“See How They Fly”
December 15, 2019
Happy Easter! Who wants eggs?
While Adrian Veidt records his message to future President Robert Redford, one of his trusty Vietnamese staff (whom he saved — or “saved” — following America’s win in Vietnam), a janitor, sneaks into his private office, logs into his computer and opens a secret refrigerator hidden behind a portrait of Alexander the Great. (Well, Ozymandias as Alexander the Great.)
In the fridge: a bunch of semen samples because OF COURSE that megalomaniac would hoard a stash of his own cum for whatever batshit insane reason. The janitor removes a sample: #2346 specifically, replaces the contents with lotion, and then inseminates herself in Veidt’s chair, while quoting the historical Lady Trieu: “I want to ride the strong winds, crush the angry waves, slay the killer whales in the Eastern sea, chase away the Wu army, reclaim the land, remove the yoke of slavery. I will not bend my back to be a slave.” And then, in concluding her comments, adds a cheerful, “FUCK YOU, OZYMANDIAS.”
WELL, THAT IS QUITE THE ORIGIN STORY, LADY TRIEU.
Lady Trieu arrives at Veidt’s Antarctic lair and charms her way inside by revealing she knows all about Operation Giant Interdimensional Psychic Squid, and lamenting that no one gives him any credit for saving the world.
“SHE GETS IT,” Veidt thinks to himself and invites her in.
There, Veidt bitches that Redford won’t return his calls — as if some cowboy actor could get elected president without his help …
The squid machine turns on to deliver another batch … somewhere, it’s determined by a randomizing algorithm to prevent anyone discovering a pattern that can lead it back to him, Veidt explains. Lady Trieu says the squid project is truly amazing — but a rerun. He had a genuinely novel idea twenty years ago, but this … it’s the same thing, just smaller, and frankly, it probably won’t be enough to stop the doomsday clock if it starts back up and countries begin pointing nuclear weapons at one another again.
However, there is someone who could fix things, someone who has no limitations. Veidt points out that he doesn’t have a hotline to Mars, but Lady Trieu waves that away: Doctor Manhattan isn’t on Mars. Based on her readings of radioactive frequencies, she believes he’s hiding out on a moon of Jupiter. To prove it, she’s sending a probe that will take 5 years 72 days 9 hours 17 minutes to take some pictures for her. She needs to confirm where he is before she can bring him back here, destroy him and absorb his power. And then! Once she has his power, she can fix the world! The greater good and all that.
So! The reason she’s here is she needs to build this centrifuge thingy to make the power transfer. And to do that, she needs $42 billion. Can she have $42 billion, please? Veidt is taken aback by this and is all, “Why the FUCK would I do that?” And that’s when she reveals she is his daughter. She tells him about her mom, the painting, the fridge, sample #2346, and long story short, he can call her Trieu.
Veidt, furious at this revelation, explains that he inherited his parents’ wealth but gave it all away to prove he could start from nothing. AND TO THAT END, SHE GETS NOTHING.
AND ALSO, HE’LL NEVER CALL HER “DAUGHTER.”
Veidt is in his cell with his cake and is making a wish when there is a terrible rumbling. It’s the signal he’s been waiting for, and, all dolled up in his Ozymandias costume, he climbs down into the hole he dug into the floor with that horseshoe. (Oh, hello again, tunnel imagery.)
He emerges outside to a rocket that has landed outside the estate. However, the Game Warden blocks his way, and orders Veidt to return to his cell. Veidt refuses, so the Game Warden shoots him. However! the Ozymandias manages to catch the bullet in the air and is fine.
The Game Warden knocks Veidt to the ground and proceeds to beat him, while yelling that he will not let him go, so Veidt stabs him with the horseshoe. As the Game Warden dies, he asks Veidt why he made him wear the mask, and Veidt explains that masks make men cruel. He had eight years he had to kill, and he needed a worthy adversary to keep him sane. The Game Warden asks “Master” if he was a worthy adversary, and Veidt tells him he wasn’t … but that he put on a hell of a show.
With that, the Mr. Phillipses and the Ms. Crookshanks line up in front of the rocket to say their goodbyes, and Veidt boards the ship. Inside, he is ordered to enter a “preservation chamber” where he is spritzed with some sort of gold substance — because, that’s right, he’s the statue. He’s been hiding in plain sight all along.
