This article contains Watchmen spoilers.
Watchmen episode 9 “See How They Fly” wraps it all up. And you’d think that after nine time-hopping episodes they might be ready to wrap up all of their homages and references to the original book. You would be wrong.
But not everything comes from the book. The episode’s title, “See how they fly” is a lyric from The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece “I Am The Walrus” which features the sinister/joyful (and Watchmen-relevant) refrain of “I am the eggman.” Now, with that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
– We’re once again back on Nov. 1, 1985…this time to witness the conception of Lady Trieu. Her mother, Bian (who in the future Lady Trieu will clone and raise as her daughter) was one of Veidt’s Vietnamese employees who kept his fortress of solitude, Karnak, running. The verse she recites is apparently from folklore about a Lady Trieu who lived during the third century.
Incidentally, this is the most we’ve seen of the inner workings of Karnak, including in the book, where we only saw TWO employees. Does this mean he murdered ALL of these people, too? That is dark as fuck.
– Lady Trieu is sperm sample 2346. That’s 23 x 2. It could very well be a reference to the “23 enigma,” an almost cult-like belief in the significance of the number 23. It was popularized by counterculture icons like William S. Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson.
– The fact that Bian crowns her insemination with “Fuck you, Ozymandias” is interesting. Is Veidt, like Dr. Manhattan, a symbol of American imperialism in Vietnam? Pretty likely, right?
– In 2008, when Lady Trieu confronts Adrian Veidt and refers to him as “the smartest man in the world” she’s using the nickname that had been given to Ozymandias by the press. Trieu is, of course, “the smartest woman in the world.”
– This is the filming of the “confession/congratulations” video that Wade Tillman was shown by Joe Keene back in episode 5. It will be presented to Robert Redford on the day he is inaugurated as President on January 21, 1993. You can see the giant squid in the tank behind Veidt while he is recording the message to President Redford, by the way.
– “Untie knot” is the password prompt on Veidt’s old computer. “Untie knot” refers to the Gordian Knot, which Alexander the Great famously solved with his sword. The password is “Rameses II” just like in the book.
– That’s a portrait of Alexander the Great in Veidt’s office, but as of yet I’ve been unable to identify it.
– We learn in this episode that Veidt has “never given himself to a woman.” The fact that he specifically mentions women and not men could possibly echo Rorschach’s observation about him in the book, that Veidt is “possibly homosexual.”
– Based on the five year timeline laid out by Lady Trieu here, it would appear that Veidt spelled out “Save me Daughter” on the surface of Europa with the corpses of his servants in 2013.
– Veidt’s line about achieving “everything” having “started from nothing” is a quote from the book, during the chapter when he is recounting his own origin story.
– Veidt catches the bullet from the Game Warden as he did in the comic when Laurie tried shooting him in Karnak.
– Veidt’s philosophy that “masks make men true” seems to echo Oscar Wilde’s “give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth” aphorism. This is refuted later in the episode by Will Reeves who feels quite the opposite about masks.
– “Palestine has become a widow for Egypt.” Veidt is quoting the Merneptah Stele, an ancient inscription detailing the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah’s victories. He ends with “the end is nigh,” which is generally Biblical in nature, but refers in this context specifically to the sign that Rorschach, in his identity of Walter Kovacs, used to carry around in the book.
– Joe Keene’s high-waisted undies are a mirror of the ones Dr. Manhattan wore through chunks of his career, before he decided to abandon clothing entirely.
– Lady Trieu refers to Dr. Manhattan as “the big blue cheese.” This is a surprisingly playful reference to Shazam, whose enemy Dr. Sivana routinely calls him a “big red cheese.” Incidentally, Lady Trieu does have a tendency to dress like the Sivana of the comics, who favors all white outfits.
– The 7th Kavalry discovered the existence of Dr. Manhattan on the White Night because Cal teleported “Mike” to Gila Flats, which was the place where Jon Osterman became Dr. Manhattan.
– Laurie refers once again to the thermodynamic miracle, a term taught to her by Jon the day that she discovered that her father was in fact Edward Blake.
– Jon has remained somewhat disoriented since he was “returned” by Angela. Throughout, we see him slipping into the past, specifically into moments from the book.
– “Janey, are you cold? I can raise the temperature” refers to a Christmas in 1959, the first Jon spent as Dr. Manhattan, when he was still with his first love, Janey Slater. Her “chill” was because she was getting a little scared of Jon and his increasingly distant humanity.
– “There is no situation in Afghanistan requiring my attention,” comes from the final moments of Jon’s talk show appearance in October of 1985, moments before he left Earth for Mars.
– “Mirror Guy? “It’s Looking Glass” has become the best ongoing joke of this entire series. And as it turns out, Laurie and Wade have more in common than they thought. Wade has a tendency to puke after experiencing Dr. Manhattan’s teleportation, a trait he shares with Laurie.
When Angela is interrogating a member of the 7th Kavalry, she starts breaking his fingers, before threatening to move on to other parts of his anatomy. That was a favorite technique of Rorschach to extract information.
Will Reeves uses some comic book speak by referring to the Tulsa Race Massacre as “my origin story.” He also says “before my world ended,” both an allusion to the Tulsa/Krypton parallels we have tracked elsewhere in these guides and the way Batman is fond of referring to the night his parents died. Both are appropriate.
Nite Owl’s old ship, ARCHIE (hence Veidt’s “it’s been a hoot”) is still in Karnak after freezing up shortly after transporting Dan and Rorschach there to confront Veidt on Nov. 1, 1985. Wade would indeed know how to fly it since Dan later licensed his technology to police departments under the umbrella of a company called Merlincorps.
Incidentally, while Dan was only ever alluded to throughout this season, if we do indeed get a Watchmen season 2, then we have to figure he’ll show up to testify at Veidt’s trial.
Is Angela now a godlike being who can walk on water after consuming that mysterious egg? Well, during their first meeting 10 years ago, Dr. Manhattan did tell her that he could “theoretically” transmit his powers into organic material for someone else to consume. And he DID want her to see him walking on water. But it looks like we may never know for sure.
But that ambiguous ending is meant to mirror the final panel of the book, where it was unclear whether the bumbling intern at the offices of the New Frontiersman would reach for Rorschach’s Journal from “the crank pile” for possible publication.
– “As if some cowboy actor could ever become president.” It worked for Ronald Reagan!
– When Lady Trieu tells Adrian Veidt that he “stopped the clock” she’s referring to the Doomsday Clock, which was at one minute to midnight before the squid massacre prevented World War III.
– We once again get Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube Waltz” on Europa, this time as Lady Trieu’s spacecraft lands. The 2001: A Space Odyssey parallels are real, considering that film dealt with a mysterious Monolith appearing on the surface of Europa.
– There’s also a New Frontiersman headline that says “Four Wounded in Saigon Burning” indicating that unrest in Vietnam continues.
– The gentleman in the wheelchair who turns up is Senator Joe Keene, Sr. the man who outlawed masked vigilantes in the first place in the book.