‘Watchmen’: Rhapsody in Blue

Watchmen
“A God Walks Into Abar”
December 8, 2019

(A note: I’m not sure if this little experiment will work — it does on some platforms, not so much on others — but in theory, if you click on the highlighted links in the texts, it should jump you to the moment in time that the story is referencing. Basically, I tried to design this to hop around in time the way Doctor Manhattan does to make a non-linear story a little more linear. Sorry if it doesn’t work, or doesn’t work seamlessly. I’m a writer, not a programmer, after all.)

Vietnam, VVN Day, 2009. (So sometime in June, possibly June 15 or 16.)

A blue ZAP and a blue man in a nice suit picks up a Doctor Manhattan mask discarded on the street, puts it on and goes inside a bar. There, he grabs two glasses of beer and approaches a table where Angela, in her police uniform, sits alone.

As he offers her a beer, the man asks if she’ll have dinner with him tomorrow night, and she’s like, “I’M SORRY, DO I KNOW YOU? THEN HELL NO, YOU WEIRDO.”

So he changes tactics: if he can guess why she’s alone in this bar, can he sit with her? Angela agrees, so he explains that she’s there commemorating her parents’ death. Angela concedes that he is correct, and invites him to sit down while wondering who from the precinct sent him. The man explains that no one sent him. She’s going to tell him about her parents twenty minutes from now.

Angela, unimpressed, asks how he knows this, and he matter-of-factly tells her that he is Doctor Manhattan.

Angela:

Mad Men Peggy Bullshit

Angela demands to know if he’s Doctor Manhattan, why is he wearing a Doctor Manhattan mask? Doctor Manhattan explains that he doesn’t want to be recognized. This leads Angela to wonder if this is some Zeus thing, turning into a swan to get himself laid? Is he just doing a booty call from Mars? Doctor Manhattan assures her that it’s not him on Mars, that’s just a preprogrammed recording to make people believe he’s on Mars. In fact, he’s been someplace much more interesting for the past 20 years or so: Europa.

Angela asks what he was doing on Jupiter’s moon, and Doctor Manhattan replies, “technically, what AM I doing there,” before delivering a line that could have been the subhead of this entire episode: “The way I experience time is unique, and for you, particularly, infuriating.”

Truer words, man.

Anyway, he’s been on (or is currently on) Europa creating life.

It’s 1985 (and now), and Doctor Manhattan is on Europa, creating an atmosphere, tundra, a lake teeming with primordial life that he walks around on.

watchmen doctor manhattan walk on water

“You walk on water?”

“Occasionally. Yes.”

put a pin in that it comeback

Angela asks if he took Sunday off, but Doctor Manhattan notes that the entire process only took 90 seconds. “Typical. A man creating life in under two minutes.”

rim shot eye roll

Angela asks about Adam and Eve, and Doctor Manhattan assures her that he made them, too: two infants whose maturation he accelerated. He gave them high brain function, self-awareness, speech, and a fancy manor house that he teleported to Europa because it was “special.”

See, in the same moment that he is sitting here with Angela and he is making life in Europa he is also in 1936 as a small Jewish child fleeing Nazi Germany with his father. They escaped to a fancy English manor house owned by a generous couple who happen to look exactly like Mr. Philips and Ms. Crookshanks.

One day, Jon’s father sends him off for a piece of bread, but he steals an apple instead (GET IT??), before being distracted by a terrarium filled with butterflies. Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks come bursting into the room to make the sexytimes, so Baby Doctor Manhattan hides in a wardrobe where he watches, unsure of what he was seeing, just knowing that it’s AWESOME. The apple, however, falls out of his pocket, alerting the couple to his presence, and Baby Jon runs out of the room.

Later, Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks ask to speak to Baby Jon. Alone with him, they explain that they had a son who would have been his age had he not died a TERRIBLE DEATH and that what he saw them doing was trying to make another baby. All good, totally cool, nothing to get all Philip Rothian over. Anyway, here’s a Bible, you should check out Genesis, it’s a pretty good story. In exchange, they ask that one day when he grows up, that he promise that he will create something beautiful.

