HBO's Watchmen: 5 Updated Theories From Season 1, Episode 5

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Caution: Spoilers ahead.

The first four episodes of HBO’s Watchmen could all be appraised as “promising.” Where was all this loaded imagery leading towards? The showrunners laid some clues out, but it was not enough to know whether Watchmen was more substance than style, or if it was worthy of the hot-button subjects–class, race, terrorism–it was addressing.

That is no longer true. “Little Fear of Lightning,” aside from being the best episode of the series so far, finally gave us some of the concrete answers we’ve been wanting. The truth of 11/2–the day Ozymandias unleashed his giant, psychic squid on Manhattan–is out there. The question, however, is who’s going to believe the truth, even when it’s staring them in the face?

Here’s our weekly theory discussion for “Little Fear of Lightning,” the fifth episode in HBO’s Watchmen. Warning: If you’ve yet to watch the episode, look away now. We’re going to talk spoilers.

We Haven’t Met Dr. Manhattan Yet

The showrunners are tweaking the fan community through Red Scare. If you turn the subtitles on, you can read a background conversation in the episode, where he and another officer are discussing whether Doctor Manhattan can time travel, and if Manhattan and Red Scare are the same person. It’s the sort of left-field theorycrafting that happens on Reddit all the time, and it’s a bit too on the nose to be unintentional–but that doesn’t mean we should completely discount it.

Perhaps the ultimate twist is that Doctor Manhattan is no one who we’ve met so far–he really is in the outer reaches of space as his regular, god-like, blue self, rather than as a disguised human, like Topher or Cal, hiding in plain sight.

Senator Keene: Opportunist or True Believer?

After an article from the online Peteypedia showed that the Senator Joe Keene and Sheriff Judd Crawford’s father were both members of the Ku Klux Klan, “Little Fear of Lightning” confirmed what we discussed after Episode 3: that Senator Keene was a secret Kavalry member. Joe also dropped a disturbing bombshell; that in the wake of the White Night, he and Judd Crawford stayed in communication with one another to ensure that there was a minimal amount of violence between the Kavalry and the police.

What remains unclear is whether the other Kavalry members know about Keene’s identity. If not, one theory is that the Kavalry has no idea that they are getting played by their leader for political purposes–an irony, especially for a group so consumed with espousing the truth and the corruption of authority.

The fact that Keene refers to the Kavalry as “racist Okies” suggests that he might not share their white nationalist roots; to him, they might simply be a useful tool to get his goals accomplished — namely, running for President as he disavows and condemns them in public.

Wade Will Survive and Expose the Truth

The episode ends with Kavalry members, armed with guns, marching into Wade’s house through the garage. Earlier, Wade turned Angela in for hiding evidence of her grandfather’s crimes. It was his way of protecting her; Joe Keene promised the Kavalry would kill her and her family if Wade didn’t stop her investigation. But it seems that now that he’s filled his purpose, Wade would be more valuable to the Kavalry dead than alive.

But while many fans are already mourning the loss of one of their favorite characters, it’s entirely possible that Wade will survive in Episode 6. Remember, this man is a master lie detector and observer of human nature. He would know, based on talking to Joe Keene in the Kavalry compound, whether the Senator intended on keeping his word. If they’re coming to kill him, rest assured Wade probably knows they’re on their way, and is one step ahead of them. And when he does survive, he’s going to reveal the truth about the giant squid to the world.r.

Whether he does it as part of some public mental breakdown or intentionally is up for debate. He still believes the lie on some level, as evidenced by him retrieving the alarm system, even though he knows it doesn’t actually work.

Wade also has parallels to Roscharch, a notorious truth-teller. The mirror mask that covers Wade’s entire face is a callback to Rorschach; the blotch test, like a mirror, reflects a person’s psychology. Rorschach for all his flaws, had a moral desire for transparency. Doctor Manhattan had to kill Rorschach to prevent the truth from coming out. There’s no one similar to stop Wade if he survives the Kavalry attack; unlike Keene, he has no higher ambitions that keep him in check. Like he said himself, he has no friends, and thus, has nothing to lose.

That Poor Dog

Wade’s ex works at a pet cloning clinic, and when one of the puppies she creates doesn’t look exactly like the original, she immediately feeds it into an incinerator. These anecdotal occurrences show that people in Watchmen’s world are not able to healthily cope with the losses they’ve endured. They become masked vigilantes and get reckless like Angela. They lie to themselves and everyone around them, emotionally closing themselves off like Wade or they refuse to confront death like the pet owners. Alternatively, they swing to the opposite end of the spectrum anddevalue life to the point of clinical exhaustion like Veidt.

Which is to say nothing of the clones themselves, which have only been shown as (sometimes literal) cannon fodder. This seems like the sort of thing that’s going to come full circle by the end of the series–either by the clones asserting themselves in some manner as worthy of life, or by some catastrophic event that causes people to value life, and appreciate its loss, rather than dispose of it so readily.

Whatever happens, it’s going down in three days time, according to Lady Trieu. Both she and Reeves share that resentment in common; through the Tulsa Riots and through the Vietnam War, they’ve both been personally affected by a callous disregard for life. They may seek to correct that, through whatever they have planned.

Ozymandias vs. Lady Trieu

After much speculation, we learn that Veidt/Ozymandias is neither imprisoned on Earth, nor on the Earth’s Moon, nor on Mars. Instead, we see, from a brief moment when Ozymandias escapes his illusion that he’s imprisoned close to Jupiter, which fills the night sky. Showrunner Damon Lindeloff confirmed that he’s on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

He spells out a help message with the bodies of Philips and Crookshanks–Save Me–but if you look closely, there’s another letter on the end of the human letters: ‘D.’ Perhaps he’s reaching out to Dr. Manhattan for assistance? And it’s looking more and more like Lady Trieu is the captor.

We discussed in Episode 4 how the gold statue of Veidt in her vivarium is a bizarre homage, especially since it had an aged Veidt’s appearance, implying that she knows what he currently looks like. She is a trillionaire–one of the only people on Earth with the theoretical means to create such an elaborate, sustaining illusion–not to mention access to the cloning technology that Veidt funded. And lastly, she would have the most to gain from his disappearance, as the one who bought his company and inherited his global prominence.

And if she has some grand scheme to follow in Veidt’s ‘ends justify the means’ ethos (she does idolize the man), perhaps this is why she’s imprisoned him. Is there a such thing as a step too far–something so horrific, done ostensibly for the good of humanity, that even Veidt wouldn’t have the stomach for? There’s four more episodes in which to answer that.

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