Know Your Lore: Blackwatch and the mystery of Gabriel Reyes
What caused the fall of Gabriel Reyes? Some say it was resentment, others say jealousy. Both Reyes and Jack Morrison were part of a soldier enhancement program, and both were picked for Overwatch during the Omnic Crisis. Initially, Reyes was the leader of the group. But after the Omnic Crisis ended, leadership was handed over to Morrison, who had demonstrated greater leadership potential during the conflict.
Certainly that was enough to generate animosity. But was it enough to make Reyes ultimately switch sides? Was it enough to transform a once-proud soldier into a killing machine, devoid of remorse? Was it enough to push Reyes from the arms of Overwatch to the one enemy the organization couldn’t seem to take down?
The rise of Blackwatch
Reyes wasn’t left to wilt under Morrison’s command. Instead he was given a command of his own: Blackwatch. It was the covert ops division of Overwatch, kept secret from the public eye. And for good reason — while Overwatch made sure never to overstep boundaries, Blackwatch repeatedly crossed the line. Overwatch diligently followed the rules – Blackwatch stepped in behind the scenes when those rules got in the way.
Reyes had a variety of agents under his command, but only three are known so far. Jesse McCree, former member of the Deadlock Gang, who was given a choice between rotting in prison or joining Blackwatch. Genji Shimada, youngest son of the Shimada clan, long known for their criminal activities. Moira O’Deorain, a brilliant but controversial scientist whose dangerous experiments led the medical community to question her ethics.
All three known members have something in common: a remarkably shady past. Perhaps Reyes thought that people with darker backgrounds would have little issue with skirting the edge of the law. Perhaps he needed a crew that wouldn’t ask too many questions. Either way, Blackwatch secretly carried out the jobs Overwatch couldn’t handle, with varying degrees of success.
On the hunt for Talon
Eight years before Winston’s recall, Overwatch was deeply involved in operations surrounding the takedown of a terrorist group known as Talon. Spearheading the efforts was agent Gérard Lacroix, who was entirely too good at his job for Talon to ignore. Over the course of his operations, Lacroix managed to compile enough evidence to become a major thorn in Talon’s side.
An attack on Overwatch’s Oslo facilities drew Lacroix’s attention to a man named Antonio Bartalotti, so Lacroix met up with Reyes and Agent McCree at a newly-built Blackwatch facility in Rome to discuss the case. Thanks to the intelligence he’d gathered, he knew that Bartalotti had a compound in Venice. He also had enough information to quietly start moving against Bartalotti’s supporters, which would eventually enable Overwatch to move on Antonio directly.
But Talon was already two steps ahead of Lacroix. Just after Reyes and McCree said their goodbyes and left the facility, it was destroyed in a massive explosion set by a Talon agent. Reyes managed to rescue Lacroix, but other Blackwatch agents weren’t so lucky. Many of them died in the attack, leaving Reyes angry – and hungry for revenge. Morrison wanted to do things by the book, but he eventually relented, and left the final call up to Gabriel. Reyes promptly gathered his best agents to infiltrate the Venice compound and capture Bartalotti. Though Lacroix survived, Talon hit hard in Rome. Reyes hoped to learn enough from interrogating Bartalotti to hit Talon back even harder.
Blackwatch continues to create controversy
But something went horribly wrong. They took all due care to set up surveillance, and entered the compound under the cover of night. Despite their precautions, the infiltration was discovered. Gabriel Reyes may have been hoping for retribution, but what he got was a veritable army of Talon soldiers. Reyes, McCree, Genji, and Moira had to fight their way out of the compound. They managed to escape, but the incident brought Moira’s employment with Blackwatch to light. Many high-ranking Overwatch officials later disavowed any knowledge of her affiliation.
One year later, Blackwatch caused more issues, the details of which are currently unknown — but whatever happened, it caused the Japanese government to issue a formal complaint that put Blackwatch and its agents under immediate suspension. Gabriel and his team weren’t interested in following orders, however. In London, McCree quietly scouted out the Null Sector uprising in direct violation of Blackwatch’s suspension — and on top of that, Overwatch had been forbidden from operating in England.
