‘Watchmen’ episode 9 finale review: cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for season two, but it should probably be closed

*This article contains major spoilers*

There were a lot of loose ends to tie up in HBO’s Watchmen finale, but the show pulled it off with a satisfying finale that saw some long-running plot points finally addressed.

Damon Lindelof once described his TV adaptation as a “remix” of the comic book – and in the end, that wasn’t too far from the truth. The series successfully staged moments from the original story that seemed unfilmable, but also managed to push the narrative forward and expand the universe.

What happened in the Watchmen finale?

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Hong Chau really came into her own as the scheming Lady Trieu in the finale, a worthy adversary to Jeremy Irons’ eccentric take on Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias – the central villain in Zack Snyder’s film adaptation). Her plan to destroy Dr. Manhattan finally came together, with the corporate leader planning to seize Manhattan’s powers – which she believed he had squandered – and seek reparations for past racist atrocities.

Politically, this plot line may end up upsetting people on both sides of the aisle. On the one hand – the right hand, shall we say – the show deals with identity politics unnecessarily. But on the other hand – the left, perhaps – you could argue it was problematic to present a woman fighting against white supremacy as a super-villain. At times this season, the racial bent worked and added complexity to the narrative. Elsewhere though, it did feel a bit superfluous, as though the studio had asked for it to be amplified, but the writers couldn’t weave it into the story well enough.

Watchmen episode 9 Credit: HBO/Mark Hill
Hong Chau as Lady Trieu alongside Dr. Manhattan in the ‘Watchmen’ finale. Credit: HBO/Mark Hill

What was Dr. Manhattan’s fate?

This matter aside, the show finished up in neat and surprisingly conventional fashion – think countdown timers to destruction and final-hour battles between heroes and villains.

The red herring of Veidt’s apparent ‘SAVE ME DR MANHATTAN’ sign that actually read ‘SAVE ME DAUGHTER’ was clever. Also enjoyable was the idea that the Game Warden could be a nemesis of Veidt’s own creation. That Veidt had been hiding in plain sight as an ostensible statue in Trieu’s facility was a nice touch, as was the frozen squid ultimately bringing Trieu down, speaking to history’s ability to repeat itself.

And yet, while HBO’s Watchmen managed a very solid, complete story, it did lack a sense that it was really about anything. Consistently entertaining, for sure, but did anyone really feel anything as the credits rolled? Over its nine hours the idea of the superhero was analysed and satirised, but nowhere near as effectively or caustically as something like Birdman managed in just two hours. It may be reductive to compare formats, but some will argue Watchmen wasted time during its nine episodes so far.

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Watchmen finale
Jeremy Irons in the ‘Watchmen’ finale. Credit: HBO

Will there be a second season of Watchmen?

The sense of closure was put there in case HBO doesn’t commission a second season, and they’d probably be wise not to. With Dr. Manhattan dead, the show would have to venture into new narrative territory, which would not be an easy thing to pull off. Sure, we have Angela apparently absorbing Dr. Manhattan’s powers after she ate an egg that was possibly imbued with the big guy’s powers. But is a season in which blue Sister Knight kicks butt something we really need to see?

Tonally self-aware, this was a much more coherent Watchmen than Zack Snyder’s, but for a story that’s supposed to send up the genre in a lot of ways, it didn’t feel hugely different from a regular DC or Marvel blockbuster.

‘Watchmen’ premieres on Sky Atlantic in the UK at 2am each Monday and is repeated at 9pm

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