So, Trieu loads his statue up into some sort of device that will revive him or whatever, but before the process concludes, she tells Bian that she needs to tell her something, because when he wakes up, he might try to reveal it, and Bian is like … “What, that I’m your mother?”
Veidt wakes up, and Trieu explains that when she sent the probe to find Manhattan, she was surprised to see Veidt’s message to her. Were those bodies that he used to make the letters with? Veidt confirms it was, and she is impressed. But it was the fact that he took the time to spell out “daughter” that meant the most to her.
Veidt tries to tell her that Manhattan is here on Earth passing as a human, and Trieu is like, “Oh yeah, I’ve known all about that for a while.” She gives him a change of clothes and points out her Millennial Clock which has been activated, and Veidt, he’s impressed that she actually made it. With that, she announces they have a god to kill.
The group, including a bunch of Trieu employees, arrive in downtown Tulsa and begin setting up … something. Veidt stops by the newsstand where he discovers that Redford is still President, and where the news guy is like, “Hey … you know who you look like? Ozymandias! But not exactly.” Intrigued, Veidt asks what people think happened to him, and the news guy is like, “I mean, no one really cares? I heard he walked into the jungle to go live with the animals like Tarzan or some shit. What do you think happened to him?”
Veidt goes on to tell him the truth: he was stranded on one of Jupiter’s moons, slowly going insane. And that’s when Trieu’s device goes online, prompting Veidt to quote the Mernepath Stele: “Israel is laid waste and his seed is no more; Palestine has become a widow for Egypt.”
News guy is like, “do what now?”
And Veidt puts it in plain language: The end is nigh.
Back at J.C. Penney’s, a bound Laurie is wheeled into a spot directly in front of the large cage in the middle of the room. She notes an audience assembling, including Mrs. Judd, and Senator Keene Sr. whom Laurie never had pegged as a secret racist. (They’re all secret racists, Laurie.)
As Senator Keene is distracted by a message over his walkie that his team of Seventh Kalvary are taking on gunfire, Looking Glass, masked as a Seventh Kalvary member, sidles up to Laurie to let her know that he’s there and to BE COOL. He’s — somehow — going to get them out of there. Keene orders his men to take the shot and the cage glows red as a Doctor Manhattan is deposited inside, whereupon Laurie realizes that Cal was Doctor Manhattan all along.
As the Seventh Kalvary assholes celebrate their capture, back at the Abar home, Angela is torturing a Seventh Kalvary member to find out where they took her husband.
Back at J.C. Penney’s, Senator Keene begins to undress while delivering his villain monologue to Laurie: Operation Giant Interdimensional Psychic Squid, puppet president who took heir guns and made them feel bad for being white supremacists, culture war, he wanted to be President, yadda … but then White Night and one of Senator Keene’s racist soldiers called him claiming to have been teleported to Gila Flats, New Mexico. And that’s how they figured out Doctor Manhattan was living among them.
So! They built a cage made from melted down lithium watch batteries and now it’s time to melt Manhattan down. Keene couldn’t resist inviting Laurie to be there
to serve as the stand-in for the audience because they needed to explain their dastardly plan to someone since she used to be Doc Manhattan’s gal pal, and it seemed only right to have someone who cared about him be with him when he dies.
It should be noted that at this point, Keene has stripped down to a pair of panties similar to the ones Doctor Manhattan used to wear, and Laurie makes sure to tell him he looks stupid.
Keene argues in response that he’s about to become the most powerful man alive; waving his dick in everyone’s faces just seems like overkill.
And that’s when Angela shoots her way inside, pulls a gun on Keene and tells him that whatever he thinks is going to happen is definitely not going to happen. She also warns him that Lady Trieu is knows what he’s up to, and not only is she letting him flip the switch, she wants him to do it. Keene is all, LOL, WUT? and gets inside his Jeff Goldblum in The Fly chamber anyway.
The machine whirs to life and at the same moment, the room is hit by a shockwave of some sort. Everyone’s knocked to the ground, reeling from a powerful high-pitched ringing noise, a force of some sort that makes some of the afflicted vomit. And that’s when Lady Trieu and her team step into the space with giant magnets that yoink all the bad guys’ guns from them.
Trieu takes notice of Angela’s presence, and apologizes to her for having to see this. But she is fulfilling a promise to Angela’s grandfather: Will gave Trieu Angela’s husband, she will give him justice.