He promises.

And he fulfills that promise on Europa, some 70 years and 390 million miles later. He creates Adam and Eve, but in that couple’s image, not his own.

Angela admires his imagination which causes Doctor Manhattan to laugh as a friend is telling him 6 months from now that he lacks imagination.

Angela wonders why, if he went through all this trouble to recreate the Garden of Eden, he would leave, and Doctor Manhattan replies: to meet her. He loves her. Angela protests that they just met, so when the FUCK did he fall in love with her? Doctor Manhattan explains that he was already in love with her. Angela wonders how he can be in love with her before he’d ever met her, but he reminds her that the concept of “before” doesn’t exist for him.

“So there’s no moment? A moment when you realize, ‘OH SHIT, I’M IN LOVE?'”

“Hmm,” replies Doctor Manhattan.

At Angela’s urging, Doctor Manhattan removes the mask, and she notes that he’s not glowing. He first insists that he doesn’t want to attract attention, but then adds that he wants her to remain a little uncertain about his identity before she agrees to dinner with him tomorrow night.

Angela finally reveals to Doctor Manhattan, if that’s who he is, that she actually HATES Doctor Manhattan because his misadventures in Vietnam inspired the terrorist who killed her parents on this night 22 years ago. Doctor Manhattan points out that she just told him why she was sitting in the bar alone just as he predicted before adding that he was just trying to be the superhero and savior in Vietnam that people wanted him to be. He does regret it now, but hasn’t she ever done something she knew she was going to regret?

i feel personally attacked.gif

Anyway, will she have dinner with him tomorrow night? Angela points out that it’s all well and good for him to be slathered in blue makeup tonight — everyone does Doctor Manhattan cosplay on VVN Day. But tomorrow he’ll stick out. Doctor Manhattan offers to teleport her anywhere she wants to go, but she notes that this will only work for so long. Eventually, he’d have to go out in public, so how’s he going to pull that one off? But Doctor Manhattan, he explains that in two weeks from now, Angela comes up with an “elegant” solution.

Two weeks from then, the two of them are in a morgue, examining the three bodies of men in their 30s who have no next of kin and who are set to be cremated in the morning, becoming nothing more than “ashes floating over Saigon.” Doctor Manhattan senses that there is another option she’s not showing him, and she reveals the body of one Calvin Jelani and admits that she would be “comfortable” with him. (“Comfortable” meaning “HE’S VERY HOT, LOOK LIKE HIM, PLS.”) So, Doctor Manhattan takes his form but forgets to remove his little hydrogen forehead symbol. When Angela points out that he’s forgotten it, Doctor Manhattan notes that he’s going to forget so much more soon enough.

Back in the present — or “present,” Angela demands to know what this “elegant” solution is, but Doctor Manhattan refuses to tell her because then it won’t be her idea. Angela is like, “So you can see the future, but you won’t tell me about it. And in this future, we’re having dinner tomorrow night, even though I keep telling you I won’t have dinner with you? Cool. If you can see the future, exactly how long are we together?”

Doctor Manhattan tells her they are together 10 years before it ends tragically. Angela, she’s not deterred by tragedy — she’ll still be young in 10 years, she can make this work. And anyway, she’s still not convinced by this whole Doctor Manhattan thing. He can prove it, though: the next song on the jukebox is her favorite song. The jukebox plays Doris Day’s “Tunnel of Love,” and Angela is unimpressed. She’s never even heard this song before. He knows shit about the future — but he is funny.

Doctor Manhattan informs her that while she thinks this is funny now, his ability to know the future won’t be funny to her in six months, and, in fact, it’s what makes her tell him to leave. Angela reminds him that he said they were together for ten years, and he confirms that they are. So what’s happening in six months from now?

Oh, no, you misunderstand: it’s happening now.

Six months from now but also now, they’re making the sexytime and she’s asking him where he is. He tells her he’s at the bar the night they met just before he creates the egg, telling her about the fight they’re going to have. Angela demands that he SHUT UP, before pulling away and insisting that they ARE NOT going to have a fight.

