How to Build a Clock: HBO Watchmen Wrap Up

Watchmen

What time is it? No, it is not tool time and to be honest, we are not sure of what time really is and this is all thanks to the new Watchmen series on HBO.

This show transcends more than time, it transcends boundaries, it breaks the nerd ceiling and transports people into the narrative just beyond Jupiter – and people are not scared whatsoever of the climate and new world. If you know my work you know that I am the perfect demographic for this show, exactly in the middle of the nerd who has the laminated number one official comic and the “oh I’ve only seen the movies.” Yea I may have only seen the movie but I definitely took the time to watch the full motion comic of the entire original Watchmen graphic novel. HBO and Damon Lindelof’s team of writers and directors knew there was so much more to tell with this storyline. It is so difficult in a time of fear and cultural divides to see what the world could be and the potential for a new way of life. They have imagined in between the timelines and given us a look through the looking glass to what could be. It is creators like this that give us the inspiration to imagine a new world. Ok, enough gushing about it, let’s get into it. If you haven’t seen it, and if that intro was not enough to convince you to see it right now, then I don’t know what will get you to ask your friend for their HBOGo password and binge that ish. Cuz I’ll be honest every good friend needs to lend out their password for this show.

That said –

SPOILER ALERT!

If you have not seen the Watchmen series in its entirety come back to this article at a later date. If you binge it, you will need like 9 weeks for it all to really sink in and you’ll still be walking on water *wink* I’m going to try to take apart this clock in this article to look behind the sprockets and wheels of this season.

“I’VE GOT A JOKE. STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE”

From the opening scene of the pilot to the final end scene with Angela by the pool, the questions kept coming then the answers came with more questions! How did this all come from this man’s mind.

HBO Watchmen

But if you listen to the HBO official podcast with Lindelof and host Craig Mazin (Creator, Chernobyl) you know Lindelof gives all credit where credit is due to his fellow writers in the room. I tap my watch to them, they have assembled the greatest time piece and I firmly believe this what they set out to do. They studied more than just what makes a good story but what was left in the original graphic novel in terms of pathways to a great story. The evolution of the characters we know from the Minutemen with Hooded Justice and the Comedian to the next iteration in the Watchmen to the world beyond the graphic novel in Tulsa Oklahoma.

We are introduced to Laurie early on in the season, Laurie Juspeczyk also known as Silk Spectre and our resident comedian of the FBI. It is apparent she has become her father in the past 20 years. She is a person fighting against masked vigilantes, but knows the truth of the incident in New York, and continues on a hilariously painful charade. She has a heart and many other things for Dr. Manhattan lasting since their relationship in the graphic novel and movie. Her rough sensibilities and no BS attitude are everything, she truly takes after her father the comedian. We see it not only in how she operates but directly in her phone call to Dr. Manhattan and the joke she tells throughout the episode. In the end, I feel as though she isn’t just resembling the comedian to me, but Rorschach comes through a bit as well. His final move to bring in Ozymandias and arrest him and possibly the president for the atrocities done decades ago. That is all Rorschach wanted, actual justice, and the comedian knew that joke of it all.

HBO Watchmen

For the TV watcher: Laurie is the daughter of the past Watchmen “superhero” The Comedian and the first Silk Spectre or “Sally Jupiter.” A traumatic experience is what brought Laurie to this world. Rorschach is the hero who wanted to bring to light the crimes of Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias but when the truth would outweigh the good he was destroyed by Dr. Manhattan for the greater good. The masks of the seventh Kavalry represent the mask Rorschach would wear fighting crime.

Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?) was the first view of the legacy of Rorschach. His ability to see the truth and fight for the truth at all costs. He even gives up Angela in this fight for the truth. His connection to that day in New York left him a loner preparing for the end every day. Rather than “the end is nigh,” sign, he stayed in, “the end is nigh,” bunker. Him and Laurie teaming up?! Oh lordt.

