This Week’s Watchmen Chills Out in the Dot on the Eye

This week’s Watchmen episode, “A God Walks into a Bar” gives us a closed loop, a BUNCH of paradoxes, and a tunnel of love. (It also gives Marriage Story a run for its money?)

But first, a God walks into Angela Abar.

OK so there’s really only one thing to talk about, right?

And it’s the biggest spoiler for the biggest surprise the show’s dropped on us yet. so, if you haven’t seen every second of last week’s episode, hie thee hence before the next paragraph.

We’re cool?

You’re sure?

All right.

Last Week, On Watchmen:

HOLY SHIT.

Cal is Doctor Manhattan!!!

?????

!!!!!!!!

And obviously Angela knows that and has been hiding it and has now had to break him out of being a person…by bashing his head in with a hammer??? And now maybe he won’t be captured by the Seventh Kalvary, but hoooo boyyyy is Laurie gonna be pissed.

(If she survives.)

So yes last week built on the show’s ongoing exploration of memory, trauma, transgenerational pain, what a society owes to its people- this time by looking at Angela’s childhood in Vietnam. And it was all very strong stuff, and beautifully handled, but that revelation at the end kind of knocked everything else to the back of my mind.

We have a Black Doctor Manhattan now. This whole show has largely been a triangle between three very different, powerful, complex women. It has excavated US history, educated (white) people about the Tulsa Massacre and the Madison Square Nazi Rally. It has dealt honestly with reparations and the aftermath of the Vietnam War. And now it has taken this universe’s only true superbeing and made him a Black man.

I can’t remember if I mentioned lately that I love this show?

 

This Week, On Watchmen:

Screenshot: HBO

We spy on the first date of Angela and Calvin as he attempts to convince her that they’ll have a decade-long relationship.

We also get some backstory on Manhattan’s relationship with Adrian Veidt.

 

Here Be A Black Freighter Full of Spoilers:

Screenshot: HBO

We spy on the first date of Angela and Doctor Manhattan as he attempts to convince her that they’ll have a decade-long relationship, while simultaneously hopping through time to talk to Adrian Veidt and Will Reeves.

As always the paradoxes of Doctor Manhattan play as comedy the first time, and then curdle into tragedy with the addition of time. There is a strong implication that Angela . inadvertently sets Will Reeves off on his hunt for Judd Crawford, and that SHE might be the reason he thinks Crawford is part of Cyclops. (However, given Joe Keene it seems like that info was actually correct.) We also get to see the Adrian Veidt of 2009, still popping squidlings onto random parts of the globe: “Maintaining world peace one cephalopod at a time.” We also see how Manhattan came to take Cal’s form, as he and Angela needed a way to have a life together that didn’t involve him being a big blue guy with no ID.

I think it’s a testament to the actors that even though Jon REPEATEDLY says that his relationship with Angela ends in tragedy, I was still hoping that they’d somehow averted it in those last seconds. Instead, just as Angela’s asking about Crawford may have sent Will off on the hunt for evidence of Judd’s allegiance with the SK, so Angela’s immediate rush to defend Jon is what forces him to come outside and place himself in front of the tachyon ray.

This episode also gives us a fun twist on the show’s excavation of memory. By unleashing Doctor Manhattan, the writers create a way for their story to jump through time with all action and trauma in the present, all happening at once. Which is a good visualization of the way memories can overwhelm a person. After all if you experience a death, the grief tends to make you relive every other death you’ve experienced, all of the losses stacked on top of each other like slides under a microscope. The time that elapsed between losses collapses into nothing, and you re-experience all of it. Which is a pretty good summation of what a date with Doctor Manhattan would actually be like?

Also can I take moment to talk about how incredible Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is as Manhattan? The perfect deadpan voice, the honest, quizzical expression that somehow never comes across as blank, but instead actually looks like the face of a being who can see all of space and time spread out before him like a game.

We get a wonderful sense of Jon Osterman’s history in a sort of inversion of Rohrshach’s terrible initiation into human sexuality. Jon and his father seek refuge in the house of an English lord to escape the Holocaust before fleeing to America. When young Jon accidentally spies on the lord and lady having sex, they take him aside and explain that they’re trying to create life, and that it’s fine and nothing to be freaked out about. Then they give him a Bible, tell him the story of Adam and Eve, and tell him that he should try to create something beautiful once he grows up. So, a few decades later, Doctor Manhattan travels to Europa and creates a new Adam and Eve who just happen to look exactly like the lord and lady who saved him from the Nazis. But of course his beings, having been created to be selfless and loving, also have no real will or creativity of their own, and require someone to worship. Hence, packing Adrian Veidt off, with no thought that maybe Adrian would get tired of it and want to come back to Earth. So we now know that Veidt’s been on Europa for a decade.

And speaking of Veidt, for the first time we get an after-credits sequence, in which Veidt is being tortured for his escape attempts. He may have thought he wanted Heaven, but, as a prophet once said, Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. Of COURSE the smartest man on earth doesn’t want to stay there too long.

Hang on, wait, what did Jon mean when he said it was important for Angela to see him walking on the pool? Ugh why isn’t it next week yet???

Get the fuck up off the pool.

 

Allusions:

Screenshot: HBO

  • There are clocks everywhere. Yellow ones on the walls in Veidt’s lair, Angela’s grandfather clock, a gold Art Deco-looking one on the wall of Angela’s room as she and Manhattan negotiate their relationship.
  • Veidt also has illustrations of squid on his walls.
  • I also think I saw a blue policebox in the back of one of the rooms?
  • When Veidt gives Jon Plan A he tells him” “I made it 30 years ago.” The fucking ham.
  • The first miracle Jon performs for Angela is to produce an egg. Eggs have been a running symbol over the entire series.
  • The Tachyon Ray is obviously riffing on Kryptonite.
  • We hear about the Gila Flats again, this time from Jon’s own mouth.
  • The opening credits, flickering neon this time, shift from Watchmen yellow to Manhattan blue.
  • Also, not an allusion, but I want to give a shout to the best line in the episode: “It isn’t 1985 anymore. It’s 2009 now. This kind of appropriation is considered quite problematic now.”

 

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