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Behind the Mask: Theories and Analysis for Watchmen S1E8

“A God Walks into Abar”

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 S1E8 “A God Walks into Abar.” 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 Hawk Ripjaw this week.

Still here? Great! “Watch the eggs.”

Historical Background

Here we review some of the real world history that the series is pointing us to:

  • Redditor u/H2Otoo saw a parallel between Angela having to kill Cal to revive Jon, and a real world proposal that came from the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” (the organization who maintain the “Doomsday Clock”). The proposal was that nuclear launch codes be implanted next to the heart of a volunteer, who would stay by the President’s side. If the President ever wanted to launch nuclear weapons, he would have to physically kill this person with his own bare hands to get to the codes.

Watchmen - PeteyPedia disk icon

PeteyPedia (and Other Supplemental Material)

Two new files in the PeteyPedia files this week:

  • MEMO: Fogdancing – This is an internal FBI memo from Agent Petey on the day after what he refers to as “the calamity in Greenwood.” Haz-Mat teams are collecting the remains of “Unidentified Subjects #1 and #2,” apparently scattered throughout the city, and other corpses should be intact and identifiable from the “wreckage.” Agent Blake remains missing and Agent Petey worries that she “has been claimed by the hail of destruction that rained down on Tulsa last night.” He then goes off on a tangent about some of the things he found in Detective Tillman’s squid shelter, being a copy of Max Shea’s Fogdancing and a complete set of Nothing Ever Ends periodicals devoted to Max Shea’s works. The latter connects personally to Dale, containing a reprint of his Fogdancing recap for a contest he submitted as a teenager.
  • CLIPPING: “Nothing Ever Ends” (December, 2005) – This is the teenage Dale Petey’s submission for the Fogdancing recap contest, recounting in his words the plot of the novel. The most important takeaway from all of this is his description of the Fogdancers, who were an elite type of Special Forces super soldier that handled the dirtiest of America’s wet-work jobs. They wear a “gas mask and skin-tight silver suit shimmering with SPF-666.” Sounds familiar. SFP-666 is apparently a gel that will even protect its wearer from fire. The suit is also later described as a “pearly Haz-Mat jumper and signature combat goggles.”

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.

Watchmen - A pair of blue hands, holding an egg in one
A magic trick involving an egg.

Walking on Water

Jon: You need to see me on the pool.
Angela: Why?
Jon: It’s important for later.

There is a lot of conversation about this little bit of dialogue between Angela and Jon. Why is it important for later?

When they met in Saigon, he told her the story about how he walked on water on Europa, knitting the bodies of his Adam and Eve from the microbes in the water. Maybe the clue is that he left something for her there. She has almost certainly been with him to Europa. This would make an excellent place for them to come on their first dates, before Jon assumed the Cal form. (Source: My own post on Reddit)

He could also have left something for her there in their own pool at home. That seems a bit too easy to me, and given the resonance of the two walking on water scenes in the same episode, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to link them.

So, what could he have left for her? Well, of course, that pool on Europa is the embryo hatchery, so maybe it’s a body. A new body to resurrect him into, perhaps? So she could embark on the same kind of project that Lady Trieu is with her mother-daughter Bian?

There was also the talk about transferring his power via “organic material,” i.e. an egg. This is what everyone is assuming and running after in the theories. So whether he left it for her in their pool, in the Europa pool, or in the egg carton in the fridge, let’s look at the implications of Dr. Manhattan being able to transfer his powers to Angela or anyone else.

Watchmen - Will Reeves stands in his doorway, looking at a person in a suit with their back to us
Will Reeves has a guest.

Dr. Old Man-Hattan

So, question number one, does Will Reeves have Dr. Manhattan’s powers? Remember way back in Episode 2 when he told Angela that he could manipulate material with his mind because maybe he’s Dr. Manhattan? He tells her that he thinks Dr. Manhattan can “make copies of himself,” “be in two places at the same time,” and “change the color of his skin.” Last episode, we thought that was because he knew Cal’s secret. Now it looks like he could have been talking about himself.

