audience is all nerds, too. Sometimes Jim and I would would disagree with that [laughs], but I think we walked the line. Listen, there is an 11-page document that tells exactly what Grace is capable of and how she was made. I worked with a friend who loves science fiction. He’s not a real author, he’s a wannabe author — but he’s very smart gentleman. We actually figured out how Grace was made and what the process was like.
And for time travel, we had a lot of complexity to the theories, but it’s all really distilled down to one central idea, which is when you change the past, the way rolls forward and changes the future. There’s only one timeline. And, and that is the same one Sarah changed. She did something that hadn’t been done before. I always look at it as like a stream where a leaf may get caught in an eddy and stays there for a while and then eventually kind of breaks free and continues down the stream. This is another eddy, another story pocket, another whirlpool. So, but you don’t want to bore people with a lot of exposition around that. But the important thing to me as a filmmaker is that I have some kind of understanding, so I’m not just making up the rules.
The same with Gabe’s powers. I don’t want to be like, “Oh well now he can, you know, form a rail gun out of it.” Which is possible, and would be very cool, but you know, that’s some other movie.
You’re making your Terminator, in the end.
I really hope that people will give it a chance. I hope they’ll be surprised when they see it. I didn’t leave anything on the table. I gave it everything.
You got the T-800 to opine on the aesthetic value of drapes in this movie. That’s an accomplishment.
Arnold fucking loves this movie. He watched it twice before, but when he watched the final cut, he FaceTimed me and said, “Oh my God, the ending is so powerful. I cried.” So to make Arnold Schwarzenegger happy, that’s pretty cool.
A new trailer for the upcoming Sims 4 expansion, Discover University, dropped today following leaks confirming the expansion. It showed off a bunch of new content coming with the game, like Sims riding bikes and consoling a crying sim in a bathroom stall.
Between programming robots and debating students from other schools, the college sims do indeed party. The trailer shows them doing keg stands and playing “juice pong,” as well as TP-ing a school monument.
Sims will be able to pick between the University of Britechester or Foxbury Institute when they enroll, and they can choose to live in a dorm room or live off campus, according to the expansion pack’s website. Of course, there will also be a plethora of new Build Mode items, like mini-fridges and more posters for your sims to decorate their dorms with.
The Discover University expansion will release on Nov. 15 on Windows and Mac, and on Nov. 17 for Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is set to release on Friday, Oct. 25. But if you’re a PC player that date is a little more complicated thanks to time zones and preloading.
Modern Warfare will be available for PC players to preload at 10 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, Oct. 22. This option will be available to anyone has pre-ordered the game through the Battle.net client. Once you’ve preloaded the game you should be ready to play as soon as it is released.
As for the actual release time: Modern Warfare will be available at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 24. It will release at the same time around the world, but in case you don’t live in the United States here’s a few other cities, along with the times the game will be released there:
São Paulo — Oct. 24, 10 p.m. BRT
London — Oct. 25, 2 a.m. BST
Stockholm — Oct. 25, 3 a.m. CEST
Berlin — Oct. 25, 3 a.m. CEST
Moscow — Oct. 25, 4 a.m. MSK
Singapore — Oct. 25, 9 a.m. SGT
Seoul — Oct. 25, 10 a.m. KST
Sydney — Oct. 25, 12 p.m. AEDT
There are several different specifications listed for the PC version of Modern Warfare. The most immediately important one is space. The game’s website recommends you have 175GB (!) of hard drive space free. The website says that this amount is intended to give you some extra room for “post-launch content” so the download probably isn’t quite this bit, but it’s still a pretty monumental amount of space. For a closer look at all the game’s system requirements you can find them below.
The internet lost its chill over Todd Phillips’ Joker a month before the film even came out. The actual film presents an unseemly paradox: beautifully executed shots (just think of Phoenix’s staircase dance, with light streaming down from the heavens) matched with something grotesque at its core. Joker aims to be apolitical while draping itself in political context. What it maneuvers around, and what it erases, is a political act in itself. The failure stings hardest on the question of race.
HBO’s Watchmen tackles a similar subject in the wake of Joker, but inversely, making a central point that the film couldn’t. Both the TV series, adapted by Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers) from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel, and Phillips’ movie present masks worn by white men — an inkblot fabric and a painted-on clown face — that represent larger ideologies. But in the first six episodes provided to critics, Watchmen finds nuance in the conversation, exposing just how Joker comes up short.
In Joker, stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck, a Travis Bickle-esque version of the classic Batman villain, has a disorder that makes him eerily cackle like a Lion King hyena at inopportune times. Arthur appears as a kind of underdog. In an early scene, we see a group of kids bully and pummel him to the street. He’s taken advantage of at work, and scolded by a stranger on the bus. His stand-up act gets mocked on national television, on the talk show of his TV idol, Murray Franklin. Society is broken, Arthur tells his social worker, and the film seems to agree, showing us Gotham City’s grit and corruption, which burdens its protagonist — who also presumably has some unnamed or unfounded mental illness — and crowns him with what seems to be rightful, unimpeachable victimhood.
Arthur’s violent awakening, spurred on by harassment by a group of suited Wall Street alpha-male bros on the subway, feels like righteous retribution. His victims are, after all, bullies, so even when Murray later questions Arthur’s actions, saying his victimhood gives him no right to violence, his words are also invalidated by the cruelty he’s shown Arthur in the past. Besides, “Joker” has become a symbol in this Gotham; Arthur’s attack on the businessmen is recontextualized as a political killing. But Arthur, as he himself tells Murray, isn’t interested in those politics. The film isn’t interested either, though it does, in its indulgent character study, glorify rather than challenge this Joker.
Critics have connected the subway moment in the movie with the 1984 New York City subway shooting, in which a white man named Bernhard Goetz shot four black teenagers who he thought were going to rob him. Racial context was purged from the film scene (though its watermark still remains), but there are black characters in Arthur’s orbit: the social worker, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, a clerk at Arkham, and, most notably, his neighbor, Sophie (Zazie Beetz), with whom he has a whole imagined relationship.
There’s a kind of cognitive dissonance in the film, which doesn’t seem to recognize the particular threat that Arthur poses as a white man among these black characters. He becomes a symbol of a class movement, but one that’s alarmingly white and male, despite evidence of black characters around him facing similar economic straits. And one fears for some of the black women in the film — the social worker, who we may imagine could become the target of Arthur’s breakdown at any point; the Arkham psychiatrist, who does become a target; and Sophie, whose fate is unknown. In depicting Arthur’s fantasy relationship with Sophie, Phillips’ script refuses to engage with her identity or blackness in general as it intersects with the brewing political movement. Joker uses Arthur’s white male identity to indulge in narrative privilege, where he exists in a space above racial politics.
Watchmen steeps itself in the very politics that Joker ignores. In the first episode of the series, a black-and-white silent film reel introduces a black U.S. marshal heroically stopping a white sheriff who’s actually revealed as the villain, though their costuming (the sheriff in white, and the marshal, hooded, in black) suggests the opposite. We’re in the time of the 1921 Tulsa race riots, where a family is brutally torn apart in the violent chaos.
A time jump to the present day picks up with a black cop nervously pulling over a white driver — a clear inversion of our real-life situation. The image recalls Philando Castile and countless other black men who have been the victims of police brutality. But here, even while facing a police officer, the white man is the predator, a member of a secret underground organization of white supremacists called the Seventh Cavalry. He kills the black man with an automatic weapon. The thread doesn’t fall to the wayside; by the end of the premiere, a white man is lynched, while a black man sits alongside the body.
Unlike the original text, Lindelof’s Watchmen has a protagonist in Angela Abar (Regina King) aka Sister Night, a secret detective with her own penchant for mask-and-costume antics. The central viewfinder of the show is a black woman whose roots in larger political machinations are revealed as the series progresses through the first several episodes. Sister Night, fittingly, is our guiding star through these politics and the aftermath of this history.
Though the original Watchmen spoke to various pressing political issues of the time, most notably rising nuclear tensions, racial politics didn’t feature in the story. HBO’s series changes that, and it doesn’t feel as a corrective measure so much as a logical extension of the story, taking place in a mirrored version of our present-day America. One of the protagonists from the comic, Rorschach, is redrawn as a symbol of terrorism and white supremacy. The character wasn’t portrayed as a white supremacist in the comic. Politically conservative, absolutely; mentally unstable and misogynistic, yes; and even perhaps a bit homophobic; but not necessarily racist. But his inkblot mask — which originally represented his unwavering perception of truth and justice, right and wrong, as a black-and-white issue — now appears to represent the divide between whiteness and blackness.
There are certainly parallels between Rorschach, aka Walter Kovacs, and Phillips’ rendering of the Joker: Both are white men from lower-class backgrounds, likely with some kind of mental disorder, who see the refuse of the world, are mistreated by society, and act — violently, ferociously — in accordance with their understanding of justice and retribution. By the ends of their respective arcs, both men become symbols of movements that are disconnected from their own politics.
But whereas Joker finds those politics to be inconsequential, secondary to the chaotic glory of a character study, Watchmen understands how individuals are indivisible from a nation’s politics. And, sure, they’re two different forms: Watchmen aims to reflect the world through the gaze of its characters, while Joker aims to relish in the gaze of its main character and let the rest of the world fall behind.
The difference is exactly what makes Joker most terrifying and troublesome. The film locks the audience within the perspective of a white man with the power to incite a mass movement without reckoning, with how this vision — even when born from injustice and marginalization — obscures the marginalized people it harms. Sophie’s fate in the movie is inconsequential. She’s only there to illuminate the state of Arthur’s mind, and such a choice reflects the film’s own politics.
In Sister Night’s developing storyline (which eventually reveals her connection to the flashback in the first episode), and in the series’ further world-building from the alternative history set up in the comic, the showheralds the importance of mining the full context of a work that would position itself to be relevant to, and apropos of, the real world.
This world may very well be irredeemable, both Watchmen and Joker say, looking at their central white male figures. But whereas Joker keeps the camera zoomed in on Arthur, Watchmen sweeps the set for a panoramic shot. “Here is a perverted version of an American hero,” a mosaic of brutality and unfettered powerself-appointed godhood, says Watchmen. “And here’s the America that will suffer as a result.”
Maya Phillips is a poet and journalist. Her culture criticism and reporting has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vulture, Mashable, Slate, The Week, American Theatre, Black Nerd Problems, and more. She is the author of the poetry collection Erou (Four Way Books, 2019). Maya currently works as a web producer at The New Yorker and as a freelance writer. She lives in Brooklyn.
Polygon is excited to announce that we’ll be producing (with Vox Media Studios) a daily news show for Quibi, the mobile-first premium streaming service spearheaded by Jeffrey Katzenberg (co-founder of DreamWorks and former chairman of Walt Disney Studios — i.e., the connecting tissue between The Lion King and Shrek) and Meg Whitman (former president and CEO of both HP and eBay). Quibi, which launches in April 2020, will feature scripted and unscripted series from people like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro. It will also offer a lineup of daily shows called Daily Essentials, which will consist of more news-driven programming from ESPN, NBC, Rotten Tomatoes, and, well, us.
We’ll have more to share closer to our launch. But expect each episode to highlight the most important stories of the day in gaming, comics, and entertainment, along with deeper dives into the biggest headlines — all with a veneer of Polygon’s usual weirdness.
The Destiny franchise’s overall story has never been easy to parse. The original Destinyhid its story in Grimoire Cards on Bungie’s website, andDestiny 2has lore books you have to read in game to get the full picture. But any Bungie nerd will tell you the story is actually pretty neat — if you can follow it. We’re here to bring you up to speed, based on what happened in the newest expansion, Shadowkeep.
What happened in Shadowkeep?
In Shadowkeep’s first mission, you assault the lunar surface and discover the new Scarlet Keep. As you push deeper into the fortress, you discover that the Scarlet Keep is overseeing something: the Pyramid.
If you remember from the end of Destiny 2’s Red War campaign, the Pyramid ships awoke outside of our solar system when the Traveler killed Dominus Ghaul (the main baddie of that campaign). Many players assumed this was the Darkness — the Traveler’s ultimate foe — and Shadowkeep seems to confirm that suspicion.
As you approach the Moon’s Pyramid, you discover a Nightmare — an evil force that takes the shape of someone Guardians fear (like Crota from the first Destiny). Over the next few missions, you learn about the Cryptoglyph, a Hive research artifact. The Hive are using this artifact to twist the Darkness’ energy and protect themselves from the Nightmares.
After stealing the Hive’s Darkness artifact, you’re able to craft weapons and armor out of the Nightmare’s very essence. This is why you’re tasked with building a full set of Dreambane armor, to protect against the Darkness.
When you finally break into the Pyramid, the Darkness takes hold of your Ghost and beckons you inside. The Darkness leads you through a few battles to a strange artifact and a confusing vision. Inside the vision, you see the Black Garden — a mysterious alternate dimension — and your own doppelganger, who explains the Darkness is your salvation.
The strange artifact beckons you back toward the Black Garden, where you defeat the Sanctified Mind in the Garden of Salvation raid. When you beat the raid, the artifact’s signal stops, and the Vex invade the Moon in droves.
Seriously, what is the damn Darkness?
The Darkness is pure evil — depending on who you talk to. The Guardians wield the Light against various Darkness-related forces. The Hive, Taken, and Vex all worship or serve the Darkness in one way or another, and the Darkness’ reach extends everywhere across the solar system.
We know the Darkness wants the Traveler — the source of Light in our solar system. Why isn’t exactly clear, but we also know the Traveler doesn’t want to go with the Darkness. But the nature of good and evil has been a bit confusing in the Destiny universe lately.
Back during the Season of the Drifter, you chose the side of the Vanguard or the Drifter — the Light vs. the Darkness.
We know Drifter’s playing with Motes of Darkness through Gambit, and used to roll with the Shadows of Yor, a group of Guardians obsessed with wielding the Darkness. Drifter believes you can use it for good.
The Vanguard think that dark Guardians are evil and always will be. But the Vanguard also follow the Traveler blindly, and the Drifter doesn’t trust them because of it.
The Darkness is an unknown force coming for the Traveler, and nobody knows what to do with it. But the Guardians’ ability to harness the Nightmare’s essence proves there’s a way to fight it.
So where do we go from here?
The Darkness’ motivations are clear, but their methods aren’t. Based on the vision in Shadowkeep, thousands of Pyramid ships are traveling through the Black Garden. But does the vision show something real, something that’s to come? Is it a metaphor? Does the Darkness really look like us, sound like us? Or are they trying to make us seem like we’re not all that different? Could they be suggesting the Darkness and the Light are actually the same entity?
Based on the events of Season of the Drifter, it seems likely that Guardians will gain the power to control the Darkness — or some aspect of it — in the next few years, potentially with next fall’s release.
The question ultimately becomes, who is the main villain of Destiny? It seems to us the Darkness is the true threat against the world of Destiny, but it bears repeating that we know almost nothing about the Traveler. The nature of good and evil stands to change.
Shadowkeep finally puts the conflict of Light and Dark in motion. Destiny is building up to a war between the Darkness and the Light, but it doesn’t seem like the franchise’s final battle. We still don’t know what exactly the Darkness is, but for the first time in Destiny’s history, it seems like answers are coming.
As a baseline, Digital Foundry discovered that what the developers said about the game’s performance is true. Overwatch runs at 900p while docked and 730p as a portable. But it’s not that simple.
“On closer inspection, there is much more to it,” they write, “with dynamic resolution scaling in play. It’s a dynamic 900p when docked, with a horizontal scaler delivering a minimum of 1152×900 under load. Similarly, portable play is a native 720p in the best case, but again, the horizontal scaler seems to deliver a 960×720 resolution with the engine under stress.”
The translation is that there’s some software wizardry working in the background to juice the visuals up from a lower output to meet the target resolutions. That’s to be expected for a device running on the same architecture that powers mobile phones. But the developers have clearly elected to target handheld resolutions as their baseline, scaling resolutions up for televisions.
Overall, however, the experience just isn’t the same as it is on other consoles and PC. Those run at 60 frames per second, while the Switch does its best to maintain 30. That alone makes for an uneven playing field, so it’s no wonder that there’s no crossplay between Switch users and anyone on another platform.
This year’s All Saints Wake event for Final Fantasy 14 brought back the ability to transform into the game’s most beloved non-playable characters, meaning that players are now making some hilarious scenes.
The event teleports players to a Halloween version of the Haukke Manor dungeon and once there, players can transform into their NPC of choice. (Alisae and Alphinaud, two of the important Scions of the Seventh Dawn from FF14, are not included, as their models are unique and don’t work the way others do.) After transforming, players can emote and run around the mansion as their favorite NPCs.
Final Fantasy 14’s NPCs are fairly serious throughout the game. While they do crack jokes here or there, it’s hard to imagine any of them doing anything silly. After all, they spend most of the game trying to prevent the world from ending and whatnot.
Some players use this opportunity to use the “Yol Dance” emote, which is the closest thing the game has to T-posing. I am personally a fan of the “Black Ranger” pose, which is kind of close to dabbing. Others might take it as a chance to take some shots of their favorite ‘ships. Final Fantasy 14 has an intricate screenshot program that lets players adjust lighting, time out emotes, and make other adjustments in game. Thanks to that, players are living out their fantasy of tormenting Thancred. You can catch some of the most inventive pranks below.