Welcome back, dear reader, to your one-stop-shop for all the latest and greatest theories and analysis following the airing of HBO’s Watchmen S1E6 “Little Fear of Lightning.” As a reminder, this article will be chock-full of spoilers. I’ve scrubbed internet forums, YouTube videos, podcasts, preview clips, and various interviews, so you don’t have to. Be forewarned; if it’s publicly available, we’ll be talking about it here.
If that’s not your cup of tea, you might rather check out 25YL’s weekly recap and review written by Laura Stewart this week.
Still here? Great! “Time to come out of the tunnel.”
PeteyPedia (and Other Supplemental Material)
Only two new files in the PeteyPedia files this week:
- MEMO: The Original Story of “Sister Night” – Another internal FBI memo from Agent Petey, outlining his research into the movie Sister Night, from which Detective Abar takes her masked persona. It was part of a subgenre of “black mask” movies, parodying/responding to masked vigilantes in the run-up before the Keene Act finally outlawed them. There is mention of The Black Superman, which we had discussed way back in Episode 1. Also humorous is that Batman is touted as an expression of the Nite Owl archetype (which would be the other way around in our universe). Lastly, Agent Petey finds out that after the Gardner estate found Will Reeves working at a theater in NYC in 1975, he bought that theater a year later (so he obviously accepted the Gardner estate), and since 2017 he’s been running Sister Night as a midnight movie—the same year Angela took on the name as her masked persona.
- EVIDENCE: Calvin Jelani medical report (12/23/09) – This is the hospital intake form and doctor’s report for Cal’s “accident” In 2009. Their story was that Angela found Cal wandering around Bom Laird Plaza (named after U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird?) four days prior and finally convinced him to come in for an examination. He has a probably manufactured background as a construction worker who arrived nine months earlier and had been out of work at the time. His last job was with Pyramid Global Construction (likely a Veidt-owned company). Strangely, they list a medical history for his father (heart disease and Alzheimer’s) but give his mother and grandparent’s medical history as “unknown to patient.” The doctor notes his “great interest” in her Dr. Manhattan bobblehead figure.
Yet another source of in-world data dumps has been HBO EXTRAS, an app for HBO Digital Latin America that gives additional background information at seemingly random times throughout the episode. Another hero of the internet has been capturing images from these popups and posting them to Reddit.
Hopefully, if you’ve been reading these articles carefully, this week’s big reveal didn’t come as too much of a surprise to you. I’ll be honest, I never gave the theory too much credence, so I was a bit surprised that they did indeed go there. I still think they have a bit of justification to do next episode, but I also completely trust that it will make so much sense that I’ll wonder if Alan Moore didn’t have that in mind from the beginning.
The revelation makes a lot of pieces from past episodes fall into place. For example, the seemingly instinctual cattiness between Angela (his current) and Laurie (his ex). When Will Reeves was razzing Angela about him being Dr. Manhattan in human form, that’s because he already knew their secret.
Was there a Cal before the accident? According to the hospital form from PeteyPedia, Cal had a full name, first and last, a birth date, and knowledge of his father’s medical history—quite a lot of info for a full amnesiac. Perhaps the “accident” killed the real Cal, a conveniently untethered construction worker presumably with no living relatives. If Cal was a real person before, taking Angela’s last name when they married would be a good way of hiding him from anyone trying to find the “old” Cal.
Or is “Cal” a made being like a “Philips” or “Crookshanks?” The doctor at the hospital describes Cal as “uncommonly passive and quiet,” and notes that “Officer Abar did most of talking.” Not unlike a certain pair of newly minted servants. Maybe all of those details to Cal’s background were made up. His last place of employment is listed as “Pyramid Global Construction,” which is likely a Veidt-owned company. It’s good to have friends in high places.
Trieu tells Angela matter of factually that Dr. Manhattan is not on Mars. She should know, it’s her “Eye on Mars” satellite that is beaming back images of him building/destroying sandcastles, over and over again. Images that she must be faking. Same as her Blue Booth Network—it’s all lies. Like the squidfall, except that she’s trying to keep humanity together through false hope instead of false fear.
