It’s time to discuss the elephant in the room.
The episode begins with archival footage and narration of clockmaker Jon Osterman and his scientific achievements. Osterman transcended pain to create a life unknown and inconceivable to history, though many saw this Super Man as a toxic nightmare. One day, Osterman stepped into an intrinsic field chamber to retrieve his girlfriend’s watch, but he emerged as an immortal god impervious to the passage time.
This would change human history. But then Vietnam happened. The question remains whether Osterman was the liberating hero who single-handedly ended the war and delivered his country its 51st state? Or was he the cold blue conqueror who decimated an entire way of life? Like the Vietcong, Osterman vanished a decade later.
This is fine and all, but let’s pull back. We’re at an entertainment store and following a young Angela Abar, here played by Faithe Herman, who you’ll remember as Darla from Shazam! earlier this year.
Well. The DC Extended Universe now has three of its actors in this corner of the DC multiverse.
She buys a VHS tape on Sister Night and goes to her parents: Marcus, played by Anthony Hill, and Elise, played by Devyn A. Tyler. As they’ve told her before, Angela is too young to watch this tape. Plus, according to Marcus, people who wear masks are dangerous and hiding something. Sure, it’s pretend, but only until it’s real.
As Angela goes to return the tape, she spots a marionettist passing a backpack to a citizen who rides up on his bike. He soon rides off. Nothing too strange about that, but as we see glimpses of the Tulsa Massacre, the same man on the bicycle rushes back, heads for some soldiers with Angela’s parents nearby, and screams “Death to the invaders” as his backpack detonates, killing everyone around him.
In present-day, Angela falls out of bed- again- with Lady Trieu reminding her that this has happened five times before. Her memory is a bit broken. As for how Angela got from a jail cell to here, she can thank Laurie Blake for that, as she reached out to Lady Trieu and asked her to save Angela’s life.
But Angela is curious about the contraption strapped to her wrist, which she’s not to touch. As for the treatment, Trieu injects Angela and sends her off to sleep. From this, we get an infomercial from Trieu Pharmaceuticals about the perils of taking Nostalgia. The remedy for this is a form of dialysis called Recollective Infestitation, which flushes Nostalgia from the cortex. Lovely.
Angela awakens and tells Trieu to never do that again. The tube is connected to a natural host, which Angela assumes is Will. The painful memories are a side-effect of the treatment. Angela wants to talk to Will, but contact is a bad idea, given that she spent the last few days being him. Angela may re-experience her own memories without warning. Trieu asks what knocked Angela out of bed.
Turns out it was her 10th birthday party. Her mother and father apparently gave her a pony. But you and I both know that’s probably bullshit because Angela would kick a pony’s ass. Also, just 12 hours to go before the Millennium Clock is activated.
On the road, Cal arrives at Trieu’s facility, but stops when he spots Red Scare and Pirate Jenny. He asks about Angela, but they tell him to go home. Rather than do that, he heads to the gate and asks to see his wife.
The employee at the gate places a pad on the ground and we see a hologram of Bian. She knows that Cal wants to see his wife, but it’s a bad time, as they’re about to activate the Millennium Clock. As for Angela, Bian confirms that she’s resting now and is responding well to Lady Trieu’s treatment. Still, Cal can’t talk to her, so he demands to know where Agent Blake is.
Well, Cal, Laurie’s sitting in her car and listening to the recordings of Angela’s ramblings while under the influence of Nostalgia. She soon gets a transmission from Dale, who is at Wade Tillman’s home based on Laurie’s suspicion of him working with the Seventh Kavalry. Him ratting out Angela might have had something to do with that.
Anyway, Dale confirms that Wade probably isn’t working with the Seventh Kavalry because five members are at his bunker. Dead. One, though, isn’t wearing a Rorschach mask, but Wade is nowhere to be found. Strange that he didn’t call this in. Laurie advises Dale against calling this in.
Following this, Laurie visits Jane Crawford to tell her that Will Reeves, Angela Abar’s grandfather, killed her husband. Apparently, Angela said she had no family, and Jane naturally wants to know why this man would want to kill Judd. Laurie explains that Angela overdosed on her grandfather’s Nostalgia and was reliving his life. She’s got it all on tape if Jane wants to listen.
