“Watchmen” showrunner Damon Lindelof details the origins behind the massive twist that was revealed in the latest episode…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
From the moment Damon Lindelof agreed to do a “Watchmen” show for HBO, he knew he had to somehow find a way to incorporate Dr. Manhattan.
The blue demi-god that was created purely by accident when Jon Osterman got locked into an intrinsic field generator that transformed him into a creature with actually super powers not to mention the ability to see the past, present and future as one linear timeline, loomed large over the original “Watchmen” story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons so it only stood to reason he would return in the TV series sequel.
While Dr. Manhattan had been mentioned several times over the course of the first season, the only glimpse of him came in a satellite shot during a news show airing on television that confirmed he was spotted building a structure on Mars.
The latest episode gave a much better look at Dr. Manhattan through the eyes of a documentary series that ran back in the 1980’s that told his life story as well as his role in the Vietnam War where he acted as an agent of the United States military and brought the fighting to an end rather quickly.
What was never seen, however, was Dr. Manhattan’s face and that’s with good reason because it turns out he had been hiding in plain sight this entire time.
The huge twist at the end of the latest installment of “Watchmen” revealed that Dr. Manhattan had disguised himself as a human named Cal Abar, who simultaneously wiped his own memory, in order for him to spend time with the love of his life — Angela Abar. Unfortunately, Cal’s secret was uncovered by several people including Angela’s grandfather Will Reeves not to mention the Seventh Kavalry, who are determined to capture Dr. Manhattan, destroy him and give themselves his god-like powers.
Lindelof says that there was never going to be a version of “Watchmen” that didn’t somehow include Dr. Manhattan but it was tricky trying to find the right way incorporate him on a show that was centering around a new character in Angela Abar (played by the wonderful Regina King).
“I started this whole journey from the perspective of a fan — what would I have to see in a television show daring to call itself Watchmen? Dr. Manhattan was near the top of that list,” Lindelof explained when speaking to the Hollywood Reporter. “But even higher was that we needed to tell a new story with a new character at the center of it. Once we landed on Angela Abar as that center, the new rule became that any legacy characters we were using (Veidt, Laurie and Hooded Justice) could only be used in service of Angela’s story…she was the sun, everyone else needed to be orbiting around her.
“So how could Dr. Manhattan, a man with the power of God, be in service of Angela’s story as opposed to the other way around? Based on his past (and all the tropes of Greco/Roman mythology), the answer was intuitive…love. We knew this relationship could only work if Manhattan took the form of a human, and so, the idea of Cal was born. And yeah, it came early. Almost from the jump.”
In the original comic book, Dr. Manhattan already had two previous girlfriends including Janey Slater, who was with Jon Osterman prior to his transformation, as well as Laurie Juspeczyk aka Silk Spectre aka FBI Agent Laurie Blake. Dr. Manhattan left Janey Slater to start a relationship with Laurie, who in turn dumped him years later after he become almost completely disconnected with humanity.
But it seems at some point after Dr. Manhattan lost interest in Laurie, he somehow met Angela Abar and fell in love with her while she was growing up in Vietnam. And his passion for Angela was so great that Dr. Manhattan was willing to sacrifice his god-like powers in order to play human just to get the chance to be her husband.
According to Lindelof, the plan for this story was conceived almost immediately, which meant the casting process was not only looking for someone to play Cal Abar but they knew he would eventually transform into Dr. Manhattan.
The man for the job ended up being Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who is best known for his past roles in “Aquaman” as well as a recent turn in “Black Mirror.”
“At the time, besides the writers, only Nicole Kassell knew. We sort’ve hinted at it with Vickie Thomas, our brilliant casting director, something along the lines of, “He’s not who we think he is and he’s a bit…off,” Lindelof teased.
“I first saw Yahya in an episode of “Handmaid’s Tale” and I just knew. He came in for a chemistry read with Regina and then she also just knew. Of course, we didn’t tell either of them Cal’s true identity until after he was cast.”
Now that Dr. Manhattan’s true identity has been revealed, the penultimate episode in “Watchmen” will deal with the backstory that led to his relationship with Angela as well as the Seventh Kavalry’s plans to capture and destroy him in order to harness his powers for themselves.
In the last episode, Senator Joe Keene Jr., who is the secret leader behind the white supremacist group that wears the Rorschach masks, told Laurie Blake about his plans while saying that it was getting difficult to be a white man in America these days so perhaps he’d try being blue instead.
Lady Trieu then detailed what she knew about the plans while facing the atrocities that would come along with handing a racist organization like the Seventh Kavalry the god-like powers that belong to Dr. Manhattan.
“As subversive a text as the original Watchmen was, in the end, it followed the same arc as any superhero story: the hero saves the world. The paradigm shift here was that the “good guy” and the “bad guy” were the same person. In our Watchmen, there are more clear cut bad guys who represent an ideology that is almost impossible to defeat,” Lindelof explained. “Bad guys always want the same thing: power.
“There’s something fundamentally ridiculous about the idea of “white power” in its redundancy as if everyone in America was born onto the same playing field. Sadly, almost every one of our institutions demonstrates that inequity, so the idea that a white, male senator actually wanted MORE power was equal parts absurd and irresistible. As is the case with most White Supremacists, Keene doesn’t see taking Manhattan’s power as appropriation as much as taking something he already feels entitled to.”
A lot more will surely be revealed in the final two episodes of “Watchmen” this season as the Seventh Kavlary prepares to strike in their attempt to capture Dr. Manhattan while Angela does everything possible to wake up the blue-god before he can be destroyed.
“Watchmen” returns Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET with a brand new episode on HBO.