Think about this. When we see him looking younger talking to Lady Trieu, he looks pretty similar to how he looked ten years ago when he met Dr. Manhattan in New York. Like maybe this is the real Will Reeves—his default form—frozen at that moment in time. At Angela’s bakery, he reached into the pot of boiling water, extracted a hot egg, and ate it without so much as blowing on it. And at the end of Episode 2, as he’s whisked away by his “friends in high places,” the closing credits music is “Egg Man” by the Beastie Boys. Will is the Egg Man, having eaten an egg that gave him Dr. Manhattan powers.

This, more than anything, would also explain why Lady Trieu needs him and worries that he might get cold feet at the last moment. Maybe to destroy a Dr. Manhattan you need a Dr. Manhattan. If he does have the powers, WIll could even be in two places at once, with part of him at the Dreamland Theatre with the kids and part of him with Lady Trieu at the Millennium Clock facility.

Watchmen - Cal, in glowing blue, is standing on the surface of a pool as Angela talks to him from the sidelines
“It’s important for later.”

Dr. Wo-Man-Hattan

Question number two, does Angela already have Dr. Manhattan’s powers, and not know it?

Angela tells Jon, “One of them was about to shoot me in the kitchen, but you zapped him away,” and then he flashes to Adrian telling him, “Without the awareness of your abilities, you wouldn’t know to use them! Ah! Except perhaps as a reflex in life-threatening situations.” That’s a good enough explanation for Jon, so I see no reason to believe that they are trying to trick us and that Angela is really the one who reflexively zapped the second attacker away.

Now do I believe that Angela will go back to the pool when this is all over and there will be an egg floating in the pool or some such thing? Absolutely I do. Or maybe it’s waiting on Europa for her. I would bet the last scene of the series is her pulling something out of the pool and facing a decision, and it will cut away before we know what choice she makes.

That said, to play devil’s advocate for a second, the first scene we see Angela in involves eggs, with her cracking eggs over a clear bowl to make the infamous Watchmen smiley face. Yes, she does have a “blue glow” in the official HBO poster (as many a newly minted super sleuth has pointed out on Reddit this week). Now my retort would be that Jon was crystal clear to Angela that he would never pass his abilities without the recipient’s consent. But in this world of memory pills, mesmerism flashlights, and amnesia chips, could she have given consent in the past and then had her memory of it wiped? Never say never.

Watchmen - Looking down on a body pulled out of a morgue drawer and Angela reaches for another drawer
Angela takes Jon body shopping.

The Fourth Body (A Little Tangent)

While we’re talking about Angela, many are asking why she hesitated to show Jon the fourth body in the morgue. She rattles off the name, age, and specific cause of death for each of the first three. But with Calvin Jelani, she just gives his name, no age, and says that he “just dropped dead.” She apparently does know the full details though, as they are provided on the hospital medical record five and a half months later.

People are asking if maybe Dr. Manhattan might have killed him, knowing that Angela would want that body. I’m sorry though, that’s not how it works with his time perception. He credits Angela with this idea, and I think we should take him at his word on that. It’s unlikely that Angela did it, this being only two weeks after they met. Sure, she’s abusing her position here scoping out bodies at the morgue, but I don’t think that means she put one of them there. That would be pretty far out of character for her.

The most obvious reason seems to be because he was black. Granted, at least one of the guys she showed him was Vietnamese, but the other two looked to be white guys. Like Jon still is, at this point (albeit a blue white guy). He has to tease it out of her that she hasn’t presented him all of the options. She says she would “be comfortable” with this body, apparently as opposed to not being so comfortable with the others. She doesn’t want to come out and say it, that as a black woman she’d be more comfortable with a black man. It’s not the ‘80s anymore, but nonetheless, there it is.

She also knows she’s forcing a major change onto Jon for her “comfort.” He knows discrimination, having been hounded out of his homeland for being a Jew, but being a black man in America is a completely different deal. Adrian labels it as problematic “appropriation,” like he’s engaged in a god-level “blackface” farce. But Angela knows the truth.

