A Year-End Look at 2019. Part 2.
I can photoshop my own header images now. :3
This is the second part of my end-of-year series and I want to talk about Watchmen. I wanted to make three separate entries about each of the last three episodes, but school got in the way and I couldn’t get these puppies out when I wanted. So I’m including them all in one big, long journey!
I WANT TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT THIS IS A HEAVY SPOILER ZONE. I’M NOT REALLY COMFORTABLE PUTTING THAT UP AFTER THE EPISODE AIRED TWO DAYS AGO BUT I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO PUT IT UP ANYWAY.
After watching Ep. 7….
I hate appointment television, though Watchmen has made it worth the wait each time. A stellar cast, incredibly methodical, witty writing, and cinema-quality visuals. It goes above and beyond what TV really needs. (And not a single rogue nipple in view — I’m so proud of you, HBO!) I really feel that Allan Moore’s sardonic tone and dry, paper-thin cynical satire is captured here. The show tackles some really difficult problems around race relations that Comic Books don’t usually tackle, and that Moore himself didn’t explicitly mention in the source material.
The show’s original directions were interesting to watch play out. Specifically — that the American police institutions are not (inherently) racist. Instead, the show discusses police as an organization which was designed as a colonial tool of suppression. Thus, police violence is inevitable, whether racism is present in the force or not. But unlike this universe… we don’t live in a world without Regan — who seems to be the pivotal shift between this world and ours. Racists in the police force were emboldened first by Regan, then Clinton, then Bush. Instead, this world prospered under a fictitious blue streak across America, where racism did not consume police forces. At least, that’s my reading — and it’s not something I necessarily agree with, but I’m getting the feeling that the show does not either. Given that the now-dead chief of police had a KKK robe hanging up in his closet and was part of a grand conspiracy.
TL;DR — police would have always been violent, and racism would always find a way into law enforcement. Well, that's just America, isn't it?
I'm generally opposed to Family Guy... However, when I (a sheltered, white 10-year-old) saw this, it prompted my mother to explain the real-life context behind this gag. I didn't find it particularly funny after it was explained to me. While I wish that McFarlaine had framed this topic in a more sensitive light, or with more seriousness, it was one of the first instances where my awareness about police injustice and racism began to develop. A significant component of that privilege was that was allowed to have that 10 years of ignorance. Other people who look similar to me still deny it exists.
Now… it’s the grand conspiracy part that’s pissing me off. By all means, I’m all here for white people being trash. And especially for political leaders being part of racist cults. But… In spite of the fact that everyone is losing their minds over Episode 7, this is the one that’s losing me. The main villain…is shit.
Sorry. He’s shit.
First… he’s supposed to be important but he a) hasn’t been in the story enough for me to have made a note for remembering him and b) he isn’t making enough of an impression to outshine the other cast members. There’s nothing to his character aside from: ‘be smug literally all the time’. It’s not even smug that comes across as something I like or dislike. He’s just... there.
The other characters are more than just there — they pop.
I mean… I do get serious Buttigieg vibes off of him. So that’s an instant 'no' from me. But seriously if he was gay I’d at least think that he stood out. This wallflower actually had the audacity to say something along the lines of “nobody has it harder than a white man.” I could at least see SOME kind of motivation behind his ‘pendulum-swinging’ bizarre, skewed sense of racial justice if there was literally anything remarkable about him. (Then again... that might be the point.)
But the only thing I find interesting about him is how badly I just want him off-screen all the time. He even sucks the life out of other characters and THEIR performances. And given that the show’s writing and characterization is so stellar in other areas, I’m willing to place the blame solely on the actor.
But before we go any further I just wanna touch on his evil plot. First. White supremacists going way too far to be dramatic who want to build bombs is one thing. I'm here for that. Not... that innacurate from real life, TBH.
As it turns out, over-educated conservatives are more obnoxiously dramatic than 'liberal snowflakes'.