While Laurie and Adrian are reunited, Trieu addresses the audience of racists Senator Keene has assembled for his big night, and she explains that their ears are probably still ringing and they might be nauseated, but that’s just a side effect of the teleportation and OH! HOLY SHIT! THEY ARE ALL OUTSIDE IN DOWNTOWN TULSA NOW! OH OH OH OKAY.
Trieu suggests that they let Keene out of his Fly pod, but when the door is opened, only red goo gushes out.
Trieu thanks the Seventh Calvary for catching Doctor Manhattan — it was the only way he wouldn’t be able to see her coming. But trying to absorb atomic energy without a filter is going to pop you like a water balloon. And now onto the speech that Will Reeves asked her to read to them:
“You represent the senior leadership of Cyclops, an organization that has terrorized and victimized men, women, and children of color for a century. Including this very place, the site of the Greenwood massacre of 1921. You have plundered and pillaged and murdered in the name of white supremacy. Your crimes –”
But Trieu is interrupted by Mrs. Judd who is like, “Just fucking get on with the part where you kill us.” So Trieu — who didn’t really care one way or the other about Will’s anti-racism crusade — does just that: she turns a series of lasers (?) onto the crowd of racists, and poof! they disappear.
Meanwhile, the pool of Keene’s blood seeps into Manhattan’s cage, and by touching it, Manhattan is able to teleport Laurie, Veidt and Looking Glass to Veidt’s lair in Antarctica, “to save the day, of course!”
Angela asks Jon what is going on and he explains that the cage is weakening him — it’s hard to be in the present. He sent Laurie and the others somewhere to help, and Angela asks why he didn’t send her? “Because I don’t want to be alone when I die,” he answers before telling her to not touch the light. And that’s when Trieu turns her laser thingies onto him, pulling him apart.
Angela asks him what to do, and he urges her to leave; he can’t hold himself together for much longer. She insists she is not leaving him, and begs him to come back to her. But he can’t. Instead, at that moment, he’s in every moment he was ever in with her, all at once.
He tells her that he loves her one last time, briefly returns to Cal, and then he’s gone in a blast that knocks her backwards.
MEANWHILE: In Antarctica, Veidt explains to the others where, exactly, they are. Looking Glass finds his squid machine and is like, “WELL WELL WELL …” before realizing that Laurie knew about Operation Giant Interdimensional Psychic Squid this entire time, and she is like, *shrug* “it saved the world, whaddya gonna do?”
Explaining that he designed the baby squid to dissolve on impact, Veidt orders Looking Glass to turn his squid machine down to 22 degrees, and turns the machine to aim for Tulsa. It will be a Gatling gun from the heavens. Veidt is certain Doctor Manhattan is dead already, and he only has a small window of opportunity to take down his most worthy adversary while she’s busy worrying about the energy transfer. They must stop this narcissist before her hubristic ambitions are unloosed.
As Trieu steps into the machine to receive Doctor Manhattan’s powers, her father unleashes the frozen squids onto downtown Tulsa — and announces that everything within five blocks will be “obliterated.”
In Tulsa, Bian wakes up a knocked-unconscious Angela and warns her that she and her friends — the cops who are just now arriving — need to leave before they get hurt. Just then, the Doctor Manhattan phone begins ringing, and Bian answers: it’s Laurie (somehow, and despite the phone being a Trieu device) warning that Bian and Angela need to take cover.
And that’s when the squid fall, one going straight through Trieu’s hand. As Angela takes a large case as cover and runs for the Dreamland theater, the squid rain down, destroying Trieu’s device which falls on her, killing her.
Inside the theater, Angela finds her grandfather watching over her sleeping children. There, Will tells her that he’s sorry, and reveals that his working with Trieu was Jon’s idea. Angela grapples with the fact that Jon always knew he was going to die, and Will helped him. Will insists they helped each other.
Will confirms that Angela took his Nostalgia and now knows his origin story. If so, she knows that he was sitting in this exact spot almost 100 years ago. The last thing he saw before the world ended was Bass Reeves imploring him to “trust in the law.” So he did, and he took Reeves’ name, and when he became a cop he realized there was a reason Reeves hid his face behind a mask, so he did too. Since she took his Nostalgia she also knows what he felt. Angela answers “anger,” but Will corrects her: it was fear and hurt. You can’t heal under a mask, wounds need air.
Jon, he told Will that she would try to save him, but he knew this was the way it had to be: you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. That was something Jon said when they met, and said she would understand when the time was right. Angela protests that she doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about. So Will points out the obvious: then the time ain’t right.
With that, Angela invites Will to stay with her and the kids … just for a couple of nights.
Back in Antarctica, Veidt offers to Laurie and Looking Glass an Archie he had laying around in his lair to fly home in, and they’re like, “Cool! Now you’re under arrest for killing three million people.” Veidt protests that they don’t have proof, but Looking Glass holds up the DVD Keene showed him and is like, “LOL WRONG.” Veidt points out that President Redford knew all about it: what, are they going to arrest a sitting President, too? And Laurie shrugs, “why not?”
Veidt threatens that if he’s arrested the world will end and Laurie is like, “Okay.” Looking Glass bonks him over the head with a wrench, knocking him out, and the two of them drag them into Archie and off to justice.
The next morning in Tulsa, Angela leads her family out of the Dreamland theater, and into her bakery where she reveals her secret vault and Sister Night costume, before taking them home.
Once home, Angela tucks the children into bed and begins cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, including the cracked eggs and Jon’s memory blocking ring. Will enters, tells Angela that Cal/Jon was a good man, he’s sorry he’s gone, but considering what he could do, he really could have done more. With that, Will goes to bed.
Angela goes back to cleaning, notices that there is one egg left unbroken in the carton, and remembers her conversation with Doctor Manhattan on that first night.
Angla takes the egg, goes outside, takes off her shoes, and walks to the edge of the pool. There, she cracks the egg and consumes it. Then, tentatively, she steps either into or onto the pool …
I choose to believe onto.
Ah, the incredible, edible egg.
Oh, we’re going to get to the eggs, but first, let’s talk a little bit about hubris. It occurred to me at four in the morning while I was panic-reading twitter about the unfolding apocalypse all around us, that despite this being a finale episode, an episode in which the writers are tasked with wrapping up all of the storylines and loose ends and answering all the remaining mysteries (which I happen to think they did remarkably well, with maybe the exception of Lube Guy — AND I KNOW THAT WAS EXPLAINED IN THE PETEYPEDIA — I just think it’s a little cheap to open that door in the actual program and then close it online BUT I DIGRESS), they also managed to develop a recurring theme in this particular episode: the price of hubris.
A quick high school English class refresher: you probably remember that hubris is an arrogant action that goes against the divine order of some sort. King Laius, Oedipus’ father, for instance, commits hubris when he attempts to prevent a divine prophecy about his son killing him from coming true and sends his infant son away; Oedipus further commits hubris when, hearing that a prophecy said he would kill his father, leaves his adoptive home to prevent the prophecy from coming true, and sets into motion the prophecy itself. They believe themselves to know better than the gods, and their arrogance costs both of them.
And then there is Odysseus, who, after blinding the Cyclops, just can’t stop himself from being an asshole, and begins yelling things like, “YEAH, TAKE THAT BITCH. AND DON’T FORGET WHO STABBED YA! IT WAS ME, ODYSSEUS!” So then the Cyclops asks his dad, who happened to be the god of the sea, Poseidon, to take care of this piece of shit, and, in fact, he does happen to know exactly who Poseidon should go after, thanks to Odysseus needing to brag about it. Odysseus doesn’t make it back home for twenty years as a result, because that’s what happens when you piss off the gods, you arrogant idiots.
The concept of hubris runs rife through the Old Testament (most of whose stories predate Aristotle and the legends of Oedipus and Odysseus by a couple of centuries): the Tower of Babel, Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Adam and Eve are just a few of the more famous stories of Old Testament in which people thought they knew better than God and were smacked down for it.
It is applied in more modern stories, of course: Milton’s Paradise Lost is all about a Satan who defies God because he wants to be in charge; and both the Faust legend and Frankenstein are stories of men who wanted to upend the natural order and access God’s knowledge and who are ultimately punished for their arrogance.
Now! A couple of interesting things about hubris to keep in mind: 1. There are very few stories (if any) of gods being permanently killed by mortals. Demigods, sure, but gods themselves? They’re immortal, that’s kinda what makes them gods. (And this doesn’t really apply to my eventual point, but at least in Greece, the gods can’t kill each other, either. Imprison one another, chop each other into bits, yeah, but actual life-ending murder? It’s not a thing.) and 2. The original concept of “hubris” in Ancient Greece actually had nothing to do with the gods, at least directly. Instead, hubris was when someone perpetuated an act of violence upon someone else in a way that was intended to shame or humiliate the victim, but which actually brings shame upon themselves.
