Well, the ending to last week’s episode really hit like a hammer to the temple, if you know what I mean. Confirming a semi-popular fan theory, Cal is in fact Dr. Manhattan. Or rather, it appears that Cal is an unassuming vessel for Dr. Manhattan.
Right away, I did a double-take at the title card, which is actually styled as “A GOD WALKS INTO ABAR.” Manhattan is about to meet Ms. Angela Abar. Clever. The universe’s most powerful nudist has chosen to disguise himself to avoid being recognized, as he is worshipped and hated in equal measure here in Vietnam. He approaches Angela as she sits and drinks alone on the anniversary of her parents’ death at the hands of a Vietnamese extremist.
The episode is a true masterstroke in writing, direction and editing in how it conveys the way in which Dr. Manhattan experiences time. He experiences everything at once—past, present and future. In the same way one would recall a memory from years ago or predict something in the future, he experiences it right now. Most of the episode outlines Manhattan’s first meeting with Angela and fills in some backstory for him. The biggest takeaway here is that Veidt’s castle and Philips and Crookshanks are replicas from when pre-Manhattan Jon Osterman and his father were welcomed into the manor of a wealthy couple in England. After he witnesses them going at it and gets a very awkward lesson on the birds and the bees, he is gifted a Bible and asked to create something beautiful in adulthood.
That something beautiful is the Europa countryside, modeled after the manor. The episode is very particular in how Manhattan creates his Adam and Eve: the replicas of the lord and lady of the manor are created from the “microbes in the water.” As far as we know, Manhattan only ever created these two. He mentions they experience “accelerated biomechanical maturation.” Now, earlier we see Veidt pulling similar-looking infants from the lake, and putting them into a machine to cause them to mature to adulthood. Someone, perhaps Veidt, has figured out a synthetic way to mature these babies, but why are there so many down there? This would not be the only appearance of synthetic humans in the show thus far, as Trieu’s “daughter” is, in fact, a clone of her own mother. Is there something to be said about the fallacy of creating life when it’s not meant to be? Or perhaps does it tear down the idea that Manhattan has the exclusive ability to create life?
As good as everything is so far, one of the best scenes of the episode involves Manhattan visiting Adrian Veidt, who has let his swanky Egyptian-themed Antarctic lair decay into a Saturday morning hangover bachelor pad. Veidt has grown frustrated that his plan to save civilization has only resulted in them continuing to manufacture armaments—although more notably, he was never recognized for saving the world. We are also reminded that the obscenely well-endowed Dr. Manhattan has what appears to be an entire Pringles can covered in skin hanging between his legs.
Despite Veidt attempting to disintegrate Manhattan at the climax of the original story, the two let bygones be bygones. During their chat, we see that the Antarctic base is the source of the cephalopod rain from the pilot. Veidt also reveals his original plan to defeat Dr. Manhattan: a small device reminiscent of the mark on Manhattan’s head that, when physically placed into his head, erases his memories of being a god.
In exchange, Veidt voices regret that he is not revered for his savior role. Dr. Manhattan mentions the world he created on Europa, populated by an “Adam and Eve” that possess little more than unconditional reverence for their master. Veidt believes this sounds like a paradise, and emotionally asks for Manhattan to send him there. Ironically, once Manhattan has his memories erased, he is no longer aware of what he did and that’s why Veidt is trapped.
As far as where this sits in the overall timeline of the show, consider that this scene takes place in 2009. We’ve seen multiple “anniversaries,” which mark the years Veidt has been trapped here. A cake with seven candles is shown at the end, which would place Veidt’s current position in 2016, three years before the events of the main storyline. It also stands to reason that Veidt, as some have said, is the comet falling from the sky when Trieu purchases the ranch in Episode 4.
So what is this alliance that Manhattan proposes with Will? During the conversation in the bar, Dr. Manhattan states that, theoretically, he could transfer power to an object—in this case, an egg—and whoever would consume that egg would inherit his powers. Way back in the sophomore episode, when Angela interrogates Will, he is able to both drink hot coffee immediately with no issue, and pull an egg from boiling water with his bare hands. Along with Will’s wardrobe color scheme, that was a good tell that he was Hooded Justice. But what if he’s more than that? When Will claims to be Dr. Manhattan and says that Manhattan can assume any form he wishes, Angela calls bullshit—because now we know that she’s knowingly been living with Dr. Manhattan for years.
