Damon Lindelof’s semi-authorized prestige TV sequel to Alan Moore’s Watchmen premiered on HBO this past Sunday, to rave reviews and just a wee bit of confusion. You see, HBO’s Watchmen takes place in an alternate-reality 2019, one in which Robert Redford has been president for nearly 30 years, the internet has been banned, black Americans have received reparations in the form of a lifetime tax exemption, and a long-dead Rorschach is the face of a new white supremacist group called the Seventh Kavalry.
And that’s just to start with. Obviously, a lot else has happened in the world of Watchmen since the events of the graphic novel, which was set in 1985. Luckily, HBO has set up a website to fill in some of the blanks. Of course, they’re not gonna make it easy. As with the Delos theme park sites HBO hosted for Westworld, all the lore comes in the form of found documents stuffed with Easter Eggs. Only four documents have been released so far, and we’re assuming more will be unveiled with each episode. This week, we’ve gone through them all for you, so here’s all the lore we learned!
Spoilers, obviously, abound.
This is an FBI memo sent to an “anti-vigilante task force” from FBI director “James Doyan,” dated August 29, 2019 with the subject “The computer and you.”
- The internet and tech ban is a consequence of Adrian Veidt’s giant squid scheme. Thirty-four years later, the official story is that the squid came from another dimension, and computers, phones, and cell towers were destroyed because people believed all this new technology had opened some sort of portal and summoned the squid.
- The baby squid rain seen in episode 1 is a commonplace occurrence, and believed to be a direct result of the giant squid debacle.
- In 1993, the Tech Recall and Reintroduction Act was passed, which authorizes President Robert Redford to draft government employees into reintroducing unsafe/illegal technology back into the public over 30 years.
- Tech with “Manhattan-made components” emit radiation, give people cancer, and “damage the (hypothetical) dimensional membrane” when used.
- Tobacco is a controlled substance.
This is an article by one “Marcus Long,” the Lead Art Curator at Tulsa’s Greenwood Center for Cultural Heritage, entitled “Tales of the Black Marshal.”
- Although Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. Marshal, and director Oscar Micheaux are real-life historical figures, the silent film seen in the first episode’s opening during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre only exists in the world of Watchmen. Called Trust In The Law!, in-universe it’s a Micheaux film about Reeves that draws from both historical facts and folk lore.
- In the world of Watchmen, Reeves “used a variety of disguises and personas,” masks, and hoods, making him one of the first masked avengers. He used the code name “The Black Marshal.”
- Costumed avengers were a “mid-century fad” that birthed in-universe superheros like Hooded Justice and Nite Owl.
This is a news article by one “Ben Woodward,” dated September 9, 2019, the day depicted in episode one, and is possibly the one we briefly see being read by Will Reeves, the elderly man played by Louis Gossett Jr. who confronts Angela Abar (Regina King) in front of her bakery and claims to have hanged Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) at the end.
- Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, was declared dead by authorities in New York, Vietnam, and Antarctica on September 9, 2019 after a seven-year search.
- Veidt had homes in NYC, Vietnam, and Antarctica.
- Trieu Industries, an international conglomerate, bought Veidt Enterprises in 2017 and manages his estate. Veidt disappeared in 2012 and was last seen in public in 2007.
- His giant squid scheme is referred to in-universe as the Dimensional Incursion Event.
- Everything made by Dr. Manhattan was deemed to be carcinogenic back in 1985, although “leading Manhattanologists” now think this isn’t true.
- After the giant squid scheme, Veidt tried a marketing campaign called “Millennium by Veidt” to “evolve society toward a technology-based utopia led by transcendent supermen.” This backfired and ruined his reputation.
- The New Frontiersman did end up publishing excerpts of Rorschach’s journal. Although it was “dismissed as either a hoax or the expression of mental illness,” right-wing terrorists consider it an “object of fascination.” (The Seventh Kavalry recite quotes from it in their video in episode one.)
- In-universe, Vietnam’s governor (in the first episode, we learn that it became a state) Ronnie Ngo Dinh claimed that the Vietnamese Liberation Front assassinated Veidt, which led to “police actions [that] resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths” in 2017. There’s also a “Free Vietnam” movement supported by China and the U.K.
- In-universe, Roger Ailes is president of the Newspaper Corporation of America (NCA), which owns The New Frontiersman. Ailes published reports that the CIA killed Veidt for secrets related to the Dimensional Incursion Event and in 2018, he sued Veidt Enterprises and Trieu Industries for a campaign of “harassment, intimidation, and sabotage” against him because of these reports. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
- In-universe, Vox co-founder Ezra Klein is White House press secretary.
This is another FBI memo, dated September 1, 2019 and entitled “Veidt & Rorschach,” sent by an “Agent Dale Petey” to the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force.
- Agent Petey doesn’t think Veidt is dead.
- Laurie Blake (aka Silk Spectre II) is now an FBI agent. Before that, one of her superhero personas was The Comedienne, and it looks like it’s public knowledge that The Comedian was her father.
- Rorschach is officially considered missing, and the Seventh Kavalry believes Veidt is responsible.
- Rorschach’s journal was transferred from the NYPD to the FBI in 1995.
- There is now a diagnostic tool that appears to be vigilante-specific called the Werthem Spectrum, with Petey diagnosing Veidt as “Savior/Narcissist,” Rorschach as “Objectivist/Sociopath,” Dr. Manhattan as “Overman/Passive-Aggressive,” Nite Owl as “Thrillseeker/Nostalgic,” and The Comedian as “Super-Soldier/Nihilist.”
- In 1995, Laurie Blake and Dan Dreiberg (aka Nite Owl) were arrested for violating the Keene Act.
- There are drop-out communities called “Nixonvilles”—we caught a glimpse of one in episode one, when Angela Abar goes to capture a member of the Seventh Kavalry.
- The Seventh Kavalry’s primary form of terrorism is attacking cops.
- The government limits depictions of the Dimensional Incursion Event and uses trigger warnings for people with PTSD from the event.
- In-universe, Robert Redford won’t be running an eighth time, which means it’s his last term in office at the time of the first episode.
- Elvis Presley showed up some time in the ’90s, wandering into a nightclub in Hanoi and performing all of his songs with “Blue” in the title.
- Petey thinks Veidt is planning a reappearance.