This article contains Watchmen spoilers.
We first met the mysterious Lady Trieu back in Watchmen episode 4. Played by Hong Chau (Downsizing, BoJack Horseman), Lady Trieu is a fabulously wealthy, impossibly brilliant futurist, one who is willing to use all of her wealth and scientific power to get exactly what she wants. Her true motivations remain unclear even as we reach the conclusion of episode 7, but she has become an increasingly visible and important character in recent weeks, both because of her invention of one of the great expositional tools in television history, the memory drug Nostalgia, and because of her willingness to rescue Angela Abar from an overdose on that same drug.
Like many members of the cast, Chau was unfamiliar with the book when she was approached about the role. “When I first sat down with Damon Lindelof, he explained the entire graphic novel to me, which took a while and it was a lot to absorb,” she says. “It’s really interesting. He gave me a copy on my way out and I read that and I thought this is very heavy stuff and very mature.” And since Lady Trieu is an original creation for the show, Ms. Chau couldn’t reference the book to help center her character. And neither can we.
What we do know right now about Lady Trieu comes solely from Peteypedia, HBO’s official supplemental materials for the show that help flesh out the background details of the show. With that in mind, we know that she’s the head of Trieu Industries, a massive “international conglomerate.” We know from her own statements on the show that Trieu Industries is at the forefront of technological advances, genetics, and pharmaceuticals, not the least of which being the aforementioned Nostalgia. Through Peteypedia we also learn that Lady Trieu holds four doctorates, and was raised by her mother, Bian My, to be an embodiment of mental and spiritual perfection. She seems to have succeeded. But there’s a catch.
We learn in Watchmen episode 7 that Bian, Lady Trieu’s teenage daughter isn’t her daughter at all. Instead, Bian is a clone of her grandmother, Bian My, and Lady Trieu is feeding her memories of her past life. Now, this is where things get interesting. The identity of Lady Trieu’s father is unknown. Is it possible then that Lady Trieu herself is ALSO a clone of her mother, just as her “daughter” is?
But perhaps most telling is her apparent reverence for Adrian Veidt, formerly known as the superheroic Ozymandias and currently occupying a bizarre prison in an undisclosed location. In what is almost certainly not a coincidence, Trieu Industries acquired Veidt Enterprises in 2017, five years after the similarly rich and brilliant Adrian Veidt disappeared. Lady Trieu is also spearheading the construction of the mysterious Millennium Clock, currently looming just outside of Tulsa.
Trieu’s fascination with Veidt doesn’t end with the acquisition of his company, though. She dedicated the groundbreaking with a quote from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Ozymandias.” And not just any quote, but it’s most famous: “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.” And then there’s the matter of the golden statue of Veidt she keeps in her vivarium. Or the fact that even keeping a domed vivarium is an affectation she shares with Veidt, whose own was part of his arctic fortress, Karnak. Veidt was nicknamed “the smartest man in the world” during his heyday, and there’s no question that Lady Trieu is the smartest person in the world of HBO’s Watchmen.
But beyond these details, there’s not much else we know about Lady Trieu just yet. Of course, the book isn’t helpful, as she wasn’t a character in the original story. But her presence here still has roots in the broader elements of the Watchmen world. One of the key components of Watchmen’s alternate history is the fact that the United States won the Vietnam War. Not only that, Vietnam was annexed as the 51st state in the union. You can see throughout the show the very different American flag that accounts for Vietnam and likely other American territories and protectorates. Lady Trieu is Vietnamese, although the character has yet to express any political ideology or even thoughts that might help illuminate more about how this element of the world is viewed.
“I think the show does ask…’what if this happened?’” says Chau. “I think sometimes the more things change, the more things stay the same. Which is very true to life. What I appreciated about reading the scripts was that Damon Lindelof is very comfortable with living inside of a gray area. He doesn’t tell us who’s good or who’s bad, a hero or villain and leaves it up to the viewer to decide. Whether somebody is good or bad, we all inhabit both of those qualities in each of us. The scale tips one way or the other based on each individual action that we do.”