Doctor Manhattan explains that they will and they are, but Angela refutes him: they don’t have to let the fight happen. Doctor Manhattan is like, “You know how I perceive things, and in fact, I told you the night we met that we would have this argument and here we are. And now you say … ”

In unison, they say, “DON’T TELL ME WHAT I’M GONNA FUCKING SAY!”

He wonders what’s changed: before, his ability to see through time was reassuring to her and offered her the stability growing up in the orphanage could never afford her. This touches a nerve with Angela, and Doctor Manhattan is like, “What? Wasn’t your childhood filled with fear that you’d never have a family because yours was taken from you?”

OH, THEY ARE IN THE FIGHT NOW.

Angela accuses him of having the luxury of never being afraid, and he reminds her that he’s constantly living the moment he was torn apart in that intrinsic field chamber SO HE ACTUALLY IS ALWAYS EXPERIENCING FEAR THANK YOU VERY MUCH. (Except he doesn’t shout because Doctor Manhattan doesn’t shout.)

With that, Angela asks if she needs him to say it, and he answers that he does.

maybe fate wins here bates motel

With that, Angela commands: “Leave.”

~~BZZZT~~

And a very naked Doctor Manhattan is in the Arctic where he lets himself into Adrian Veidt’s lair. Adrian is busy watching his wall of screens, complaining that humanity had everything they need SO WHY DO THEY KEEP FUCKING AROUND WITH BOMBS? Doctor Manhattan explains that it paradoxically helps them feel safe.

Veidt is nonplussed that a naked Doctor Manhattan has reappeared some 24+ years later and shows him around the place, including his squid machine that every so often dumps squids showers around the world to keep up the Giant Psychic Telepathic Squid from Another Dimension story. Veidt also informs Doctor Manhattan that a lot has changed since he fucked off to Europa (how did he know Doctor Manhattan was in Europa? a little elephant told him) …

Lady Trieu hourglass watchmen elephant

… and assumes that he’s back because of a woman. And Doctor Manhattan is wearing this inappropriately culturally appropriated body because he doesn’t want her to know who he is? Doctor Manhattan explains that he told her who he was the moment he met her.

And Veidt comes to understand: Doctor Manhattan doesn’t just want to look mortal — he wants to be mortal. Why can’t he just do it himself, Veidt wonders before answering his own question: Doctor Manhattan has a profound lack of imagination.

Veidt asks if Doctor Manhattan has a brain — if so, in theory, they might be able to put a device in there that would short circuit his prefrontal cortex and his memory. If he’s not aware of his abilities, he won’t be able to use them … except, perhaps reflexively in a life-threatening situation, you know, like if a bunch of white nationalists was to burst into his home and start shooting up the joint. And! In fact! Adrian Veidt has made just such a thing, some thirty years ago as his Plan A — A for amnesia — to get rid of Doctor Manhattan.

watchmen ring memory

Veidt instructs Doctor Manhattan to have Angela place the device exactly where his hydrogen logo used to be and he’ll forget who he is and everything that has ever happened to him. If he has any business to take care of, now would be the time to do it.

In fact, Doctor Manhattan explains, Angela has a grandfather with whom he needs to discuss a few things.

Veidt asks for one thing in exchange: to know if he’ll ever see the utopia he sacrificed so much to bring about. Doctor Manhattan informs him that in fact, he will, but not here on Earth. See, he created a new, kinder, gentler life form on Europa and since he abandoned them, they are in need of someone new to worship. Any interest? Veidt is all, UH, YES PLEASE, so Doctor Manhattan zaps him there.

~~BZZT~~

Sometime after, Doctor Manhattan is instructing Angela to just push this ring into his forehead — the only thing it will affect is his memory. Angela suggests that they leave Vietnam, maybe move to Tulsa, where her family is originally from. Angela is still hesitant about implanting the device, but Doctor Manhattan assures her that while his memories might be lost, she won’t be losing him.