But building ultra-high-tech devices is another thing altogether. No. No-no. You need to EARN that. You need to have an episode where you’re tracking stolen technology shipments or something and you need to set up how bizarre it is that they HAVE this stuff in the first place, let alone how they intend to use it.
And then there’s Senator Smugy MacBorring there to give exposition about it all. OOH — he wants to turn himself into Dr. Manhattan… by killing Dr. Manhattan? Why are all the rednecks going along with it? Why doesn't anyone decide: "Hey. Why should he get to be Blue God? I wanna be Blue God?" What has he done for them to have already that he deserves to be a god? Wouldn't anyone with an uninformed opinion of Dr. Manhattan want to stop at nothing to get that power if it's an option? They would already have to worship him in order to agree that he deserves that power. That hasn't really been established, but maybe it will?
Thing is... if Adrian Veidt couldn’t kill Dr. Manhattan, even with the benefit of being up-close and studying him. You need to firmly establish how the 7th Cavalry have the capacity to do it. Instead of having the least interesting character on the show give an off-hand line about how he’s gonna be big, blue, and have his boring penis flopping around.
Which is another thing I’m really not into altogether... Watchmen, the graphic novel, wasn’t about superpowers. Even the sections with Dr. Manhatten were more of a comment about how superpowers are written, versus how they would be used in real life. But super-powers and their use were a MINOR component of watchmen. And if senator whatshisname becomes the new Blue Man Crew, has he not considered that he’s going to be as nihilistic as his predecessor?
I dunno. It just seems really lazy from a show which, for the prior 6 episodes, was doing FAR MORE than it needed to do. I don’t really care what story it is, any time the villain says they want to achieve their goals by becoming a literal god, I turn off.
*sexy voice* Tell me MORE about your... dangerous... edgy... evil plan...
And if we’re talking about Dr. Manhattan… I guess I’m not opposed to him disguising himself as the hot slice of man on the show. I mean, they would have needed to try REALLY HARD to find someone prettier. So, Dr. Manhattan obviously knows how to pick a fine man. But I feel like this sets up Angela’s character in a weird place. I’m like… this whole thing was from your perspective and like… there really wasn’t any indication that Cal was literally god with Amnesia. Also — Jon has a habit of discarding ladies for younger ones. Which… if you’re immortal, how else are you gonna roll? But you'd think that would be a turn-off for Angela.
But Dr. Manhattan and seeing the future go together, so it kind of removes a sense of dramatic tension, right? Without tachyons fluttering around, anyway. How are a bunch of racists gonna manage to outsmart someone who literally exists in now, then, and the future? If he sees it coming… he can just teleport away, right? He can teleport his whole family away! He can turn the racists into perennials, right? Ugh. The dramatic tension of the last cliffhanger was kinda stolen from me because I’m busy figuring out how they’re gonna close all these plot holes.
As you can see, I have complicated feelings about the series, and this section would have been a lot shorter if I had written this a week ago. Granted, the show has earned enough from me to trust that they will manage to close these plot holes and actually pull a memorable villain out of its ass.
After watching Ep. 8
Probably one of the best episodes of the season! Really fun to watch and was a really good, personal take on Dr. Manhattan. My issues still stand though. Senator Whatshisname ain't shit, and there still is no discernible reason for why the 7th Cavalry has access to this tech. guys. This is something you NEED to justify if you are going to play to Allan Moore and make grounded superheroes in a heightened world. It can't just be: "Oh A.I.M. has this technology because they're the bad guys and they need it or else there wouldn't be a plot."
Why does the 7th Cavalry have this tech? Why do they think that becoming Dr. Manhattan is a feasible idea? Why do they think that is the best use of their near-infinite resources. (If you can build this kind of technology why is race relations your primary objective for its use?) And why do they know who Dr. Manhattan is?
I'm sure some of these questions will be answered. In all honesty, I'm beginning to think that this is all part of some kind of plan that Dr. Manhattan has, and he needed Vight to be out of the picture for him to do it. (The tables have TURNED!!!) Jon's been known to act on his knowledge of future and present events, so there is no reason why he couldn't have turned around and zapped the redneck who zapped him... Unless there's a specific reason for why he needs to die.