SO. MY POINT NOW THAT I’VE YAMMERED FOR 500 UNNECESSARY WORDS: this episode is mostly about two people committing the traditional sense of hubris, of people who think they could do better than a god and attempting to assume his powers. Lady Trieu and Senator Keene both want Doctor Manhattan’s powers because they believe — because they are both narcissists of the highest order — that they know better than an all-knowing god. To that end, they both come up with a plan and devices to take said power from Doctor Manhattan, not unlike the Tower of Babel story.
A quick diversion on the Tower of Babel story: so I had always believed that the story was that men got a little too big for their britches and built a tower that could reach to heaven so that they could usurp God. God sees this and is like, “NOT TODAY, BITCHES,” destroys the tower, confounds their speech so they can not understand one another and scatters them across the land.
Turns out, that second half is correct, but the inspiration for building the tower was actually the great flood: people didn’t want to be left vulnerable to another cataclysmic flood, so, they tried to be proactive and they built upwards, only to have God discover the tower and get pissed that He wouldn’t be able to punish them at His whim. And THAT’S why He changed their languages.
Anyone who lived through Harvey has to give some hard side-eye to Old Testament God here.
OK, but back to my point: Keene and Trieu both build machines designed to take Manhattan’s powers from him and they are both struck down for their troubles. I would even argue that there is a degree of the original meaning of hubris at play here, too: especially with Keene, there seems to be a desire to humiliate Manhattan, to put him on display in his most vulnerable moment, to make his death a show of his own power. It’s not enough to kill Manhattan and take his power for his own, there seems to be a need to shame him in the process, to bring him down to human size.
As for Trieu, there is also something very Old Testament about her death: her absent father/God punishing her for her arrogance and hubris by raining down upon her from the Heavens a bunch of weaponized squid … Once again, file this under Damon Lindelof’s daddy issues, and let’s put this aside.
And as for my other point about hubris and gods, you’ll notice that I was pretty specific in my language: There are very few stories (if any) of gods being permanently killed or destroyed by mortals. The deicide story that we are most familiar with is the one we happen to be celebrating today, Jesus Christ’s, in which mortals put to death the human son of God (and in a nice reversal to what we’ve been discussing, Jesus is accused and convicted of a number of crimes, including blasphemy for claiming to be the son of God, king of the Jews, and the savior to the world — basically of hubris). Of course, his death doesn’t stick, and he’s resurrected before ascending into Heaven to serve at the right hand of God.
It should be noted that while Jesus is one of a number of resurrection gods, including Osiris, Dionysus, Quetzalcoatl, Attis, and Bladr, his story is unusual in that mortals kill (or “kill”) him instead of fellow gods. These other gods’ deaths and rebirths often are tied to cycles in nature, be it the life cycle of a grapevine or the moon’s cycles or the flood cycles of the Nile river — whathaveyou. The point being: for a set period of time, they all appear to be dead, only to be reborn or reconstituted in some way — their power is undiminished.
Similarly, Doctor Manhattan appears to be dead …
But lo, he is risen. And risen through that most ancient symbol of birth and rebirth, the egg.
YOU GUYS, IT WAS RIGHT THERE ALL ALONG.
Right, so it had bothered me that almost every single episode included some very obvious egg imagery, and I yammered on about egg symbolism:
“Eggs are a very simple, loaded and ancient symbol of creation for obvious reasons — life springs forth from these strange, non-organic-seeming, rock-like things, almost miraculously. Eggs also represent renewal, rebirth, resurrection, hope, promise, and change.”
But I couldn’t figure out where they were going with this obvious metaphor: something about fertility? A “cosmic egg” that would birth a new reality? Were they actually going to crack open that other dimension to try to make a better world?
Nope. It was all about Angela changing into Doctor Manhattan and Doctor Manhattan’s rebirth in Angela. And what is both irritating and delightful in that “A-HA!” brain-itch kind of way is that there were other clues laid in the path that when one looks back seems fairly obvious: namely, Angela’s time in her grandfather’s memories, and Doctor Manhattan assuming the identity of this dead man, Cal. In both instances, the characters’ consciousnesses assume someone else’s physical form. If Doctor Manhattan could be Cal, and if Angela could be both herself and her grandfather simultaneously, then why couldn’t Angela be both herself and Doctor Manhattan? A god walks into Abar …
This entire series, it turns out, is Angela’s “origin story” or as I would prefer to call it, her “hero’s journey” into becoming an actual superhero and the love of her life. So let’s wrap up this recap exploring Angela’s monomyth.