The Elephant in the Room
All of our past theorizing did not, however, prepare us for the revelation that Angela was hooked up to a freaking elephant!! And not, as even she assumed, her grandfather. The tutorial injection (how cool was that?) tells Angela, “Mnemodialysis saturates the brain with cerebrospinal fluid provided by a natural host and literally flushes Nostalgia from the cortex.” So, in theory, the elephant next door was merely that “natural host.”
Now that we have a better look at the Trieu logo, we see it is a “T” that also contains the image of an elephant head. The Lady Trieu of Vietnamese legend is often pictured riding an elephant, and we’ve seen various elephant paraphernalia surrounding Lady Trieu, like the hourglass she pulls out at the Clark farm. It would make a highly appropriate mascot for a company whose first product was memories in pill form. Elephants are known for having extremely good memories and never forgetting. There was also a phrase used in the 20th century, “seeing the elephant,” which meant “gaining experience of the world at a significant cost.” Seems very appropriate.
This may be a stretch, but the logo also potentially has a hidden “A.V.” (as in Adrian Veidt) embedded in it. And maybe, just maybe, those are Batman: Dark Knight logo wings for the ears? OK, that’s probably taking things too far.
Blue Man Group
The first question to address concerning Senator Keene and the 7K/Cyclops group is how they came to know that Cal was Dr. Manhattan. Best guess, and this is what I’m going with, is that under mortal threat, Cal revealed himself on “White Night.” Maybe he was even shot and “died,” only to rise again as Dr. Manhattan. This would go a long way towards explaining what happened to Angela’s second attacker (discorporated, thus leaving no evidence). Jane tells Laurie that the original plan was just to get Joe elected president, “but something extraordinary happened, and suddenly, president seemed a bit small potatoes.”
There’s still a little bit of a gap there as to how that knowledge would have gotten back to the Seventh Kavalry if all the 7K guys at her house were dead. But maybe there was a driver outside or a third attacker who got away, having seen the blue glow. Or some power surge or some other identifying factor was introduced that allowed Keene to discover who Cal really is. There’s any number of ways around that minor problem.
Laurie identifies what the 7K/Cyclops people are building as a “cage” and Lady Trieu said much the same thing (“they’re going to capture Dr. Manhattan”). OK, so it’s a cage, but how do they keep Dr. Manhattan in said cage, let alone propose to destroy him? Perhaps the chip that Angela removed from Cal somehow inhibits Dr. Manhattan’s powers? It would almost have to for him to achieve his human form trick. It also makes sense that the only one who could really have found a weakness would be Dr. Manhattan himself.
Is Laurie the bait for this trap? Unlikely. For one thing, it’s harsh to say it, but Jon has moved on to his next (jail) “bait” girlfriend. Laurie may still be pining away for him, but he’s not still pining away for her. While Keene did purposely draw her into the mix in Tulsa, she’s not integral to their plan. Jane Crawford told him that he was tempting fate and she wants to kill Laurie. Before Laurie cuts him off, it seems that Keene is going to tell her that he just couldn’t resist the irony of having here there to witness what they are about to do to Dr. Manhattan. Aside from that juicy irony though, Laurie is really there to rein in the police, in the way that Judd failed to do. Keene knows she hates masked vigilantes, and masked cops even more so.
In this episode, once again, they were pretty explicit in showing us that the 7K/Cyclops folks were using equipment with the Trieu logo. This would seem to indicate that there is some degree of cooperation between the two groups. We know that, even if they are playing nice in the open, Trieu is all set to backstab Keene before they accomplish their ends. Likewise, It remains to be seen what Keene plans to do.
How does Keene hope to become Dr. Manhattan? We had a hint dropped earlier that the Russians are building their own intrinsic field generator. Let’s face it though, in the last 30+ years, there is absolutely no doubt that many countries have tried to recreate the Dr. Manhattan experiment. The U.S. being first in that line, having the one that actually produced him. So that doesn’t work. There is something special about Jon Osterman.