Back in that bar in Vietnam, Angela tells Doctor Manhattan that he’s losing her. And if he doesn’t come up with some kind of proof that he is who he says he is, dinner tomorrow night is a HARD NO. Angela challenges him to create life, and so he does: an egg.

Angela:

Angela asks to hear more about these supposed 10 years they spend together: do they have any kids? Doctor Manhattan tells her that they do, two girls and a boy. She wonders if they are half-gods, but he insists that he would never pass along his powers to someone without their consent. Angela is curious about this and asks if he can transfer his powers to someone else. The question intrigues him and he supposes that if he could transfer his powers into some organic material, and if someone were to consume it, they could, in fact, inherit his powers.

WELP, GUESS WHAT: Angela never wants children and she’s never going to have children, so he’s going to have to find another egg to knock up. With that, she cracks his miracle egg into his beer, which he drinks. He then explains that they aren’t their biological children, they adopt them. In Tulsa. Where her family is from.

Angela demands to know who told him that, and he explains, again, that she did — when she gives him the ring.

Angela then asks when they adopt these supposed kids, but that, Doctor Manhattan explains, he does not know. There is a period of time that he cannot see. All he knows is that she is there when it begins and she is there when it ends. And Angela, she smiles, because what he just described sounds an awful lot like a tunnel — a tunnel of love.

Six months later, Angela tells Doctor Manhattan that she loves him and she places the ring into his forehead.

And some ten years after that, she removes it: “Hey, baby. We’re in fucking trouble.” Angela explains to a glowing and floating Doctor Manhattan that it is 2019, they are in Tulsa and bad people are there to hurt him. Also, please stop being blue, the kids are upstairs and will see. Doctor Manhattan insists that he can not, he has to move forward.

He turns his attention to the grandfather clock damaged in the shooting on Christmas, and he realizes in that moment, his powers returned and he zapped the bad guys away. “Thanks, Adrian.” And now please excuse Doctor Manhattan as he zaps himself out onto the swimming pool where he will walk on water and think things over.

The children notice him from their bedroom and freak out a little, which is when they are zapped away. Angela demands that he get the FUCK off the swimming pool, and tell her where her children are. But Doctor Manhattan explains that she needs to see him on the pool. It’s important for later.

put a pin in that it comeback

FINE, SHE’S SEEN HIM, NOW WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN? And Doctor Manhattan explains that they are with her grandfather in the Dreamland Theater. He’s been expecting them. Angela is like, “HOLD THE FUCK UP, WHEN DID YOU SPEAK TO MY GRANDFATHER?”

Ten years earlier, Doctor Manhattan zapped himself to Nelson Gardner’s former mansion, which he left to an old acquaintance, her grandfather. There, he explains that he’s Doctor Manhattan and that they are connected through Angela, his granddaughter. Will Reeves protests that he doesn’t have a granddaughter, but Doctor Manhattan explains that his son had a daughter, she and Doctor Manhattan are in love and they are going to move to Tulsa where she will be a police officer. And in ten years, she is going to need his help. Will grouses that she doesn’t even know he exists, and Doctor Manhattan explains that’s because he chose to be ignorant of her very existence. But from the moment Doctor Manhattan met her, he sensed a profound emptiness inside of her, and that all she wants is a family.

Ten years in the present, Angela realizes Doctor Manhattan is speaking to her grandfather ten years in the past and demands to know how Will knew that Judd Crawford had a Klan robe in his closet and was a member of Cyclops, and ten years in the past … Will asks who Judd Crawford is.

mind blown fresh off the boat

OF COURSE. OF COURSE ANGELA SET EVERYTHING IN MOTION HER DAMN SELF. LOOPS, DUDE, LOOPS.

Angela is stunned by this revelation and Doctor Manhattan is all, “Yep, it’s the ol’ chicken or the egg paradox: which came first? Turns out the answer is both, simultaneously. Say, I’m starving!”

He heads back to the kitchen to make some teleportation waffles, urges Angela to “watch the eggs” as they break on the ground, and Angela screams at him that they HAVE NO TIME FOR WAFFLES: the bad guys are coming, Lady Trieu knows who he is, EVERYTHING IS FUCKED.