“TRUST IN THE LAW!”

But our superhero if we need it. Angela, for all intents and purposes, is our protagonist and everything truly leads back to her in all the right ways. She is the constant (yes, that is a nod to Lindelof’s first draft Lost).

For the nerd’s nerd: in regards to Angela Abar, when Abar is put into a simple Google search you find “Abar: The first Black superman” An African-American doctor experiences racist threats in his neighborhood, and employs a man who leads a militant civil rights group as his family’s bodyguard while he develops a serum that gives ordinary people superpowers.
If this isn’t the deepest of deep cuts I don’t know what is.

Angela is the granddaughter of William Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr., Roots) who has taken the name of the great Bass Reeves an Oklahoma Marshall with a special set of skills for sure, and it is said the real inspiration for the “Lone Ranger” story. Can you imagine? Oh, wait, yes, you can because the writers and creators MUST have known this as we see the reveal of Will as— SPOILERS again—… Hooded Justice. This was genius, the only character that never gets revealed in the original comic – he is hiding more than just his face, his entire identity, and as Lindelof and the creators felt, why would someone in that day and age feel the need to be so hidden? He’s Black – errbody at home was like YAAASSS! Bring it! As soon as I saw him walking around with the ropes around his wrists and his neck with the Black hood, I laughed and made the joke, what is he hooded justice?… SHUT THE POCKET WATCH! He is!

HBO Watchmen

Not only are we getting answers but also the flood of questions come as layers upon layers. This is a Zumbo’s just dessert! You can’t cut into this show without seeing a whole nother show inside. We’ve been following Hooded Justice in the tv show within a show and I thought about my guy, Cheyenne Jackson (American Horror story) playing the tv turducken Hooded Justice and the outing of his character as queer, and in my heart I said – Yes Please!! Ugh, and they did it. We don’t need labels for Will/Hooded Justice but to see a Black queer man and every trial and tribulation that comes with that portrayed in a comic superhero in an alternate and painfully grounded story was the exact feeling of Blackness I think my blood needed to feel. Not only did he disguise himself, he made it seem like he was white, AND still couldn’t get help for the real crimes against his peoples’ (this is how Obama felt).

Forgive me, I am getting lost in the gears. Which is so easy to do in this show, I could write a whole novel about the intricacies of HBO’s Watchmen. And this is not just analyzing each frame of footage, but the impetus behind each written word and each plotline can last for days – months – but what is time?

“NOTHING EVER ENDS”

We see these revelations time and time again in the show but how expertly this is done in the nostalgia episode. As soon as she took those pills the episode ends and I knew after the “coming next on Watchmen” it was going to be a good one. It’s like that thing you hate in movies when they try to give you backstory and it’s a montage of weird monologue or some corny pivotal moment, yea, this is literally the opposite. How do you get two backstories into one that is clearly connected to ancestral knowledge in the blood? How do you show the transfer of trauma and cyclical periods in time? Now Angela gets to experience time all at once, her time, her past lives, and her mind is going back and forth between each moment as if they are all happening at once – does this remind you of someone? Foreshadowing as a motherfreaker! Yes, the connections are abound.

HBO Watchmen

This is a connection to the biggest reveal in the season our one and only Dr. Manhattan. From the moment that William Reeves (Louis Gosset Jr.) said he was Dr. Manhattan living on earth as a man, and Angela said that he couldn’t do that, I said – and why not? The image of Dr. Manhattan in the show as omnipotent, infallible, all-powerful. Ok, well, that last one is pretty true, but Dr. Manhattan’s story is filled with horrors of war and actual deceit – but through the hearsay of media and the flourish of what came after the squid, it is not surprising that Dr. Manhattan would be revered as a God. What and who came next in that journey did, in fact, surprise me pleasantly surprised me. We see Calvin Abar (Yayha Abdul Mateen II, Aquaman) the, stand by your spouse, ride or die stay at home dad, great father – except for that one moment when he tried to educate the kids on death and tells them Heaven is a lie and there is nothing after you die and that was that. Angela was like “nothing?” That was a little curious… Of course it was.

