A God Walks into Abar
For fans desperate to see more hard ties to the Watchmen characters they know and love – episode eight is the one for you.
After the truly shocking twist about Doctor Manhattan’s identity, audiences got to know what life’s been like for the big blue brain for the past twenty years, and no one saw this coming. It’s a truly stunning piece of television that not only challenges what a narrative episode can do with a character’s perspective, but manages to perfectly encapsulate an iconic creation while adding new dimensions that fit perfectly to the nihilistic Doctor Manhattan. And although Watchmen is seemingly made up of ‘the best episode yet’ instalments – this is quite simply the best episode in the series so far… Let’s just hope the finale sticks the landing.
While it fills in even more gaps between the original book and Damon Lindelof’s new vision, for the first time we get to see what it’s really like to experience time the way Doctor Manhattan does. It makes for some truly fascinating conversations between several people at once, as he sees the past, present and future simultaneously. And interestingly, it sets up the events that kicked off the series in the first place. It’s a beautifully doomed paradox. Now unfortunately, that’s as far in without spoilers as is humanly possible…
The eighth episode explains many things that make up the absurd universe Watchmen takes place – like the random squidfalls. They’re manually created by Adrian Veidt to make the planet think they’re still experiencing the after-effects of the giant squid that eventually brought world peace. Jeremy Irons gives his best performance of the series so far as a beaten down, bored Ozymandias. As he and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Doctor Manhattan bounce ideas off each other about hiding Jon’s identity for a normal life. Irons easily shows how Veidt fast leaps at the chance to be useful again, one last ride for the evil genius.
And yes, Doctor Manhattan did leave Earth to create life of his own – just not on Mars, but Europa. All these clones Veidt has been harvesting are two important figures in Jon Osterman’s backstory that adds extra layers to Doctor Manhattan that we didn’t even know existed. Damon Lindelof is neatly tying up all the mysteries he originally set up at the beginning of Watchmen and it’s undeniably satisfying to see play out onscreen.
But once again, it’s Regina King who’s the star of the show. Her constant sheer annoyance at Doctor Manhattan’s disregard for humanity and lack of societal boundaries makes her a genuine delight to watch as she quarrels with him in two separate time periods. Their first conversation (while scattered throughout the episode) is a perfect example of her expert delivery and flawless portrayal of Angela Abar.
Surprisingly, Doctor Manhattan doesn’t look terrible in real life when he isn’t a Snyder-esque CGI figure. It’s a little disarming at first because it isn’t what Watchmen fans are used to – but once we see Yahya Abdul-Mateen II simply strutting about with the iconic symbol on his forehead, it’s like he’s been playing Doctor Manhattan for years. It’s only until the final few minutes of the episode that the action kicks in and it suddenly becomes clear that the captivating conversations and incredible writing from Lindelof and the team are more entertaining than the violent set pieces. Sure, it’s fun watching Doctor Manhattan vaporize a group of racists – but seeing him grapple the moralities of the universe with Ozymandias is much more entertaining.
Regardless, the final scene leaves fans on a tantalising cliff-hanger for the season finale and it isn’t clear if anyone will make it out alive. And yes, that even includes the unkillable God. It’s five minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock now, folks.
Directed by: Nicole Kassell
Written by: Jeff Jensen
Cast: Regina King, Jean Smart, Hong Chaul, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers