Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched Watchmen's big Season 1 finale.
Over the course of its nine episodes, HBO's Watchmen hit a variety of fascinating narrative crescendos, and the many plots somehow culminated together in the magnificent season finale (which hopefully won't serve as its series finale). That said, Damon Lindelof and his creative team left viewers with a large handful of unanswered questions and unaddressed theories that will likely keep the conversation going during the wait for news about Watchmen's future. Thankfully, series writer Jeff Jensen gracious enough to provide answers to some of my post-finale curiosities.
Arguably the biggest question that audiences have had after the Watchmen finale's credits rolled involves whether or not Angela Abar inherited Doctor Manhattan's powers (and possibly his traumas) from the egg she ate. However, the show intentionally set up all the clues that would lead viewers to the answer – yes, she got those powers – and Damon Lindelof has also said as much in the Watchmen official podcast and beyond.
Now let's dive into the other Watchmen questions about everything from Nite-Owl's absence to the fate of Cyclops. Mask not required for reading.
Could Jon Osterman's Doctor Manhattan Reform His Atoms, Or Is He Truly Dead?
Considering the complicated way Doctor Manhattan came into being, Watchmen fans can't say with 100% certainty what definitively can and cannot kill him. Even Adrian Veidt got it wrong in the comic's final issue when he tried to take Manhattan down. So did Lady Trieu's Millennium Clock device get the job done beyond the shadow of a doubt? Here's what Watchmen's Jeff Jensen had to say:
So while anything can happen to go in the opposite direction, it looks like Doctor Manhattan is as dead as a nine-inch door nail. HBO's Watchmen did amusingly half-vindicate itself a couple of times for Doctor Manhattan's death by directly pointing out that he squandered a lot of the goodwill his powers could have brought to the world. As Will put it, "He coulda done more."
Did Will Reeves Fully Vanquish Cyclops, Or Does 'Nothing Ever End' With Them?
Viewers aren't quite aware of what Will Reeves' life was like in the decades after June relocated to Tulsa with their son, but it was clear when Doctor Manhattan approached him in 2009 that Will had never forgotten the name Cyclops. From what we can gather, Will spent the years between 2009-2019 digging into the lives of Judd Crawford and other high-ranking members of the Seventh Kavalry, in an effort to take everyone down via Lady Trieu. But did this mass murder, as it were, fully dismantle the white supremacist group? Here's how Jeff Jensen put it:
Watchmen technically did a great job at eliminating a lot of the Seventh Kavalry throughout Season 1, starting off with Judd Crawford himself aiding in shooting down the 7K's plane in the premiere. (Which he did entirely to stop any of the members from potentially ratting Judd out.) Alas, it would be naive to think that zapping 20-30 older and fancier local bigots would eliminate a nationwide threat, regardless of how many Keenes are among them. But do note how Jensen basically confirms Angela's powers just in that answer.
Did Doctor Manhattan Share His Powers With Will Reeves?
During Watchmen's first two episodes, Lou Gossett Jr.'s Will Reeves was presented as a mystery man that may or may not have had unexplainable powers in his 100+ years of age. He copped to hanging Judd Crawford, despite being in a wheelchair, and also escaped handcuffs and did other things that drew Angela's attention. Following Episode 6's reveals, though, Will's prior actions seemed more like parlor tricks than legitimate powers. Still, I asked Jeff Jensen if there was a chance that Doctor Manhattan gave Will any of his powers.
Initially, I'd assumed that Doctor Manhattan let Will Reeves nip some powers (or whatever) in 2009 specifically to ensure the man would live long enough to connect with Angela in 2019 after Manhattan's death. But then I realized once Manhattan regained his memories as Cal, his 2009 self would know that Will is still alive in 2019, thus negating the need to aid him in any way. The power of living all the time at once, amirite?
When Did The Egg Metaphor Come Into The Story?
One could argue that "Time" is the most heavily relied on concept throughout Watchmen's first season, but if we're talking tangible objects that we can hold (and break) in our hands, then "Eggs" would take the top prize. From Angela's first appearance to the Clark family farm to Doctor Manhattan's final wishes, eggs were virtually ever-present, though not until the very end did the overall meaning slam home. Because it felt like such a natural and necessary component to Watchmen's TV narrative, I asked Jeff Jensen how early eggs entered into the creative process.
Since there weren't any prevalent chickens in Watchmen's earliest episodes, I think the show answered its own question about whether the chicken or the egg came first. Definitely the egg. Now to make sure that Manhattan's powers include "staving off salmonella."
Will Laurie And Looking Glass Go Public With Veidt's Squid Monster Conspiracy?
Adrian Viedt spent the entirety of Watchmen's first season biding his increasingly frustration-filled time on Europa, presumably regretting having Doctor Manhattan send him there, and it's obvious how much joy he regains upon returning to Earth. Especially when he gets to save the day (again) with his frozen squid-lings. What Veidt didn't foresee, however, was Laurie and Looking Glass' pragmatism about bringing him to justice, regardless of the consequences. Knowing that Season 2 is still up in the air, both at HBO and in Damon Lindelof's mind, I asked Jeff Jensen if viewers were indeed meant to take away that Laurie and Looking Glass would go public with Veidt's schemes. In his words:
Some follow-up information was revealed in the final Peteypedia entry that went up after Watchmen's finale aired. In a memo written by Deputy Director Max Farragut, it says that Laurie was "debriefed at a secure and classified location due to the sensitive nature of the discoveries she made over the course of her investigations," and Farragut also reminds everyone of their oaths when it comes to rumors that Laurie's discoveries involve "hoaxes and conspiracies linked to our Commander in Chief." Sounds like Robert Redford's government still won't let the squid out of the bag when it comes to the 11/2 disaster.
Why No Dan "Nite Owl II" Dreiberg In Season 1?
One of the biggest general questions plaguing Watchmen's first season was "Where is Dan Dreiberg in all this?" And for those who only watched the show and didn't dig into HBO's Peteypedia website with all the supplemental documents, that question went almost entirely unanswered. But as revealed in the background info, Dreiberg's Nite Owl II got busted with Laurie "The Comedienne" Blake when stopping the Oklahoma City bombing, and has been in jail ever since, not having uttered a peep about anything from his vigilante life. When I asked Jeff Jensen about keeping Dan on the sidelines, he gave an extended and very thoughtful answer about how they approached continuing Dan and Laurie's story after their final panels.
As well, it was revealed in the supplemental material that Dan Dreiberg founded the company MerlinCorps, and that he was responsible for building Laurie's blue sex toy out of spite for her continued fascination with Doctor Manhattan. In any case, Jeff Jensen went on to say that beyond not having a tight story for Dan and/or Nite-Owl II, they didn't want to use him in the wrong way.
Maybe in Season 2, everyone. Maybe in Season 2. Or hell, maybe a three-episode miniseries, if HBO is willing to go down some weird roads with this franchise.
What Went Into The Decision To Actually Show Doctor Manhattan's Blue Penis?
Considering Watchmen features a male character who spends most of the comic nude and blue, its live-action presence on HBO had many wondering how Damon Lindelof & Co. would handle said nudity. First, there was Mr. Phillips' painted-blue penis as the Doctor Manhattan in Veidt's play – though it wasn't Tom Mison's – then there was Laurie's big blue Excalibur dildo, and then there was Manhattan-as-a-black-man's penis. As such, it was still something of a surprise to see Doctor Manhattan's genuine blue genitals in the finale. When I asked if there were conversations about using it in the finale, here's how Jeff Jensen answered, while noting his discomfort in this avenue of discourse:
Because Watchmen can bring out the most extreme opinions in people, a certain section of the fanbase likely would have gotten vocal had HBO's Watchmen not opted to present Manhattan's bonafide flaccidness in all its non-subverted glory. (I mean, even Zack Snyder's movie did, in a CGI sorta way.) Thankfully, it didn't have to come to that.
Why Have Joe Keene Wearing Doctor Manhattan's Old Costume?
One of the best comic book shout-outs in the Watchmen finale came when Joe Keene was mostly disrobed and raring to get blue via the 7K's Doctor Manhattan project. Keene had the brilliant decision to don what I assume is a replica of an early costume that Doctor Manhattan wore before he eschewed clothing altogether. (Laurie was, shall we say, not a fan.) I asked Jeff Jensen about this magnificence, and he said:
As well, that V-shaped costume visually pops a lot more than the full-bodied suit that Doctor Manhattan wore in his early days, and the latter might not have been so easily recognizable on TV. Plus, it makes me want to go back to early episodes and see whether or not I believe Keene is wearing that costume underneath his everyday suits.
Why Didn't Lady Trieu Have Biological Children?
As characters go, Lady Trieu is an amalgam of complications, born to a parental guru of sorts who self-conceived using a stolen vial of Adrian Viedt's sperm. Once the so-called smartest woman on Earth set her sights on Doctor Manhattan, her focus honed in on actually becoming him. Meanwhile, she cloned her dying mother Bian's DNA and raised the new Bian as a daughter, while also giving her Nostalgia pills to bring back her past. I'd wondered why the legacy-minded Lady Trieu didn't have any of her own kids, and thought Veidt's disinterest in the filth of sex might have something to do with it. When asked, Jeff Jensen said:
I suppose it shouldn't really be a surprise to learn that Lady Trieu didn't want a daughter for love and compassion's sake, and that she really just wanted to show off for mommy and daddy. Turning into Doctor Manhattan is not a one-way ticket to good parenting, so it's also best that she didn't have any descendants around to carry on her mania. Although that does make one wonder how well Angela's kids will adjust to having a self-aware Doctor Manhattan for a parent.
The Comic-To-TV Details That Fascinated Jeff Jensen The Most
Knowing that Jeff Jensen has been a Watchmen mega-fan for as many years as possible, I also asked him what his favorite comic element was to remix for the HBO adaptation. His answer:
Indeed, Watchmen deftly carried on the comic's events where Doctor Manhattan was a monstrous force in bringing about a U.S. victory in Vietnam, which then became the 51st state of the union, and all without exposition beating viewers over the head. Certainly, The Comedian's time in Vietnam no doubt had future repercussions, so maybe those can get explored if Watchmen Season 2 ever happens.
For now, Watchmen is done, with its nine episodes telling a complete story that doesn't technically need to continue. But it should, of course, if the creative team can keep the quality as high as it was in Season 1. Anyone looking to rewatch it can hit up HBO Go and HBO NOW.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.