However, now we have Nostalgia and maybe other technological means of memory transference. If Jon’s memories of how he rebuilt himself could be captured and transferred to another person, that person could perform the trick. Like the injection tutorial that Angela gets from Trieu. Maybe you could even produce an army of uber-men.
A Dark Trumpet of Flatulence
As the Hollywood Reporter podcast put it, “Law & Order: Europa is lit. Actually, don’t light a match because you might be in trouble.” So, has the entire season of Ozymandias content just been the big lead into a fart joke? Geez, let’s hope not.
It’s not just Ozymandias who is not taking the trial seriously though. The prosecutor gives Adrian a wink after she wraps up her case. The Game Warden unleashed a pack of swine and talks to one to ask for her verdict. The enthusiasm of the Philips and Crookshanks shouting “Guilty!” is comical. Even the fact that the trial has dragged on for an entire year, and all of that being dedicated to just the prosecution’s case, is a bit of a joke in and of itself.
Is this another play? Is Adrian acting out the trial he never had for his crimes back on Earth? Perhaps working through his guilt while he waits for rescue? Veidt did shed a tear at the end, but then again, recalling his direction to Ms. Crookshanks, “Real tears tonight, yeah?”
Just to clarify, this is the anniversary of Adrian’s sixth year in his paradise-cum-prison. There are still some people hanging on to the idea that all of this is happening to Veidt in the course of days, weeks, or at the most a few months. Lindelof has confirmed this one year per episode pace, although we skipped the last episode; thus, we are on Episode 7/year 6. Per the preview scenes, we will see him with his 7th-anniversary cake in a dungeon next episode. I presume that should be when his prison escape really concludes.
We’ve bounced back and forth about Veidt’s “save me” message and who the “D…” is intended to be. Regardless of what the D-word ends up being, there seem to be three possibilities for his would-be rescuer:
- Manhattan – The one best suited for the job. He could snap his fingers, go there and come back with Adrian in tow. However, if Manhattan has been disguised as Cal for the last ten years, he would not be able to receive Adrian’s “save me” message.
- Lady Trieu – This is my favorite. Firstly, she’s an excellent candidate for receiving the message, since she seems to be running her own independent space program. Maybe that wasn’t Juno, but rather one of her own satellites (perhaps even one specifically monitoring that Europa vivarium bubble?). She may have gotten the message two years ago and embarked on building the Millennium Clock as a means of rescuing Veidt. Or she may have sent rescue out to him years ago, and that thing that crashed on the Clark farm was a reentry vehicle of some sort. With our current technology, a trip to Jupiter would take six years, but she seems to have invented a better propulsion system for her interstellar probes. Maybe the timelines could be made to work out there.
- Senator Keene / 7th Kavalry – People have theorized that the 7K has it in for Veidt and would love to drag him back to Earth for besmirching their hero, Rorschach. Keene’s reveal of their plan being targeted against Dr. Manhattan seems to put that theory on the back burner. However, as I’ve pointed out in some of the interviews, both Laurie Blake and Looking Glass are apparently going to have scenes with Adrian Veidt. Those two are currently locked in on the 7K side of things, so it would seem that’s where Veidt is headed as well.
We also still don’t quite know who imprisoned Veidt. The window for it being Dr. Manhattan was a bit narrowed though, since Veidt’s last public appearance was 2007 and Dr. Manhattan became Cal in 2009. However, what if Jon and Adrian came to an understanding before Jon went into hiding? Like Dr. Manhattan recognized that if he became human, Adrian would be left unchecked, so he needed to put Adrian somewhere where he couldn’t do any harm. Adrian, aging and tiring of trying to save humanity, voluntarily went and handed off his remaining plans to Lady Trieu. That timing matches up pretty well. (Credit: Daily DVR podcast)
A Secret Plan to Save Humanity
In her invocation, Lady Trieu laments the failure of Nostalgia. She intended it to allow people to visit the past and learn from their mistakes. Instead, they fixated on their most painful memories as an excuse not to move forward. Does this imply that what the Millennium Clock’s purpose, her “life’s work,” is to remove trauma? The mnemodialysis treatment Angela receives “literally flushes Nostalgia from the cortex.” She gave people nostalgia and it backfired. Now perhaps, she is going to erase nostalgia.
