In the “Watchmen” recap, Dr. Manhattan reveals where he’s been since 1985 and how his relationship with Angela first began…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Telling stories out of sequence has become a staple for directors like Quentin Tarantino, whose juxtaposed movie “Pulp Fiction” set the standard for non-linear filmmaking.
When you then combine non-linear storytelling with time travel (in a sense), you’ll get episodes of television like “The Constant”, which was arguably one of the best hours of “Lost” during the entire series run. Damon Lindelof had a hand in that mind-bending episode just like he did with Sunday night’s installment of “Watchmen,” which sought to tell where Dr. Manhattan has been hiding for the past 30 plus years and how this entire ordeal started thanks to a question asked in 2019 that implanted an idea all the way back in 2009.
Now there’s no easy way to recap this episode without understanding that Dr. Manhattan doesn’t experience time the way that anyone else does on a linear format like yesterday, today and then tomorrow. Instead, Dr. Manhattan experiences everything at once so what he’s seeing in his head from today is no different than what he’s seeing from the past or the future.
So while Dr. Manhattan is holding a conversation with Angela in 2005, he’s simultaneously awaking from a 10 year slumber in 2019 because time really is a flat circle to him. There is no today or tomorrow, there’s just now and it’s always that way for him.
If that makes sense, it will help to put things into perspective as we recap the latest episode of “Watchmen” titled “A God Walks Into Abar”…
The Tunnel of Love
When the episode begins, Angela Abar is enjoying a drink in a bar after she fulfilled the promise she made to her grandmother by becoming a police officer in Saigon. This is a particularly somber day for her, however, because it’s the 22nd anniversary of the day her parents were killed by a suicide bomber, which also happens to coincide with the anniversary of the day Dr. Manhattan wiped out the Viet-Cong and brought an end to the Vietnam War.
Dr. Manhattan arrives, wearing a Dr. Manhattan mask that he found on the street, as he introduces himself to Angela while simultaneously explaining where he’s been for the past 20 years since he “abandoned” Earth in the aftermath of the alien squid attack that wiped out 3 million people in New York.
He explains to Angela that the videos showing him on Mars are nothing more than a loop of footage, almost like a computer program sending images back to Earth but in reality he ended up on Europa — one of the main moons surrounding Jupiter and the place where Adrian Veidt has been throughout this entire season. He also says that he’s still technically on Europa because once again, time doesn’t work for him the way it does for everybody else.
“The way I experience time is unique and for you, particularly infuriating. That said, I am simultaneously in this bar, having a conversation with you and on Europa creating life.”
~ Dr. Manhattan
This is an important line to note where Dr. Manhattan says it’s infuriating to Angela because this was much the same problem he experienced in his relationship with Laurie back when they were a couple. She couldn’t handle the fact that Dr. Manhattan already knew every facet of their relationship from beginning, middle and end before it ever happened for her. That eventually led to their breakup and by the sound of things, Angela was frustrated much the same after she first met and fell in love with Dr. Manhattan as well.
For the sake of trying to keep things linear, we’ll start by explaining what Dr. Manhattan was doing back in 1985 after he left Earth in the wake of Veidt’s attack on New York.
He went to Europa and decided to create new life including a vast, sprawling land where human like creatures could survive. He modeled this world after one he experienced as a child back in the 1930’s after he and his father fled Germany at the start of World War II.
His Jewish family sought refuge in the United States but along the way, they were hosted at the home of a British couple at a large manor where they helped house people escaping the atrocities of Adolf Hitler. While he was there, a young Jon Osterman met the couple who owned the manor — and these were the models for the people who would eventually become Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks.
While he was there they gave him a gift of a bible and asked him to promise that one day he would create life of his own. Now they were obviously hinting at children but he took that to mean something entirely different after he became a god-like creature with the powers of Dr. Manhattan.
So on Europa, Dr. Manhattan created life with an Adam and Eve, who were unlike humans in the sense that they were kind and desperate to serve. He even brought them the same English manor where he once stayed as a child where they could live. But he wasn’t satisfied with this existence and he eventually returned to Earth.
Over the course of his conversation with Angela in the bar, he lays all of this out while also revealing that following a dinner the next night, they began to fall in love.
A couple of weeks later, Angela helped Dr. Manhattan assume a human form by taking over the life of a man named Calvin Jelani — a Philadelphia man who died suddenly in Vietnam with no known family or friends to come claim his body. Dr. Manhattan is able to duplicate Calvin’s exact looks and now he appears to be human so he can take over that life and begin spending time with Angela out in the open.
Sadly their happy life together will fall apart six months later because of an argument where Angela once again struggles to cope with Dr. Manhattan’s innate ability to talk about the future as if it’s already happened. He’s explaining this all to her in that initial bar conversation, but in his head, this is all happening simultaneously.
The argument ends with Angela telling Dr. Manhattan to leave and he disappears to Antarctica where he arrives at Karnak — the secret facility that houses the world’s smartest man, Adrian Veidt, more than 20 years after he dropped a psychic squid into New York in order to stave off nuclear annihilation.
The Man Who Sold the World
When he arrives, he finds Adrian is despondent now because while the world was saved, humanity has the incredible knack for finding new ways to destroy themselves. Add to that, Adrian is still going through the motions by teleporting squid on Earth as a subtle reminder that the aliens are still out there in an attempt to keep them from dissolving into nuclear war again.
Sadly, Adrian has just lost all interest in the world because humans don’t seem to want to save themselves and he’s never received an ounce of credit for saving them the first time around.
Dr. Manhattan shows up 24 years after the last time they saw each other and Adrian seems less than surprised to see him again. Dr. Manhattan shares with Adrian what they talked about on the day that he unleashed a fake alien attack to help save the world. Adrian then wonders what he’s doing back after spending time on Europa.
For all his omnipotence, Dr. Manhattan doesn’t know how Adrian is aware that he was on Europa but the former Ozymandias explains that a “little elephant” told him. Now that little elephant might just be the same person who he’s asking to save him after he’s stuck on Europa for the better part of a decade — more on that later.
Adrian surmises correctly that the man once known as Jon Osterman has returned to Earth, fallen in love with a woman but yet again she cannot handle the way he lives in a non-linear timeline and it’s causing issues much like every woman he’s loved since becoming Dr. Manhattan. What he truly wants is a way to be with her without the entanglements that come along with his powers as a god.
Adrian figures it out that what Dr. Manhattan truly wants to assume the life of a normal human being with a device which would allow him to ignore his powers and walk the Earth living a linear timeline like every other human being. It turns out, Adrian Veidt already created this exact thing 30 years earlier when he was plotting his “alien” attack on New York.
Ahead of the 11-2-85 massacre, Adrian knew the only way for his plan to succeed was to remove the biggest obstacle in his way — Dr. Manhattan.
So first things first, Adrian bombarded Dr. Manhattan with tachyons — a hypothetical particle that moves faster than the speed of light — that would block his ability to look forward into the future, thus knowing the plot to drop a squid bomb on New York. The next part of the plan was getting Dr. Manhattan out of the way, which he accomplished by claiming several people who were close to him contracted cancer as a result. The fear that Dr. Manhattan was a radioactive monster turned people against him and he began questioning himself in the wake of his ex-girlfriend being stricken with cancer.
The third and final part was removing Dr. Manhattan from the equation completely by destroying the blue god by using a similar intrinsic field generator to disassemble his molecules in the same way a machine from the past helped to create him. That plan failed after Dr. Manhattan was just able to put himself back together again but the entire plot still worked because all of this served as enough of a distraction to allow Adrian to drop that bomb before anybody could stop him.
It turns out destroying Dr. Manhattan was plan B.
The first plan involved a device that Adrian built that would be embedded in the frontal cortex of Dr. Manhattan’s brain that would essentially prevent him from using his powers by stunting his memory from even knowing that he was a god in the first place. Essentially it was an amnesia device and if Dr. Manhattan doesn’t know he has powers, he certainly can’t use them.
Adrian agrees to hand over the device to Dr. Manhattan with an additional piece added that would allow him to use his powers when he’s in grave danger. That comes in handy years later during the “White Night” attack when a pair of Seventh Kavalry members attack the Abar house trying to kill Angela. She got the drop on one of the attackers but the second had her point blank range — until Dr. Manhattan’s powers kicked in and he disintegrated the second Seventh Kavalry member where he stood.
In exchange for this device, Dr. Manhattan sends Adrian to a true paradise where he will be worshipped and served just like he always wanted. That place is Europa and the little mini-paradise that Dr. Manhattan built in his attempt to make new life and now he’s sending Adrian there to be the new master to his creations.
Now we know that Adrian was never a prisoner — he was sent there to live in paradise but he soon realized that being serviced isn’t as much fun as being challenged. Unfortunately, Adrian got trapped in Europa because the only person who could save him was Dr. Manhattan and he’s spending the next 10 years living as Cal Abar, unaware of the true god-like powers he possesses.
The Manhattan Project
When Dr. Manhattan returns to Angela, he gives her the device to implant in his head along with the knowledge that he will remain the same person but he won’t now he possesses those god-like powers and he will begin to see time as a flat line rather than a circle. He also tells her that they will enjoy 10 years together in happiness before a tragedy befalls them. He won’t say what this tragedy is but he knows it’s coming.
Angela agrees to the plan and implants the device into his head, which then transforms Dr. Manhattan into Cal Abar, the man she marries and loves for the next decade.
10 years later, we’re back in the kitchen after Angela smashed open Cal’s head with a hammer and pulled out that device to help him remember who he truly was. When Dr. Manhattan re-emerges it takes him some time to put all of the pieces of the puzzle back together.
He sends their children to meet with her grandfather Will Reeves at the same Tulsa theater where his mother worked just before they tried to escape the race attacks back in 1921. Dr. Manhattan then tells her that before he had the device implanted into his head, he went to New York to pay Will Reeves a visit to tell him about the granddaughter he knew nothing about.
It seems at the time, Will was living in a home that was left to him by Captain Metropolis following his death. Dr. Manhattan arrives telling Will about his granddaughter and how she’s returning to Tulsa to become a police officer. He tells Will that they need to form a partnership so he can look after Angela once he’s gone.
Back in 2019, Dr. Manhattan tells Angela about this conversation he had with Will Reeves a decade ago but remember in his world, this is all happening simultaneously. Angela then asks Dr. Manhattan to please inquire with her grandfather how he knew about Judd Crawford being a secret member of the Cyclops organization, not to mention the Klan robes hiding in his closet. Dr. Manhattan asks Will that question 10 years earlier and his response was “who is Judd Crawford?.”
That brings it all full circle — Will Reeves fought against Cyclops from the time he started out as Hooded Justice as he sought to eliminate the white supremacist organization that was quietly trying to wipe out every black person in America. Hearing that Judd Crawford was a member planted that name and idea into his head, which then led Will to Tulsa to seek out the chief of police before he hanged himself.
In other words, Angela was the one who told Will Reeves about her former friend and chief of police, which is what started this entire ordeal in the first place.
As Angela figures out that she’s the one who put Will on Judd’s tracks in the first place, Dr. Manhattan zaps himself back inside to start making some waffles because he’s hungry. A frustrated Angela follows him and explains how the Seventh Kavalry is coming for him but he already knows. Dr. Manhattan reveals that the Seventh Kavalry are sitting outside right now with a tachyonic cannon that will teleport him back to their secret lair where they will destroy him.
Angela can’t abide by that revelation so she decides to do everything in her power to save him even if Dr. Manhattan already knows how this all plays out. As she arms herself with weapons, Dr. Manhattan tells her that this was the moment when he fell in love with her — although once again because it’s non-linear, in his mind he’s always been in love with her.
She rushes outside to launch an assault on the Seventh Kalvary and eventually Dr. Manhattan intercedes as he wipes out virtually every person there wearing a Rorschach mask. Angela is relieved that Dr. Manhattan decided to fight for his life but that’s when the last remaining member of the Seventh Kavalry blasts him with that cannon, which then sends me back to the secret hideout where Senator Joe Keene is waiting to destroy him and assume his god-like powers.
Flashback to 2005 in that bar when Dr. Manhattan initially approaches Angela as he lays out this entire storyline to her in an attempt to convince her to have dinner with him. She finally relents and agrees to have dinner, which essentially sets everything into motion just as Dr. Manhattan promised it would.
In a post-credit scene we also catch up with Adrian Veidt, who has been living on Europa for the past 10 years. It seems every episode that we caught up with him, it was another year later as his passion for paradise soon transformed into a thirst to escape. Following his “trial” it seems that all of the servants on the planet are seeking to make him stay, which is what this was all about in the first place. Remember, Dr. Manhattan made these new creatures with a sense of servitude built directly into their DNA. He already abandoned them and now Adrian Veidt is trying to do the same.
As he sits in his cell reading a book called “Fogdancing” (another call back to a book mentioned in the “Watchmen” comics), he receives another celebratory cake for his latest anniversary spent on Europa. Inside, Adrian finds a horseshoe buried within the cake — a callback to the very first time we saw him in this bizarre little world — and he’s ecstatic that his servants finally listened to him. Adrian pulls out the horseshoe and begins digging into the bottom of the jail cell, perhaps plotting his final escape from this self-made prison.
Now as far as the message that Adrian was making out of the broken bodies of those clones — we saw the words ‘Save Me D’ but that last word wasn’t finished. Adrian has to know that Dr. Manhattan won’t rescue him because as far as he knows, the former blue god is living life as a human alongside his wife Angela. So is it possible that Adrian is reaching out to his daughter instead? A daughter who may be named Lady Trieu?
Considering how Lady Trieu assumed control of Veidt Industries after his disappearance and her incredible genius it would stand to reason that she has some sort of relationship with Ozymandias. Also Lady Trieu mentioned last week how her mother and father will be there to witness her greatest accomplishment when she turns on the Millennium clock in order to save humanity. We know her mother is the child she cloned that is currently being fed Nostalgia to remember her true identity but she promises that her father will be there to witness this achievement as well. Is it possible that Lady Trieu has orchestrated a rescue plan to save her father from Europa to then bring him back to Earth for this final fight against the Seventh Kavalry?
Tune in next Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on HBO for the season (and possibly series) finale of “Watchmen” to find out.