WATCHMEN: Episode 7 & 8 Review by Mance Fine

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: My “paradise” was being remodeled the past few weeks, so please forgive the lack of a review for Episode 7, though I think I needed an extra week to absorb it. – MF

Every week I find myself more and more speechless after watching Watchmen. When I tell my friends that I haven’t experienced twists like this since (the good episodes of) Game of Thrones, I’m not exaggerating.

Lindeloff has gone far beyond where I thought he’d go and has woven a masterful tale that, if I’m being honest, I have enjoyed more than the original graphic novel. Maybe it’s due to the fantastic acting, or the clever storytelling, or the cinematography. All I know is that I’ve been on the edge of my seat watching every episode and that I scared the hell out of my wife and pets when Episode #6’s major reveal hit me in the face like one of Dr. Manhattan’s nuclear blasts.

Part of me wants to go recap everything I’ve gotten wrong or outright missed in my reviews. I’m not sure if that speaks to my amateurism when it comes to writing reviews, or if it speaks to how well the show is written and ultimately executes misdirection and suspense, but we’ll go with the latter.

We left Angela at the end of episode #5, where she had experienced her grandfather Will’s life as Hooded Justice, the first Minuteman after taking his memories in the form of Nostalgia. It is also brought to light that Will killed Chief Crawford using mind control- almost certainly obtained from Lady Trieu- because he was secretly a part of the organization, taking after his grandfather who Will brought down as the cult leader during his time as the original masked vigilante. Will seems to think that Crawford was in on the current plot, and based on Mrs. Crawford’s carefree admission of guilt to Laurie, Will was dead on.

Outside of Will though, nothing is really what it seems. It turns out that Lady Trieu is actually working to help humanity (I reserve the right to revise this after Sunday’s finale in the event Lindeloff gets me again), and that she and Will are all that stand between the Seventh Calvary and God-hood. I think the biggest question I had going into this show was how much the sequel series would borrow from the original canon, and if the original characters would show up and if so, how significant of a role they would have.

To me, everything seemed to suggest that while Silk Spectre and Ozymandias would play major to minor roles, Doctor Manhattan would be doing his thing on Mars and only make very minor, Easter-egg type cameos throughout the show.

Boy was I wrong.

After Laurie deduces that Senator Joe Keene was really the head of the Seventh Calvary and that Chief Crawford was a central piece of the conspiracy, she decides to test the waters with Mrs. Crawford and see how much she knew about her husband’s involvement. In what was a hilarious exchange, Mrs. Crawford casually admits the entire plot to Laurie, and then, using what had to be a prop from a 1960s 007 film, drops her into a trap via a hidden trapdoor in the middle of her living room.

The callous and matter-of-fact nature Mrs. Crawford displays when admitting their plan to Laurie suggests a bigger conspiracy; why would she be so calm? Why wouldn’t she be more concerned about the former Silk Spectre and badass FBI agent who is always 5 steps ahead figuring out their plot unless they planned for this? Or, maybe their plan was so unbeatable that Laurie’s discovery didn’t matter?

Laurie awakes to find herself tied to a chair with the smirking and ever-charming Senator Keene there to greet her. He casually explains that he’s just been using the Calvary to achieve his goal because being a white man is so hard in their time. His solution? “Become a blue man.” (Laurie’s reaction to his villain-spiel is hilarious; this episode cemented her as one of my favorite characters in the show.) Initially, I thought this meant that their experiments had resulted in them discovering how to reproduce Jon’s accident, thus granting them Manhattan’s god-like powers. While that was groundbreaking in and of itself, the real surprise came next.

Angela awakens in Lady Trieu’s laboratory to find that Trieu had brought her out of the Nostalgia overdose via some sort of transfusion from who she thought was her grandfather. Angela follows the cord to discover that she’s hooked up to a literal elephant in the room(which kind of makes sense since Nostalgia is all memory-based), which of course makes her more suspicious of Trieu. Oh, and Trieu is simultaneously launching her massive clock, which she promises will save humanity and will be the “first wonder of the new world.” Personally, I think Trieu is going to pull some sort of Ozymandias scheme to unite the world against the Seventh Calvary and Senator Keene, maybe without killing everyone. Since we know Will used her mind control tech to make Sherriff Crawford hang himself, I can only assume Trieu’s master plan involves some sort of mind control.

While Trieu may not be the big bad I initially thought she was, Angela discovers she is in the very least using the Manhattan booths that Laurie used in episode 3 to spy on people. Trieu confesses to Angela that she knows Manhattan doesn’t receive the messages. How does she know this? Because she knows Manhattan is not on Earth. No, Manhattan has been living disguised as a human on Earth. And, not just Earth, but in Tulsa! Trieu reveals that Will came to her and informed her of this and that the Seventh Calvary’s master plan was to kidnap, destroy, and become Dr. Manhattan. Upon hearing this, Angela turns to run out the door. As she leaves, Trieu remarks how interesting it is that she didn’t ask who Manhattan was.

This leads to the best scene of the series. I’m not going to describe it beat for beat, but by now you probably know that Angela’s husband Cal (nice nod to Kal-el, no?) was Doctor Freaking Manhattan this whole time! I haven’t been caught that off guard with a plot twist since (the good seasons of) Game of Thrones.

Just phenomenal.

The biggest character of the mythos was here the entire time. I encourage you to research the subtle foreshadowing Lindeloff put in each of Cal’s scenes leading up to this reveal. From subtle blue lighting to Cal’s answer when his children asked about Heaven and Hell, to his reading Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” when Angela arrives home is brilliant foreshadowing in hindsight.

Perhaps if I was a better student of the Watchmen mythos I would have had some clue, as other viewers claim to have had. Personally, I have no problem admitting this reveal hit me like a ton of bricks and I enjoyed every second of it!

Cue God walking into Abar (I bet they named her Angela Abar just for that title). The 8th episode focuses entirely on how and why Jon fell in love with Angela and does an amazing job articulating how Dr. Manhattan perceives time, and what his limitations are. While he can see the past, future, and present, he can’t do much to affect it. The episode is a beautiful love letter to the Watchmen mythos and served to finally answer how Veidt became stuck on paradise. It turns out that he wasn’t imprisoned, but went voluntarily because he was tired of protecting a world that didn’t deserve or care about his “help.”

It is interesting to me that for the most part, whether it be Manhattan or the general demeanor of the show, that it seems everyone except Manhattan’s Adam(s) and Eve(s) view Veidt relatively positively. I wonder if he is somehow connected to Trieu? Will he come to help once he returns? Will the Minutemen have to get the band back together to save the planet? Lindeloff has stated that this season is a self-contained story but leaves the possibility for a sequel, so either way, I think we’ll find out everything on Sunday when the finale airs.

Angela and Manhattan’s love story is told beautifully and raises several questions, as Manhattan’s capacity for human connection seems to have been restored from the end of the original story, his powers seem to be limited in odd ways (he can create life on other planets, but apparently can’t stop himself from being captured by like 8 racists with a ray gun when he knows it’s going to happen), and apparently Will has enacted everything he has based on a conversation Manhattan had with him prior to voluntarily having amnesia and forgetting who he was or how to use his powers.

Reviewing this show has been somewhat overwhelming because of how many layers there are. I could spend thousands of words on the racial overtones and current social themes alone, the brilliant easter eggs that tie to the original cannon, the fantastic acting/casting, but I think I’ve been most impressed with how Lindeloff took the source material and crafted a brilliant, stand-alone story from it that pays homage to the original narratives/themes Alan Moore created.

It all ends on Sunday, so do yourself a favor and binge-watch this if you haven’t caught up. – Mance Fine

GRADE: A+