Once we have our run-in with lady Trieu and the cure for nostalgia – Oh well get to her. She knows someone is in human form and Angela runs out kind of determinedly while Trieu is asking if she wants to know who he is. As she is running home it slowly washed over me – no, are you serious – YES! I was applauding Yayha for getting all of these blockbuster roles and was interested that he was a stay at home dad, while I quietly wished he had more screen time in my heart, I was not prepared for the gift we were about to receive. He got more screen time all right… ALLL the screen time. Yes, I am talking about birthday suit realness. I was pleasantly surprised at this reveal in all the ways. I’m sorry, let’s keep this HBO so right on track. He was naked, full-frontal naked, cuz you know that the staple of Dr. Manhattan. And Yayha is loving it.

This took us on yet another squid tentacle link to Angela in all of this. We got the history of her life growing up in Vietnam and now we get the love story. I did not think this was possible as we had seen in the previous movie and the graphic novel he got tired of women kinda quickly… How was this different? As he always does, he knew what was coming and wanted a shot at a different life.

For the nerd’s nerd: The crux of Dr. Manhattan’s plight in the original series was this moment in time that he could not see – he could not fathom a blank spot in time, this wracked his cosmic brain. We know this to be the work of Ozymandias and his plan to drop a squid on new york and kill millions with a psychic blast. BUT the show takes it even further with this box undetectable by Dr. Manhattan’s eye of Sauron. This box ends up being the key to blocking his powers and abilities.

“A WORTHY ADVERSARY”

And how can we forget our savior? As the show has expertly done and wrapped a metaphor in a metaphor in a reality in a supernatural setting. Ozymandias has been trapped in his own narcissistic fantasy world. I have this personal belief that if everyone really lived in their perfect world, they’d actually probably hate it and this is what we have seen with Ozymandias, this Adrian is bitter about being forgotten, not getting the recognition of saving the world. It’s not enough to have the clean energy and the “world peace” (that part is questionable) but he needs to be worshipped for having been the maker of it all. I don’t see a way in which Adrian could have had his cake and eat it too. OH, MY WORD! Another layer, when does it end!? He is forever served this cake he is forced to eat with the “not clones” and be doted upon in an endless cycle of empty worship – his fantasy is a slow-burning hell!

When Lady Trieu’s story comes to light it is a bit of what we all expected. I wanted her dad to be Dr. Manhattan really, but I knew that was probably not possible. Adrian also reveals he has never slept with a woman — OH okaaaay! I’m about it. If it means what I’m thinking in my head… wink wink.

Lady Trieu’s plan to hijack the senators cockamamy one – oh wait, Lady Trieu’s is the same idea she’s just a scientific genius. A mad scientist who cloned her mom and transported her dad in a statue so they could be there when she transcends into a God. Welp, like father like daughter. I feel like there was no other way for her to be born but by stolen artificial insemination, a perfect situation for Ozymandias – this is how your legacy lives on, isn’t it what you want Adrian!?

HBO Watchmen

The Senator has a plan to take Dr. Manhattan’s powers and tip the scales back into the white man’s favor. It was all part of the plan for Judd and his wife to get close to Angela’s family and destroy Cal because they knew he was Dr. Manhattan since the white night. This plan was obliterated as quickly as their small-minded intentions were conceived. How did this all happen? How did Dr. Manhattan let it happen? It goes back to Ozymandias’ original plan – man, I feel like I am experiencing time all at once while writing this – was that the writer’s goal for the audience? Of course, it was. We see Lady Trieu acquiring a house as a meteor lands (her father’s ship) but we see him trying to escape this fantasy place, while Angela is uncovering her life and destiny and Dr. Manhattan is changing diapers. A wild web the show weaves. I digress – Ozymandias made this ring to stop Dr. Manhattan’s powers with. As a fail-safe, in life-threatening situations, he would be able to access those powers like a reflex and he transported Angela’s assailant to his original hometown in this reflex. But this comes back to what Dr. Manhattan could not see. This box – shielded from his eye making Dr. Manhattan leave to Mars (or Europa) to make life. The life and world he transports Ozymandias to. Yes, full circle.