(Pass on his powers to Angela???)
I mean... Yes, kween. Let's make the most powerful singular entity in the universe a woman of colour. #thefutureisfemale
I'm not as concerned. BUT... I still think the villain could have been done infinitely better than it has. Seriously, why the fuck does he deserve to get an evil plot?
After watching the Finale…
Holy crap the series ties itself together better than I would have hoped. Not all my complaints were addressed... but they were written off in a very satisfying way at least. I loved every second of this final episode and in no way did I mind being surprised. I would never have seen it going in this direction and I am a HAPPY CAMPER.
To a large extent, I believe the show was abundantly aware of exactly how lame the villain was. Senator such-and-such. The show treated him exactly how I thought of him. Oh that makes me so glad that all my complaining was for nothing! I love being on the same page as what the creator wants me to feel. Character development that PLAYS OFF OF the audience’s perception of them is a tough job — and it’s always so rewarding when it’s done well. Because it sticks out so hard when a creator thinks they know what you're going to think of a character and uses a kind of meta-plot under a false impression of how they think you're going to feel about that character.
Now… I want to be clear before I launch into pages’ worth of critical analysis of something I think the show mishandled. I loved this series and I think it stands up a worthy follow-up to Game of Thrones.
The problem is, that while this is Television at it's absolute finest... that this is not a very good follow up to Allan Moore's Watchmen.
By simply having Dr. Manhattan, it would naturally encourage a parallel to Moore's Watchmen. However, I feel that the writers absolutely missed the point on who Manhattan was and how Moore used him, that Dr. Manhattan's inclusion is the largest thematic fissure between Moore's Watchmen and HBO's Watchmen.
(Honestly this has more to do with a deconstruction of Dr. Manhattan as a character and symbol than the quality of the show itself. I can't overstate how much I enjoyed the show... but I have some issues that take a lot of explaining.)
I feel like *actually* being able to kill him kind of diminishes the significance and role he had in the Watchmen novel. It was the idea of an invulnerable Hero, and how that would actually manifest. The invulnerability of Dr. Manhattan in the graphic novel was, in a large part, tied to the idea of inevitability. The idea that we cannot kill the future; in an Oedipidian way, how our attempts to change the future facilitate it.
His power prevents him from being changed, and in spite of all his power, he cannot change himself. He is transcendent of human will, ingenuity, intention. He is Moore’s ghoulish depiction of what ultimate power looks like, and an amalgamation of all our contradictions around the idea of ‘God’. Omnipotence and omniscience results in apathy.
He is literally the personification of science — he does not care about your feelings, and what you want to believe is or isn't true. He is, regardless of whether you believe he is. He is neither human, nor separate from humanity: science would not exist if it were not for human rules, but science also defies underlying human urges of belief, ego, and value. Science is a meathod, not an object or a truth; The universe persists in spite of science — and in spite of Dr. Manhattan. He is a puppet who sees the strings, just as science has no direction of its own, and though we may manipulate science, truths of the universe are in inevitability. He has a role in explaining existance, but it is a cold explanation and something we may not be comforted by.
And as science began to become more theoretical and detached from the reality of human life in the 80s, Dr. Manhattan, too, became more distant from his former human existence.
Being able to KILL him, I feel, changes what he represents in the graphic novel. Instead of inevitability, he is something that CAN be overcome… as long as you have a machine that can do it. For fiction, what the machine represents and why it is constructed is more important than how it is constructed. Yet, I don't feel we got much of any of those. The machine is simply there. Why? To accomplish a character's goals. And yet, Lady Trieu's goals are only vaguely explored. The only thing the show wasn't vague about was the emotional impact of Dr. Manhattan in love.
