Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ watchmen are known for a lot of things, but it wouldn’t have come close to having an impact if the genre-challenging shock of the end hadn’t occurred. Nothing is what it seems at the end of Watchmen, and yet the reader can look back through history and find all the ways in which his conclusion was telegraphed and inevitable.
Adrian Veidt’s squid store and his iconic line “I did it thirty-five minutes ago” is a twist that really only works once. Luckily, HBO’s watchmen have found clever ways to reflect the end of the original watchmen in their own finale.
[Ed. Note: This piece contains spoilers for episode 9 of HBO’s Watchmen.]
Mark Hill / HBO
In the HBO series, both large and thematic as well as small and character-specific references are listed in their finale of the first season, “See How They Fly”.
Early on, Adrian Veidt caught a bullet in an implementation of the same event in Watchmen # 12. Doctor Manhattan was involuntarily incorporated, but this time for festivals.
As he watches the last steps of Lady Trieu’s plan, Veidt murmurs: “Kanaan is devastated, Ashkelon has fallen, Geser is ruined, Venoam is reduced to nothing. Israel is bleak and her seed is gone, and Palestine has become a widow for Egypt. “An ancient hieroglyphic speech about the victories of the Egyptian rulers over the invasion – the same thing that Guardians recited in joy at his victory at the end of the year.
Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons / DC Comics
Then he finishes the sentence that says “The end is near”, which is emblazoned with the sign of a homeless man who appears several times in Watchmen before it turns out that it is Rorschach’s civilian disguise.
In a cheeky twist, Veidt saves the world again by teleporting an octopus from its Antarctic base in Karnak. But this time he uses a ton of it to thwart rather than complete a plan and, unlike Watchmen’s chilly end, is arrested for his problems. Laurie Blake / Silk Specter and Wade Tillman / Looking Glass think the world is ready to learn about his crimes, even if that means arresting President Robert Redford himself.
The Watchmen Easter eggs are not just trifles
“See How They Fly” has more than just references compared to Watchmen # 12: it also has symmetry.
Heroes who expect to unpack a conspiracy will only find a bigger one in it. In this case, Lady Trieu’s great plan to incapacitate Doctor Manhattan and to make a mighty, self-motivated attempt to save the world, the function of which required the supremassist conspiracy of Cyclops.
Ironically, it’s a television series whose comic ending is much more than comic inspiration. Lady Trieu’s plans, particularly those of her father Adrian Veidt, are generally reversed due to her own need for recognition. The heroes emerge victorious, if not without a noble victim of one of their own. They even eliminate all the figureheads of secret society that are trying to convey their own distorted view of the world without doing much to remove the causes of that view. There is nothing more superhero than that!
At the same time, “See How They Fly” sets a conscious ceiling for combating costume crime and everything that has happened in the timeline of the series. Ozymandias is for prison, Doctor Manhattan has been destroyed – and we will believe this to be permanent – and Tulsa is likely to lift the whole idea of the “masked cop” once it becomes known that it was a white supremacist conspiracy. As William Reeves tells Angela, you can’t heal with a mask. The world now has a chance to heal.
But the show can’t help but end with a question and not an answer. It shouldn’t be the case that “nothing ends” is one of the watchwords of the Guardian comic. Our last hiring is Angela, who is ready to test whether she is the heir of Dr. Manhattan’s powers are. It is a very unguarded note of possibility and hope, which is in contrast to the comic’s last shot: Rorschach’s diary, which is ready to reveal Veidts plan of the world.
But whether Angela has become a god and what she will do with her powers remains up to the imagination.