What can we learn about Overwatch lore from the Blackwatch character skins?
The characters from Overwatch are not just a group of vigilante special ops agents sent to protect the world. Overwatch was formed, officially, to combat the Omnic Crisis. Within Overwatch, however, another group existed specifically for handling black ops (covert) scenarios. This team was called Blackwatch. If Overwatch were The Avengers then Blackwatch would be Black Widow, carrying out secret missions within a mission. We can explore the darker side of Overwatch lore through the Blackwatch skins.
Omnica Corporation created consumer-grade robotics to level the economic playing field across the globe. The company, however, was discovered to be corrupt and their omnics—robots—were deactivated. The robots reactivated themselves and began an uprising; think Cybernet from Terminator. The Overwatch team was called upon to stop the uprising. Blackwatch was a team within Overwatch that executed secret missions, many of which were morally questionable, including assassinations and torturing prisoners.
Blackwatch consisted of Gabriel Reyes, Jesse McCree, and Genji Shimada. Because of Blackwatch’s reputation, Overwatch members, by affiliation, were barred from entering certain countries. Overwatch still sent in Blackwatch operatives to gather intelligence and carry out missions in these forbidden countries. For example, Overwatch sent McCree into London seven years prior to the events that take place in-game. He was sent to gather intelligence on the King’s Row Uprising.
Blackwatch, commanded by Gabriel Reyes, had a serious problem with Jack Morrison being promoted to Strike Commander of Overwatch. In addition, Overwatch was plagued by rumors of corruption and carrying out secret assassination missions. While Overwatch was very much public, the Blackwatch team was not, but there were rumors. When the Japanese government filed a complaint, other nations joined in petitioning the United Nations to investigate and put a stop to their “aggressive and repeated violations of many countries’ sovereignty”.
So, what does this have to do with the new Blackwatch skins? Everything! Gabriel Reyes and Jack Morrison were best friends—military pals. They joined the soldier enhancement program together and were recruited, along with others, into Overwatch to help solve the international Omnic Crisis—essentially, Judgment Day. Reyes was named commander of Blackwatch, but Morrison was the glue that held the team together. After saving the world, Morrison was promoted to Overwatch Commander, which put a lot of tension on his friendship with Reyes. Reyes’s resentment continued to grow and came to an explosive head at Overwatch’s Swiss headquarters. The pair fought, resulting in a deadly explosion that reduced the building to rubble and killed both Morrison and Reyes. Overwatch was disbanded shortly afterward.
Five years after Overwatch was disbanded, an unidentified vigilante that news reports described as having superhuman powers began targeting financial institutions and former Overwatch facilities. Helix International authorities tried to catch him at one of the crime scenes but were unable to. After a forensics team analyzed the security footage, the unidentified man that the news referred to as Soldier: 76 was revealed to be Jack Morrison.
Morrison, though he fit the description, was no longer alive, but replaced by what seemed to be a (superhuman) man named Soldier: 76, on a mission for information. When Soldier: 76 appeared, a deadly and ruthless mercenary called Reaper also emerged. He was remorseless, and unstoppable, leaving behind a trail of pale, lifeless corpses that showed signs of intensely advanced decay. Rumors suggested that Reaper was a genetic experiment gone wrong, the failed alteration causing his body to both decay and regenerate at an accelerated rate. And perhaps he was. In the game, Reaper and Mercy have an exchange that alludes to her saving his life, as she did with Genji Shimoda:
Mercy: What happened to you?!
Reaper: You tell me, Doc.
Mercy: This is not what I intended for you, Reyes.
Reaper: You knew exactly what were you doing.
Genji Shimoda, the younger brother of Hanzo, was kind of a failed ninja, opting to live the luxurious life instead of training. Hanzo tried to get him in line, but Genji was hardheaded. After their father’s death, Genji and Hanzo got into a heated fight that resulted in Genji being near death. Hanzo thought he was dead, but through the “mercy” of a talented Overwatch medic, Dr. Angela Ziegler, Genji was saved with the use of cybernetic technology. Genji was now part man, part robot and fit in with neither.
While the game itself reveals very little lore, Blizzard loves to tease its customers and fans with trailers, cartoon shorts, and short stories. There’s always a method to Blizzard’s maddening genius, and the Overwatch lore with skin reveal is definitely one of those. Overwatch’s dark past gives players new skins to enjoy. The new Overwatch skins represent who each character was during the Omni Crisis. Not every member of team Overwatch was in Blackwatch.