We still haven’t resolved what exactly was Will’s betrayal of Angela? He shared the knowledge of Cal’s secret identity with Lady Trieu, and that was kind of bad, but does it amount to a betrayal? And who found out first, him or the 7th Kavalry/Cyclops? I would guess the latter, and then through Reeves’ keeping tabs on Cyclops’ activities, he found out.
Notice that Lady Trieu told Angela that her secret plan is to save humanity. She hasn’t said anything about saving Dr. Manhattan. I suspect that her plan involves the destruction of Dr. Manhattan as well, to ensure his power never falls into the wrong hands, as it did during the Vietnam War. And maybe, as we’ve discussed, a little payback for the Vietnam War. Redditor u/HonJudgeFudge articulates this theory really well through a philosophical lens, and I can only recommend you read their words directly.
Laurie’s Blue Booth Network Call (A Little Tangent)
The Lost Boys podcast thought Laurie’s Blue Booth conversation Angela saw might have been different from the one we saw her record in Episode 3, so I took a look. Weirdly, it is and it isn’t. From the closed captions (via my favorite site in the world, Springfield! Springfield!), here’s how it played out:
- “I don’t know why I keep coming to these stupid phone booths and telling you jokes.
- It’s not like you ever had a sense of humor.
- You’re never gonna hear this anyway probably.
- But sometimes it’s, you know, it’s nice to sometimes it’s nice to pretend.”
- “I don’t know why I keep coming to these stupid phone booths and telling you jokes.
- It’s not like you ever had a sense of humor.
- I know you’re probably never gonna hear this anyway.
- Sometimes, it’s… Sometimes it’s nice to pretend.”
So they start out the same, word-for-word, in the first two lines. Then they diverge in the second two lines, with slight variations in the wording, but essentially the same message. Very weird.
I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. Let’s outline some of the family trees involved in the show and clarify the lines of generational trauma, because I’ve seen a lot of confusion on many of these points both online and on podcasts (me too even):
- Keene: Senator J. David Keene Sr. (father), Senator Joseph D. Keene Jr. (son)
- Crawford: Marshall Dixon T. Crawford (great-grandfather), Sheriff Dale Dixon Crawford (grandfather), Highway Patrolman Matthew Wayne Crawford (father), Police Chief Judd Crawford (son)
- Trieu: Bian My (mother) / unknown (father), Lady Trieu (daughter)
- Abar/Reeves: Will Reeves (grandfather) / June Abar (grandmother), Marcus Abar (father), Angela Abar (daughter)
- Blake: Edward Blake (father) / Sally Jupiter (mother), Laurie Blake (daughter)
Another fulfilled theory is that Bian doesn’t just share the name of Lady Trieu’s mother, Bian My, she is actually a no-kidding clone of her, and the memories she is being fed are her own. So there you have it, at long last, an undeniable human clone. However, this one example does not validate all of the other crazy clone theories. Such as:
- Lady Trieu is not a clone of Ozymandias – She has a birth mother who documented her upbringing in a book, long before the cloning technology came into play
- Angela is not a clone of June Reeves – She has a birth mother and father; plus she had a DNA test that identified her as Will’s granddaughter with some high per cent certainty, not as Will himself with 100% certainty
- Topher is not a clone of Dr. Manhattan – He had a birth mother and father (see the pattern?)
- Angela is not a clone of the dead Angela (killed in White Night)
- Keene is not a clone of his father
Note that Bian has been raised from an infant. She had to grow up, not just jump straight into mid-life. Now yes, Mr. Philips and Ms. Crookshanks are coming out of the Easy Bake™ Clone Oven as sort of fully-formed adults, but it’s that “sort of” part that puts a kink in things. Veidt looks on them as very flawed creations, not worthy of the gift of life—not something that could pass as a copy of an existing human, in other words. Maybe memories could be passed on, as Lady Trieu is doing with Bian, but apparently, the process is slow and takes time. You can’t just produce a copy and have it start doing your chores for you, Multiplicity style.