He’s the only thing about Watchmen that I don’t think the show-runners ‘got’. They treated him like a character, and so they gave him a character arc, they gave him a personality, they gave him a beginning and an end. Yet Dr. Manhattan cannot have any of those things because Allan Moore didn’t treat him as a character — Dr. Manhattan is an element of the plot itself. He can’t have beginnings and endings because they all exist as the same to him. He can’t have a character arc because he’s already aware of what’s on the other side of a transformation. Moore used him as accomplice to the plot itself, in almost a way that breaks the fourth wall; HBO, instead, centred the whole plot around him. And around his powers.
Which, I will reiterate, Moore’s Watchmen was not about superpowers at all.
Nobody here needed superpowers to sow or douse chaos. Those who act like they have super-powers are more dangerous than those who have them. Which demands the question: what IS a superpower?
HBO's treatment of Dr. Manhattan is closer in theme to The One Ring — where absolute power takes many forms and can mean many things. What’s less important than what it represents is how it’s used or intended to be used. But the use of this power and what it is intended to be used for is the defining symbolic element of the ring. What it represents changes depending on who wants it.
I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with that IF… there was some indication of that in the series. What characters intend to do with Dr. Manhattan’s power doesn’t really change what Dr. Manhattan represents. And this is in a show where each character has a vastly different perception of Dr. Manhattan. (Vietnam liberator or conqueror???)
"That woman deserved better."
(Also, thanks for putting Dr. Manhattan in front of Laurie and like... making absolutely NO BIG DEAL OVER IT. SHE'S ONLY BEEN RIDING THAT GIANT CHROME TECHNO-DICK FOR 20 YEARS AND ALL SHE GETS IS ONE GASPING "Jon!?!" — ALSO THANKS FOR GIVING SUCH A FANTASTIC CHARACTER PROGRESSIVELY LESS AND LESS TO DO AFTER INITIALLY REDEEMING HER FROM SPENDING ALL OF MOORE'S NOVEL AS 'THE GIRLFRIEND'... HER SCENES WITH ANGELA WERE LEGENDARY WHY COULDN'T WE GET MORE OF THAT?)
It would have been very easy to have a go-around-the-circle discussion of ‘if I had his powers, than I would…’
Instead, the people who were after his power had the least amount of explicit connection to him personally or culturally. And what they wanted to do with it was both very vaguely established and didn’t really treat Dr. Manhattan as allegorically representative of an element of power in our modern world. Whereas The One Ring clearly represents a platitude of different things (money, influence, fame, film, propaganda, nuclear power, war, nationalism, weapons, espionage), it isn’t clear what platform of power Dr. Manhattan was meant to represent.
When the racists have Dr. Manhattan’s power… what is it a stand-in for rednecks getting the kind of authoritarian validation they need to come out of the shadows? If that’s the case, then it doesn’t make sense either because that IS something they have IN THIS WORLD.
When Lady Trieu has Dr. Manhattan’s power, what does that represent her using? She already has wealth, influence, intelligence. I suppose then he could represent corporate greed? The chronic need to amass MORE. But then… that’s kind of a... sloppy use of the symbol because that’s a very simplistic way of analyzing how the elites express that greed. A more nuanced, modern depiction of that is not the idea of grabbing for more — but hoarding every bit they already have.
That said... the obsession over Dr. Manhattan could also represent a nostalgic obsession with the 1980s. Nobody thinks about Dr. Manhattan as he really was in the same way that nobody remembers the 80s for what it really was. Everyone has their slice of it, what they remember, what they want to remember, and how they intend to manipulate the 1980s for what they want to use it for. I'm okay with this, even if this doesn't really fit Lady Trieu's intentions very well. Carrying on her father's legacy in a display of one-upmanship? Unclear. And vague.
Plot used on romance for romance's sake is wasted time. Tell me what this romance means? Why is it significant? Why is this romance important enough to tell a story about? Why should I care that two people, neither of whom are me, are boning? Even cut-and-dry pornography has more validity than a straightforward love story. At least pornography has intent.
