Watchmen has been teasing the grand reveal of Dr Manhattan all season, and this week he finally made his first appearance in all his cerulean glory.
What happened in Watchmen episode 8?
The penultimate episode of season one, ‘A God Walks into a Bar’, was an exposition-heavy deep-dive into the history of Angela Abar and Jon Osterman, solving many of the mysteries that had been set up in previous weeks. In jumping back and forth between different time periods, it reflected Angela’s own disorientation while dating a man who experiences different moments in time simultaneously. And yet things didn’t get too convoluted and confusing. Damon Lindelof has, so far, managed to tell a much more coherent story in his TV adaptation of Alan Moore’s iconic comic book than Zack Snyder did in his 2009 movie.
Who is Dr Manhattan?
Angela and Dr Manhattan’s first meeting in Saigon was the episode’s anchor and a fun excuse for the doctor to fill us in on his backstory and apparent disappearance from Earth, the demi-god disguising himself with a mass-produced party mask made in his own image. Not really believing the man in front of her, did it make sense for Angela to entertain and encourage this apparent crazy person? No. Did it make sense for Dr Manhattan to try and argue his identity instead of just immediately proving it with a supernatural act? Not really. But the scene zipped along nicely and Regina King and Dr Manhattan had good chemistry.
It’s clear why Angela would be interested in a charismatic, all-knowing medical marvel who can shoot lasers from his hands, but why did Dr Manhattan seek out her? Are we really supposed to believe he just spotted her in a random bar and thought she was cute? This is presumably a mystery for the season finale to solve.
Where did Dr Manhattan come from?
A second time period we found ourselves in this week whistled through Angela and Jon’s subsequent failed relationship (it turns out that dating someone who exists in all times at once is kind of annoying). There was a series of major plot points dished out along the way: Cal was a morgue body Angela chose for Dr Manhattan to inhabit while on Earth, Adrian Veidt elected to go to what turned out not to be his prison after all but a “utopia” Dr Manhattan built on Europa, and Dr Manhattan – tired of his powers – wished to become mortal, Veidt providing him with a microchip of sorts that would cause him to forget his past and his abilities.
The scene where Jon visited Adrian in the lab, from which Ozymandias was “maintaining world peace”, was the most compelling here, and I wish we’d spent a little longer with Veidt in this time period. It felt like there was a lot more to explore in this relationship between the two vigilante world-builders, and a little more time might have been spent explaining Veidt’s confusing decision to be zapped to Europa.
Why did Dr Manhattan allow himself to be captured?
The final third of the episode brought us back, now better clued in, to the show’s present day. Dr Manhattan’s return from amnesiac human to glowing deity was as funny as it was dramatic. Typically eccentric, Watchmen‘s most secretive character paused from explaining the relativity of time to make waffles. However, it was also in this part of the episode that the plot started to unravel, or become so capricious that you started to feel duped. Why did Dr Manhattan say he couldn’t save himself, then proceed to all but save himself, weirdly not finishing off the final Seventh Kavalry henchman and allowing for his capture? Then there was the flashback scene with Will, where Angela, in asking her grandfather about Crawford, accidentally seeded the idea to kill Crawford in her grandfather’s head. This was all very clever, a riff on the chicken-or-egg problem, as Dr Manhattan put it, but frustrating. Playing with reality and undermining the concept of time is all well and good, but in doing this you risk screwing with things like character motive and canonical events to the point where the story simply stops working altogether.
Next week’s finale will apparently complete this Watchmen tale, partly to provide closure in case HBO doesn’t commission a second season. It’s reassuring to hear that we won’t be left on a cliffhanger, but the show will still have to go some way to justify exactly why we’ve been watching this web of disparate characters.
‘Watchmen’ premieres on Sky Atlantic in the UK at 2am each week and is repeated at 9pm on Mondays