The origin of Watchmen's Looking Glass reveals that he has deeper ties to the graphic novel than suspected. Portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson, Looking Glass is one of Tulsa, Oklahoma's masked police officers and he has arguably the most visually striking hood in the series, which is made of a uniquely shiny mirror-like material and is reminiscent of Rorschach's mask. But Looking Glass is really Detective Wade Tillman and as Watchmen episode 5, "Little Fear of Lightning", tells his backstory, Looking Glass turns out to be one of the show's most tragic characters.
The origin of Looking Glass is inextricably tied to the climactic events of the Watchmen comics: On 11/2/1985, Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) teleported a giant squid into the heart of New York City. With a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union imminent, Veidt's master plan saved the world; his squid attack hoax, which became known as the Dimensional Incursion Event (D.I.E.), ended up stopping armageddon and resulted in the world's nations uniting against an extradimensional threat. However, Veidt always intended his hoax to murder innocents and his giant squid killed 3-million people thanks to a psychic wave that spread beyond NYC. Many more who didn't die were left permanently traumatized by the event. In the years that followed, a new industry revolving around Dimensional Incursion Security sprang up since squid rainfalls became a regular reminder of the so-called enemy from another dimension.
Watchmen episode 5 revealed that a young Wade Tillman (Phillip Wabes) was a survivor of 11/2. He was in Hoboken, New Jersey (just across the Hudson River from NYC) in the minutes before the midnight squid attack. Further, Wade was part of a religious group called Watchtower looking to save souls before the world ended. However, Wade ran into the Knot Tops street gang and a female member tricked him by coercing Tillman to strip naked in a house of mirrors with the promise of sex before she ran off with his clothes. At that moment, Veidt teleported his squid but Wade was relatively safe inside the funhouse as the psychic blast killed everyone else around him. The incident left Wade traumatized for the next 34 years and, even though he became a scholar about the extra-dimensional squid, Looking Glass never got over the dual memories of the woman humiliating him on top of the squid attack that left him the sole survivor in a carnival of corpses.
Wade's Looking Glass identity - or "Mirror Guy", as Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) calls him - is a direct result of his lifelong PTSD. Tillman joined the Tulsa Police after the White Night out of a desire to see justice done and he created his mask out of Reflectitine, the silver, mirror-like material that is promised to deflect psychic attacks. In fact, Wade is never without Reflectitine and even in his civilian identity, he lines his baseball caps with sheets of it to keep his mind safe - giving himself a literal tinfoil hat. Sadly, despite his insistence otherwise, Wade can't sleep without Reflectitine covering his head, even when he's in the backyard bunker that he built for safety in case of another squid attack. In fact, Tillman's seven-year marriage to Cynthia (Eileen Grubba) ended because she couldn't convince him that she wouldn't humiliate him as the Knot Top did back in 1985.
In Watchmen episode 5, Wade is specifically targeted by a woman named Renee (Paula Malcolmson), who is part of the Seventh Kavalry. The 7K's secret leader, Senator Joe Keene (James Wolk), knew Wade was Looking Glass and he let him in on Watchmen's greatest secret that 11/2 was a hoax by Adrian Veidt, which resulted in Robert Redford being elected President (as Ozymandias' hand-picked choice). Keene dropped this hidden knowledge because he wanted Wade to take Detective Angela Abar AKA Sister Night (Regina King), the suspected killer of Chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), off the board. But for Looking Glass, the realization that the squid he's feared for 34 years was an elaborate hoax shattered everything he believed in ever since the life-altering traumatic event Looking Glass suffered in a house of mirrors in Watchmen's 1985.
Of course, that's not where Watchmen episode 5 ends. The episode's final moment sees Looking Glass begin to question his new direction, bringing his EDT kit back inside just as Seventh Kavalry members turn up to his house armed and ready to attack. This goes back on Keene's promise and leaves Wade's fate in the balance. Whether or not he's alive will have to wait for Watchmen episode 6 but, for now, it's clear there's many more puppetmasters at play.
Watchmen airs Sundays @ 9pm on HBO.