By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – December 1, 2019)
EPISODE 7: AN ALMOST RELIGIOUS AWE (Stacy Osei-Kuffour/Clare Kiechel; David Semel)
Now THAT is what I call a legitimate stunner of a conclusion. Following an episode that, although compelling, was unbelievably dark, we saw the culmination of much of the show’s first six weeks, finishing up with the reveal of all reveals. We were not ready for this.
Cal is Jon Osterman.
Cal is Dr. Manhattan.
And Angela Abar both knew it already and the two had prepared for what was to come, although his bogus or contrived amnesia had at least temporarily made him forget it. Why wasn’t he listening? Why were all these requests in the Manhattan booths going unanswered? Did he not care about anyone? Was he truly that selfish or holding a grudge for those that believed him to be a murderer?
No, he was in Tulsa as Angela Abar’s husband, hiding out. How ironic it is that he would tell his children, not by birth mind you, but his children, that there was no god. He IS a deity-like figure himself, but until activated, it was lying dormant. However, he was clearly smart, which is precisely why we see him asleep on the couch with an Ernest Hemingway novel resting on his chest. That’s to foreshadow what we’ll find out two minutes later after she strikes him four times in the forehead with that hammer. This is the brilliant Jon, the superhuman. There was no “accident” for Cal.
But there was an accident. It was the one that led to “Manhattan: An American Life.” I got to tell you. I did not in any way see that coming, and when it happened, it floored me in the way you want as a television viewer. This was something else folks, and it landed in every way imaginable. Now, I have no idea what’s coming next, but by far with this series, Episode 7 left me enthusiastic to find out… and considering I have access to the next ep, once I’ve submitted this review, I’m going to answer a few questions.
One negative about this episode, even though it was funny, is the confusing Adrian Veidt content that has grown less and less effective over the past few weeks. Last week, of course, was a different style, but as fun as it is to watch Jeremy Irons play Ozymandias, if Damon Lindelof actually pulls off a story that takes all this absurd nonsense and makes it fit in the larger construct of the series, I would be both surprised and impressed. Right now, it’s not clicking for me, and I hope to get back to the primary universe of the series as soon as possible.
The Seventh Kavalry is the reborn Cyclops, or it’s merely Cyclops under another name, with white supremacists who, as Joe Keene, says, “aren’t racists,” but those that want to balance the scales in a country that has tilted away from its traditions. One tactic of a cult or a nefarious group is rebranding itself or changing a name, while not altering the basic tenets of said organization. However, now we know why the basketballs were going through those portals. The Cyclops plan is in finding a way to become gods, to duplicate what made Jon Osterman into Dr. Manhattan, and to, as Joe stated, move from being a white man to “a blue one.”
THAT is interesting, even if the constant bludgeoning of white guilt finger pointing associated with Watchmen isn’t. The secondary reveal that Jane Crawford was very much involved with the Kavalry along with her husband wasn’t quite as shocking, although it was intriguing that the trap door had a bit of a Get Out feel to it, and in that case, as in this one, the larger plot centered around purposeful racism. But, we know for certain Judd wasn’t innocent, which makes Will Reeves’ decision to convince him to take his life not just tolerable, but something you might actually cheer.
Oh, and then we have the third reveal, namely that Lady Trieu’s “daughter” Bian… is actually her mother, who she wants around as she approaches the completion of her life’s work. She is feeding the girl her mother’s memories, bringing her back in some respects. As nuts as it sounds to Angela, somehow in this series it makes all the sense in the world. Whatever you’re anticipating, Lindelof is going to go the other way. This was the first episode of the series he didn’t “write,” as Stacy Osei-Kuffour and Clare Kiechel were behind the script. Of course, his fingerprints as showrunner mean he was intricately involved anyway.
The flashbacks to Vietnam and the explanation as to how Angela was orphaned also worked, plus we got to see June arrive to take her to Tulsa, only to we assume die of a large heart attack after putting her in the taxi and closing the door. We didn’t see the funeral, but this one looked fatal, especially once she mentioned the “small one” that wasn’t a big deal. It emphasized the heart attack we actually saw as different from the one she described, plus it showcased how difficult and lonely Abar’s life was. She had a few false starts, and had it not been for Officer Jen handing her that badge, maybe she doesn’t end up a cop.
She can’t answer Bian’s question, but she became a cop because… well because she related to Sister Night, but didn’t want to be a nun… maybe. The more important question is what the heck an elephant is doing as a “natural host,” but there, it may be that Trieu doesn’t want anybody to steal her ideas, not to mention she’s a bit of a mad scientist and a narcissist. She tells Angela that the Millennium Clock’s purpose centers around helping people advance past the addiction to painful memories of the past that cut off a walk into the future. I’m still trying to process what exactly that means.
Veidt is convicted of breaking the one relevant rule in his life, “Thou shalt not leave.” Watching the Crookshanks and Phillips courtroom, then the collection of swine, again made me laugh a few times, but what is Adrian’s punishment? What does this guilty verdict mean? And we got the fart joke, just to show how superior Veidt feels compared to everyone else. It’s why he believed the squid had to be done. Head prosecutor Crookshanks quotes him as saying, “Such wanton carnage was a necessary sacrifice to achieve utopia.” This was the essence of his descent in the original graphic novel, a belief that HE alone could fix the unfixable.
It’s always the good intention, if there is one, in socialism. The reason you can’t create a utopia in this life is because humans are inherently, well, human. Some will behave in their own interests only, will break regulations, and will always attempt to get a larger piece of the pie. Selfishness and human nature make it an impossibility to form a perfect society.
By the way, Joe Keene and the Seventh Kavalry attempting to all become supermen… has the same chance of succeeding for virtually the same reason. Even if they believe they deserve better than others, some of them will always want more than people standing next to them in their own group. The plot ending in a bunch of blue nationalists is well thought out, and is one of those story decisions that takes the series up a notch in its planning rating.
It still very well may be one season and out, and if that’s the case, Damon Lindelof and his team have two more episodes to tie it up. At the very least, THIS story appears to be one season, even if it becomes an anthology and we go somewhere else with it in the future. My prediction is it’s one and done, but this was a major high point. That final scene was about as good as it gets. I can’t wait to jump into Episode 8 to find out the immediate aftermath of it. Also, where is Looking Glass and when does he re-emerge?
Trieu tells Angela the Seventh Kavalry’s large scale plan is to find Dr. Manhattan, to destroy him, and then to become him. Her joking, sarcastic “secret plan to save humanity that starts in Tulsa” is not a joke at all, which as soon as she said Angela could figure out if she was kidding, felt like a signal she wasn’t. Abar has seen Will Reeves’ story, that he was the first ever masked vigilante, because white people in masks were heroes, but black people in masks were to be feared at that time. Again, this is some heavy HEAVY handed stuff, but in the 1940s, it was also accurate to the condition of American race relations.
Cal as Jon… when Angela called him by his real name, left my jaw on the floor, as we found out not just Dr. Manhattan’s secret identity, the ultimate mask, but also how much more she knew than we ever thought. That was a beautiful piece of writing and nearly flawless execution. She never had to ask Trieu who he was, because she already had that information. All this meant was it was time for them to “come out of the tunnel.” The masked men outside her home though. She might not realize how treacherous her situation is, though she knows the bigger problem. “Hey baby. We’re in f***ing trouble.”
Business just picked up.
I’m @JMartZone. If it’s any consolation, it was your idea.