“WATCH THE EGGS”

We come to the final fight Angela is trying to hold onto her world Yahya, sorry Cal, I mean Jon, nope – Dr. Manhattan is woken up and he is out of sorts trying to assemble the last 10 years. He starts making waffles, he transports the kids, he goes to the pool. What is going on?! It is important for her to see him on the pool, look out for the eggs, and he has accepted his fate of death. I haven’t even accepted it! Why? How? Can’t you just remake yourself? He is back to existing in all time and Angela has a full-on conversation with her grandfather asking him about Judd to which he replies “Who’s Judd.” Oh, MY WORD! Would any of this happened if she had not asked this question? Here come the more questions, what was really Lady Trieu and Will’s agreement? How did they meet? How come Will could stick his hand in boiling hot water and drink piping hot coffee in seconds. Is this something he acquired in the field as a cop or superhero? Like chefs who can’t feel hot things anymore? Watching Angela fight for Dr. Manhattan, I didn’t think she could be more attractive but we all felt it – even in the last moments when he’s at every moment with her, you’re like yea… she’s all that – swoon.

We are introduced to this idea of Dr. Manhattan passing on his powers through an egg in the love story episode and this, of course, comes back, with the last egg unbroken and Angela consuming it. If she becomes Dr. Manhattan will she be in her birthday suit? I am not opposed to that…but respectful of course. On a more relevant note, if she has his powers can she remake him? Energy doesn’t die and his energy wasn’t transferred anywhere in that crash. If/When he comes back, can he stay Yayha Abdul Mateen II? Is Lady Trieu actually gone? Will her clone mom clone her daughter and bring her back? The questions are just a vicious cycle.

HBO Watchmen

I do feel HBO did its usual formula where the second to last episode is better than the finale. BUT that is in no way diminishing the brilliance of this series at all. The finale just happened to show us the truth is what we thought it was. But the questions we are left with will either haunt us forever or be revealed in season 2. Please HBO season 2? I can’t imagine why there wouldn’t be a season 2, but – that ending could just leave us in the dark for all of time.

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Watchmen

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  • Aisha Jordan bio: Actor, Writer, Arts Administrator. I am a movie nerd. Born and raised, action and adventure, sci-fi, fantasy, cartoon enthusiast, and aficionado. Raised by a Trekkie mom in a world of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings. Foundation in social justice theater and playing in the nerd and entertainment world.

  • Show Comments

  • Sid

    Outstanding review of the show. It’s been some time since we’ve been exposed to such complexity in characters who are POC and queer. I could connect with not only the heroine all of the seminal moments and people around her. Rather than construct a sterile POC with a few light archetype nods acknowledging race as if it’s an extraneous condition, the writers fully embrace racial context that’s uniquely American and unflinchingly stare into its raw history. Easily the best writing on TV not only this year but in the last 5.

  • bd73

    would any of this have happened if manhattan were not aware of so much? angela asked will the judd question because manhattan went to see him. why did he go to see will? to suggest he trade manhattan to trieu for the destruction of 7th kavalry. will tells angela it was manhattan’s idea, but it cant have been. he must have simply known it would happen this way.

    angela could do amazing things with manhattan’s powers,theoretically. unlike john, she is going into this transformation with intention. it isn’t likely to be as easy to fix all the world’s problems as trieu thought. so, what’s the conflict for a well-meaning superbeing? especially if – unlike manhattan – she still looks like a human being?

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