We Need to Talk About Last Night’s ‘Watchmen’

Normally, we here at WIRED wait until a show’s season is over to really pick it apart, but last night’s Watchmen was such a doozy we couldn’t wait. The flashbacks! Angela’s treatment at Lady Trieu’s facility! The big reveal at the end! Unable to sit on our hands any longer, WIRED writers and editors Jason Parham, Adam Rogers, and Angela Watercutter put their heads together to hash out what they all just saw. Read on for all of our best guesses at what’s really going on with Watchmen. Also, there will be spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

Angela Watercutter, Senior Editor: I’ll start. So, I definitely want to get into the flashbacks to Angela Abar’s (Regina King) youth in Vietnam and her time being treated by Lady Trieu for her Nostalgia overdose, but let’s get to the point: that final scene … uh, what happened?

So, I get that her husband Cal was some kind of robot, and helping Angela hide her true identity (I think), but I was not expecting her to whack him with a hammer and dig inside his brain. So, I guess the first question is obvious: What is that thing she pulled out of Cal’s head? Presumably, it has something to do with Dr. Manhattan—or it just is Dr. Manhattan—but, WTF? I guess he’s definitely not, as Trieu said, on Mars. Not to be daft, but did anyone see this coming?

Adam Rogers, Senior Correspondent: I saw two things coming, and neither did. First, I assumed that the show would withhold Dr. Manhattan altogether, since my understanding of the end of the comic book Watchmen was that Doc left our galaxy or our universe altogether, with the intention of making his own humans to be goddish toward. Maybe it’s his universe in which this show takes place! And ambiguous and withholdy endings are the metier of this show’s makers. Having God not show up would lend an existential Waiting for Godot vibe to the whole deal.

The second thing I saw coming, but was still materially wrong about, was that Dr. Manhattan was already on Earth. Some of the marketing material for the show depicted Angela Abar/Sister Night illuminated with an unearthly blue glow, the color of Dr. Manhattan. I thought he was her.

So I was wrong about everything, which is typical, except for the extent to which skin color is a key to the whole show and to the secret history of superheroes. It takes real deftness and smarts to excavate that meaning from Alan Moore’s original work (even as he has disavowed any of the work that has taken up the Watchmen title and story, and in fact left comics writing altogether after a lot of shoddy treatment by the business side). I think Moore planted the seed by putting a noose around the neck of Hooded Justice, the first masked vigilante—he did once describe the Ku Klux Klan-mythologizing Birth of a Nation as the first real American superhero movie. And now, as Emily Nussbaum wrote in the New Yorker, HJ being African American is retconned canon.

I love that Sister Night constructed herself from, apparently, a blaxploitation character. I love the black/white dichotomies of her mask and her grandfather’s, now revealed to have been Hooded Justice (and a prefiguring of the black/white duality of Rorshach’s mask and his Randian outlook). I love that the origin of Hooded Justice, Will Reeves, is a mashup of Superman’s (orphaned, raised in a world he doesn’t know) and Batman’s (orphaned, inspired by an adventure movie).