(And not to bore you with explanations that you are probably fairly familiar with, but the hero’s journey is a common story that follows a protagonist as they leave the comfortable known world, have a series of adventures in unfamiliar realms and eventually returns home transformed and able, in some way, to save or benefit their community. It’s a story that is told in various ways all over the world, and it shares common beats and plot points, which the scholar Joseph Campbell called “the monomyth.”)
SO. Angela has a very typically tragic childhood for a superhero: like Superman, Luke, Harry Potter and pretty much every other superhero and Disney protagonist, she’s an orphan; and like Batman, she is present at her parents’ murder. (And a quick note: there are two good reasons to make a hero an orphan: one, avenging the parents’ deaths gives the hero a motivation to act — a motivation that the ordinary person who leads an ordinary life just doesn’t have access to; and two, having no familial obligations frees the hero to embark on an adventure. But I digress.) Orphaned Angela eventually becomes a police officer in Vietnam after experiencing the gratification of helping the police exact justice on her parents’ killer. It is only then, as an adult, that her journey truly begins.
The first of three stages in the monomyth is the “Departure,” which begins with “The Call to Adventure,” or the moment when the hero is called upon to leave the comfortable familiar world and head into the unknown. This moment for Angela is when Doctor Manhattan walks into her bar, offers her a beer, and asks her to join him for dinner the next night.
The next step is “The Refusal of the Call” — which is pretty much the entire bar scene in “A God Walks into Abar.”
But eventually, Angela agrees to dinner and the adventure begins when she and Doctor Manhattan make the decision to move back to Oklahoma. By leaving the only place she’s ever lived, Vietnam, and returning to her promised homeland of Oklahoma, Angela “Crosses the First Threshold.”
The last moment in the “Departure” stage of the monomyth is the “Belly of the Whale” moment. From Campbell:
“The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown and would appear to have died. This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation. Instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again. The disappearance corresponds to the passing of a worshipper into a temple—where he is to be quickened by the recollection of who and what he is, namely dust and ashes unless immortal. The temple interior, the belly of the whale, and the heavenly land beyond, above, and below the confines of the world, are one and the same. That is why the approaches and entrances to temples are flanked and defended by colossal gargoyles: dragons, lions, devil-slayers with drawn swords, resentful dwarfs, winged bulls. The devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis. Once inside he may be said to have died to time and returned to the World Womb, the World Navel, the Earthly Paradise. Allegorically, then, the passage into a temple and the hero-dive through the jaws of the whale are identical adventures, both denoting in picture language, the life-centering, life-renewing act.”
Angela’s “Belly of the Whale” moment: the White Night. She is attacked, and had she not been married to Doctor Manhattan, she certainly would have died. However, she does not, and it is a transformative moment for her as she creates this second identity, Sister Night.
Now! in the traditional monomyth, the hero meets their mentor in this Departure stage of the journey, but it’s a little more complicated for Angela. She does have a mentor, Judd, whom she meets during the middle stage of the hero’s journey, after the “Belly of the Whale” moment, well into the second part of the monomyth, the “Initiation” stage. But Judd is a false mentor. Her actual mentor, her grandfather Will, does not come into the story until after Judd and much later in the “Initiation” stage.
EXCEPT! It could be argued that because of Doctor Manhattan’s space/time travel abilities, she actually “meets” her grandfather in the past/future when Doctor Manhattan pays a visit to him before they leave Vietnam for Oklahoma. 2009 Will meets 2019 Angela through Doctor Manhattan. It’s the other use of the egg symbolism in the series: by asking 2009 Will how he knew about her other mentor, Judd, 2019 Angela sets into motion the acts that bring Will, her real mentor, into her life. So, which came first: Will’s murder of Judd or Angela’s asking how Will knew about Judd’s secret life? The chicken or the egg?
BUT BACK TO THE INITIATION. So, the “Initiation” process is the mid-point of the journey, where the hero is tested. In fact, most of the “Initiation” stage is “The Road of Trials,” in which the hero is tested in a number of ways. This is pretty much everything that happens to Angela following “The White Night.”
One of the crucial stages of the “Initiation,” and the monomyth in general, is the “Atonement with the Father,” when the hero is forced to confront a father figure, or some other figure that represents ultimate power. It’s the center point of the journey, the moment when the hero recognizes that he is his father. From Campbell:
“The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned.”