That said, Dr Manhattan’s role in the plot was more of an emotional pivot for Angela. And I really adore how well they pulled off both their chemistry as a couple, and also her tragic awareness of engaging her own inevitability. Unfortunately, this is the only area where the theme of inevitability arises… and it’s done for the SAKE OF ROMANCE OH MY GOD. HO MY GOSH. WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT DAMN ROMANCE??? Why is romance the tie-in between plot and character? The future persisting in spite of our interference? Why is that glorious theme framed in a damn love story?
I changed my mind — that’s lame. That kind of romantic entanglement to play the entire climax on emotional stakes is a HUGE departure from Moore’s content. Moore’s climax was the uncomfortable discussion of confronting difficult decisions when everyone is an asshole for different reasons.
Jon’s character was also… not a great component of connecting tissue between HBO and Moore. Moore’s Jon was not very human, and yet somehow was more human than most of us. As far as romance went, he was a ladies’ man, yes, but he never really had that much personality altogether. He didn’t seem to know how to care. And he got CALLED TF OUT for it at least once every three panels. And yet, his whole role in this plot was how much he did care. I don’t necessarily feel like him going to Europa for 20 years was enough time for him to start caring again as much as he did after yeeting himself on earth because he couldn't handle people.
"But in 20 years I'm really gonna miss everyone taking advantage of me and head on back for no discernible reason."
When he left, he was hanging by a thread to humanity, unable to relate to anyone, and was getting progressively annoyed that everyone expected him to. After, he left Earth explicitly stating that humans were exhausting. I don’t see the same Dr. Manhattan in the novel as I do in the mini-series. And then he comes back and… is in love with someone. And has a full capacity to socialize, flirt, and be charming. And Dr. Manhattan's whole crutch in the Watchmen novel was that he would much rather commit to plots and goals; he dealt with people to appease them.
If he couldn't divide himself, then he just wouldn't have had the time.
The problem I have with HBO's Watchmen is that they use Mr. Manhattan as a god when they need him to fuel the plot. And then they use him as a human when they need emotional stakes. They are both valid ways to use him, I guess — I just wish they would have picked one. Or they could have stuck to Moore's Dr. Manhattan, where he was only ever an inconvenience with feelings.
Ironically, as soon as the show STARTED involving Dr. Manhattan… it started to feel less like Watchmen. As soon as it started becoming about Dr. Manhattan, it stopped being about racism, politics, investigation, generational oppression, representation, and atonement for real atrocities. The show almost completely ignored the topic of American colonization of Vietnam, to boot! There were a few shout-outs to racism going through the last few episodes, but they were ornamental next to everyone playing ‘America’s Next Top Dr. Manhattan’. Jon, and the race for his powers, removed the show from the world it established, and tried to trick us — with shock-factor and emotional ties — into forgetting that we were ever talking about dystopia.
The world that Lady Trieu wanted to save us from was not addressing any of the problems established in the first six episodes. She was fabulous, but her whole contribution to the climax was not at all related to the opening themes, leading to the total tonal shift in the 6th episode. She was this amorphic, free-radical who only felt like she belonged because she matched Moore's absurdist vibes. It would have been better to keep her around as a villain for a hypothetical Season 2.
But then you wouldn't have had a strong villain for THIS season...
Come to think of it… I like the finale less the more I write about it. There’s so much to that it didn't seem to do, that it had seemed to p early on. And for something that is not an ongoing series (the show-runner will return if there’s another good idea out of it), there are too many weird loose ends. And I’m not talking about the Vight trail or the walking on water.
*ahem* His NAME is Lube-Man...
What about oily, slippery, runny guy? What about the rise of illegal vigilantism that the FBI has a task force to crack down on? Vague allusions to Night Owl? What about Laurie’s FBI assistant who… vanished from the plot and is presumed only still in existence because of an offhand glance from Laurie? What about the millennium clock? What about Lady Trieu buying a house in exchange for a cloned baby? (Assuming that was Adrian’s capsule?) What about the 7th Cavalry’s obsession with Rorschach that just vanished altogether if not for the Rorschach masks?
They started dangling all these little strings as if they were going to tie them up. And then just abandoned them so we could get more of Dr. Manhattan. Not that I'm complaining about the amount of dick we got to see.