Watchmen - Angela and the three kids look out of their bedroom window in surprise
The kids learn a secret about their dad.

Dr. Boy-Hattan

Question number three, does Topher have Dr. Manhattan’s powers? OK, personally I hate and despise all Topher/Dr. Manhattan theories. The kid built a castle with what essentially amounts to a boxed Lego kit, and now he’s just gotta be Dr. Manhattan? Pfft.

However, knowing how the writers love to work with plays on words, Topher is short for Christopher, a variation on Christ. Who walks on water, and is the son of a god. You see where they are going with this? Once again, my first critique would be Jon’s conversation with Angela about never passing on his abilities without the recipient’s consent. They were even explicitly talking about Topher and the two girls at the time. Even if there is a missing father-son chat scene that we’ve not yet been privy to, can a child really give informed consent? Especially to something as huge as this? I’m gonna say, no.

Watchmen - Jon and Cal are talking in front of the purple squidfall
It’s not the ’80s anymore, but Adrian loves him some “Purple Rain.”

The Crookshanks Redemption

The Game Warden says to Veidt, “If I didn’t know better, I’d assume you want to suffer.” This is exactly right. Veidt is right where he wants to be. This is why Crookshanks gave him a wink at the trial. He taught them how to act, and now they are putting what they have learned into action. (Don’t ask me how this knowledge passes on to the new servants after he slaughtered so many of them, including the original Philips being burned alive in the course of the play.) This is why Philips and Crookshanks hid the horseshoe in the cake. He needs it for something here, in this dungeon cell.

Many are pointing out the obvious role Veidt is playing in Dr. Manhattan’s little paradise on Europa. He is the Satan figure, teaching his Adam and Eve about deceit and opening their eyes to the greater world outside the Garden gates. There are so many things Veidt would like to occur to Philips. Is Veidt corrupting Jon’s “kinder, gentler beings,” or is this a necessary ingredient Jon was planning to sprinkle in already? When he’s selling Adrian on the idea, he says, “Their love is infinite, which is the very reason it’s so unsatisfying.” But it’s precisely what Adrian thinks he wants. Maybe this confluence will teach something to both his creations and Veidt.

Adam, i.e. the Game Warden, the “first to emerge from the water,” is still there. He vents his anger at Veidt, but you can feel that it’s really directed at his absentee creator. He seems to be forgetting that he wasn’t the only one to emerge from the water that day. Where is his Eve? Will we see her before the series ends?

Probably the most surprising thing about how Adrian got sent to Europa is the speed with which it happened. At the end of their conversation, Jon tells Adrian of his creations “just waiting for someone to worship” and asks if Adrian would like to be sent there. “Yes, Jon. I would like that.” And poof, he’s gone. This was Jon’s plan, not Adrian’s, and it leaves us with many new questions.

Like who took over the squidfall apparatus? That would have been the first sign that he had disappeared, long before he was noticed missing in 2012. Now, in the final set of previews, we do see a figure in goggles and a dark fur parka walking up to Karnak. Looks like about the right build to be Lady Trieu, maybe checking in shortly after a few scheduled squidfalls fail to happen to see what has happened? Maybe Adrian at least left emergency instructions for her should something unexpected happen to him.

How did Adrian get all of his stuff on Europa, like his music and the Ozymandias suit? What about just the day to day necessities like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.? In interviews, the point has been made several times that the reason all of Adrian’s devices have that cobbled together steampunk look is that he has to make do with the resources available within the confines of the castle. That still does not explain how his dubstep and reggae records got there. He didn’t record those himself.

(Credit to The Hollywood Reporter’s “Series Regular” podcast for the “Crookshanks Redemption” pun.)

Watchmen - Adrian Veidt reads Fogdancing in his dungeon cell
Adrian reads from his well-worn paperback of Fogdancing.

Easter Eggs

  • From last week’s PeteyPedia file, the names Nurse Dixie McCall and Dr. Kelly Bracket (from Cal’s hospital medical record) come from the 1970s show Emergency. Nice catch. (Source: Reddit)
  • Adrian is reading Fogdancing in his prison cell.
  • Cal and Angela make the Hiroshima lovers shadow on the wall when she’s placing the chip in his forehead. (Source: Comic Book Club podcast)
  • The bar where Jon meets Angela is named “Mr. Eddie’s Bar”, which is what the pregnant Vietnamese woman calls the Comedian right before he kills her.
  • Their meeting at the bar mirrors Janey Slater buying Jon Osterman a beer at their first meeting in the comics. The glasses are even the same as those in the comic.
  • Jon tells Angela “I leave it entirely in your hands,” as to whether she ever removes the chip from his head. This is a call back to the last line of the comic. This was also said by Keene to Wade when he leaves him to watch Ozymandias’ video to President Redford.
  • A sharp-eared Redditor caught an interesting sound editing choice as Dr. Manhattan visits Will Reeves in New York, where the lyrics (to yet another Ink Spots song) “in blue” are both muted on screen and, weirdly, even in the closed captions. What does it mean? Not sure. (Source: Reddit)
  • That song is “My Prayer,” which also features in the infamous Twin Peaks “Part 8” episode, although they used the version by The Platters, not this version by The Ink Spots.
  • Dave Gibbons drew the image of Adam and Eve in the Bible young Jon is given.
  • Do you wonder if the names that were redacted in Agent Petey’s memo about the aftermath of the new Greenwood incident might somehow be retrievable? Well, some clever Redditor with some MS Paint skills did just that, and the names are revealed to be “Placeholder Name” and “Placeholder Text.” Oh well, so much for that avenue of approach. (Source: Reddit)
  • One of the songs that plays on the jukebox at Mr. Eddie’s Bar is “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)” by Irma Thomas. This song has been featured in multiple episodes of Black Mirror.
  • No wonder Jon likes the name Calvin. It means “bald” or “hairless.” (Source: TV Podcast Industries podcast)
  • In a 1988 interview, Alan Moore talks about one of his influences being a rare William S. Burroughs comic strip that was published in an underground magazine called “Cyclops.” If the writers here had that in mind, that’s a pretty deep reference. (Source: Reddit)
Watchmen - Ozymandias sits with his feet propped at in front of a bank of TV monitors, some of which are dead or broken
Adrian’s bank of TV monitors has born out some expressions of his frustration.

Quick Takes

  • From the last episode, the DC TV podcast noted the nice parallel that both Will and Angela had a movie cop that they chose to emulate.
  • Important clarification, Angela giving Will the idea to kill Judd is a “causality loop,” not a “grandfather’s paradox,” as explained by a smarty-pants Redditor.
  • There’s a mural of the “William’s Dreamland Theatre” that Angela walks by in Episode 1 on her way to the Bake Cave. In that mural, it appears that Will Reeves and Jon Osterman are pictured. (Source: Reddit) When Jon said he sent the kids to be with their grandfather at the Dreamland Theatre, he didn’t say when he sent them, you know.
  • Veidt tells Jon that “a little elephant” told him that Jon was on Europa. That’s obviously a reference to Lady Trieu, but it’s more important in the fact that it establishes a relationship for sure between her and Veidt well before she bought his companies.
  • Adrian’s TV panel has a bunch of dead and broken screens. Probably from him throwing things at the screen in frustration. Nice touch.
  • It’s interesting that in this episode giving us Jon Osterman’s background story, with lots of out of time sequence scenes, we get a PeteyPedia entry from the future.
  • That PeteyPedia entry seems to rule out all of the theories that Lubeman (or maybe now Fogdancer?) is going to show up and save the day next episode. But as someone on Reddit pointed out to me, masked vigilantism is still illegal in this world, so maybe Agent Petey’s report is just a diversion. We can always hope!

