This article contains Watchmen episode 8 spoilers.
Watchmen episode 8, “A God Walks Into Abar” is so busy with its Dr. Manhattan story that it didn’t really have much room to get to the next chapter of the ongoing Adrian Veidt saga. As a result, we end up with the first post-credits scene in the show’s history. Here we learn the punishment Veidt has received from his “beloved” subjects after the guilty verdict rendered in the previous episode. It’s pretty mild, all things considered, Veidt is subjected to the denizens of Europa smashing tomatoes in his face, each one giving him the opportunity to renounce his desire to leave them behind. Like everything else we’ve seen of his time there, Veidt registers a mild annoyance, and little else at the indignity of it all.
Veidt had been sent to Europa a decade ago by Dr. Manhattan, who created life there after leaving Earth in 1985. Veidt, frustrated at being unable to enjoy the adulation of the public for pulling them back from the brink of World War III on Nov. 2, 1985, believed that Dr. Manhattan’s creations who desperately want someone to worship, were preferable to living out his life in isolation at his fortress of solitude in Karnak. Instead, he found a life of boredom, in a world with no conflict and thus no problems for him to “solve.” As a result, the place he thought might be “heaven” ended up becoming his own personal hell.
What is Fogdancing?
In his cell, Veidt is reading a paperback novel. That book is an imaginary work of literature called Fogdancing, written by the similarly fictional Max Shea, and it has significance to Veidt’s larger story dating all the way back to the original Watchmen graphic novel.
Fogdancing is by a (fictional) author named Max Shea. Both of those names were first mentioned in the pages of Watchmen, where Shea was revealed as the author of the Tales of the Black Freighter comic book story that runs parallel through the main story of Watchmen. The eccentric and reclusive Shea disappeared in 1983, but was in actuality sent to an island to help design the giant squid that Adrian Veidt used to kill millions of New Yorkers on Nov. 2, 1985. He, along with everyone else who had helped design the squid, was killed by Veidt so that they would never speak of his plan.
Shea also wrote one other novel, The Hooded Basilisk, of which nothing else is known, but it’s Fogdancing that appears to have had the greatest impact. As it turns out, Fogdancing is a crucially important work of fiction in the Watchmen universe, and it’s apparently required reading in many college literature courses.
Shea wrote Fogdancing in 1972, “while working at a VA hospital in Cleveland,” according to HBO’s Peteypedia. “Facilitating an art therapy program for soldiers suffering from PTSD, Shea was struck by their testimonials — their awe of serving under the god-like Dr. Manhattan; their guilt of committing atrocities with the Comedian; their rationalizations about going from liberators saving a people from communism to conquerors seizing a country for capitalism. Their poignant stories of shattered worldview and conscience inspired Shea to capture the confused state of America’s heroic character.”
The book became a sensation, and its influence is so pervasive that it even made a fan of various superheroes across the political spectrum, including Adrian Veidt (obviously), Rorschach, the Comedian, and even Dr. Manhattan (whose “nothing ever ends” is apparently a quote from the book). Agent Dale Petey apparently discovered a copy of Fogdancing in Wade Tillman’s (Detective Looking Glass) bunker while investigating his disappearance.
So what the hell is Fogdancing about? Well, according to Peteypedia, it’s about a man named Howard McNulty, who becomes part of a breed of special government operatives/super soldiers known as Fogdancers who apparently “do the ghastly wet-work that grease the wheels of the American machine and mop up proof of all the sick stuff you’re not supposed to do during combat.”
McNulty returns from the war with a guilty conscience and falls under the influence of Shut-Eye “an experimental anesthesia for trauma surgeries.” Meeting a woman named Greta, who shares his taste for the drug, McNulty undertakes a radical plan to destroy “the terrible weapons that built and expanded the American empire.” As the book progresses, McNulty realizes he has been manipulated for years by a rich man pulling the strings.
Are you starting to see why Adrian Veidt might have enjoyed this book?
Fogdancing ended up being a revolutionary work at the height of the Nixon years in the Watchmen universe, and it’s clearly still influential in 2019 (we saw it on the bedside table of farmer Katie Clark back in episode 4). Fogdancing has been adapted twice as a movie in the Watchmen universe. We have proof of that thanks to episode 7, where a VHS copy of Fogdancing shows up on the video rack that young Angela Abar is browsing in Vietnam in 1987. It’s apparently quite good, as there are awards laurels visible on the packaging. But more importantly, it was directed by David Cronenberg! Between this and Steven Spielberg’s Pale Horse, the alternate history of Watchmen also has some intriguing movie projects. The painting of the protagonist, with his back to us, is of a man with a ponytail and blond hair, which is very similar to what Max Shea looked like in the book.
It’s important to note that Veidt’s story on Europa has never perfectly aligned with what is going on with the rest of the show. As it turns out, each episode features a glimpse into Veidt’s life there, in one year intervals (hence the cakes, anniversaries, and singing of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”). The cake presented to Veidt by the Game Warden contains seven candles, which means he has been there for seven years, placing the events of this post-credits scene roughly in late 2016.
Someone considerate (and the myriad Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks of Europa are nothing if not considerate) baked a horseshoe into Veidt’s latest anniversary cake. Veidt seems to intend to use it to escape his cell, whether by digging or a means to pry up loose floorboards or rocks. But it’s something that he had seemingly been trying to “train” them to do as early as the first episode, when he was presented a horseshoe at the wrong time by Mr. Phillips. There are still plenty of mysteries to be worked out surrounding his relationship to the beings of Europa, and it’s possible that even the “new” ones retain certain elements of the memories of the ones that came before.
Watchmen episode 9 has a lot of questions to answer. Hopefully this one, and whatever the final fate of Adrian Veidt ends up being, are important enough to get adequate screen time.