From the show:
Following this, the hero can experience the “Apotheosis,” a moment when the hero acquires a greater understanding, insight, and knowledge. For Angela, this is when she consumes her grandfather’s Nostalgia, and she finally understands not just who he is, but who she is as a result.
The final step in “Initiation” before the hero can move on to the third and finals stage of the monomyth, the “Return” is “The Ultimate Boon,” when the hero acquires what she went on the journey for in the first place. For Angela, this is the moment when, while recovering from overdosing on Nostalgia, Angela learns that Lady Trieu and the Seventh Kalvary both know that Cal is Doctor Manhattan, and that the Seventh Kalvary are on their way to destroy him. She obtains the truth, and armed with that, she can finally begin the journey back home to save the day.
In this final stage, the “Return,” Angela’s “Magic Flight” is not all that magical: she rushes home to awaken Doctor Manhattan from his 10-year sleep in the tunnel of love, so that he can help save himself. The two then embark on “The Rescue from Without,” in which the hero, Angela, enlists rescuers, here Doctor Manhattan, to help them. Of course, Angela is enlisting Doctor Manhattan to help save Doctor Manhattan, which he insists is a pointless exercise as he knows he will not ultimately be saved. Still, she tries anyway, because fuck fate, and that is the moment he falls in love with her.
“The Crossing of the Final Threshold,” is a difficult moment in which the hero must integrate themselves back into the normal world with all its banality, pain and disappointment. As Campbell put it: “The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world.” I would argue that this is the moment when Doctor Manhattan is captured, and Angela, unable to save him, is forced to watch him be destroyed.
But this must happen so that the final stages of the hero’s journey, the transformation, can take place.
“Master of Two Worlds” is the transcendent moment for the hero. From Campbell:
“The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment. His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him; he becomes, that is to say, an anonymity.”
“Freedom to Live” is the final stage, the happily-ever-after if you will.
“The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is. ‘Before Abraham was, I AM.’ He does not mistake apparent changelessness in time for the permanence of Being, nor is he fearful of the next moment (or of the ‘other thing’), as destroying the permanent with its change. ‘Nothing retains its own form; but Nature, the greater renewer, ever makes up forms from forms. Be sure that nothing perishes in the whole universe; it does but vary and renew its form.’ Thus the next moment is permitted to come to pass.”
Angela, she comes to understand what Will meant when he told her that John was a good man, but that he could have done more … and what Doctor Manhattan meant about the omelet …
And so she eats that egg and she walks on water. She becomes the Master of Two Worlds, She IS.
Alright, it’s Easter, after all, how about some eggs?
The password to Ozymandias’ computer is RAMSES II — who was the Egyptian pharaoh the Greeks called “Ozymandias.” And the prompt for the password us “UNTIE KNOT” which is a reference to Alexander the Great’s Gordian Knot.
When Ozymandias catches the bullet, it’s a reference to the original comic. In the final chapter, Laurie shoots at him, and he catches the bullet.
The newspaper that Veidt picks up has a headline about how the Senate Republicans are trying to delay President Redford’s Supreme Court nomination until after the election. WHAT AN OUTLANDISH AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL IDEA, THANK GOODNESS IT COULD NEVER HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE.
When Doctor Manhattan is imprisoned and confused, he repeats quotes from his past, including:
“Janey? What’s up? Are you cold? I can raise the temperature…,” which is from Watchmen issue 4.
“All we ever see of stars are their old photographs,” from issue 4.
“Pay attention. You will all return to your homes,” from issue 4.
“As far as I know there is currently a situation in Afghanistan requiring my attention,” from issue 3.
As Angela, Will and the children leave the Dreamland theater, the lights have been blown out to read: Dr M. You know, like Dr. Manhattan.
And the episode is entitled, “See How They Fly” which is a line from the Beatles, “I Am the Walrus,” which also includes the famous line, “I am the Eggman.” It also happens to include the line that I used as my title which, if I’ve done my job here, I have explained is even more relevant.
Finally, the last memo in the Peteypedia is the FBI memo announcing that he has been fired. It makes clear that Petey was, indeed, Lube Guy, and seems to be investigating conspiracies on his own. Godspeed, Lube Guy.
Watchmen aired on HBO. You can stream it now on HBO GO and HBO Now.