Doctor Manhattan calmly replies that the Seventh Kalvary is already here: they are parked across the street in a truck with a tachyonic cannon which they will use to teleport and destroy him. Angela is FURIOUS that he’s just now telling her this, and insists that they have to stop them. But Doctor Manhattan calmly replies that they can’t. There’s nothing they can do.

Angela disagrees, and taking her guns out of a hidden safe, announces that there’s something she can do.

“This is the moment,” Doctor Manhattan flatly declares. “I just told you that you can’t save me, and you’re going try to anyway. In the bar the night we met, you asked me about the moment I fell in love with you. This is the moment.”

Me:

lisa vanderpump crying rhobh real housewives of beverly hills

But Angela does not have the time or luxury to be emotional and instead snaps at him to stay there while she saves his life. She then marches outside and begins shooting all the bad guys. Shooting all the bad guys, shooting all the bad guys, and Doctor Manhattan, he comes out and explodes all the heads of the bad guys, hooray! But just when it looks like they’re done, and Angela is telling him that he was wrong, Doctor Manhattan tells her he wasn’t, and that he’s sorry.

And that’s when the motherfuckers zap him with the tachyonic cannon and teleport him to the special Doctor Manhattan cage in the J.C. Penny’s.

Ten years earlier, at that Vietnamese bar, Angela asks Doctor Manhattan what his first name is, and he explains it’s Jon with no H. Angela then clarifies: they are going to spend ten years in the tunnel of love and then something terrible is going to happen, but he won’t tell her what it is. When Doctor Manhattan confirms this, Angela is like, “Cool. Well, it’s been nice talking to you, but I’m not interested in getting serious with someone just to know it’s going to end in tragedy.” To which Doctor Manhattan points out that by definition, all relationships end in tragedy.

Me:

Angela concedes that he has a point and with a “fuck it,” agrees to have dinner with him the next night. Why not, right?

Post credit sequence:

On Europa, Adrian is strapped to some sort of board where one by one, the Mr. Phillipses and the Ms. Crookshanks ask him if he will stay, and each time, he responds “No.” In response, they each smash a treemato in his face.

Later in his prison cell, he is visited by the Game Warden who delivers yet another cake. While there, the Game Warden asks if he would like a different book, but Adrian insists that he likes the one he’s reading: the Game Warden wouldn’t understand, it’s about loneliness. The Game Warden responds that he knows ALL ABOUT loneliness: he was the very first to emerge from the water, he watched as heaven was created. So why isn’t heaven enough for Adrian?

Adrian explains that this isn’t his home: his home is 390 million light-years away, and his children are crying out for him to return. Heaven isn’t enough because heaven doesn’t need him.

In disgust, the Game Warden tells Adrian to enjoy his cake and turns to leave. And that’s when Adrian discovers baked into the cake, that horseshoe. It hadn’t been time before, but it’s time now, and with a maniacal laugh, he begins tearing at the floor with the horseshoe, digging his escape.

Alright, let’s begin by talking about circles.

As I’ve mentioned before, after Jon Osterman’s accident and transformation, the United States government approaches him to be a superhero for them, and he agrees to become “Doctor Manhattan.” However, he rejects the atomic symbol they tried to make him wear, and instead burns the symbol of the hydrogen atom into his forehead.

hydrogen symbol doctor manhattan watchmen

“If I’m to have a symbol, it shall be one I respect.”

And if I were smarter, I would have something insightful to say about hydrogen and why this is significant and how it’s the lightest and most abundant element and something about the hydrogen bomb and quantum mechanics and Schr√∂edinger’s damn cat and all that, but suffice it to say, my high school chemistry teacher went to his grave believing I was an idiot and I only passed that class by the skin of my teeth.

So instead I’m going to briefly talk about the symbolism of circles. Because look at all the circles!

Circles are one of the most universal, earliest, and simplest symbols. In fact, it is one of the four “fundamental” symbols, along with the cross, center, and square. From The Introduction to the World of Symbols by Champeaux and Sterckx (via the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols:

In the first place the circle is an expanded DOT and shares its perfection. Furthermore the circle and the dot share certain symbolic properties, namely, perfection, completeness and freedom from distinction or separation … while the primeval dot symbolizes immanent perfection, the circle may also symbolize the results of creation, in other words, the universe in so far as it may be distinguished from its First Cause. Concentric circles represent states of being and the orders of creation. All of them comprise the universal manifestation of the sole and non-manifest Being. In all this, the circle has been regarded in its undivided completeness … circular motion is perfect, immutable, without beginning or end or variation. From this it is a short step to make this a symbol of time. Time may be defined as a continuous and invariable succession of identical instants …

So, to recap: circles represent totality, wholeness, perfection, the movement of time itself. Pythagoras referred to the circle as a “monad,” a symbol without corners or sides, without beginning or end. The One. As such, the circle is often associated not just with monotheism, but with God him/herself. “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere,” according to the mystical ancient writer Hermes Trismegistus.

But also associated with this idea of the circle as the infinite ability is my personal favorite symbol, the ouroboros:

ouroboros-gif
It all comes back around.

You know, the snake eating its own tail which represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth — the transmigration of the soul — the eternal return. All that good stuff. And the connections to Doctor Manhattan’s powers, his ability (or curse) to be in all moments in time at once, his immortality, his ability to create life and universes, his Godness … well, they seem readily apparent in their connection to this simple symbol he chose for himself.

Before we move on, I just want to very briefly touch upon this Manhattan-as-creator subplot which seems fairly obvious: Doctor Manhattan creates his own Garden of Eden inspired by the actual Book of Genesis, but then grows bored and abandons his own creations. There is obviously a whole theological question being asked, “WHY DID GOD ABANDON US” ~shakes fist at sky~ but there is also a lot of Damon Lindelof once again working out his daddy issues in his shows.

In the original comic, there is a lot of thought given to how a person gifted with infinite quantum knowledge would be able to interact with everyday humans and it ultimately concludes: he might try, but ultimately he wouldn’t be able to connect with them. Doctor Manhattan does return with the intention to save humanity (but he’s too late), but he’s not able bring himself to stick around after, and so he fucks off again. But the choice is presented as a logical, and understandable one: while Doctor Manhattan might like to stay and be with Laurie, he sees that she has moved on, and knowing that there is nothing else left for him there (or worse, he will be expected to solve all of humanity’s dumb self-created crises) he takes off for Mars Europa.

And so, what had been a detached, almost clinical, story about the inability of a superior being to be able to connect with irrational, live-in-the-moment humans becomes something much more Lindelofian here. And what I mean by that is Lindelof takes this notion of Doctor Manhattan and puts an Old Testament/God as Absent Daddy gloss on it because there’s never been a daddy issue Damon Lindelof hasn’t wanted to explore in painstaking detail.

mulaney don't have time to unpack all of that

The bottom line is that I think while it is interesting that Manhattan creates his own Garden of Eden and his own Adam and Eve (who, from what I can gather never commit the Original Sin and therefore must replicate through that whole weird lake process) it’s one of the few things that felt a little heavy-handed and indulgent to me, that Lindelof was once again writing about his own daddy issues. And look, an entire dissertation could be written about Damon Lindelof, his father, their connection, the bond they shared over Watchmen, and how that relationship had colored all of Lindelof’s work, but this, friends, is not that dissertation.

So, going back to that circle symbolism: what is also nice is that Doctor Manhattan’s hydrogen symbol — which also represents his existence in all time at once, his infiniteness, his Godhead, it also is a symbol of this “tunnel of love” as he calls it.

watchmen tunnel of love docor manhattan

Tunnels have played a role in this series from almost the very beginning: Judd’s funeral is interrupted by the Seventh Kalvary when they tunnel into the cemetery through a mausoleum. Back then I was yammering about Axis Mundi and how tunnels represent the connection between the heavens, Earth and the underworld. And then in the Wade-centric episode, in a support group for those traumatized by their giant psychic squid experiences,¬† Looking Glass compares what they are feeling to being in a “tunnel,” a tunnel from which they will eventually emerge. He is then led astray by a white rabbit figure, an attractive woman who assures him that there is no tunnel before leading him to the J.C. Penny’s, the Seventh Kalvary, and the truth about the giant psychic squid conspiracy. Finally, we have Veidt himself digging a tunnel for his escape in this episode.