Interviews

In this section, I’ll be pointing you to a few of the more interesting interviews with cast and crew:

  • The Hollywood Reporter has a nice interview with director Nicole Kassell where she talks about the process of filming the Dr. Manhattan sequences with Yahya and Regina.
  • Polygon also interviewed Nicole, with more interesting tidbits about some of the hints to Cal’s identity (along with being dressed in blues, their home has circles as a “very strong motif”) and other Easter eggs.
  • Vulture interviewed Yahya Abdul-Mateen II about the fun of the big reveal and his approach to playing the different aspects of Dr. Manhattan. He hints that there is a moment in the upcoming last episode that ties up some loose ends but will blow people’s minds, including Angela.
  • Damon Lindelof joined The Watch podcast for roughly an hour to talk about various things. Like the official HBO podcast, but a lot better, IMHO.
  • Jeff Jensen put out another edition of his A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks this week, and in it he revealed a little bit about the upcoming Volume 3 of the Watchmen It will feature an in-universe history of “The” Nine Inch Nails, establishing that Watchmen and Twin Peaks exist in the same world. (I kind of predicted this.) (Source: Reddit)
Watchmen - Two fetuses float above the pond
Come on. Baby Yoda’s got nothing on these two adorable rascals.

My Own Thoughts

In this section, I pose some of my own thoughts and any unique theories I might be harboring.

  • Adrian’s play (from Episodes 1 and 2) was intended to teach the Europans about their god’s very human origins. Maybe to inflate his own status a bit too, can’t say for sure about that.
  • There is a weird flaw in Jon’s story of the last time he was afraid. He says that he left his watch inside the intrinsic field chamber, but we all know that watch actually belonged to Janey Slater, and he had been repairing it for her. You could chalk this up to it not being too smart to talk about your ex-girlfriends while trying to woo the next one. However, it was also presented in Adrian’s play this way (though the play does get the fact that he had just repaired the watch correct).
  • I’m surprised people are taking Veidt at his word that his “Plan B” really was secondary to “Plan A.” He’s more likely to be ingratiating himself to Dr. Manhattan, saying hey man, sorry, I didn’t really want to blow you up, here I had this whole other plan that I wanted to do first. I think the letters are just catchy, “A” for amnesia and “B” for blow up. I do not believe they imply the order that he wanted to execute them in at all.
  • Or is Veidt saying that Dr. Manhattan and Laurie breaking up derailed his plan A? Something he couldn’t account for.
  • I don’t know how it would come to be, but I’d love to see Laurie end up on Europa and take over the role of “master.”

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.

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Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

One Comment

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  1. Just nitpicking beacuse I enjoy your articles.

    “Cal and Angela make the Hiroshima lovers shadow on the wall when she’s placing the chip in his forehead.”
    Rewatched, I can’t see a single frame anything similar to this.

    “The bar where Jon meets Angela is named “Mr. Eddie’s Bar”, which is what the pregnant Vietnamese woman calls the Comedian right before he kills her.”
    Actually “Mr Eddy’s Bar” in the TV episode, but yes, she called him “Mr. Eddie”.
    Many insist that it’s the same bar as in the graphic novel, but that one is clearly a totally different building (more like a shack) and just a nameless military officers’ club.

    “Their meeting at the bar mirrors Janey Slater buying Jon Osterman a beer at their first meeting in the comics. The glasses are even the same as those in the comic.”
    Nooo. In the very short scene in the graphic novel it’s just one glass, and it’s a very different style, it’s a classic thick-glass, straight, wide, glass beer stein/tankard, while in the TV episode the three glasses we see are a relatively modern style; higher, thinner, with curving countoured shape. And I can’t for my life see anything else in those scenes that mirror each other except the facts that both show Jon’s first meeting with a woman he will be romantically involved with and that there are one or more glasses of beer present.

    “No wonder Jon likes the name Calvin. It means “bald” or “hairless.””
    🙂
    Also see famous historical person Jo[h]n Calvin.

    I also found this well-researched post (not mine) on Reddit very interesting:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Watchmen/comments/e7jxuy/tv_here_is_a_huge_list_of_thermodynamic_miracles/

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