And so Watchmen ends, but how was the ending? And, for that matter, how was the series as a whole?
The first fifteen minutes of this episode gives us Lady Trieu’s origin story. From her humble beginnings as a bastard sired through illegal self-insemination (way to get it on the first try, Bian! Her 1985 version played by Elyse Dinh), to her unsuccessful attempt at getting her biological father to fund a 42 billion dollar project – circa 2008. While that’s quite a lot of money, it is to destroy Dr. Manhattan and transfer his powers to her. Still, Adrian doesn’t go for the pitch (no Manhattan project, denied!), arguing that even if she is his daughter she should obtain her own wealth instead of mooching off him.
He reminds her that he inherited great wealth but gave it all away so he could build his own empire. If that doesn’t sound like a cranky old man mentality, I dunno what does. “I had to do it the hard way so you should too!” I get where he’s coming from here though, after all, Bian stole his sperm and made a kid without his consent and never told him about it. Also, if Lady Trieu really is the smartest woman in the world, wouldn’t she have anticipated this? If she knew Veidt was her father, she would have done extensive research on the man. She would have realized he didn’t have kids for a reason. But, it works out for her anyway, because Adrian eventually does call her “daughter” – a thing he distinctly told her would never happen.
Back on Europa, Adrian is dressed in his Ozymandias costume awaiting the arrival of a spaceship. It lands and he easily escapes his cell to catch the ride. The Game Warden shows up for one last confrontation but it ends with him getting stabbed by the escape horseshoe. Weirdly, Adrian cradles Phillips Prime as he dies even though he doesn’t give him the satisfaction of calling him a worthy adversary (which is why he made him wear a mask in the first place). The clones line up to bid him farewell and then he’s off.
Veidt’s side story timeline can be confusing as there are no clear dates shown for when they’re happening. In fact, the only indicators we get for a time before these last two episodes are the number of candles on his cakes. I’ll confess I didn’t notice this detail. In a show that chooses to spell out just about every goddamn point it’s trying to make, they sure like to go more show than tell when it comes to Adrian’s stuff. At any rate, if you’re curious about it this YouTube video might help…
Back on Earth and in the present, Lady Trieu takes Adrian out of cryogenisis (it’s so satisfying to know that he was that golden statue) and informs him of her success in not only gaining wealth but building her machine. He’s impressed until he sees Bian. My question is…how the fuck does he know that’s Trieu’s mom? He’s never met Bian, or, if he had it was when she was older and in passing at best – it’s the whole reason she’s said to have gotten away with stealing his sperm. There’s no clue to give away that Bian is anything other than a young Vietnamese girl working for Lady Trieu, and/or her daughter. I will say, one of the things I enjoyed about this scene is how catty Lady T is when she’s talking to her father. Super condescending, talking to him like he’s a child, and rubbing it in his face that he was driven to call her daughter; sure, part of it could be explained by his confusion but I dunno…that level of shade is undeniable.
Over at the Kavalry base, the old guard Cyclops members have arrived. Laurie is stunned to see Sen. Keene Sr. is a “secret racist”, and we learn Looking Glass managed to evade death and infiltrate the Kavalry’s ranks. Their grand plan is close to fruition, especially since Dr. Manhattan has finally been transported into their cage – made from melted-down watch batteries. Given this is a big bad scene, we naturally get a monologue. Sen. Keene Jr. expounds on what lead them to this day. When Robert Redford got elected President, took away their guns, and made them apologize for fucking over an entire race, well, the racists didn’t take kindly to it. Their original intention was to work up to a revolution, but the White Night revealed some handy new info. Dr. Manhattan wasn’t on Mars.
As Adrian noted, Jon uses his powers as a reflexive safety measure on the White Night, teleporting a second intruder that was about to kill Angela to his birthplace of Gila Flats, NM. The racists connect the dots and change their plans. Somehow, Angela shows up. Yeah, she tortured a guy to find out where they’d taken Jon, but…how did she get inside? Are you telling me once they had Manhattan the Kavalry didn’t bother posting any security around the place? Either way, Angela tries to warn them that Lady T knows their plans and probably has plans of her own to stop them. Sen. Keene Jr. is done playing nice, calls her a black bitch, and then goes into his machine.
A blast of energy hits; they’ve all been transported to Trieu’s millennium clock site (I didn’t realize this until reading a summary of the episode, it’s not very clear what’s happening). Trieu’s people easily disarm the disorientated Kavalry members and she explains that in exchange for Dr. Manhattan, Will wanted her to kill Cyclops and the Kavalry once and for all. As it happens, Sen. Keene Jr. doesn’t need killing as he already did the job for her. Opening the machine he went into results in a wave of bloody goo that spills out onto the floor. Enough of it reaches Jon, allowing him to use his powers to teleport Laurie, Adrian, and Looking Glass away. Angela is curious why he didn’t send her too, but he confesses he doesn’t want to die alone (ouch to Laurie, eh?).
Lady Trieu is pissed by this. Luckily, she already killed the racists, but she does inform Manhattan that teleporting her father away won’t stop her from taking his powers as planned. Adrian, back at his base in Antarctica, formulates a quick plan to stop his daughter. Laurie seems surprised he doesn’t trust Lady Trieu, but Veidt explains that she’s a raging narcissist, and getting Manhattan’s powers would be devastating for everyone else. My question would be, how does he know this? Yes, his argument is that “it takes one to know one”, but how would he know Trieu at all? Not to mention that we have evidence of Adrian’s projections being wrong. He was wrong about Robert Redford appreciating his election help, he fucked over his own businesses new energy plans with his squid stunt, and he was wrong about wanting to be blindly worshipped. But, maybe that’s the key here.
Adrian hated being worshipped. Is he assuming that anyone else “like” him would also hate it? Does he think that if Trieu got her wish, saved the world, and was worshipped she’d grow tired of the adulation and leave the human race? Still, my problem with all of this is that he’s a wealthy, white male who is assuming the emotions, motives, and thoughts of a wealthy, Asian American. It’s funny to think back on his conversation with Jon, making light of his “appropriation” by adopting a black body, when Adrian kills his own daughter under the prideful idea that she can’t be trusted with power. White supremacy, am I right?
Wade, meanwhile, is still coming to terms with the reality that this is the man who ruined his life. This is the place where it started. Adrian has zero empathy for this and instead enlists his help in the execution of his plan: to drop a rain of frozen squids. Again with the squids! Of course, it works.
The squids rain down to lethal results, punching a hole through Lady Trieu’s hand before destroying her clock, which causes it to fall down, crushing her to death. The surrounding area also experiences falling squid hail, but it manages not to kill the police who are standing outside. It punches holes in their cars, smashes through their windshields, but they are somehow fine. Angela and Bian survive thanks to a call from Laurie, with the former managing to make it to the theatre. Inside her children are asleep on the stage and her grandfather is sitting front row. As satisfying as part of this scene is with respect to Will and Angela getting some real quality screen time together, it is very heavy-handed in terms of what the writers want you to take away from the series. Masks are bad. Dealing with your feelings is good. Pretty sure if no one picked this lesson up on the way here they weren’t paying attention.
In the end, Adrian succeeds in saving the world again, but manages to get himself arrested and knocked out. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between “Mirror Guy” and Laurie…Another fun thing in this scene is Archie! Dan Dreiberg’s original airship, which Adrian had repaired at some point before his self-imposed exile; he offers it as a way home for Laurie and Wade.
Our series ends with Angela at home. She’s put her kids to bed, had a brief conversation with Will about Jon’s wasted potential, and is cleaning up the fallen egg carton when she notices one of the eggs survived. We get voiceover and flashbacks to the conversation between Jon and Angela about his ability to transfer his powers into…say…an egg? If Angela were then to eat said egg…She’s curious enough to go out to the pool, down the raw egg, and prepare to walk on water when the scene goes black.
According to Lindelof, this isn’t a cliffhanger. He has said it’s clear Angela got Jon’s powers. I would believe that more if they didn’t shoot it like a cliffhanger. If we actually saw her walk on water or glow. If you’re gonna shoot something like a cliffhanger, people are gonna call it a cliffhanger.
Ending aside, the overall series is mostly spectacular. I can see what Lindelof meant when he said after episode six he ran out of steam. There is a clear momentum for the first six episodes which drops off for the last three. I also noticed that after the sixth episode, Angela no longer dons her Sister Night costume – in fact, the only time we see it is episode nine where it’s hanging in her cave.
As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a subtle series. Aside from a few details, like the Adrian Veidt stuff, or the Lady Trieu teleportation trick, most of what happens in this show is not just told but shouted. I did argue that because of the subject matter they are dealing with, shouting makes sense, but that being said the last three episodes really are the weakest of the nine. Which isn’t to say they are bad. They are just simple in terms of story and themes. They are the comic book series most people were probably expecting. No deep character studies, no heavy-handed explorations of race, class, and gender, nope, merely fun fantastical stories meant to conclude what I would still say is a fine series.