Nothing ever ends. And that’s just the way I like it. Watchmen has finished, possibly forever, possibly not. That door has been left very much open by Damon Lindelof and his team. Whatever happens, we were given the gift of one of the most brilliant TV shows in history. There was not one second of this show that I felt uninterested, and by literally every other show’s standards (yes, even Twin Peaks), that is impressive.
Most knots were tied in those final moments, and while we don’t know the answers to absolutely everything, I still feel hugely satisfied with the finale.
So let’s round up how we got to the end for each of our masked vigilantes, starting with the Lord of the Manor…
Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias
So, Veidt was here on Earth, all this time, contained in what we thought was the gold statue in Trieu’s vivarium. Not to blow my own trumpet too hard, but I did have a feeling that there was more to that statue than met the eye. There was something just so Han Solo about it. Trieu kept him preserved to prevent starvation, dehydration and potential insanity during the voyage back to Earth. He remained as decor for about a year before she finally revived him so that her mother and father (yes, he is her father) could be there to witness her triumph as she launched the Millennium Clock and stole Manhattan’s power. At least that was the plan. But how did we get to this point?
November 1, 1985
The day before Veidt teleported a giant squid on top of New York City, killing 3 million people in the original Watchmen graphic novel, he recorded a message to the future President Redford that the Seventh Kavalry acquired at some point before the present day.
On this same day, a Vietnamese refugee named Bian who worked as a cleaning woman in Veidt’s Antarctic facility injected herself with a sample of his semen that he kept in a vault behind a portrait of Alexander the Great. How did she get into his vault? Well, Ramses II was the Egyptian name for Ozymandias and Veidt wasn’t exactly creative with his passwords. This is also the password Nite Owl uses to crack the same computer back in the Watchmen comic. Veidt’s computer prompts “untie knot?” A reference to the mythological Gordian Knot that Alexander The Great was able to undo, but also to the Gordian Knot Lock Co., an in-universe lock making company that created highly secure locks for doors. In the comics, Dan Dreiberg had them out to repair his front door after Rorschach broke in.
Bian then gave birth to the woman who would grow up to become Lady Trieu—the smartest woman in the world by default—and then Trieu, in turn, cloned her mother and used the Nostalgia drug to let her reacquire memories from her previous life.
Lady Trieu makes the long journey to visit Veidt at his Antarctic facility to tell him who she is. He doesn’t believe her at first and says that it’s impossible for him to have a daughter because he’s never “given himself to a woman.” While this may indicate that he’s a virgin, it may also confirm something loosely insinuated in the source material, that Adrian Veidt may be gay. The coding is subtle at best in the original comics—several of his advertisements loosely imply he may be bisexual, and Alexander The Great, his personal hero, famously had male lovers. Honestly though, I just can’t imagine him being able to show love or affection to anyone but himself. Which he apparently did often, and kept the evidence in test tubes. But why? I imagine for making clones of himself, or other experiments. Or, does Veidt literally want to create millions of children? Is that his God complex? Like father like daughter.
Trieu then explains that Dr. Manhattan emits a specific radioactive frequency that her subspace antenna detected on Europa. This was when Dr. Manhattan was up there creating his “paradise.” She also reveals that her space probe should reach Europa to take photos in “exactly 5 years, 72 days, 9 hours, and 17 minutes.”
Six months after Dr. Manhattan first met Angela in a Vietnam bar, he visits Veidt in Antarctica. This is when Manhattan offers Veidt the chance to go to Europa, referring to it as a utopia. It’s also when Veidt gives Manhattan the device that subdues his powers and he becomes Cal. We see Manhattan teleport Veidt away, so we know that this is the start of his adventures as Lord of the Manor.
Veidt spends his time on Europa playing Lord of the Manor. Riding around on horseback, sometimes naked, and creating servant clones that he dredges from the lake. He spends his time teaching the clones, and they begin to learn to love him even though he burns them alive in a play, hacks them to death on his 4th anniversary and catapults them/their bodies into space. However, it is Veidt himself who made the original Mr. Philips (the Game Warden) his adversary. Making him wear the eye mask so that he could be crueler. So, in essence, Veidt made himself a prisoner there to keep himself entertained for eight years, and he made the clones to ensure he was at the right place at the right time.
After perfecting his spacesuit in 2014, Veidt has a small army of Crookshanks and Phillips launch him out of the atmospheric bubble into the vacuum of space on the moon’s surface where he assembles hundreds of bodies to spell out “SAVE ME DAUGHTER,” all the while frantically checking his watch. He knows exactly when Lady Trieu’s space probe is set to fly by. Soon after that, he’s pulled back into the estate and taken into custody by the Game Warden.
In 2008, Lady Trieu said the probe would fly by Europa in “5 years, 72 days,” which is the only reason why we know that the scenes on Europa in Episodes 4 and 5 take place in the same year. It also means that Veidt and Trieu’s conversation had to happen in late 2008 for all of this to occur in 2014.
