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Major spoilers below for those who haven't yet watched Watchmen's seventh episode. You have been warned!
All season long, Watchmen fans have had an abundance of questions and curiosities about the TV series' expansion of the comic book storyline, with the mystery of Doctor Manhattan's whereabouts looming large over most other elements. Episode 7 finally delivered what appeared to be a definitive answer on that front, revealing that the superhuman entity has been posing as Angela's human husband Cal for quite a few years. By the episode's end, Angela had destroyed "Cal" and allowed Doctor Manhattan back out into the world.
While some fans out there had the "Cal = Manhattan" theory already in their minds, the reasoning and details behind the superhuman's Earthbound presence are still unknown, though it's pretty clear that Angela has been Doctor Manhattan's romantic partner for even more years than Laurie was in the '80s. (And the latter is still pining for that connection.) According to Watchmen's TV mastermind and showrunner Damon Lindelof, it was that very relationship-driven concept that sparked this section of the narrative. In Lindelof's words:
Once we landed on Angela Abar as that center [of this expanded story], the new rule became that any legacy characters we were using (Veidt, Laurie and Hooded Justice) could only be used in service of Angela's story…she was the sun, everyone else needed to be orbiting around her. So how could Dr. Manhattan, a man with the power of God, be in service of Angela's story as opposed to the other way around? Based on his past (and all the tropes of Greco/Roman mythology), the answer was intuitive…love. We knew this relationship could only work if Manhattan took the form of a human, and so, the idea of Cal was born. And yeah, it came early. Almost from the jump.
In the final pages of Watchmen's source material, Doctor Manhattan was dealing not only with the knowledge of Veidt's monstrous plot, but also with having just killed Rorschach, and the sight of Laurie and Dan post-coitus. That said, he nonetheless seemed to have a weight lifted off of him, and he professed an interest in creating his own human beings. It's obviously not clear exactly when Doctor Manhattan chose to make a semi-permanent return to Earth by way of Vietnam, but it was indeed the power of human emotions that kept him around and under everyone's radar.
It does make sense that Doctor Manhattan would choose to align with Angela Abar, considering her story is one that practically demands empathy. Episode 7 revealed that her parents were killed by a suicide bomber, and that she'd only gotten to know her grandmother June for the length of a meal before the older woman died of a heart attack. We didn't get to see what happened to her after June's death, but it's clear that she stuck around Saigon until adulthood, and that she came into contact with Doctor Manhattan at some point during that stint.
The reason why Doctor Manhattan had to get brought out of Cal's body in the first place is because Angela discovered the Seven Kavalry's plans to destroy the blue being in order to somehow turn Senator Joe Keene into a new version of Doctor Manhattan. That reveal, which viewers learned about through both Keene and Lady Trieu, sounded just as nutso as Veidt's squid monster scheme, and brought the bigotry-tethered organization's true purpose to the forefront.
Speaking with THR, here's how Damon Lindelof explained the thought process behind Keene's ultimate goal to become the most powerful being in the universe.
As subversive a text as the original Watchmen was, in the end, it followed the same arc as any superhero story: the hero saves the world. The paradigm shift here was that the 'good guy' and the 'bad guy' were the same person. In our Watchmen, there are more clear cut bad guys who represent an ideology that is almost impossible to defeat. Bad guys always want the same thing: power. There's something fundamentally ridiculous about the idea of "white power" in its redundancy as if everyone in America was born onto the same playing field. Sadly, almost every one of our institutions demonstrates that inequity, so the idea that a white, male senator actually wanted MORE power was equal parts absurd and irresistible. As is the case with most White Supremacists, Keene doesn't see taking Manhattan's power as appropriation as much as taking something he already feels entitled to.
One of the scariest things about Watchmen so far has been the unwavering confidence in Keene's approach and demeanor in every scene he's been in, whether it's a brief conversation with Angela or showing Looking Glass the brain-shattering truth behind 11/2. Now that audiences know his mind is set on becoming the next Doctor Manhattan, it makes his rise to power all the more alarming, and one can only hope he and his clan are far more short-sighted than Adrian Veidt when it comes to world-altering plots. Fingers crossed Keene chokes on a piece of calamari before their plan can be enacted.
What did you guys think about the Doctor Manhattan twist(s)? What about the bonkers reveal that Bian is actually a cloned version of Lady Trieu's mother? Let us know in the comments below, and don't forget to keep up with our comic book reference features for each of Season 1's installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6 and Episode 7.
Watchmen airs Sunday nights on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET.