By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – December 15, 2019)
I’m surprised, but not in the manner I expected to be following the Watchmen finale, though it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. What I’m taken mildly aback by is how…straightforward the entire episode was, and that I’m not left confused by much of it. It all made perfect sense, and though others may view it a different way, I look at the entire season, culminating in the 67-minute swan song to the season, if not the series, and can boil it down just as easily as doing the same to Dr. Manhattan was hard for the Seventh Kavalry.
Utopia and altruistic tendencies to create them simply do not exist.
I don’t know if that’s what Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse were going after with the script, but reading the original graphic novel and following this story for so many years, what becomes clear is Adrian Veidt saw himself as a hero, but also recognized his own narcissism and couldn’t do anything about it. He saw those qualities in Lady Trieu, who just like him, believed herself to be the smartest and best equipped to be the supreme being of the universe. She, and no one else, had what it took to fix everything, but, as always happens, those people either become tyrants, lunatics, or failures.
Her god complex, just like Veidt’s, was because she desperately wanted to believe she was special, more than anyone else, including her own “father.” It’s always in the context of I CAN MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, but to do it I need all the power. Look at Joe Keene and the Cyclops movement, who thought the world needed white supremacy, but the real problem with racism is the sheer stupidity of it. It’s self-serving, a philosophy that buys into this: “The world would be better if there were only more people like me and if I were more comfortable.” But, in order to actually make the world better, you must sacrifice everything of yourself, particularly to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.
Veidt came the closest, because he ended up stranded on Europa, driven insane by beings that were designed to praise and follow him, and because, as Trieu said when she first met him in person in Antarctica, “no one will even give you credit for it,” meaning saving the world. What good is it for these individuals to save the world without an audience? As much as Trieu claimed she didn’t care that no one was around as she began to transfer Dr. Manhattan’s power into herself, Hong Chau’s face emoted far differently. Perhaps she didn’t, but what a narcissist of that degree needs most is people to shower praise and adulation on them.
Also, it has to be tough when you think you’re about to be god and then you have your own god device crush you to death moments after a wall hanging of Christ’s crucifixion falls off the wall due to the cephalopods that just put a hole through your hand, which in effect could have been nails driven through it. I’d have cringed hard about this, and as I just wrote it I did, except it was a visual to show she would not be who she claimed to be. She was merely a false deity, an idol in her own mind.
If you’re one that believes Angela’s foot wasn’t going to go into that water and was going to hover on it, the best reason why is she actually has what it would take to better a world, namely she’s willing to give her life for her family, staying by Jon’s side, worrying about and protecting her children, taking care of her grandfather, and taking her life into her hands every day as Sister Night, a non superpowered superhero who could die at any moment. She was and is everything Veidt and Trieu weren’t and aren’t, and yes, she was everything in many ways Osterman wasn’t. Will Reeves was not entirely wrong when he suggested that Manhattan didn’t do everything he could with the power he had.
This story, spanning nine episodes, feels to me like it came to an end with this finale. Without question, HBO could ask Lindelof to write a new story, and with the viewership numbers up, that may happen, but when he said before the premiere this might just be a one season project, he knew what his story was going to be. This had a beginning and it had a finish, and as we look back over the nine weeks, though there are some strange things that didn’t have a purpose, the larger plot completed a circle. It feels over to me, and if so, it’s a triumph.
I don’t know that I need more of this story, although it might be fun to watch Sister Night turn blue, and the device was indeed left behind and she even picked it up before she realized what the “broken eggs” quote meant, which was an outstanding piece of writing, it isn’t necessary. Also, did you notice that as Angela, Will, and the children left the Tulsa theater, THAT Tulsa theater of course, the DREAMHOUSE theater, the only lights that hadn’t blown out were the ones that formed the letters “DR” and “M?” That was a nice touch.
Unexpectedly, the season ended with Laurie Blake and Looking Glass combining forces to arrest Adrian Veidt, which was a hilarious scene with the wrench to finally shut him up. A spinoff with Laurie and Wade would be fun, but now I’ve said “fun” in reference to three characters, so maybe I do want more Watchmen. I would say this. I’ll be glad to watch more of it, but if this is all there is, I’m satisfied. I felt the same way when Rubicon‘s lone season came to a close on AMC. It ended in such a way that they could do plenty more, but also in a way that contained that story and was a suitable finish.
Cyclops got dealt with quickly, with Keene turning into a pond of blood and goo and the rest of them, including the widow Crawford, being vaporized and destroyed with no delay. This was Lindelof and the show saying, “Screw these numbskulls. Done.” I didn’t have a problem with it, and I liked that the Seventh Kavalry and Cyclops all served as a catalyst for Will Reeves’ rage, but also were just another example of the same utopia Veidt and Trieu erroneously believed they could ignite. It turned out not to be about white supremacists, but used them to create a surface villain that…appropriately…had a surface-level end game. When their time expired, it was soup nazi time. “No soup for you.”
Veidt wasn’t using the bodies to spell out “HELP ME DOC” or “HELP ME DR,” but instead to say “HELP ME DAUGHTER.” That’s a new one, but it made sense, and also explained Trieu’s personality. Her mom/daughter/mom was a bold one, and Veidt was right when he said she was much more than a cleaning woman. She was bright. She knew “UNTIE KNOT” and “RETIE KNOT” and even the Rameses II password to get behind the painting of Alexander the Great and to the vials of Adrian’s legacy.
(*Legacy that included looking in 2019 enough like Adrian Veidt that he could pass for Ozymandias at parties. Yeah, I laughed. I still am. Easy joke. Good joke. Irons sold it beautifully. Again, the anonymity drives him nuts. Also the “cowboy actor becoming President” clever jab to the Reagan presidency, which coincided with the graphic novel.)
Interesting, it just occurred to me that her mother shot the liquid into herself, basically trying to transfer or steal Veidt’s power and give it to the offspring it would create. That’s similar to what her daughter, Keene, and probably others would attempt to do with Dr. Manhattan, although those are the two that actually got close enough to pull it off. Much of this season is about things happening that replicated or had much in common with other things decades later, from Will and Angela’s tie to the Dr. Manhattan relationship to Angela to Veidt and Osterman to Keene and Trieu. So much of it was interconnected and taken as a whole, they helped to explain each other.
This is what Damon Lindelof does best, the interconnected moments that aren’t revealed until the right moment. He is the showrunning equivalent of Manhattan’s comment about the omelet to Angela. It was the key to The Leftovers, it was what made Lost work, it’s what he does, and it’s what he’s done again. While Watchmen doesn’t reach those two programs on my list (almost nothing does, it’s not a sleight), it accomplished far more in that finale than met the eye. We were left actually “getting it.” That’s impressive.
Two things that I’m left wondering about though, first Lube Man, who had no purpose outside of the scene he was in, and maybe he pops up if there’s a second season, but that’s okay. It didn’t have to be important to be interesting. Secondly, Jon’s ambivalence to Laurie Blake, and how quickly she just seemed to get over seeing him and it not meaning anything. That one bothered me. She was recording all these messages in those booths and she was fighting back tears, and that reunion was nonexistent for the most part. For Osterman, it makes some degree of sense, although he did love Angela. No bitterness from Laurie, and not even a recognition that Cal WAS Manhattan… all this kind of fell apart narratively in terms of holding cohesion.
The acting was great, the visuals were great, Reznor and Ross’ score is the best of the year, by far, and I’ve invested in all three of those limited edition vinyls, and the series goes down as one of 2019’s best. I wouldn’t believe the ending could have landed in advance of the finale, except I trust this guy. He’s proven it to me before. The last four episodes of this season stack up with the best four episode runs of the decade on TV. They have everything. Even the few that didn’t click from start to finish quite as strongly had many high points, and unquestionably, Watchmen worked big time.
We’ll see if there’s more, but these nine episodes… my time was not wasted, in fact my time was valued by this series. That’s as high a compliment as I can pay. I don’t care that we didn’t see whether the egg was legit or not, because we all know it was…or we know it wasn’t. That’s a fun debate to have. I almost hope we never get a real answer to it. (It was real.)
I’m @JMartZone. I am the Eggman. I Am the Walrus (BTW, if you’re unfamiliar with the cover version of the tune, I Shazamed it… Spooky Tooth featuring Mike Harrison. You’re welcome. Also, that light blue color in the Twitter link? Not a coincidence. Goo goo g’joob.)