After the Game Warden catches Veidt, a ridiculous trial—which involves Veidt farting in the courtroom and a surprising number of pigs—lasts the whole of 2015. The pigs find him guilty. He spends a year in his cell reading Fogdancers and receives his anniversary cake with seven candles and a surprise horseshoe inside. He then spends the following year digging an escape tunnel with that horseshoe.
In 2017 Lady Trieu’s ship lands on Europa to take him back to Earth. After a final showdown with the Game Warden, he says his wistful goodbyes to his clone staff, jumps onboard the craft and is solidified in molten gold. Somehow, Lady Trieu was able to construct a ship designed to efficiently bring one person back to Earth, and the round trip took only around five years. Veidt spends all of 2018 floating in space.
Various newspaper headlines in the first episode declared Veidt dead by the time the series begins around September 2019. When Angela Abar and Laurie Blake visit Lady Trieu’s facility in Episode 4, the Ozymandias statue is already in her garden.
Lady Trieu is No Angel
Remember when we first met Lady Trieu as she bullied the Clarks out of their farm home at the start of Episode 4? We never learn explicitly what crash-landed on the property, but considering how precisely Trieu was able to predict its arrival, it must have been the ship carrying Veidt.
Although Trieu and her engineers may not have known precisely where the ship would touch down, they obviously had enough lead time to develop a child for the Clarks. Why Trieu waited to close the deal until, literally, the last minute I would guess is so that the Clarks had to make a quick decision, didn’t have time to ponder or change their minds when thinking clearly about the morality of the situation they found themselves in.
Lady Trieu was happy to have her father finally acknowledge her as his daughter, and she wanted both her parents there for the moment that she took on the powers of Dr. Manhattan—a plan that she had meticulously calculated. But, in the end, she didn’t take into consideration that her father would actually turn on her. Veidt, with all his own narcissistic traits, was very aware of how dangerous his daughter could be with that kind of power. She was not exactly ethical with her work, and even if she did have good intentions, that extent of power would definitely lead to disaster.
“Anyone who seeks to attain the power of a god must be prevented at all costs of attaining it.” – Adrian Veidt
The End of the Seventh Kavalry?
Even old Senator Keene Senior was rolled in to witness his son absorbing the powers of Dr. Manhattan, in one of the most unexpected comic book cameos. Keene Sr. was the man responsible for the Keene Act, which outlawed masked vigilantism and, effectively, set the plot of the Watchmen comics in motion.
It was relatively straightforward, in the beginning: The white-supremacist Cyclops, only under a new name, the leadership of the Seventh Kavalry was outraged by the presidency of Robert Redford, who, among other things, instituted reparations for the descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The group plotted the White Night, in which Tulsa police officers and their families were murdered on Christmas Eve 2016, so that Republican Sen. Joe Keene Jr., the leader of the Seventh Kavalry, could emerge in its aftermath as a white knight, and eventually ascend to the presidency.
However, that changed when on the White Night, one of the members sent to slaughter the Abar family was instantaneously teleported more than 900 miles to Gila Flats, New Mexico. It didn’t take Keene long to deduce that someone in the Abar household was secretly Dr. Manhattan. And so the Seventh Kavalry positioned Police Chief Judd Crawford and his wife Jane, both members, to get close to the Abars and monitor them. The group plotted for three years to capture Dr. Manhattan, in hopes of stealing his powers, and transferring them to Sen. Keene. All of those watch batteries recovered during the raid in Episode 1 were being amassed by the Seventh Kavalry for the synthetic lithium to forge the bars of the cage to contain Dr. Manhattan. And Keene couldn’t resist requesting that FBI Agent Laurie Blake be assigned to investigate Crawford’s death, ensuring she could be present for the death of her ex-boyfriend.
A Mirroring of Events for Laurie and Looking Glass
As suspected, Looking Glass had stolen a Rorschach mask from one of the 7K members who tried to kill him, and he returned to the warehouse, not quite expecting the enormity of what was about to happen. He and Laurie make for unlikely friends throughout the episode, as Laurie realises that Jon has returned to earth in Cal’s form, putting to bed any theories that she knew Cal was Manhattan all along. Clearly, she just felt the attraction to Dr. Manhattan underneath his skin. And it seems that Excalibur really was a dildo—though you know, it did come in a case, not unlike Bian’s insemination device. Could the Excalibur do the same trick? Might explain why the balls are detachable. Yes, I think about this way too much.
Laurie’s favourite way to describe coincidences just happens to be “thermodynamic miracles,” which she first explained back in Episode 4 when she was telling Angela about the surprising return of her stolen car. In this episode, she uses it to explain the shocking way the 7K was able to figure out that Jon was Cal—a one-in-a-million encounter on the White Night that no one could have planned for or expected. The phrase originally comes from the comics, when Jon uses it in a conversation with Laurie to describe the unlikelihood of her birth. It makes sense that it would be on Laurie’s mind now. Of course, while the 7K may have had some luck, white supremacists tend not to be the most intelligent of folk. So when Keene Jr. jumped into the machine to steal Manhattan’s powers, he didn’t realise it needed to be filtered before he absorbed it. Instead, he just got an enormous atomic hit, which melted him into a puddle of goo. That puddle poured into Manhattan’s cage, allowing him to make contact with Laurie, Veidt and Looking Glass who were all standing in Keene’s liquid remains. Manhattan teleported the three of them to Veidt’s Antarctic facility, Karnak. Poor LG has to continually vomit, reliving the childhood traumatic experience of Veidt’s attack on NYC.
It is right where they need to be to stop Trieu (but, alas, not save Manhattan). There, Veidt adjusted his squid-rain technology to rain enough tiny frozen squids down to destroy the device that would have initiated the power transfer. Not just that, to take out anyone they rained upon. This all must seem like history repeating for both Laurie and Looking Glass. Laurie, back at the same place where she stood after Veidt’s original squid attack looking on in horror once again, and Looking Glass on the other side of the lens now, not as a squidfall victim, but a squidfall accomplice.
But, as Rorschach said (and Veidt would say in this episode), The End is Nigh. This time, Veidt is taken into custody by Blake and Looking Glass—and they get to fly in Archie! Yay! So it seems like he’ll finally have to answer for his crimes—assuming the smartest man on Earth doesn’t find a way to escape from jail before long.
“The End is Nigh” – Veidt/Rorschach
God is Dead
Well, I would like to believe that nothing ever ends, but I think this really is it for Dr. Manhattan as we knew him. The non-sequiturs Jon utters throughout his time in the lithium cage this episode are all lines from the comics. “All we ever see of stars are their old photographs” is from the fourth issue of the books, when Jon is on Mars. “Janey, are you cold? I can raise the temperature” is from a flashback to Christmas 1959, when Jon was still with Janey Slater. “As far as I know, there is no situation in Afghanistan currently requiring my attention,” Jon said on a talk show just before he teleported to Mars. And Jon told protesters outside the White House to “return to your homes” before teleporting them away. All these moments felt like the very last of Jon Osterman and Dr. Manhattan slipping away.
He leaves quite the legacy behind, however. This whole thing has been the Angela Abar story, and of course her grandfather—realising who he is, and what she came from—played a major part in that at every step. Angela has a full hero’s arc here, and while she can’t save Jon/Cal/Dr. Manhattan, she proves herself worthy once again. I shed a tear at the moment Jon died, as he told Angela “I’m in every moment we were together, all at once”. It was beautiful and heartbreaking as the blast of his leaving humanity pushed her away in a way that he never could himself.
Equally stunning was the scene where Angela meets Will in the same Oklahoma! and Bass Reeves theatre where the show first started back in 1921. The history Angela and Will share is extraordinary, and this story, and the way it has been told, couldn’t have come at a better time. Angela understands Will now, and she probably understands herself better too. She takes her grandfather home for a few days that will almost definitely turn into forever.
The closing moments of Watchmen‘s finale seemed pretty convincing that Angela was about to take on Dr. Manhattan’s powers. When Angela is cleaning up the broken eggs on her kitchen floor, she recalls that Jon told her that he could transfer his powers, if he so wanted to; lo and behold, she finds one single egg in the carton. As she steps outside, she swallows down what’s inside. Jon said it was important for Angela to see him on the pool. Now we know why: to remind her of the conversation they had decades earlier in Vietnam, during which he hinted to her that he could transfer his powers via food, conjured an egg from thin air, and chugged it raw in a beer. As she steps out onto the water, the credits begin to roll.
And we’re left to wonder. It’s hard to imagine that it didn’t work, but it also asks an important question: why eggs? The most obvious is that eggs represent new life. A fertilised egg carries the DNA of the male and female. It carries a legacy, history and family. It’s also a blank canvas: this egg could become a baby chicken; it could become an omelette; it could be swallowed raw, or it could go rotten. The egg is symbolic of hope, and not that Jon didn’t already love her, but after seeing the two sociopaths who tried to snatch his power, it’s surely a relief to transfer it over to someone whom he can trust.
But is Angela the only human that Dr. Manhattan transferred his powers to? Or did he possibly give someone else a power-up egg during his decade back on Earth? The most likely candidate would be Will, who has pulled off quite a few impressive moves for a vigilante centenarian. He was also seen taking a boiling egg from a pan of water with his bare hands in Episode 2.
Will’s final comment before he goes to bed, is that Jon could have done more with his power, a hint that, actually he did—passing the power to someone as strong as Angela may just be the greatest gift he could give the world and the most natural human instinct.
So what next? Will there be a Season 2? Well, we can only hope. I think with a brand-new story but our old favourites, this really could become one of the greatest TV shows in history. With this set of writers, the sky really is the limit.
It appears that the 7K is extinguished, though I don’t know how many people were killed by the squid fall. I think it’s safe to say there are 7K survivors, and that is a battle that the now all-powerful Sister ‘Light’ would want to take on.
My sole disappointment is that we didn’t see Lube Man again, but I think we all know it’s Petey, and if there is a Season 2 I am sure he’ll be sliding into our Sunday night schedules once again.