Morrison was, once again, going to play by the book. But Lena Oxton persuaded him otherwise. Overwatch ended up quashing Null Sector’s uprising. But it was already too late for Overwatch. All the heroics in the world couldn’t offset the allegations mounting against the group. Rumors swirled of black-ops missions, assassinations, kidnapping, and coercion… the evidence was piled so high that there was no coming back from it.
The fall of Overwatch
It was the discovery of Blackwatch that signaled the death knell for Overwatch. Governments across the world called for the UN to shut down the organization, citing repeated violations of many countries’ sovereignty. And the public, once so adoring, was quick to turn on the former heroes of the Omnic Crisis, while tensions continued to build between Reyes and Morrison. Not long after, a deadly accident at the Swiss headquarters resulted in an explosion that destroyed the facility — and Reyes and Morrison were both presumed dead.
In the wake of the incident, the full extent of Overwatch’s transgressions was discovered. Overwatch still had supporters — but even they couldn’t deny the evidence that continued to pile up. Eventually, the UN disbanded the group in disgrace. The Petras Act was enacted, deeming any Overwatch activity illegal. Former agents went their separate ways, although some remained in touch.
Sometime after, reports of a volatile mercenary began to surface. Known only as “Reaper,” the shadowy figure’s motives and identity were a mystery. A ruthless and remorseless killer, he led several attacks all over the globe – leading some to surmise he was trying to systematically eliminate former Overwatch agents.
They were correct.
The descent of Gabriel Reyes
This is where the situation gets interesting – Reaper, a.k.a. Gabriel Reyes, is working for Talon. It’s a group he supposedly held no love for. He’s striking out – deliberately – at Overwatch, an organization he supposedly supported. In the span of just a few short years, Gabriel switched sides. It seems a little odd, especially given how adamant Reyes was about striking back at the group following the attack in Rome.
Reaper displays some unusual characteristics. The few bodies of his victims were husks devoid of life, their cells showing signs of massive degradation. As for Reaper, it’s speculated that he’s some byproduct of failed genetic alteration. The alteration forces his cells to decay and regenerate at a hyper-accelerated rate, lending to his ghostly visage.
Here’s the thing – Reyes was beginning to display these tendencies while he was working for Overwatch. He brought Moira on board with Blackwatch specifically because he wanted advice on matters pertaining to genetics – her specialty. Reaper’s abilities aren’t some kind of trade-off with Talon, a reward for deeds carried out. They’re something Reyes has had all along.
All of this makes me wonder – did Reyes buckle under the pressures of being passed over for leadership, or was there something seriously wrong with him? Something that no one, not even Morrison, knew about? There were rumors that Moira had been funded by Talon for years. Was this also during her involvement with Blackwatch? Were her experiments on Gabriel Reyes in part responsible for his decision to join Talon as Reaper?
Or was there something bigger going on, something dating even further back? Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes were chosen to join Overwatch. But before the days of the Omnic Crisis, both were involved in a super soldier program we know little about. That program is still classified, although controversial. Supposedly, military scientists shaped Reyes, Morrison, and others into “perfect soldiers,” genetically gifting them with superhuman speed, strength, and agility.
What if something went horribly wrong with Reyes? What if he kept that under wraps – told no one, not even Morrison? Was Moira brought on to help Blackwatch… or was she brought on to try and help Reyes with a condition he didn’t understand? Did she in fact help him… or did she deliberately make matters worse?
Gabriel Reyes is dead, as far as the public is concerned. Whether or not any shred of the man he once was still exists behind that hollow-eyed mask is a mystery. So too, is his continued involvement with a group he once reviled. Was it mere jealousy that fueled the animosity between Morrison and Reyes? Or is there more to that story that we’ve yet to discover? We’ll have to wait and see what kind of stories the Overwatch team has up their sleeve to find out.
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