The following contains spoilers for Watchmen episode 7.
The ending of Watchmen episode 7 “An Almost Religious Awe” would have been incredible enough if it concluded 10 minutes earlier on Lady Trieu’s enigmatic words to Angela Abar.
“You didn’t ask me who he is,” Trieu says. “I know you think I’m crazy but I just told you Doctor Manhattan is here walking amongst us as a human being and you never asked me who he is.”
But of course, Watchmen episode 7 doesn’t cut to credits there with Trent Reznor and Atticus’s Ross’s mesmerizing take on David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.” Instead “An Almost Religious Awe” follows Angela home where she rifles through a drawer and comes face to face with her husband Cal. She speaks to him in a quiet, almost mournful tone.
“Cal, I need you to stop talking and listen to me, OK? You’re a great husband, an amazing father, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I love you,” Angela says as she pulls out a hammer from the drawer. Then she continues:
“Time to come out of the tunnel. Don’t be scared. We talked about this. We always knew that this day would come. You do know, you just don’t remember. There was no accident. It was a lie. A lie so that we could be together. At least for awhile. If it’s any consolation, it was your idea.”
It’s been said that a twist really works if 20% of the audience is able to guess it early on and then the remaining 80% can guess it 10 second before it happens. If that’s indeed true, then mission accomplished for Watchmen because it makes clear what will happen next. Angela plunges the hammer into Cal’s skull and then bashes him several more times as he falls to the ground. Angela then reaches into Cal’s brain and pulls out a little circular symbol, kind of like the nucleus and electron-path of Doctor Manhattan’s famous hydrogen atom symbol.
Something beyond the camera’s sight glows blue and Angela’s expression softens.
“Hey baby, we’re in fucking trouble,” she says to her apparent lover…Doctor Freaking Manhattan.
This is undoubtedly the biggest reveal yet through Watchmen’s first seven episodes. What it lacks in the emotional resonance of last week’s Hooded Justice history lesson, it more than makes up for in sheer explosive surprise. But of course, this being Watchmen, the show did leave plenty of hints along the way.
There has always been something a little off about Cal. For starters he’s played by a hell of an actor, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who is primed to take on a major starring role in just about any project he wants. Abdul-Mateen II was just in Aquaman, is set to work with Jordan Peele soon, and has even been tapped to headline The Matrix 4. So why join Watchmen to play one of the very few non-masked vigilante characters? In speaking with Den of Geek prior to the show’s premiere, Abdul-Mateen II described Cal as appealing because of how supportive he was and the calming influence he provided to Angela. He also offered up this now significant tidbit of information.
“We know that he’s also equipped to do more than what we see him doing at the same time,” Abdul-Mahtteen II said. “I kind of use those rules to build up a very sturdy, trustworthy character and move forward from there.”
Both Angela and Abdul-Mateen II are right: Cal was an excellent husband and loving father, and it was refreshing to see a spouse on a superhero show just straight up be a nice dude rather than a melodramatic thorn in our heroine’s side. But at the same time, Cal and the actor who plays him always seem destined for more.
Then there was the age difference between Angela and Cal. Fifteen-ish year age differences in romantic relationships are no big deal on television, particularly when it’s an older male and a younger female, given our culture’s biases. But if Angela and Cal really met in Vietnam like she claims, Cal and Angela’s age difference might have been seen as significant and maybe even problematic. Laurie Blake also can’t help but point out to Angela on several occasions that Cal is hot…like super hot…unusually hot…suspiciously hot.
Speaking of Laurie, many of the scenes that Angela, Laurie, and Cal share now take on a different light. Laurie took a liking to Cal early on, which made sense at the time because he’s an agreeable gentleman, but it makes even more sense now that we know Laurie was re-meeting an old boyfriend. Cal even asks Laurie “have we met?” upon seeing her for the “first” time. At the moment it seems like polite banter, but now we know it may have been more significant.
The clues have always been there, making this a fair reveal. But now that the reveal is here, how did it happen, and what does it mean for the show going forward? For starters, this whole thing is possible because through Doctor Manhattan all things are possible. Doctor Manhattan has the power to do pretty much whatever he wants. And apparently what he wanted to do was the live inside the form of Cal Abar and be in a decade-long relationship with Angela Abar.
Why he wanted to do these things is anyone’s guess. The end of the graphic novel does indeed find Doctor Manhattan absconding to Mars, seemingly no longer interested in humanity or all our petty struggles. But the being formerly known as Jon Osterman does have a soft side. He fell in love (or at least his version of love) with Laurie Blake all those years ago. That same love also led him to attempt to intervene in the Cold War that threatened to extinguish humanity.
The guy can say he’s bored with humanity all he wants but his track record suggests differently. At some point he met and fell in love with Angela Abar, likely when Angela was in Vietnam. Then some sort of threat made him go “underground” within Cal Abar. Now he’s out and the super man is alive and well in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We’ll likely find out why (and how) next week.