Laurie explores Daniel’s basement and finds the airship he flew as Nite Owl; its interior lights are turned on. She climbs into the cockpit and looks for a cigarette lighter on the dashboard. When she hits a button, a flamethrower engages on the front of the airship and lights Daniel’s basement on fire. Daniel hears her screaming from upstairs and briefly recalls Rorschach’s warnings about a “mask-killer.” He sprints down to the basement, realizes Laurie is okay, and helps her put out the fire. Laurie apologizes profusely, but Daniel isn’t angry, only relieved.
The lights on in Daniel’s airship suggest that he has recently been working on it, despite having retired as a vigilante years ago. Both the airship and its flamethrower are technological marvels, suggesting that Daniel is an engineer and an inventor. Although Daniel claims to disbelieve Rorschach’s “mask-killer conspiracy,” Daniel’s fear for Laurie indicates that some part of him finds it plausible. Taken together, these details all point to the possibility that Daniel might wish to act as a vigilante again sometime soon.
They look at all of the technological vigilante equipment in Dan’s basement together. He thinks it all seems like childhood “fantasy” now. Laurie thinks that she wasn’t even living out her own fantasy, just her mother’s. They climb up to the airship and Dan holds Laurie’s hands for a few seconds after helping her aboard, until she asks him to let go. Laurie pokes around while Dan checks all the onboard systems and explains how the airship has no corners or edges, so it’s invisible to radar.
Dan and Laurie’s claims that their vigilante years felt like fulfilling some sort of fantasy again suggest that many of the masked heroes are motivated less by commitment to societal good than they are by personal power fantasies or, in Laurie’s case, familial expectations. This again depicts the heroes as less pure and noble than the image they present to the public.
Laurie states she ought to stop smoking, since it nearly killed her, but it’s hard to give up an addiction when she feels so restless. Dan states he had to give up his own addictive habit of running around in a costume. He used to get “cravings” for the romance of it, but the loss of it doesn’t bother him anymore. However, Dan still has a hard time getting rid of all his old gear. They climb down from the airship, which he reveals is named Archie, short for Merlin’s owl Archimedes. Dan tells Laurie that when he first started out, he was “rich” and “bored” and it all felt exciting. But after a while, he realized the Comedian was right: the costumes and the antics are just “flash and thunder” and don’t really change the world. For some people, like Rorschach, the costumes made them insane.
Dan’s assessment of vigilante work as an addiction further suggests that many of the heroes are only in it for the rush, rather than some noble desire to protect society. Although such self-interests do not completely negate any good things the masked vigilantes may have done, they do demonstrate how personal desires taint otherwise-noble ambitions. This furthers the novel’s depiction of heroes as three-dimensional characters, rather than typically perfect superheroes. The Watchmen, are dynamic and flawed, like real people.
Dan and Laurie keep looking through his old stuff, since she seems interested and eager. He shows her his night vision goggles and turns out the lights. As they start to go back upstairs, Dan asks Laurie if she misses Jon. She says that she ought to, but she was already “lonely” when she lived with him; life doesn’t feel any different without him. Dan says that he’s been lonely too and almost puts his arm around Laurie, but he stops at the last second. They go upstairs to have coffee and watch the news. Dan mentions that he thinks Rorschach’s alleged murder of Moloch seems odd, since one bullet to the head is not as dramatic as Rorschach normally is.
Dan and Laurie both feel lonely and bored in their regular lives, which primes them for having their own mid-life crises and engaging in reckless behavior. Dan’s statement that Rorschach possesses a dramatic streak suggests that even someone as moralistic as Rorschach still enjoys the thrill and romance of being a costumed vigilante. However, Dan’s feeling that something is off about Rorschach’s arrest indicates that he begins to suspect a conspiracy as well.
On the news, the anchor talks about Rorschach’s arrest—his landlady claims that he often sexually propositioned her—and the Soviet incursion into Pakistan. Laurie wishes she could just run away like Jon did. Dan takes his glasses off to clean them and Laurie tells him he looks “ravishing” without them. She kisses him. They start to have sex on the couch, while Ozymandias performs a gymnastic routine on TV. However, Dan embarrassedly realizes he’s impotent. Laurie tells him not to worry about it; they have plenty of time. They go to bed together and fall asleep.
Daniel’s sexual impotence parallels his feeling of powerlessness about events transpiring around the world, particularly the rising tensions between the Americans and the Russians and the threat of nuclear war. Dan’s impotence also contrasts with Ozymandias’s physical prowess on the TV, while his personal powerlessness contrasts with Adrian Veidt’s secret plan, already in motion, to avert World War III.
Dan dreams that he and Laurie stand naked outside, kissing each other, while a nuclear explosion lights up behind them and incinerates them both. Dan wakes up in the middle of the night and crawls out of bed. He looks out at the city through his window, then goes down to the basement. He puts on his Nite Owl goggles, though he is naked otherwise. Laurie wakes and finds him in the basement. Though he feels foolish, he tells her about his dream and says that between the war and the “mask-killer conspiracy,” he feels so “powerless,” so “impotent” to face the world.
Again, Dan’s sexual impotence parallels his sense of being powerless to stop the world from falling into ruin. The fact that Dan reaches for his Nite Owl goggles in the midst of feeling impotent suggests that his constructed identity as Nite Owl used to give him a sense of power and capability, allowing him to face the world and believe that he can change it.
Laurie tells Dan they should go out tonight and be heroes again. They both get dressed in their costumes, climb into the airship, and fly out into the city under a smokescreen. Dan feels his confidence return as he flies. They spot an apartment building on fire, so they fly the ship down and start spraying the building with water. Laurie extends a ramp into the building and lets all the people from the building into the airship. They fly them to safety. Dan feels confident, in control.
The return of Dan’s confidence suggests that wearing his costume and taking even small actions helps him to face the world. As with Rorschach, this suggests that people use constructed identities to help them cope with a world that is complex, horrifying, and possesses problems far too large for any single person to fix. In this case, that sense of constructed confidence proves quite valuable; Dan may not be able to save the world, but he does genuinely make it better by saving several people’s lives.
After they leave the survivors safely on the ground, Dan and Laurie fly back into the clouds, laughing about what they’ve just done. They start kissing and have sex on the floor of the airship while it flies through the night. As they lie together, Laurie asks Dan if he feels better now. He tells her he does; he feels powerful again, ready to take on the world. However, he thinks they have “an obligation to [their] fraternity.” He thinks they should break Rorschach out of jail.
Just as Dan’s sexual impotence mirrored his feeling of personal powerlessness, his returned sexual ability reflects his feeling of restored confidence and vigor. Dan’s role as a vigilante appears to have as much benefit for him as it has for society, again suggesting that some heroes may be motivated more by what they get from their work, rather than what they give to others.
“Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas” by Daniel Dreiberg: In an article written for an ornithological journal, Daniel says that owl enthusiasts can sometimes become so engaged with the scientific minutiae of how the birds function that they lose their sense of grandeur and mysticism. He recounts how he once became so preoccupied with the fine biology of an owl that he forgot the magic of it, the powerful presence that made the Greeks revere owls and incorporate them into their mythology.
Daniel’s belief that romance and mysticism are as valuable as technical knowledge echoes his return to vigilante work, in which he finds a sense of romantic adventure—even though he earlier admitted that it’s all childish, “flash and thunder,” and does not actually accomplish much.