All of these references are important symbolically: in the first and third, the tunnel is a representation of this connection of the two worlds: the underworld and the surface, and in the second, the tunnel is explicitly a symbol, a representation of the movement from ignorance to truth, an initiation into a new life.

Tunnels are in a very literal sense, a passageway, enclosed, often dark, that lead from one space to another. As such, they often represent an initiation, a liminal space between two different worlds. It’s a similar symbol to a cave, in that they are both steeped in birth imagery, but different in that a cave begins entirely in darkness and ends in light, whereas a tunnel begins in light, has a period of darkness and ends again in the light. It’s more of a transition, transformation or rebirth symbol than a typical birth symbol.

And so it was used here: a safe, cocoon-like space where Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan was stripped for a time of his literally infinite knowledge, before he was pushed back into the light of self-awareness; his consciousness was temporarily buried until it was allowed, like that Seventh Kalvary member who burst through the mausoleum, to resurface. We will get to what that light at the end of the tunnel actually is in the next episode, but for now, I’m happy to appreciate the foundation of this symbolism the series laid down early on.

And as for the final meaning of that circular symbol — holy shit, you guys: LOOPS, DUDES, LOOPS!

As I have written about before, Damon Lindelof was hugely informed by his adolescent love of The Watchmen, though you’d have to squint to find how the graphic novel influenced his most famous project, Lost.

That is until this very episode.

For those of you who didn’t watch Lost or just need a little refresher, this is going to be a Cliff’s Notes version of one small part of the series, not the entire show. But basically, plane crash, island. The island has magical powers including making people time travel, and it, too, can travel in time and space. Don’t think about it too hard.

At one point, some of the plane crash survivors manage to escape the island and return to normal life, only to realize they’ve made a terrible mistake and need to go back to the island to save their friends. However, returning to an island that can travel through time and space is tricky. When they finally manage to do so, it’s 1977, and they are reunited with their friends they left behind.

Some of the survivors think that now that they are in the past, this is their chance to change the future (the Baby Hitler plan: kill the bad guy before he can do the things that led them to crash on the island in the first place) but there’s an irritating little thing called the Novikov self-consistency principle, which basically amounts to “whatever happened, happened.” Meaning, whatever they do in 1977 — even (and maybe especially) specifically to prevent the future events from happening — will only lead to those events to happen.

There is a character, Desmond, who is vaguely Doctor Manhattan-esque. He doesn’t have superpowers, exactly, but because of exposure to the island’s power source, his consciousness is able to flit around through time, and he can see not just the future, but possible futures (though he comes to understand that while he might be able to change some small circumstances, at the end of the day, the end result is the same — what’s gonna happen is gonna happen. SPOILER ALERT: Charlie’s always going to die, even if Desmond can change the circumstances of HOW he does).

The episode most associated with Desmond, and which many Lost fans consider the best episode of the entire series is “The Constant,” in which Desmond’s consciousness goes back and forth between 2004 Island (or on a freighter just offshore of the Island, technically) and 1996 London. There, he learns that his ability to time travel will eventually cost him his life if he doesn’t find his “constant” — someone who is in his life in both timelines to whom he can reach out so that he can orient himself. He tries to reach out to his 1996 girlfriend, Penny, whom he dumped after her billionaire father bullied him into doing so, but she has changed her phone number because she wants nothing to do with him. He eventually goes to her home in 1996 and begs her to give him her phone number so that he can call her 8 years in the future. IT’S IMPORTANT.

