Dr. Manhattan (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) puts on a Dr. Manhattan mask and walks into a bar in Vietnam in 2009. Wow, tonight’s episode title of Watchmen is really on the nose. As is Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue playing as he walks into that bar. Ha, he’s not the only blue guy at the bar. It must be a popular cosplay at the Dr. Manhattan Day Parade. He picks up two beers off the bar and walks to Angela (Regina King), now a local Vietnam cop, at her table.
He asks her to dinner, but she’s not interested. Being Dr. Manhattan, he knows she’s commemorating the anniversary of her parents death. This gets her to invite him to sit down. She wants to know how she knew that. He responds all Dr. Manhattan like, answering that she told him. The second song that plays is The Blue Daube. I wonder what other blue songs we’re getting this episode. Jon fills her in on secrets: he actually hasn’t been on Mars in years, despite popular belief. Instead, he’s been on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. I wonder to myself if that’s where Veidt is being held.
Dr. Manhattan explains to Angela how he created atmosphere, plant life, and two infants that grew to be the first Mr. Phillips (Tom Mason) and Ms. Crookshanks (Christie Amery). And then he zapped the manor that Veidt’s been trapped in all season there. This was years ago, before Veidt lived there. But Dr. Manhattan didn’t create that manor house for a specific reason. He wanted the actual manor that he spent time in as a boy in England.
We also get insight into Jon’s childhood, beyond him just being the son of a watchmaker. The people he created on Europa, the original Crookshanks and Phillips, are based on two people he knew as a child. These were the owners of the manor house. The family welcomed in many refugees on their way from Germany to the US, Jon and his father included. While exploring the manor house one day, Jon discovers an enclosed environment: blue butterflies and some plant life living in a glass ball. He’s fascinated by it, but quickly hides in a closet when he hears people coming. It’s the master and lady of the house. He watches them have sex from the closet he’s hiding in until they discover him. Instead of freaking out, they very calmly and privately explain what they were doing, creating life. They even give him a present. It’s a bright blue bible. They get him to promise, in exchange for the bible, that when he’s grown he will create something beautiful.
Angela still doesn’t believe he’s Dr. Manhattan. Nevertheless, he professes his love for her. It does nothing for her, since they just met. But when he removes his mask, she’s still not impressed. Angela explains to him that she hates Dr. Manhattan for what he did to end the Vietnam War. His hyper violence ending the war inspired the bombmaker responsible for her parents’ death.
Two weeks from this night, Angela is showing Dr. Manhattan corpses with no next of kin. The final one she shows him is the original Cal, who died of a likely heart attack. He’s the only black guy among the corpses. When Angela shows a preference for that one, Manhattan immediately transforms his appearance to look like him. The only that didn’t change was the symbol on his forehead.
Back to the bar two weeks ago. Jon tells her that they’ll be together for 10 years, and it will end tragically. He tells her that her favorite song is about to play. It’s Doris Day’s Tunnel of Love, which she has never heard before.
Six months from now, they’re having sex, but he’s still at the bar the first night they met. His omniscience is really grating on her, just like it did on Laurie in the original Watchmen comic. By the end of their fight, she tells him to leave, just like he predicted six months prior. He teleports to Veidt’s arctic hideaway. Jon is naked, but still in his Cal body. Oh wow, Cal’s quite the shower, not the grower. He finds Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) in front of his wall of TVs. It looks like Adrian hasn’t been paying all his cable bills, a lot of the TVs are on the fritz. And despite it being 2009, Veidt is dressed in his best 80s clothes.
Veidt powers up a teleporter. He drops a bunch of alien baby squids on earth. A visit from Dr. Manhattan isn’t going to get in the way of Adrian’s 30+ year plan for utopia. Adrian questions Jon’s black face, saying it’s not PC in 2009. Veidt knew Manhattan had been on Europa, saying a little elephant told him. I can only assume the elephant is a reference to Lady Trieu. Veidt has also figured out that Jon is here because Jon wants to be human. He’s right. Veidt comes up with the idea for the device implanted in Cal’s head that Angela removed on last week‘s episode of Watchmen. Jon’s intrigued. He wants to know how long it would take to make this device. Veidt says he already made it 30 years ago. Veidt managed to create something even Jon can’t perceive, because he irradiated it with tachyon particles, creating a blind spot even for Jon. It’s like his kryptonite. It’s even in a lead box. In return for this device, Veidt wants to know if he’ll live to see the utopia he sought to create 30 years ago. Jon says, “Yes, but not here.” and then tells him of Europa. He tells him of the life he created there, and how the people he created are looking for someone to worship. To Adrian’s ego, that sounds like paradise. At Veidt’s request, Jon teleports him to Europa.
Back in Vietnam, Jon instructs Angela how to insert the device into his head; he’ll make himself partially intangible. Angela suggests leaving Vietnam for Tulsa, since that’s where her family is from. Angela is worried that if he forgets everything, he’ll forget her too. But Jon assures her he won’t.