By the way, Lady Trieu is not, I repeat, not the daughter of the woman the Comedian killed in front of Dr. Manhattan. She was able to harvest her mother’s memories before she died, so her mother did not die back in the early 1970s while she was still a fetus. But wait, you say, she could always be the offspring of some other Vietnamese woman knocked up by the Comedian. That’s also a no though because that doesn’t jive with her father arriving soon. Sorry, it just doesn’t work. Let that theory go.
- I forgot to mention this last week, but the actor who played Hooded Justice on American Hero Story is Cheyenne Jackson, an openly gay actor featured in multiple seasons of American Horror Story.
- The hospital on Cal’s intake form is located at 51 Milhous Drive. “Milhous” is Richard Nixon’s middle name.
- Dave Gibbons himself illustrated the cardboard cutout of Dr. Manhattan that frames the documentary video playing in the video rental store.
- One of the videos on the rack is Fogdancing, a movie adaptation of the Max Shea novel.
- Also on the video rack is Silk Swingers, an adult B-movie based on the exploits of the original Silk Spectre.
- When Lady Trieu invites Angela to eat with her, there is a tray of very familiar-looking baby squids set out as part of the spread though these do not dissolve in 30 seconds.
- Cal is reading For Whom the Bell Tolls when Angela arrives home. The title of that book comes from a line in a poem by John Donne: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Appropriate for a god trying to experience humanity.
- Seeing Dr. Manhattan puppets is a nice callback to the line he has in the original comic, “We’re all puppets, Laurie. I’m just a puppet who can see the strings.”
- Jane Crawford’s trapdoor misfire was a nod to the classic Saturday Night Live skit, “Wilson Trap Doors.” The clicker even has the “Wilson” brand name on it. Oh, these writers. So clever. (Source: Reddit)
- Another possible missed clue? Sister Night = nun = married to god. (Credit: Reddit)
- Probably not intentional, but you never know: We had an A. Abar and a C. Abar. Now we have a B. Abar, as in Babar the Elephant. Yes, by all means, groan away.
- While we’re talking about plays on words, how about Joe Keene = Joking?
- When Angela woke up at the end of the last episode, Lady Trieu was reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
- Pachyderm Mom, the title of the book on parenting that Lady Trieu’s mother wrote, is a play on the “tiger parenting” technique popularized by the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.
- Lady Trieu’s hair has two spikes sticking down in the back, mimicking the tusks of the Trieu logo.
- Could the new U.S. flag, with the stars in a circle, be a nod to the Cyclops symbol? (Credit: Reddit)
- The title of this episode comes from Dr. Manhattan’s own words in the original comic, describing how the North Vietnamese would surrender to him. “They frequently bow before me. The terror they feel is balanced by an almost religious awe.”
- Could “SAVE ME D…” be “DAUGHTER?” As in the theory that Lady Trieu could somehow be Adrian Veidt’s daughter.
- From the PeteyPedia entry for Episode 1: “It’s been two decades since the Presley debacle, but the public has a way of remembering when someone who is supposed to be dead suddenly wanders into a nightclub in Hanoi on VVN Night and performs every one of his songs with “Blue” in the title (there are fifteen).” Could this have been Dr. Manhattan, practicing the trick of looking human and imitating whoever he wants?
- Phantastic Geeks podcast pointed out that Gardner’s will left the rights to both good guy characters (the Minutemen, Captain Metropolis) and bad guy characters (Screaming Skull, Captain Axis). This implies the bad guy characters were invented by Gardner, as a marketing ploy for the Minutemen. Very interesting.
- In case you missed it, one of the dead 7K guys in Looking Glass’ bunker was missing a mask. Guess who has that mask on right now and is infiltrating their not-so-secret-to-him headquarters?
