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Warning to anyone who hasn't yet watched Watchmen's season finale, and hasn't yet read the final Peteypedia entry.
One of the reasons why HBO's Watchmen is so fabulous is the fact that beyond its multi-faceted main storyline, there are plenty of tangential narrative beats worthy of their own standalone discussions and debates. Case in point: the story behind the one-off costumed oddity affectionately referred by the fanbase as Lube Man. After over a month of fans' unfounded theories, HBO released its final Peteypedia supplemental material, which not only strongly implies Lube Man's secret identity, but also hints that the character has bigger shoes to fill within this universe.
Let's squirt ourselves down and slide into the sewer of understanding by unlocking the biggest and strongest theory surrounding Lube Man's alter ego, as well as how his role might change within the Watchmen franchise as a whole.
Lube Man Is Agent Dale Petey, Right?
From the jump, some of Watchmen's more astute fans connected the dots and guessed that the hero-obsessed Petey was in fact the shiny-suited mystery man that Sister Night chased down back in Episode 4. Half of that assumption hinged on Petey's extremely lean physical frame matching up with Lube Man's beanpole physique, while the other half was based on the sense of recognition and fear that caused Lube Man to run away from Sister Night in the first place.
Round 2 of the Lube Man clues came in the Peteypedia entries for Episode 8, which were focused mainly on the importance of the in-world novel Fogdancing, as written by the squid monster scribe Max Shea. The update contained not only a memo from super-fan Petey talking about the various vigilantes known to also be fans of Fogdancing, but also a lengthy book synopsis written by Petey himself, in which it's noted that the novel's main character is known to wear a "skin-tight silver suit shimmering with SPF-666." Alarm bells!
The final Peteypedia entry was actually crafted by Deputy Director Max Farragut, and it laid out the shocking news that Dale Petey was fired from the FBI in the aftermath of the latest Tulsa catastrophe. We'll get into the reasoning behind that below, but first, check out some of the personal items that were found in Petey's office, in Farragut's words:
Multiple copies of Rorschach’s Journal, hundreds of “comic” books (why our society is still so obsessed with pirates is beyond me) and a jug of what appears to be some kind of canola oil...
No, it doesn't seem like anyone in Farragut's team stumbled across a full-sized silver suit in Petey's office that would have effectively confirmed the connection between Petey and Lube Man. However, I think it's safe to say that it's not there because Petey is probably wearing it out in public while using more canola oil to grease himself down. Amusingly enough, the Watchmen show itself never actually shows or offers implications for what Lube Man is actually doing when he's out in the streets. But Farragut's memo offers some pretty strong indicators, which we'll get into below.
Is Agent Petey's Lube Man The New Rorschach?
While HBO's Watchmen does seem like it's intentionally sending fans in the direction of understanding that Agent Petey is inside Lube Man's silver suit, it does admittedly take slightly more mental work to process what it all means to the overall narrative. Let's start with the fact that Lube Man doesn't exactly have any clear-cut inspirations from Watchmen's comic book, and thus doesn't initially come across as a remixed version of any characters.That alone is a highly curious detail, considering all the other main characters have pretty specific counterparts from the source material.
Second, even though a huge chunk of Watchmen's Season 1 antagonists are white supremacists wearing static Rorschach-inspired masks, the character of Walter "Rorschach" Kovacs wasn't explored very much beyond how his written legacy helped shaped the course of vigilante justice. Such is the cyclical nature of Watchmen that there was a palpable need by the end for someone to step up and take on the role of an empathy-lite vigilante who suspects everyone of everything until they are proven innocent. And who better to fill those elevator shoes than a hero-worshipping FBI agent who just so happens to have multiple copies of Rorschach's journal in his workspace?
Think back to the first time Dustin Ingram's Dale Petey was introduced on Watchmen. No, not in Episode 3, but via the very first Peteypedia material that was released on HBO's website. Think of how similar it is that we're tapped into Petey's conspiracy-driven thought process before ever knowing who he is, similar to how Rorschach's journal entries kick off Watchmen's narrative a full four pages before the masked vigilante enters the story. (Disregarding the shot of Kovacs with his "End Is Nigh" sign.) The fact that Petey's initial memo is all about Rorschach's journal should not go ignored, either, even if his approach appears clinical at first and not overtly opinionated.
Now let's jump to the first time Agent Petey did show up in live-action, which was in the episode that introduced Jean Smart's Laurie Blake to viewers. Petey's first lines are a defense for why he included excerpts from Rorschach's journal in the FBI briefing slides, as he thinks studying the messages therein help for psychological context when going after the Seventh Kavalry. Much as many of Rorschach's ideas were considered hooey by those around him, Petey's approach was sidelined by his superiors, though it did put him in Laurie's radar.
Watchmen sadly didn't have oodles of screen time to devote to building out and expanding Laurie and Petey's professional relationship. Ostensibly, though, the most important element there is that Laurie and Petey were paired together, which innately reflects the comic book partnership between Dan "Nite Owl II" Dreiberg and Rorschach, with Dan and Laurie appreciating their respective partners' skills while also questioning the depths of their obsessions. Parallels abound!
The final Peteypedia entry ends on a sentiment that actually sparked my first genuine belief that Petey was destined to become the Watchmen TV show's version of Rorschach. Explaining that Petey was fired after defying direct orders to return to Washington D.C. from Tulsa, Deputy Director Farragut wrote this:
My understanding from Tulsa PD is that he has now gone missing. Given the simultaneous deaths of a U.S. senator and a prominent trillionaire, it would appear Petey has taken it upon himself to continue the investigation despite our closing it. It’s clear now from his memos that Petey (Hero Enthusiast-Obsessive/ Solipsist on the Werthem Spectrum) is at risk for vigilante behavior, and most likely, always was. Perhaps sooner or later, this task force will be investigating him.
Walter Kovacs wasn't a member of the FBI or the NYPD, which is probably the biggest strike against the Petey/Rorschach argument, but the fact that Petey's Lube Man so quickly defected from authority in order to pursue investigations into the Tulsa murders and conspiracies makes his governmental connections now moot. Because that is precisely the kind of justice-driven behavior that Rorschach would fall into. After all, the Watchmen vigilante willingly sacrificed himself via Doctor Manhattan because he couldn't live quietly after learning about Adrian Veidt's squid monster. Sounds like Petey has taken the same kind of no-holds-barred approach to discovering the truth, even if his silver suit doesn't look anything like Rorschach's frumpy coat-and-hat look.
What's more, if Season 2 happens, it will likely start off in a world where Tulsa's masked-police plan was revealed to be motivated by egos and white supremacy. But just as Rorschach continued his vigilante missions long after the Keene Act made masked heroes unlawful, the world of HBO's Watchmen will still have its so-called Lube Man out there to make sure the facts don't get buried too deep. Here's hoping he doesn't piss off Angela as the presumed new Doctor Manhattan.
Obviously, Damon Lindelof and his creative team may never offer any further updates about former Agent Dale Petey, nor about Rorschach's influence on the world he was obliterated from. HBO still hasn't made a decision about Season 2 yet, and Lindelof has been vocal about how a new season would require a fully mapped-out storyline that matched up with the quality of Season 1, and he currently doesn't have all the game-changing ideas that came during Season 1's pre-production process. But we can still hope.
While it's weekly episodes on HBO are done, Watchmen Season 1 is currently available to stream on HBO Go and HBO NOW, and Warner Bros. announced that Watchmen: Season 1 is currently available on Digital, with the official Blu-ray and DVD sets coming in 2020. While waiting for what will hopefully be an extras-filled set of Blu-rays, let us know in the poll below what you think about my theory!