In the coming weeks, the Burn-In will recap every episode of HBO’s “Watchmen.” Like the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel that inspired it, the program is incredibly dense and oblique. Accordingly, Watchmen Decoded will delve into the show’s many unexplained details, eerie implications, and obscure references to its source material.
**This article contains spoilers for “Watchmen,” the graphic novel and TV series **
Ozymandias is The Prisoner
After shrouding him in mystery for two episodes, the show revealed a great deal about the blonde Englishman in its latest episode. “She Was Killed by Space Junk” confirmed the character is indeed Ozymandias, a former superhero and the “Watchmen” graphic novel’s main antagonist. The episode also heavily implied Adrian Veidt’s open-air prison isn’t what it seems.
Though ostensibly located in the English countryside, the area is home to tomato trees, roaming bison, and a section that can freeze a human being solid. The prison’s dreamlike presentation implies a prefabricated origin, a house of detention made for one inmate.
As such, the setting resembles that of the 1967 British TV series “The Prisoner.” In it, an unnamed English secret agent awakens in a surreal port town called The Village. Over time, the operative determines his inescapable surroundings are a prison designed to break him psychologically.
Notably, “The Prisoner” concludes its single-season with one of the more abstract series finales in television history. In it, the show’s protagonist attempts to gain his freedom with apocalyptic results. He also discovers evidence suggesting he had a hand in creating his bizarre circumstances.
Consequently, “Watchmen” might come to reveal Ozymandias exiled himself to his inexplicable new home. As the character arranged for the death of 3 million people, he might’ve chosen to imprison himself as penance. However, given his intense desire to escape, he might’ve only designed his cell while another party remanded him to custody.
While Veidt’s warden is likely the human-made god Doctor Manhattan, he is not the only suspect.
Who is Lady Trieu?
In “Watchmen’s” first three episodes, the program has repeatedly alluded to but not shown a character called Lady Trieu. The show’s online back matter has established Trieu is an extremely wealthy entrepreneur. Following Adrian Veidt’s seven-year disappearance, the industrialist purchased all of his vast holdings. As such, the company is likely responsible for the show’s comic book tech, like the airships and x-ray goggles.
Trieu Industries also introduced several innovations, including the Doctor Manhattan phone booths and the mysterious Millennium Clock.
Despite her upper-class status, the entrepreneur makes her home in the sleepy racially divided powder keg of Tulsa, Oklahoma. At this point, her reasons for doing so are unknown, but there are a few likely options. In “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship,” Will warned Angela Abar the city is home to a vast and insidious conspiracy. As a billionaire with a mysterious agenda, Trieu might be the architect of the plot.
Conversely, the businesswoman could be part of a group that resists the conspiracy and is Will’s unseen friend on high. Indeed, she has the resources to have staged his shocking flight from police custody. Moreover, the character’s name is likely a reference to Trieu Thi Trinh, the warrior who fought against the first-century Chinese occupation of Vietnam. Called Lady Trieu, the historical figure is referred to as the nation’s equivalent of Joan of Arc.
Whether good or evil, the character holds a great deal of influence in the world of “Watchmen.” With her first full appearance set for the show’s next episode, Trieu is about to reveal her plans. But in keeping with the graphic novel, she’s unlikely to reveal all her secrets until the end of the story.
Why Agent Blake Hates Superheroes
For viewers of the “Watchmen” TV show who have never read the graphic novel, Agent Laurie Blake’s behavior might seem somewhat inexplicable. As noted on the program, the character, a former superhero called Silk Spectre, now leads the FBI’s anti-vigilante task force. While the character’s episode-long monologue offed hints about her enmity toward masked adventurers, it didn’t explain her rage.
Laurel Jupiter (born Juspeczyk) is actually the second Silk Spectre. Her mother, Sally, originated the identity but retired after marrying in the late ‘50s. Sally trained Laurie in basic combat techniques at a young age to compensate for her lost identity. As a result, the second Silk Spectre became an accomplished crimefighter in her teens while also resenting her mother’s controlling nature.
In the ‘60s, a 16-year-old Laurie began dating a thirtysomething Doctor Manhattan and ended her superhero career in the ‘70s. Though happy for a time, the erstwhile Silk Spectre grew cynical and alienated as her boyfriend further withdrew from humanity. As Ozymandias launched his world peace gambit, Laurie began a new relationship with another retired superhero called Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg.
During that time, Laurie learned her previously unknown birth father is actually the vicious government-sponsored hero, The Comedian/Eddie Blake. She also found out Veidt faked the New York City attack.
In the ‘90s, Laurie and Nite Owl resumed their crimefighting careers, but the FBI cut their new adventures short. Laurie, now using her father’s last name, chose to work for the Bureau rather than go to prison. Dreiberg made the opposite choice.
Now in her twilight years, Laurie is bitter because other people made so many critical life decisions for her. She also has ambivalent feelings about superheroes, simultaneously nostalgically envying their carefree lifestyle and resenting their inherent irresponsibility.
The Russian Superman
In “She Was Killed by Space Junk,” Senator Keene fields a press question about Russia’s intrinsic field research. In a classic political maneuver, he dodges the question and reaffirms his loyalty to the people of Oklahoma. Though played as a throwaway bit of characterization for Keene, the mention of new intrinsic field research is a big deal.
In the graphic novel, government researcher Dr. Jonathan Osterman has his life irrevocably altered after an accident involving an intrinsic field eliminator. After carelessly locking himself within a test, Osterman is disintegrated after being disconnected from the fundamental forces of nature. Though the process should’ve killed him, the good doctor assembled a new hairless blue body to house his consciousness.
Subsequently, the U.S. military conscripts Jon and rebrands him as a living nuclear defense system called Doctor Manhattan.
In the comics, Adrian Veidt is the only entity that continues fundamental field research after Osterman’s accident. At one point, he used it to create a weapon to harm Doctor Manhattan, but it barely slowed him down. Moreover, Ozymandias said some quality unique to Jon allowed him to become a superhero after his accident rather than vapor.
If the Russia of “Watchmen’s” Earth is researching intrinsic fields, the nation is likely trying to create its version of Doctor Manhattan. As the presence of one superhuman radically affected that world’s development, the creation of a second is probably a bad idea. Also, if a Russian Doctor Manhattan Project exists, it’s almost guaranteed a United States version is operational.
Furthermore, Lady Trieu, as the inheritor of Veidt’s assets, likely heads up the American superhero development project. If so, it’ll be interesting to see why she wants to make a new god.