- Many believe Laurie allowed herself to be captured since she is usually so quick to react. Maybe, but I think she was just surprised by Jane’s “cut the shit” attitude matching her own.
In this section, I’ll be pointing you to a few of the more interesting interviews with cast and crew. Super light one this week:
- It’s a minor thing, but in an interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Lindelof confirms the “Excalibur” pun was intentional.
My Own Thoughts
In this section, I pose some of my own thoughts and any unique theories I might be harboring.
- I believe Will Reeves is going to sacrifice himself as part of Trieu’s plan. She needs him for whatever she has in mind, and it is possible for him to get cold feet and break their deal. His involvement has to go beyond his betrayal of Angela, which is already occurred in the past (this being the sacrifice of her life with Cal, I presume). He’s reaching out to Angela now, his legacy, so that she can get to know him, understand why he is doing what he is doing, and maybe even hopefully forgive him.
- Cal’s amnesia story explains why Cal took on Angela’s last name when they married. Although the PeteyPedia hospital form assigns him a last name (“Calvin Jelani”). Again, did he exist before 2009 or not? We just can’t tell yet.
- Re-reading the Agent Petey memo against closing the case on Veidt’s disappearance (from Episode 1), he worries that doing so will stir up Rorschach-inspired extremists like the Seventh Kavalry who vilify Ozymandias. I wonder now, in hindsight, if Senator Keene Jr. might not have once again used his influence in the FBI to force that case to be closed, for the very reasons Agent Petey stated.
- I’ve planted a flag on Reddit with my own whack-a-doodle theory that Agent Petey is going to show up at 7K HQ as Lubeman in disguise with one of the other Rorschach masks, to save the day. A kind of “lubricatus ex machina.” Of course, I’ve also heard that the other four 7K guys look to have died from headshots, which would totally ruin my theory, but I haven’t had a chance to go back and look for myself.
- The official HBO synopsis for Episode 9 says “Everything ends. For real this time.” Maybe this will be a “real end” to Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan. Perhaps even Laurie Blake and Will Reeves too, leaving no one left from the original Watchmen (both the Minutemen and the Crimebusters) except for Dan Dreiberg in federal custody. A clean slate for a season two and beyond.
- I wonder now if the painting, signifying some level of leadership in the Cyclops organization, didn’t maybe belong to Jane Crawford, not her husband. This was a theory bandied about at the time, but I largely ignored it. Judd’s father seems to have broken the chain of Crawfords as top lawmen in the area, having only been a Highway Patrol officer. Judd was thrust into the position by being one of three survivors of “White Night,” maybe not by his plan but rather by Keene and Jane’s plan.
- Will refers to Bian as Lady Trieu’s daughter, so he does not know the truth about her being a clone. Is that relevant though?
- Will is also mysteriously missing since his last appearance at the end of Episode 4. Could his Rejuvenation have continued, regressing him back to a young or middle-aged man? Will he don the white paint once again and hide under a Rorschach mask, infiltrating the 7th Calvary to foil their plans?
- So let’s play out the Veidt exile scenario a little further. Jon and Adrian make their agreement in 2009 and go into their respective exiles. Adrian sends his “SAVE ME DAUGHTER” (let’s assume) message five years later, in 2014. That gives Lady Trieu five years to mount a rescue mission that will bring him back in time to witness the completion of her life’s work in 2019. Maybe he’s even been back for a while in the present timeline. Picture this: next episode someone shows up in a spacesuit to bust him out of his dungeon cell, takes off their helmet, and it’s Lady Trieu! Wouldn’t that just blow us away?
That’s it for this week. If you have any interesting theories or clever Easter eggs that I missed, let me know in the comments below, or catch me on Reddit as u/catnapspirit.
25YL is providing continual, in-depth coverage of HBO’s Watchmen, including:
- Tuesday: A weekly recap and commentary
- Thursday: “Behind the Mask” series covering the latest theories and analysis
- Saturday: A different Watchmen podcast reviewed on our “What’s the Buzz” series
- Saturday: A pre-episode reader poll