Nothing may ever end, but as the Watchmen on HBO season finale closed so ended a perfect season of television. In our Watchmen season premiere review, despite my delight with the show I wondered if the series was “worthy” of the Watchmen name. Nine weeks later, not only is the series worthy of the name, it’s as powerful and excellent as the source material was. Now, anyone who knows the history of Watchmen knows that it catapulted the comics genre into the literary stratosphere like so many clones. Before then, the argument about whether comic books were really “art” or just “funny books for children” was a tight one. We already know that we are in the golden age of prestige television. Also, this series wasn’t the satirical look at superhero culture we thought it might be. Nonetheless, this was “Watchmen” through and through.
The Watchmen season finale started out where the last episode ended, meaning with Jeremy Irons’ brilliant take on Adrian Veidt. From there it wraps up all the story threads from the previous eight episodes (save for Lube Man, whose story concludes in the final Peteypedia entry). Ironically, DC Comics’ own sequel to Watchmen is set to land on comic shelves on Wednesday. The final issue of Doomsday Clock is a year late, and no matter what they do the HBO series is the definitive sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons iconic masterwork. Of course, this is a Damon Lindelof joint, so there are some things left up in the air. (Quite literally, in fact.) Yet, the story he and his fellow storytellers set out to tell came to a definitive and brilliant conclusion.
Spoilers to follow after this song from The Beatles that even Dr. Manhattan couldn’t get cleared for TV.
The Doomsday Clock for Dr. Manhattan
Image via HBO
While the Watchmen season finale sets its sights first on the travails of Adrian Veidt on Europa, Dr. Manhattan’s fate is the biggest cliffhanger. It turns out all those watch batteries from the pilot were not for a bomb but rather to build a cage that can hold a god. Dr. Manhattan is transported into its center, sat in front of a bound-to-a-chair Agent Laurie Blake. The 7th Kavalry, or more accurately Cyclops, is prepared for victory. James Wolk’s Senator Keene is set to become the new Dr. Manhattan, complete with black bikini shorts. (Thankfully, Laurie mocks him for them.) Even though their plan is hilariously thwarted, Dr. Manhattan still appears to die. In fact, he sends away all of his allies save for Regina King’s Angela Abar because he doesn’t want to be alone at the end.
Yet, as the law of conservation of mass-energy states, such a thing as Dr. Manhattan cannot be created nor destroyed, merely changed. Even though the series ends with a little ambiguity, there should be no doubt in viewers’ minds that the power of Dr. Manhattan lives on. While we won’t spoil exactly what this means, just know that the motif of eggs throughout the series is intentional. It’s akin to the smiley face or clock motif in the original comic. An egg is a beginning, raw potential. However, I have to wonder if the original Dr. Manhattan is truly gone? Yes, he did appear to be annihilated, but being blown apart and reforming himself is one of his favorite tricks. Our story ended, yes. However, nothing ever ends and there is plenty of potential for Dr. Manhattan to return in one form or another.
The Watchmen Season Finale Obliterated White Supremacy (Kind Of)
Image via screengrab
While the Cyclops group of racists wanted to take the power of Dr. Manhattan for themselves, Hong Chau’s Lady Trieu was always going to best them. Her partnership with Louis Gossett Jr.’s Will Reeves was predicated on their destruction. He (and Dr. Manhattan, now in the body of Yayha Abdul-Mateen II) let all of this happen just to destroy that group of hateful jagoffs. Even though Lady Trieu is not the god we want nor deserve, she does get a hero moment. Using the power of sci-fi wizardry, she vaporizes all of the leadership of Cyclops. For all of its craziness, the Robert Redford-led America of Watchmen is one where the evils of racism have been addressed in a much more thorough way than we have in real-life.
For all the politics of the original comics, racial politics was all but absent. The Watchmen season finale solidifies, however, that this series is one of the most unabashedly pro-Black television shows to ever exist. It stares face-first into the ugliness of racism and the way inherited trauma works. Yet, it also frequently shows black excellence in its depiction of its black characters. The socio-political story of race present in this series is one worthy of study and analysis, hopefully in pursuit of applicable truths we can apply to real life. As Will Reeves says to Angela: “Wounds need air” to heal.
Should the Watchmen Season Finale Be the Series Finale?
Image via screengrab
Instead of recapping all the mind-blowing revelations, I am going to say just watch the show. It will be nine hours of your time, all worth the price of a month of HBO. The Watchmen season finale leaves you with the same feeling as reading that comic the first time. It’s over, and even though it feels too perfect to be repeated you can’t help but want more. Damon Lindelof said from the beginning that he’s looking at this as a limited series. While he didn’t rule out returning for a second season, it’s dependent only on if he has an idea he feels lives up to what he and his team pulled off in this first season. And while HBO surely wants more seasons of this show, the way Game of Thrones broke all of its best characters should serve as a warning.
There were so many ways that Lindelof and company could have messed this series up. They could have been careless with the legacy characters of Dr. Manhattan, Laurie Blake, or Veidt. They could have missed the mark on the political story they told. Or they could have failed to weave through these things a narrative that the audience cares about. So, if they do decide to move forward with a second season, they’d better make sure it lives up to this first season. (Whether it’s Lindelof leading the charge or a new showrunner.) Part of what made the Watchmen graphic novel so special was that it was just 12 issues and that was it. While nothing can take away from the excellence of this season, HBO should tread carefully before trying to capture blue lightning in a bottle a second time.
What did you think of the Watchmen season finale? Share your thoughts, reactions, theories, and lingering questions in the comments below.
Featured image via HBO
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.