At that first night bar, Angela wants proof that he can create life. He closes both of his palms and then with a flourish, produces an egg from one of them. Jon, Jon, Jon. Women don’t agree to go to dinner with guys just because they do close up magic. During this conversation, we find out that Jon could give his powers to another, simply by making part of himself into a consumable. He wants Angela to remember that.
Angela and Jon name the forget-me device “The Tunnel of Love,” after the Doris Day song. Since it’s a ring, he gets down on one knee before she plunges it into his head.
It’s the present day, and Angela is holding the Tunnel of Love. Cal is Jon again. He’s blue and bald, looking like classic Dr. Manhattan, but with Cal’s facial features. He’s silent as she explains what’s going on. He looks confused. Angela, fearing for the kids emotions, wants Jon to go back to his original face. He refuses. As they discuss things, they realize he still has Cal’s memories. He remembers the night Angela was shot and how he was able to subconsciously use his powers to save them both. Jon heads outside, which freaks out the kids who see him from their bedroom window. He zaps the screaming kids somewhere else. Angela wants to know where. I want to know how I can do that. He sent them to their grandfather. Man, instant babysitting at the flick of his fingers. I’m jealous.
In 2009, Jon, as Cal, knocks on Will Reeves’s door. When he says he’s Dr. Manhattan, Will gives him an incredulous look and closes the door in his face. Walking through the closed door and telekinetically moving a chair for Will convices Will that Jon is who he says he is. Dr. Manhattan tells Will about Angela. Since Dr. Manhattan can be in multiple places and times at once, Angela in 2019 wants Dr. Manhattan to ask Will how he knew Judd Crawford was in Cyclops and how he knew about the Klan robe in his closet. Will says he has no idea who Judd Crawford is. Angela immediately realizes she set Judd Crawford’s death into motion with that question. It’s like a mirror of Jon inadvertently being the cause of Angela’s parents’ death.
Jon ports back inside to make pancakes. Angela is worried that the Kalvary is on their way. Jon tells her they’re already there, and that they’re going to destroy him with a tachyon cannon. He tells her there is nothing they can do about it. Angela disagrees and suits up for a covert fight. This is the moment Jon falls in love with her, which he referenced the first night they met. It’s always been nutty for me, since the first time I read Watchmen that Jon is having all these experiences at the exact same time. Angela’s willingness to battle the odds she can’t beat trying to save him is what made Jon love her. She heads outside, takes out at least eight Kalvarymen before they get her surrounded. Jon comes to her rescue, disintegrating them. He holds off their bullets, but as he does so, steps in front of their cannon. Angela is happy. They won, he was wrong. But he wasn’t wrong. A final Kalvaryman fires at him and he’s sucked into the cannon. Quick, Angela, run back inside and eat those power pancakes!
On the night of their first meeting, Angela turns him down for a date. She’s not interested in getting involved with someone, knowing it will end in tragedy. He counters that by asking, by definition, don’t all relationships end in tragedy? That gets her to agree to the date. And here we are.
During the end credits, we hear Crookshanks and Phillips repeatedly ask Vedit, “Will you stay, Master?” followed by him saying “No,” and a squishing sound. The squishing sounds is tomatoes they are pressing into his head as he’s tied up and bound. Later, the Games Warden brings Veidt a cake in his cell. The Games Warden is the original Phillips that Jon created. He’s Jon’s Adam. He’s angry at Veidt for wanting to leave the heaven that Jon created. Veidt wants to leave because this isn’t home. “Heaven is not enough, because heaven doesn’t need me,” he says. He wants to save the Earth, and being locked away on Europa is messing with his plans. The Games Warden leaves him locked up with the cake. Veidt blows out the candles and notices something. Inside the cake is a horseshoe, which Veidt immediately uses to get to digging his way out of his cell, giggling like a madman.
I mentioned it earlier, but Jon’s being in different places at different times always gives me a headache. I am intrigued as to whether or not the 7th Kalvary succeeded in destroying Dr. Manhattan, and if those pancakes he was making in the kitchen right before them doing so are going to turn Angela into a god. I almost don’t want her to eat them, because Angela is one of the best characters on TV right now, and Dr. Manhattan has been one of the most mind-boggling annoying characters in popular culture since Watchmen was created decades ago.
Also, why didn’t Dr. Manhattan just disintegrate that final Kalvaryman too?
As a bit of side reading to Watchmen, I recommend the excellent history book, Superman Vs The Ku Klux Klan by Rick Bowers from National Geographic Press. It focuses on the Superman radio show from the 1940s, which ran a series of episodes after World War II that had Superman going up against hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a fascinating read while watching Watchmen. It goes into the founding of the Klan, it’s decline in popularity, followed by a sharp rise in popularity that the Superman radio drama helped curb. Because the Klan plays such a pivotal role in this Watchmen TV series, reading up on their history felt like I was getting more backstory into the Watchmen show. At 154 pages, I was able to get through it in a weekend.
We’ve got one episode to go in this season of Watchmen. I’m fascinated to see how everything ties together. See you next week for the Watchmen finale.