Can Dr. Manhattan grow his foreskin back? Would he want to? Has he tried and decided this is better? Does he care? Do his women care? THESE ARE QUESTIONS THEY COULD HAVE ANSWERED. (Also did they have someone paint his penis blue? Did they CG it? Did he do it himself?)
Okay maybe a little. I would have liked to see some dick with a bit more pathos.
You know what? This would have FELT more like Watchmen if they would have just kept Dr. Manhattan out of it. He’s gone. Never going to come back. He’s not even on Mars. We don’t know where he is. He’s gone, and the villains have to find their OWN way to re-create his powers. Or they have to find their own way to accomplish their goals. That whole one episode about Hooded Justice felt more like Watchmen than a retrospective of the whole mini-series.
But having Dr. Manhattan in the story felt like a crutch — if felt like his inclusion was how they wanted to justify this being in the Watchmen universe. Instead of dancing along the same cynical depiction of America through the use of super-heroes that Moore used. And those first 6 episodes did it SO. WELL.
And those first episodes felt so much like Watchmen I'm not sure how they could have drifted into high-budget fanfitction.
(OH NO SHE DIDN'T!!!)
If you’re GOING to have Dr. Manhattan in here, he needs to resemble the same Dr. Manhattan we know. Dr. Manhattan was more than just a penis. He was detached. Doesn’t really want to be part of humanity, but is clinging to it by one single individual. But the thing is... I DID see strong elements of Dr. Manhattan that resembled Moore's original character. But the only time I saw it was in character beats. Any time Dr. Manhattan gets wrapped up in plot progression, he vanishes into a device to move the plot forward.
Starting with: Why did he return? The typical answer is that ‘because he’s a puppet who sees the strings’. Right, he sees the strings, and even if he knows that he’s going to go back to Earth with Laurie to stop Vight, and even if he knows why — he will not act without sequence. He is not puppeteer, he is reactive, but is aware of why and how — the string needs to be pulled before he lifts an arm. He is not a deliberate character.
So he wouldn’t have gone back to Earth because he knew that he was going to fall in love with Angela. He would have known that he would have gone back to Earth [insert causation here], and would have happened to meet Angela and would have eventually fallen in love. But even knowing this he would have still waited for something to spur this sequence of events.
Which brings us to why did he return? Why Vietnam? Why that bar? Why Angela? (Did he make the trip in memorium? No he explicity said he was going to meet Angela!) So then why stay with her? Why plot with her grandfather? Why did he choose to die for 10 years of a relationship he cannot remember? Even with Dr. Manhattan, where motivation for an action can occur after the event it inspired, what sparked his return to Earth?
Why didn't he murder that last racist that was gonna blast him with the cannon? Jon knew that he was there and he is capable of responding to events he perceives in the future. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for him to just go along with things when he can damn well escape whenever he needs to.
(No! He needed to get captured so that Lady Trieu could use her lasers to wipe out all of Cyclops!)
The kind of guy you take home to your parents.
Well... or he could have just teleported into the redneck den and exploded them all himself. Why did he go along with this plot when there was a much simpler direction that he could have gone and ACCOMPLISHED THE EXACT SAME THINGS WITH LESS DEAD BODIES?
I mean... not wholly out of character for Dr. Manhattan. But it puts him in this weird emo situation where he was just too bored to live so he went along with this convoluted plan with the explicit intention of being killed? It just seems... REALLY complicated.
If he loved Angela as much as he said he did, wouldn't he save her and his own goddamn children the widdowing? He apparently cares for Angela and his Children but not enough to change his role in the future. The show could have risen a huge question of can't versus won't.
If he can't, you can make an intellectual topic about that. If he won't, that's an oppertunity to explain why he won't. How is a future where he does not exist the best of all possible worlds? Why is that the fate for the universe that he has chosen at his own expense?
A cop-out for this that I've been HINTING at: Jon was scheming the whole thing. The whole thing was a plan he put on. He needed Adrian out of the way to save the world, like Adrian needed him out of the way to save the world. When you look at it, there were an awful lot of thermo-dynamic miracles that seemed to line up a little bit too well for there to be a guiding hand.
