HBO’s Watchmen was a smash-hit with critics in 2019, due to sharp writing, great production design, and memorable characters. The first, and likely only season of Watchmen, featured some characters we already knew, like Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias, and some new characters, like Night Sister and Looking Glass. Of all the new characters, Looking Glass is perhaps one of the most interesting. We’re going to break down his character by looking at his backstory, costuming, and comparisons to Rorschach. So put on your reflectatine mask as we uncover the man behind the Looking Glass. Spoilers Beware.

Watch: Looking Glass Watchmen Character Trailer

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Who is Looking Glass Watchmen?

Character origins

Who plays Looking Glass inWatchmen? What is he after? Those two questions can be answered at the same time, thanks to a great quote from the actor who plays Looking Glass, Tim Blake Nelson.

“Looking Glass pursues truth as relentlessly and efficiently as possible."

If you’re familiar with Watchmen, then you probably know that Looking Glass shares a lot of similarities to the character Rorschach. We’re going to get into those similarities in a bit, but first let’s look at how Looking Glass is introduced.

Looking Glass Watchmen Wade Introduction

What can we infer from this scene? What does this character want? These are the questions we find ourselves asking after watching his introduction scene. 

Watchmen draws us into its characters, and demands that we analyze them — much like Looking Glass does in this scene.

The scene ends with Looking Glass removing the mask, showing his true identity. We learn later on that Looking Glass is really Wade Tillman, an officer of the Tulsa PD, who joined the force after white supremacists waged war on the city.

Wade is a well-intentioned character at heart, but he’s weighed down by anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

Did You Know?

The song that plays in the background during the ‘pod interrogation’ scene is OBJECTS IN MIRROR, which was composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails).

The title of the song is a metaphor and foreshadows contextual events.

Watchmen Looking Glass Episode

The one-off episode

The fifth episode of Watchmen, “Little Fear of Lightning,” is all about Wade Tillman. Up to this point in the series, we knew something was up with Wade, just not what it was. The opening scene of this episode gives us a necessary backstory on how Wade got to be the way that he is.

As it turns out, teenage Wade was devoutly religious. On 11/2, a.k.a. the night that Ozymandias dropped a giant squid from the sky, Wade was on a mission-trip, encouraging strangers to repent for their sins before nuclear annihilation. Whew, that’s a mouthful.

But things didn’t quite go according to plan. Wade was duped by a teenage girl who took him into a mirror-funhouse, then stole all his clothes moments before the squid attack.

This event led to a lifetime of trauma for Wade. He believes that another attack is bound to happen, and that ‘reflactatine’ will help ward off the psychic energy of the squids. Here’s actor Tim Blake Nelson explaining how Looking Glass copes with his unique trauma:

Looking Glass Watchmen  •  Squid Shelter BTS

As you can see, Wade goes to extreme measures to protect himself. It’s brilliant how Damon Lindelof and the production team use reflections, or the lack thereof, to comment on Wade’s character.

Nelson alludes to the fact that Wade doesn’t have any mirrors in his shelter. Wade is an expert at forcing others to reflect on themselves but he’s incapable of seeing himself, both literally and metaphorically. This leads to complex characterization, and a nuanced portrait of a man suffering from an isolating illness.

Watchmen Looking Glass Mask

Rorschach comparisons and the mask

The Watchmen TV show is built upon the back of Alan Moore’s original graphic novel, and the Watchmen silver mask has drawn a considerable amount of comparisons to a character in Moore’s novel.

The Watchmen novel ends with Ozymandias dropping the squid on New York City. Coincidentally, this serves as the inciting incident for turning a young Wade Tillman Watchmen extraordinaire into Looking Glass.

Did You Know?

The name Looking Glass is a riff on Lewis Carrol’s novel Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Lindelof had previously titled Lost’s two-part Season Three finale “Through the Looking Glass.”

Many of the characters from the original Watchmen show up in Lindelof’s series, such as Dr. Manhattan, Laurie Blake (Silk Spectre), Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias), and Will Reeves (Hooded Justice). One of the originals who doesn’t show up is the anti-hero vigilante Rorschach. That’s because, *spoilers* Dr. Manhattan killed Rorschach at the end of the graphic novel.

A lot of people have suggested that Rorschach was the protagonist of the novel (and the movie for that matter), so it makes sense that the series addressed him in a few different ways. This next video shows how the Seventh Cavalry, an evil white supremacist organization, appropriated the Rorschach mask.

Looking Glass Watchmen  •  Rorshach’s Legacy

Watchmen co-creator Alan Moore has spoken on more than one occasion about how Rorschach was inspired by Steve Ditko’s characters Question and Mr. A. Question in particular mimicked Ayn Rand’s theory of objectivism. There is a definite cross-pollination between politics and philosophy in Watchmen.

When the first trailer for the show came out, many thought that Looking Glass was going to be explicitly linked to Rorschach — largely because his mask looked like a chrome version of Rorschach’s. Before we dive into why Looking Glass is different from Rorschach, let’s take a look at how the VFX for his mask was done:

Looking Glass Watchmen Mask VFX

Okay, I think that we can all admit that Looking Glass’ mask is pretty cool. And the fact that it has subtextual meaning beyond its literal form makes it even better. Looking Glass may look like Rorschach and he may rely on the use of the Rorschach (ink block) test to catch criminals, but he’s actually incredibly different from Rorschach.

Rorschach was traumatized by his childhood. His mother was a prostitute, and as a result, he developed a Madonna-whore complex. Rorschach took the trauma from his childhood and reflected it back at the world. He captured and killed rapists, but he also demeaned and diminished women.

Looking Glass, on the other hand, did the exact opposite. He took his childhood trauma and internalized it. So much so that it resulted in multiple failed relationships and an inability to connect with others.

Rorschach and Looking Glass may look similar on the surface, but behind the mask, they are foil characters for one another.

The Last of Looking Glass

What happens to Looking Glass

Watchmen Season One ends with Looking Glass still alive. He and Agent Blake (Silk Spectre II) capture Ozymandias and bring him to justice. We never got much resolution beyond that though.

It’s a bit unfortunate that Looking Glass fell into the background of Watchmen after the episode “Little Fear of Lightning.” I referred to that episode as a “one-off” because many topics were never addressed again.

Series creator Damon Lindelof has said that he’s not interested in returning for a second season of the show but that HBO did have his blessing to produce another. Who knows if we’ll ever see more from Looking Glass? But if we do, it would be great to see what ultimately happens to the man behind the ‘reflectatine’ mask.


What we know about The Batman

The Watchmen and Gotham’s caped crusader share more than a few similarities. The world is eagerly awaiting more news on Robert Pattinson’s The Batman. In this next article, we break down everything you need to know about The Batman (2021) with cast details, set photos, and video essays.

Up Next: The Batman 2021 →
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  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

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