I think we can make it official: Watchmen is the year’s best show. I don’t even know how you could argue against it at this point. Week after week, the show has delivered on nearly every level while scattering puzzle pieces. And with this latest episode, “An Almost Religious Awe”, we finally see those pieces start to come together, and the picture they reveal is stunning. I’m in awe of this show. I spent the bulk of this episode literally on the edge of my seat, wondering where all this was going. And then the series went ahead and dropped one of its biggest bombshells.
Thou Shalt Not Leave
But first, let’s check back in with our old pal Adrian Veidt. He’s been on trial in his weird space prison for a full year, and he hasn’t said a single thing in his defense. The Adrian segments are always delightfully odd, but things get extra gonzo here. We have one of the Ms. Crookshanks clones donning a Barrister outfit and acting as the prosecutor, laying out all of Adrian’s dastardly deeds and underlining that he broke the one and only rule of…wherever the hell they are: Thou Shalt Not Leave. These closing remarks are damning, and things don’t look good for Adrian. And yet…Ms. Crookshanks tips him a knowing wink.
What follows is anarchy. First, Adrian stands up and rips a fart in his defense. Then, rather than let the clone servants act as jury, the Game Warden brings in a band of piglets and then proceeds to declare Adrian guilty. As all the clones chant “Guilty!” in unison, Adrian sheds a single tear. It’s an incredibly odd moment in an overall odd episode, and I still have no clue how it connects to the main storyline. It’s clear that Adrian wanted to be found guilty, since he offered no defense, and since he appears to be in league with his own prosecutor. But why would he want this? And why, if he’s getting what he wants, does he shed a tear? It’s not a mock tear – he looks genuinely crestfallen.
Angela is still coming down from overdosing on her grandfather’s memories. As a result, Will’s traumatic past starts to bleed into Angela’s own, and we learn a bit more about her backstory. We see her as a little girl in Vietnam, starting off with a VVN Day celebration in 1986. VVN Day celebrates the end of the Vietnam War, which was won – or so the story goes – by Dr. Manhattan. As a result, Vietnam has Dr. Manhattan fever – his visage is everywhere, be it in masks, costumes, or puppets.
The big celebratory mood is spoiled, though, when a suicide bomber, crying “Death to invaders!”, detonates himself – killing Angela’s parents in the process. Angela ends up in a cruel orphanage, but she gets her taste for law enforcement when local cops ask her to identify the bomber’s accomplice, which she does without hesitation. Angela is drawn to this world both via the actions of the cops – which result in the execution of the accomplice – and by a blaxploitation movie called Sister Night – a film Anglea was forbidden from watching by her now-dead parents.
In one of the cruelest moments of the show, the young Angela gets a taste of kindness after living in that abusive orphanage. Her grandmother – that would be June, the wife of Hooded Justice – shows up to take her away. It looks like Angela’s life is about to turn around for the better…and then June suffers a heart attack and (presumably) dies, immediately robbing Angela of the new life she was just promised.
While the Avengers films don’t exist in the Watchmen world (there is a pirate cinematic universe, though), it looks like Joe Keene would be a big fan of Thanos. We finally learn what Kean and his Seventh Kavalry goons are up to, and, in Keene’s own words, it’s all about “restoring balance.” Laurie puts the pieces together: the mind-controlling Cyclops organization has morphed into the 7K, and Keene is their leader. But she gets one thing wrong: she thinks Keene’s plan is to just become president, but he has loftier goals.
Unfortunately for Laurie, she winds up getting captured – after an amusing sequence in which she lays all of this out for Judd’s wife, who proceeds to drop her through a trapdoor she just has in her house. (“Who the fuck installs a trapdoor in their living room?” Laurie asks later). Now in the clutches of the 7K, Laurie has to sit and listen and Keene prattles on like a generic villain. Laurie, in her infinite wisdom, attempts to circumvent this by telling Keen: “I don’t fucking care.”
That changes quickly when Keene tells her what he’s up to. According to Keene, the 7K aren’t racist, they just want to tip the scales back to the way things were. “It’s hard to be a white man in America right now!” Keene says, drawing an understandable eye-roll from Laurie. So how is Keene going to restore balance? He’s going to summon up Laurie’s ex-boyfriend: Dr. Manhattan.
A Plan to Save Humanity
If for some reason you read these review-recaps before watching the episode in question, this is the point where you need to stop, because here comes the biggest spoiler of the entire show – a spoiler I’m positive no one saw coming.
Back in the present, the Millenium Clock is about to be activated. We still don’t know what it does, but it’s all part of Lady Trieu’s plan – a plan to save humanity. Angela is in Lady Trieu’s care, and we find out that Laurie is the one who brought Angela there, since Angela overdosed on a drug that Lady Trieu created. Lady Trieu is giving Angela a treatment to flush the Nostalgia pills from her memory. This involves a very long IV that’s supposedly hooked up to Will, who remains out of sight.
As it turns out, Will isn’t there at all. After knocking down the door to the room he’s apparently sequestered in, Angela discovers…a sleeping elephant? It’s a major “What the hell?” moment, and it goes completely unexplained. Seriously: what’s the deal with the sleeping elephant?
While we don’t get an answer to the elephant question, Lady Trieu does spell some things out for Angela after Angela stumbles upon the room connected to all the Manhattan Booths around the world – the booths where people place calls to Dr. Manhattan, begging for help. As Lady Trieu tells it, Will came to her to help stop the 7K from their dastardly plan: capturing Dr. Manhattan…and then killing him. And after that, they also plan to “become him.” In other words, someone – presumably Keene – is hoping to become the new Dr. Manhattan.
“Can you imagine that kind of power in the hands of white supremacists?” LadyTrieu asks. And then she drops a bombshell: Dr. Manhattan isn’t on Mars at all. He’s on Earth – and in Tulsa. Disguised as a human. Will hinted at the same thing to Angela when they first met, and Angela brushed the idea off as impossible. This time, however, Angela isn’t as vehement in her denials.
Because it’s true. Dr. Manhattan is in disguise – as Cal, Angela’s husband. The logistics of this switch remain unclear, but here’s what we know: Cal has amnesia from an accident – amnesia that wipes out almost all of his past memories. But there wasn’t an accident. Instead, there was some sort of plan put in place that enabled Dr. Manhattan to hideout in Cal’s body. And now it’s time to wake him up – which Angela does by smashing Cal’s head in with a hammer, and pulling out the symbol that rests atop Dr. Manhattan’s head – the symbol for the atomic structure of hydrogen. At which point Dr. Manhattan’s trademark blue glow suddenly floods the room, and Angela informs him that they’re “in fucking trouble.”
It’s a jaw-dropping finale, and it took me completely by surprise. I still don’t quite understand how all of this works, but I’m excited to find out. Only two episodes remain, and I can’t wait to see where they go.
- It turns out Bian isn’t Lady Trieu’s daughter – she’s her mother, cloned. “I’m about to achieve my life’s work, why wouldn’t I want my parents here to see it?” Lady Trieu says, adding that her father will be around soon. What could that mean?
- The editing in this episode, cutting back and forth and finding parallels between Will and Angela’s pasts, is superb.
- Acting standouts this week: Sara Vickers, who gets to go big as Prosecutor Crookshanks, and James Wolk, who, as Keene, really nails the smug, smarmy, self-righteous racist-who-doesn’t-think-he’s-racist thing that so many Fox News personalities have.
- Looking Glass update: he’s missing, but he managed to murder all the 7K people who pulled up at his house.
- Seriously: what is the deal with the elephant?
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