SPOILER ALERT: On the freighter in 2004, he calls the number, it’s still connected and he reaches Penny who explains she’s been searching for him for three years, thereby saving his life, and setting into motion the events that will eventually save the island.

I’m bringing this back to Watchmen, I SWEAR. Right, so, in the graphic novel, there is a subplot — a pretty major one — involving a love triangle between Doctor Manhattan, Laurie and Nite Owl, in which Laurie is basically dumped by Doctor Manhattan because he believes that he is giving the people he loves cancer and also, too, he’s a god and he can’t really relate to people anymore. It’s very bloodless, and Doctor Manhattan, in his emotional remove, isn’t some great romantic hero. Though there is a sort of “tragic romantic hero” moment at the end when he finds Laurie and Nite Owl asleep together and he chooses to walk away from her, it doesn’t much resonate because he never really seemed to be all that into her in the first place.

And so, it only occurred to me watching this episode of Watchmen, that “The Constant” was Lindelof’s way to explore the romantic possibilities of time travel and, in a small way, Doctor Manhattan’s powers. And this episode was at its most basic core, Lindelof’s Doctor Manhattan fanfic in which he turns Doctor Manhattan into the romantic figure Lindelof wanted him to be — a fulfillment of what he began exploring in that episode of Lost. What both episodes posit is that love, true love, is an expression of fate — it is a force more powerful than time, space or free will itself. Angela never had a chance to reject Doctor Manhattan’s advances once he walked into that bar — everything is set into motion — everything will be set into motion — everything had always been set into motion. Love is eternal and though they only have ten years, they have eternity.

It’s all very romantic and grand and — like that Garden of Eden subplot — very Lindelofian.

Alright — a few easter eggs from this episode that are worth mentioning:

The bar where Angela meets Doctor Manhattan is called Mr. Eddy’s, which is presumably a nod to Eddie Blake, The Comedian, who killed a Vietnamese woman who was pregnant with his child after she scarred his face with a broken bottle. She calls him “Mr. Eddie” when she addresses him.

There is a giant mural of Doctor Manhattan which we saw in Angela’s childhood flashback a couple of episodes earlier. It has now been defaced to feature a giant penis. While it is foreshadowing of Doctor Manhattan just walking around letting it all hang out later in the episode, it is also a reference to the “Trickie Dickies” in the novel Fogdancing — the book that Veidt is reading in his cell in the post-credit scene. More on it below.

doctor manhattan penis graffiti watchmen

Now, Syfy Wire wants you to pay attention to the Ozymandias toys on Adrian’s desk in this shot:

watchmen toys ozymandias computer

But I want you to pay attention to the Desmond-esque computer in that shot:

locke lost computer button timer

~waits for the angry comments about how these are OBVIOUSLY TWO VERY DIFFERENT COMPUTERS, and that I’m a damned idiot~

The illustration in the Bible that the British couple gives to young Jon Osterman was, in fact, drawn by the original Watchmen artist, Dave Gibbons:

watchmen-bible

The book that Veidt is reading while in captivity is Fogdancing which, in this fictional world, was written by Max Shea, who wrote the comic within the comic, Tales from the Black Freighter (which, by the way, LOST fans, should have been a huge clue as to what The Black Rock was going to turn out to be). Shea was one of the secret team of creatives that Veidt assembled to work on the giant psychic squid project. After the project was complete, Veidt put the team on a ship which he then blew up.

Over in Peteypedia, Agent Petey has written a memo after finding Wade’s bunker with the dead Calvary members inside, and about his concern that Agent Blake has gone missing. He then goes on to write about this novel, Fogdancing, which was inspired by soldiers who had served with Doctor Manhattan and The Comedian during The Vietnam War. Apparently, a magazine dedicated to Shea’s work, Nothing Ever Ends (which also happens to be the last thing Doctor Manhattan says to Ozymandias in the original Watchmen) ran a recap contest of the novel every year, and Agent Petey came in dead last. He supplies his losing entry in this document.

Alright! I think I’ve babbled enough! Onto the finale.!

Watchmen aired on HBO. You can stream it on HBO Now or HBO GO.

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