Angela asks Manhattan to ask Will 10 years ago how he knew Judd was a member of Cyclops and had Klan robes in his closet. This is a revelation to Will—and Angela realizes with horror that she just fed him this information, and she may in fact be responsible for Judd’s death. Manhattan compares this to the chicken and egg paradox. If Will didn’t receive information from a decade in the future, would he have killed Judd? When he killed Judd, Angela had not yet asked Manhattan to grill Will on Judd.
Dr. Manhattan reveals that he is aware that the 7th Kavalry is parked across the street and that they are going to kidnap him. He knows this because, again, he is essentially omniscient and he can already see the future in which he is kidnapped. Angela refuses to accept this, and suits up, prepared to fight the 7K and save her husband. Manhattan declares that this is the moment he falls in love with Angela because even after being told she cannot save her husband, she attempts to do so anyway. What follows is one of the most moving and tense sequences of the season as Angela boldly storms out and slaughters the 7K coming to steal her husband. He eventually comes out to save her, finishing the battle by popping some noggins, but is still taken by the 7K and accepts his fate.
I believe this is setting up a scenario in which Dr. Manhattan is proven somewhat wrong in his omniscience and that the future can be changed. He has seen that he is doomed. The entire character of Dr. Manhattan, in part, involves a deep, nihilistic melancholy and boredom. He was revered by Philips and Crookshanks when he created them, and left. He felt nothing towards humanity in the original novel, and left. Dr. Manhattan resigns himself to the painful existence of omniscience, and even mentions the tantalizing feeling of the unknown when the tachyons in the novel clouded his mind.
Veidt accuses Dr. Manhattan of having a limited imagination. In theory, he could change the future. All he has to do is vaporize the cannon that teleports him to the 7k warehouse. But since he experiences all time at once, he has resigned himself to that fate. But what if he imagines an alternative future in which he survives? This might well be integral to the finale, in which Senator Keene attempts to become Dr. Manhattan. Manhattan may be faced with the opportunity to reject his fate and save Tulsa, changing a future he’s already seen and embracing the possibility of uncertainty.
“Enjoy Your Fucking Cake”
Before a teaser for the season finale, we get a post-credits sequence of Veidt experiencing his punishment at the hands of the multitude of Philipses and Crookshankses. Each one asks if Veidt will stay, and upon rejection, smash a tomato in his face. Later, Veidt is sitting in his jail cell and the Game Warden enters with a cake bearing seven candles.
In regards to the book he’s reading, Veidt remarks that it’s about loneliness and the Warden “wouldn’t understand.” The Warden reveals that he is the original Philips, created by Dr. Manhattan and disillusioned when Manhattan chose to leave. Veidt then mentions his “eight million children” and states that “heaven doesn’t need me.” From the latter, he’s remarking this “Paradise” Manhattan sent him to isn’t what he thought it was. But what of the eight million children? That’s a specific number and feels like too many to just be referring to the clones.
He finds in the cake a horseshoe, and delightedly begins to dig at the ground with it. This is a callback to the pilot, in which Philips and Crookshanks first present Veidt with a cake to celebrate his anniversary. To cut the cake, Philips hands Veidt a horseshoe. The Game Warden says that Philips and Crookshanks insisted on the cake. So they must have planted the horseshoe, and therefore wanted him to escape. I believe that Philips and Crookshanks have evolved past their unflinching, clingy love they felt for Dr. Manhattan and the tomato smashing was an act. They want what is best for Veidt. After all, they’ve spent a large part of the season assisting him in his wild schemes to escape.
I thought the Beastie Boys’ “Egg Man” was a cheeky choice for a song. And then I realized what was playing during Dr. Manhattan’s monologue in the bar. “The Blue Danube Waltz.” And then later, The Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue.” And then I rewatched it and realized “Rhapsody in Blue” briefly plays at the episode’s opening.
Still no Lube Man. I feel like I’m going into Lube withdrawal. I haven’t craved the stuff this much for as long as I can remember. I miss our gangly, silver-spandex clad meme warrior more than I miss the touch of another human.
EGGS! GLORIOUS EGGS! There are enough eggs here to make up for the deficit two episodes ago. Making eggs, breaking eggs, talking about eggs—I thought Call Me By Your Name was the pinnacle of egg cravings but this one takes the henhouse.
Dr. Manhattan chugging the glass of beer Angela broke an egg into is the best flex of the week.
There is a suspicious correlation between certain people having sudden heart attacks and Dr. Manhattan. Did he kill Calvin to be able to take on his appearance, knowing that Angela would be pleased with that likeness?