Turns out that Will Reeves was Hooded Justice- the very first masked vigilante. And he was Black. He inspired two generations of heroes, such as Laurie and her parents. Still, he had to hide his face. After all, Black men in masks are scary. Laurie brings up the term “Cyclops” and how it used to revolve around a racist group’s mind control. Will believed that Judd was a part of that group, which is why he killed him.
Laurie at least has to entertain the possibility that the chief of police was a secret White supremacist, which makes you wonder about Judd’s friends, like Senator Joe Keene. What if the Seventh Kavalry is just Cyclops by another name? What if Keene used them to kill police so that he could put cops in masks, and pretty soon, no one can tell the good guys from the bad?
Why? Because everybody’s covering their fucking faces and pledging loyalty to their new leader, President Joe Keene. The mask drops as Jane said this was the original idea, but something extraordinary happened and suddenly, ‘President’ was small potatoes.
She takes out a clicker and hits it over and over, but nothing happens. After a few moments, Laurie’s chair drops from under her as she falls through a trap door. Jane then makes a call and asks the person on the other side whether she should go ahead and kill Laurie Blake.
Why Laurie didn’t just get out of the chair is anyone’s guess, though.
Bian shows Angela some images and asks her to pick which one looks more trustworthy. She picks the candy man because normal people don’t fly kites alone. That’s fair. More images until Bian shows two images that look exactly the same- according to Angela. As for what this has to do with the treatment?
Nothing. It’s for Bian’s dissertation on the adaptive function of empathy, and the role of rage suppression in social cohesion. She asks Angela if it’s hard to lie to her son about being a police detective. Since they’re not supposed to tell their children. It’s for their protection, not the officers themselves. If the officers don’t want their kids to worry about being a cop, Bian wonders, why even be a cop in the first place?
Then Angela starts having more flashbacks to her youth. She works on a paper mâché design of Dr. Manhattan when her teacher takes her outside to speak with two officers: Jen, played by Jennifer Vo Le, and Roy, played by Danny Le Boyer. On VVN, Angela said she saw a man doing a puppet show, but he gave a backpack to a man on a bike.
The officers unmask and show the bomber’s accomplice to the unafraid Angela, who confirms his identity. Roy hauls the accomplice off into an alley while Jen tells Angela to go back inside the orphanage. However, Angela wants to stay and listen. Jen gives Angela her police badge, telling her to come find her when she grows up. As Angela holds the badge in her hand, she hears a single gunshot.
That night, Angela is stirred from sleep as she eyes the badge. She places it under her bed right alongside the Sister Night VHS tape.
Snap back to reality as Bian asks Angela whose memory she just experienced: hers or her grandfather’s? Angela confirms she saw her own memories, which is progress, as this means the treatment is working. Bian tells Angela that she has dreams of her own of being an old woman and she’s scared. It hurts. The same goes for Angela as far as seeing and feeling what Will felt.
But enough about this. Time for Day 365 of The People versus Adrian Veidt. The Game Warden arrives and the prosecution, another Miss Crookshanks, begins its argument: when Veidt pulls them from the water to the moment they’re slaughtered, they’re governed by one rule: Thou Shalt Not Leave. Is the accused of murder? The evidence is indisputable.
Even before this, Veidt as admitted that he took the lives of other costumed adventurers and three million innocent people through use of his alien being that perpetrated mass genocide. Does he apologize for the alien squid attack and show any remorse? No. This carnage, Veidt argues, was necessary to create a utopia.
For years, Veidt hurled the bodies of the servants into the great beyond, even though they never questioned his intent. His true motivation was to escape, but again, Thou Shalt Not Leave. The choice is simple: submit to Veidt’s cruel rule or find him guilty. With that, the prosecution rests.
Veidt, meanwhile, has no defense. He’s chosen to represent himself. What is his defense? He stands up, rips ass, and rests his defense. A convincing argument, to be sure.
The Game Warden apologizes for the jury- both for this trial and Veidt’s ‘outburst’- but reminds everyone that the foundation of a fair trial is that the accused is judged by a jury of his peers. These servants, meanwhile, are not his peers, so the Warden has assembled an alternative jury much more suited to the task. What does he mean by this?
An army of pigs that are brought into the chamber- that’s what. The Game Warden picks up one of the pigs and asks how Veidt should be found. The pig squeals and this apparently translates to Guilty. The audience joins in on the chants of ‘Guilty’ over and over.
At Trieu Headquarters, Angela follows the tube from her wrist to a room and tries to enter, but is denied access.
Trieu invites her to dine and talk about her plan to save humanity, starting with Oklahoma. That’s why she’s here. As for Angela, she and her husband grew tired of Saigon, and lucky that Tulsa PD was hiring. Trieu asks if Angela also wants to move past Cal’s car accident and talks about the rarity of total amnesia is rare. In real life, it almost never happens, but it did as far as Angela is concerned.
Trieu can’t imagine Cal’s life, up until that point, just vanishing and having no sense of who you are. Seems Will told Trieu all about Cal, even though Will himself only spent 20 minutes with Angela. Despite Angela taking Will’s pills, he never expected her to take them all at once.
Angela shifts gears and brings up Bian, asking whose Nostalgia she’s tolerating. It’s here that Trieu reveals that Bian is not her daughter, but her mother. Before she died, Trieu harvested her memories, and then cloned her. Of course, she wouldn’t be Trieu’s mother unless she had her mother’s experiences, so over time, she’s been reintegrating her memories while she sleeps via IV drip
Trieu is on the verge of completing her life’s work and doesn’t see anything wrong with wanting her parents by her side when she does. Angela wants to know what the Millennium Clock does, but that’s something Trieu will not reveal.
As for Laurie Blake, she’s strapped to a chair and sees Kavalry at work around her building something when Senator Keene approaches. He tells her that Jane warned him against tempting fate when he decided to send her to Tulsa. Laurie doesn’t want Keene’s monologue of being the most powerful racist fuck in the nation. She’s tired of all the silliness and just doesn’t give a shit.
Oh, but Keene knows that Laurie of all people will give a shit about this. She’s wrong about Cyclops. They’re not racist, but about restoring balance in those times when the country forgets its founding principles. Because the scales have tipped way too far, and it is extremely difficult to be a White man in America right now. And how! Either way, since it’s hard to be White, Keene will try being a blue one instead.
Angela watches Trieu deliver a speech and goes over her success story to the audience. Even with her successes, her greatest failure was Nostalgia. She gave people the means to visit the past so they could learn from it, so they could evolve and transform and better themselves. Instead, they became fixated on their most painful memories, choosing to experience the worst moments of their lives. Why?
Because they were afraid. Afraid that once unburdened by the trauma of the past, they would have no excuse not to move gloriously into the future. The Millennium Clock is a monument to the new. Generations will gaze upon it.
Angela again goes to the door of the room where she assumes Will is and says that she saw his life. She demands to know what Will wants from her. With no response, she shatters the hand reader and forces her way inside, only to see that Will’s not there, but a sleeping elephant now. It’s literally an elephant in the room. But hey, they do have good memories, as you know.
We jump back as young Angela is scrubbing the floor at the orphanage. The teacher is joined by an older Black woman who tells the teacher to leave. It’s the same older woman we saw in the final flashback from the previous episode. This, turns out, is an older June, her grandmother, played by Valeri Ross, and she’s here to take Angela home.
As the two eat, June figured that Angela’s father never mentioned her. One day, Marcus told his mother that he wanted to put on a uniform and join the fight in Vietnam. June promised to never talk to her son again, but he enlisted anyway. The war ended, Marcus met Angela’s mother, and the two stayed in Vietnam thanks to new opportunities.
Years passed until June had a small heart attack. These things have sentimental effects, so June wrote a letter and had to send it to the Army since she didn’t have an address for Marcus. The letter was returned, unopened, with “DECEASED” written because Marcus didn’t mention her as next of kin.
That’s when June found out that Marcus had a wife who was apparently also gone, but she did learn that Marcus had a daughter. So June bought a plane ticket to come and get Angela.
Angela pulls out the police badge and tells June that she’s going to be a police officer some day. She then pulls the Sister Night tape out of her bag- you don’t want to fuck with Sister Night, according to June. Angela’s not allowed to watch it since we’re supposed to be afraid of people with masks. But that’s because someone in a mask scared Marcus when he was Angela’s age and he never got over it.
When Angela asks if she has a grandfather, June changes the subject and asks why Angela has the Sister Night tape. Angela says it’s because the woman on the cover looks like her. There’s probably not a lot of people in Vietnam who do. June has a VCR in Tulsa and they’ll watch this tape when they get there.
Before leaving, though, Angela gets out of the car and sees that June has collapsed and died. I’m going to guess it’s of a heart attack.
Angela awakens in present-day as the alarm goes off. She explores the compounds until she heads into a room lit by a glowing, blue orb of the Earth. She touches various moments on the Earth of people making phone calls in a booth and eventually lands on Tulsa. The video in question is Laurie Blake’s phone call to Doctor Manhattan.
Trieu enters and tells Angela that so many prayers went unanswered in these Manhattan booths, which she owns and operates around the world. The people beg for his help and for him to come down from the Heavens to make things better, but he ignores every single one. Why?
Because Doctor Manhattan isn’t listening. He’s not even on Mars. He’s actually in Tulsa, pretending to be human. Angela asks if Trieu put this in Will’s head, but he put it in her’s.
Trieu then asks Angela if they’re going to keep fucking around or just be honest. Angela demands to know how she knows Will and what she’s doing. Seems Will came to Trieu because he needed someone with her resources to help him stop the Seventh Kavalry. In less than an hour, the Kavalry will capture, kill, and eventually become Doctor Manhattan. That sort of power in the hands of White supremacists could be dangerous.
So yeah, Trieu is saving fucking humanity. Angela decides to leave, since that’s the craziest shit she’s ever heard, but Trieu points out that despite everything she said about Manhattan, Angela never asked about his identity. Still, Angela leaves, clearly not caring.
Outside, Angela tries to exit, but is blocked by Red Scare and Pirate Jenny. They tell her that she’s under arrest, and Angela does the only thing that she can: crash through the vehicle and speed towards her home.
As Angela heads home, she’s unaware that the Seventh Kavalry is watching her from a distance…
Cal awakens to the sound of Angela looking around the kitchen. She tells him that he’s a great husband and father- the best friend she’s ever had. She loves him. As she pulls out a hammer, she tells him that it’s time to come out of the tunnel. Cal asked if this came up before his accident, but apparently there was no accident. This was a lie so they could be together, at least for awhile.
If it’s any consolation, it was Cal’s idea. Cal has no idea what Angela did, but he figures that the drug is messing her up. Angela refers to Cal as “Jon” and says that he’s not himself.
She bashes Cal on the head over and over again. With Cal now a mess on the ground, Angela picks an object out of his skull- the very familiar Atomic symbol for Hydrogen that we’ve also seen on Manhattan.
As Angela is bathed in blue light, she tells her baby that they’re in fucking trouble.
Much of Will’s origin story and lead-up to him becoming Hooded Justice shared similarities with Superman, such as the escape from the Tulsa Massacre mirroring Kal-El being sent to earth to escape Krypton’s destruction. That cycle of violence that he was born into was passed onto his son, and to Angela from there.
All expressed a desire to suit up and fight against an oppressive force, and each did so as an officer of the law. When looking at this episode, you can chart the points when Will, Marcus, and Angela find the inspiration that would lead them to becoming who they later would in their adult lives. This episode focusing on Angela, though, let’s start there.
Who the suicide bomber and his accomplice were aren’t important at the end of the day, but it’s interesting that the bomber yells “Death to the invaders” before he dies. Like our protagonists who had an eye for vigilantes, could this man have been a victim of the War on Vietnam? Perhaps he sees these Americans in the 51st state as an invasion that needed to be eliminated not because they were inferior, but for being in his land.
Would he, as Veidt’s servants did, just submit to an oppressive regime, or dig in and fight, even if it led to his death? Again, not that he’s the focal point of the episode, but his words are worth mulling over within a larger context. Consider: Whites saw Blacks like Will and Marcus as invaders despite being born in America, and actions like those done by “Cyclops” were to ensure Blacks were responsible for their own demise.
Angela lived through a similar cycle of violence as seen with the suicide bomber, but she didn’t become inspired to be a symbol of hope. Well, she does accept the officer’s badge, but she’s also accepted the idea of vengeance and retribution. Going back to the Nixonville raid, we see the impact and fear an officer’s presence has on the hapless population living at the trailer park.
So in a way, the argument can be made that Angela’s upbringing shares similarities with both Superman and Batman. She sees her parents murdered right in front of her, and though there’s no indication that she feared police, she took on that same symbol and adopted it when she eventually became an officer in Tulsa.
To borrow a bit from Batman Begins specifically, while Angela doesn’t kill the suicide bomber, she at least wanted to stay and witness the execution. It’s as close as she’d get to seeing him die, similar to how Bruce had every intention of being the one to kill Joe Chill.
Plus, like Batman, these officers executing the suicide bomber was an example of them working outside of the law or even outright abusing their authority. Is it right to just execute a suicide bomber instead of trusting in the law? Angela doesn’t call for his death and isn’t the one who pulled the trigger, but she seems very satisfied with the end results.
The episode does a good job juxtaposing these events with what we’ve seen happen to Will both as a child and adult, as well as tracking how Angela witnessing similar justice put her on the path to becoming Sister Night.
I’m jumping ahead a bit, but there’s some meta commentary at play when Angela points out that she likes Sister Night because she looks like her. You can see in discussions online how HBO’s Watchmen resonates with particular people because of its angle on race, but also in how children look up to certain figures not because of what they stand for, but merely because they look like them.
It’s an inspiration for young Angela, but this inspiring image, of course, doesn’t resonate with everyone. See Laurie and Jane’s conversation, for example, and how Laurie points out that a Black man in a mask is scary to White America. In an age where superheroes of color are becoming more commonplace on the big and small screen for those who don’t read comics, you still have people who aren’t ready for that sort of change.
Angela still has a million and one questions not just after her trip down Will’s memory lane, but the big picture. Whether it’s her going through the images with Bian, learning that she’d been hooked up to an elephant this entire time, and Trieu telling her about the Manhattan phone booths, she goes through a period of discovery this week.
Each revelation feels deeper than the last and by episode’s end, Angela is just done fucking around. She forces her way through her comrades, confronts Trieu with the knowledge of Bian being a clone- though she didn’t know the mother twist- and despite learning about the Manhattan booths, doesn’t give a shit about who Manhattan is.
Because he’s been right under her and our noses this entire time. This goes against many expectations, I’m sure. Online, many speculated that Manhattan may be disguising himself as Veidt, and I’ll admit that some of those theories came off as sound to me. At the same time, looking back at Cal, there were clues and crumbs laid out for us all along.
Unless around family, Cal isn’t exactly the most emotional person. He doesn’t believe that heaven is real- thus eliminating the need for God at all- and he’s largely been a casual observer to the major occurrences around him. That doesn’t automatically mean Cal equals Manhattan, yes, but this episode and Laurie’s past comments about Cal do help set up this reveal.
After all, if Cal was in this car accident that caused total amnesia, it could line up with Manhattan’s sudden disappearance after the Vietnam war. Coupled with Cal being unaware of any of this as Angela approached him with a hammer, he’s been in the tunnel this entire time. Why? So he and Angela could be together, all based on a lie.
It’s not a giant squid hoax that led to the death of millions, but it’s still a lie with huge ramifications when you consider that Doctor Fucking Manhattan has been not just on Earth, but in Tulsa this entire time. This is indeed a moment that was best saved for the final three episodes because we’d have too many questions about this and everything else were we to get the Manhattan reveal earlier than we did.
After all, Manhattan’s presence has been felt because, as mentioned, he’s godlike and omnipresent, even to those who have never encountered him. From the news feed of him on Mars to Laurie Blake’s call in the phone booth, Manhattan may not have walked among us, but he’s also been on this ride with us at the same time. That’s one hell of a surprise that I assume Lindelof and company had in their back pocket all this time.
Also, related note, I love how this episode’s title tied into a direct line from Manhattan in the Watchmen comic in regards to the Vietcong surrendering.
Among the many questions it raises, I’m curious how Manhattan and Angela even conjured up this lie. Also, this would make Angela the second human that Manhattan has had a relationship with. That in and of itself is interesting, considering his general indifference to humanity. But hey, if he could foster a relationship with one human already, anyone else is fair game after that.
Touching upon the other story threads, the Millennium Clock and the Seventh Kavalry’s plans look like they’re headed on a collision course. From the way Lady Trieu talks, she feels like another take on Veidt, with her talking about saving humanity, regardless of her actions. The reveal that Bian was her mother instead of her daughter was a nice twist, as I was one of those who speculated that Bian was merely a clone.
That she’s a clone of Trieu’s mother and being fed her memories is a degree of madness that Veidt would find impressive. So what is her end goal? She wants to stop the Seventh Kavalry from killing Manhattan, sure, but why all the Manhattan phone booths? Is she just capitalizing on people’s need to pray to some higher being who won’t answer back? Hell, is she just collecting everyone’s data?
We know that Will sought her out for resources to stop the Kavalry, but does the Millennium Clock factor in there somewhere? Or is there another reason he believes her resources will help him in his mission? Will doesn’t appear in this episode, but it’s possible Trieu is keeping him hidden to avoid a confrontation between him and Angela, who already has a million questions.
Laurie and Pete don’t get a lot in this episode. They’re here to follow-up on the Kavalry’s unsuccessful visit to Wade’s home, as well as learn that Jane is in on the Kavalry’s plan. What Laurie learns from Keene isn’t as big of a revelation as when Wade found out about the squid hoax, but I did get a kick out of Laurie being so exhausted with all of this, not to mention being unimpressed with a trapdoor of all things.
I did like her talk about how Hooded Justice inspired future generations of superheroes as another callback not just to the Minutemen, but the Crimebusters as well.
We at least got to learn more about what the Kavalry is planning thanks to Keene’s talk with Laurie. Him going on about how hard it is to be a White man in America reflects similar sentiments among folks today in regards to race relations and reverse discrimination, but the motivation is there.
If you can’t find some solace living alongside those who you’re supposedly better than, why not transcend humanity and become a god? The idea that the Kavalry has what it takes to capture and kill Manhattan is, quite frankly, laughable, but I also can’t underestimate what they’re capable of. Hell, in the world of Watchmen, I shouldn’t be underestimating anybody at this point.
We return to Adrian Veidt’s corner of the world as he put on trial, but doesn’t offer much, if any, of a defense. His servants questioning their existence and supposed willingness to serve was a nice discussion, as it helped paint just how demented Veidt really is and what length he’ll go to in order to achieve his goal. Even if he hadn’t orchestrated the squid hoax, creating and eventually killing his servants with no remorse is still horrible.
At this point, though, Veidt doesn’t seem to care, so I wonder how his story will end with the next two episodes. Like Manhattan, his presence is felt throughout Tulsa, but unlike Manhattan, I can’t say whether Veidt’s story or Veidt himself will cross paths with the other characters. It’d be strange to suddenly pluck him between the Tulsa PD, FBI, and Lady Trieu, interesting as it may sound, but right now, leave Veidt on his own.
With his servants. And his pigs. And the Game Warden.
This show’s just got me all sorts of fucked-up for the right reasons. Each episode of Watchmen manages to top itself in both intrigue and revelations, and this is certainly no exception with the Manhattan reveal. With just two episodes to go, there’s still so much to wonder: How Angela first came into contact with Manhattan? When and how they concocted their plan?
What purpose will the Millennium Clock serve Lady Trieu? Does the Seventh Kavalry really have what it takes to capture Manhattan? Where’s Wade? And will Laurie fall victim to another trapdoor?
This was one hell of an episode and I’m very curious to see how this all wraps up in the next two weeks. See you next week for the penultimate episode. Until then, tick-tock, tick-tock.