Thursday, June 20, 2024

Watchmen Unveils a God and a Plot

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To all of you who called this week’s Watchmen twist…congratulations. To quote the episode title, I’m kind of in “An Almost Religious Awe.” After a season full of building tension and drip-fed plot points, Watchmen finally began lowering the answer hammer this week. When an episode is so packed-full of crazy reveals that a little girl being a clone of her grandmother and being fed her memories barely registers on crazy scale, you know a show told its audience a lot.

So let’s get into this week’s version of “what in the world did I just watch” on Watchmen.

In retrospect, Cal being Dr. Manhattan in disguise was rather well established in some very subtle ways. His callous description of life and death, Laurie’s immediate attraction to him, and his wondering if the two of them had met at Judd’s funeral all stand out. Easily my favorite bit of foreshadowing is the Manhattan dildo Laurie carries around being called Excalibur. Ex-Cal-Abar. This is the best dick joke I’ve ever seen, and considering this is Damon Lindelof, that’s saying something.

For all the criticism Lindelof often faces, this is an example of his style working brilliantly. He lays bread crumbs of smaller questions and hints that may or may not lead to bigger answers. Sometimes those eventual answers disappoint, or the bread crumbs lead nowhere. This was the biggest complaint with Lost, and the source of some of the rare complaints about The Leftovers.

Here, though, here he was masterful. Some Watchmen fans saw this coming early on, while many did not. And that makes for the best twists, ones that we look back on after the reveal and see how obvious all these hints really were. Best of all, those who did see it coming seemed to have had no idea that Angela was in on it. She not only knew, she was actively involved.

I have so many questions, as I’m sure most fans of the graphic novel do. How did Manhattan end up back on Earth and in contact with Angela? What made him want to hide his identity? How exactly did they pull that off? Is Angela just the latest in a line of creepy relationships with young girls that Manhattan has involved himself in? What exactly are his power levels at right now?

There are some people who will understandably react angrily to the idea of Manhattan returning to Earth and choosing to be human again. However, I think those people misinterpret Manhattan’s conflict throughout Moore’s story. Yes, he struggles to understand humanity and gradually disconnected from it throughout the years. In the end, he found worth and at least some understanding. The reveal of The Comedian being Laurie’s father shifts his perspective in a monumental way. He considers humanity to be miraculous and worth saving by going along with Ozymandias’s murderous plot.

And after so long, I don’t find it that hard to believe he would give being human another chance. Jon Osterman was once human, no matter what he is now, and he can only play at the disconnected, unemotional god for so long before it bores him and he craves a return to humanity. There may be more to it than that, but I have no problem believing that Manhattan would take Cal’s identity, simply for that reasoning alone.

The biggest question, of course, is what in the world Watchmen will do with this twist. And we also got a hint of that, though I find myself a bit skeptical. I can’t imagine the 7th Kavalry actually succeeding in killing Manhattan, simply because we’ve already seen someone try this plot. Ozymandias literally tore him to pieces, and it barely delayed Manhattan for five minutes.

I still believe Lady Trieu is directly involved in the Kavalry’s plot somehow. Her company’s logo is all over their equipment. Considering the level of technology at her disposal, I suppose it’s possible that she has some newer way to take Manhattan down that might work. We also don’t know if he’s weak enough for a plot that wouldn’t work on a full-strength Manhattan to work now, when he’s less than full-strength.

The idea of a group of racists somehow getting a hold of Manhattan’s power just rubs me the wrong way, though. I don’t think this plot will succeed, but I can’t say for sure that it won’t. At least this episode kind of wiped away the idea of the 7th Kavalry somehow being misunderstood or in the right. Nope, Keene is just another jackass racist pretending it’s somehow hard to be a white man in the world today.

This Manhattan plot still doesn’t explain Trieu’s larger goal with her Millennium Clock or how exactly she would somehow move humanity into the future. She made very clear how she intends to do something with memory to move the human race forward. Is she somehow manipulating the 7th Kavalry into a plot she told them will give them Manhattan powers, but will actually use him to fulfill her larger goal involving her clock?

There is a lot of traction gaining behind the theory that Veidt is Trieu’s father. She mentions that she wants her parents beside her for her upcoming crowning moment and that her father will soon be with her. Since her “daughter” Bian is actually a clone of her mother, many wonder how her father could be back. If Veidt is that father and crashed on the farm Trieu bought, then it would explain how her father would soon be back to see her finish her work.

Though I still think the statue is Veidt frozen carbonite-style. Perhaps this is how she keeps him while she feeds him memories? There are many questions here but the pieces are in place.

In many ways, Trieu has been the Ozymandias of Watchmen’s plot. The enigmatic genius pulling strings behind the scenes. The one who the clues gradually point to as the mastermind behind everything, with some grander plot. She most likely thinks her Millennium Clock plan will bring about world peace now, much like Ozymandias did. And wouldn’t it make sense if she aims so high because she is (or at least thinks she is) Veidt’s daughter.

Since Lindelof has described Watchmen as a “remix” of the original story, it’s hard to believe Trieu can play the Ozymandias role without having some similar goal in mind.

It’s amazing that I wrote all this without getting into the Angela backstory developed throughout this episode. We learned where she got her masked identity from, what happened to her parents and grandmother, where she lived, etc. I honestly can’t help but wonder if Trieu was there when the attack that killed Angela’s parents happened. If not her, perhaps Trieu’s mother was.

So now the stage has been set for the final two episodes, even if we can’t be sure of how exactly it all fits together. We’re hours from the Millennium Clock activating. Manhattan has awoken. The 7th K are coming for him. Looking Glass actually survived that ambush that ended the 5th episode and appears to be on the loose, free to wreak havoc in some way. Many worry about Lindelof’s ability to pull a plot together, an unfortunate result of Lost’s popularity and ending, despite the excellence of the ending to The Leftovers.

To be fair to the doubters, there are still many questions out there. How is Will Reeves involved, and why? How does Veidt fit in exactly? What exactly does Trieu mean to do, and how does the Cyclops mesmerism fit in? How will Angela and Looking Glass fit in? Why an elephant? What was the elephant, and when will Cersei Lannister get involved???

I suppose we’ll see. Things look very, very promising right now.

Images Courtesy of HBO

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