For instance, Dr. Manhattan, more or less, chose Cal’s body. He suggested it when Angela was keeping it hidden. A HANDSOME BLACK MAN man whose corpse Angela is visibly
attracted to, who suspiciously just… dropped dead. HOW CONVENIENT IS THAT?
You know who ELSE dropped dead of a Heart attack at a very (in)convenient time? Angela’s Grandmother. TO ME… it seems like someone was VERY CLEARLY trying to make sure that Angela would remain in Vietnam, sad, alone, and without family support; developing a hardened exterior that would make her a loner and a warrior with a heart of gold.
How convenient is fuckin' that?
OKAY: That 'someone' was Dr. Manhattan, out for his own objectives.
NOT OKAY: That 'someone' was an author, who needed a scapegoat to tell their story.
(Narrative tip: the author must have no visible role in manipulating the events of a story. Naturally, this is impossible; the quality of narration is gauged on how well the author disguises their influence with deliberate elements within the story. Touching back on Star Wars, a cosmic power/consciousness like The Force is an effective and simple way to do this. Additionally, a 'mastermind' can be just as effective, but requires a steadier, more methodical hand.)
But as far as is accessible even on a subtext reading.... It was all just coincidence. Jon wasn't planning nothing, he was just horny.
Which… also not out of character. But why did he return to Earth? He could have constructed a woman to bang on Europa! HE set all of this in motion by returning. Why did he knowingly sacrifice himself just for a romance?
Additionally, they could have gone with the theme of 'social creatures.' Even those of us who have the most difficult time with humanity need to return to it. Humanity is a drug, and no matter how far above or below we position ourselves, how we try and distance ourselves from it — we must return.
That might have been the intention… but it’s not in the text. It’s not even in the subtext. Dr. Manhattan’s reasoning is a mystery to us. Whereas in Moore’s Watchmen, he never shut up about why he was doing what he was doing and why he was doing it.
What upsets me is that there is no indication there was a plan except for conjecture. Are we MEANT to connect dots? Or are these dots just lazy third-act writing that I am connecting because I really want this show to know what it's doing? Somebody — please fill me in if I'm missing anything?
The feeling I get, until I am convinced otherwise, is that Dr. Manhattan wasn’t there to raise these questions. Dr. Manhattan was there to remind us that this is in the Watchmen Universe, and re-hash some dialogue that he already gave in the graphic novel. And because that dominated the last few episodes of the series, we didn’t get a decent continuation of the more ‘grounded’ themes of police violence, hidden racism in America, American Colonization, and if vigilante justice is ‘actually’ justice.
We’re not even left with any questions beyond ‘does Angela have Dr. Manhattan’s powers?’
Which, I would like it if his whole plan was to find someone ‘worthy’ to pass on his powers to. Someone who would do the right things with his abilities — because he was so bogged down in inevitability. Someone who has his powers, but did not have his privileges. Someone who would make the changes he can’t... because he won’t... because he couldn’t understand why these actions need to be done... because he is a white man and thus, inseparable from these privileges. He sees himself as inadequate for the demands of the current world.
But once again, that theme is so far in the back seat next to the emotional climax, that it’s practically tied up in the trunk.
So. Getting around to a verdict.
I am STRONGLY invested in all these characters... especially the ones who are dead.
As a TV series that stands on its own — this is fantastic. The discussions it raises and bold statements it’s willing to make are phenomenal. The acting is stellar, characters are fully-realized, and those who are not, receive the kind of poetic justice that represents how shallow their characters are. (Shallow puddle of goo.) The plot is filled with marvellous twists and turns and kept me engaged the whole way. Symbols were played exquisitely (eggs — YES), and the visuals were beyond fantastic. I wish there had been a FEW more hints at people having actual superpowers (Moore always wanted his superpowers to remain under-stated, but people did, in fact, have super strength and super-speed, even if it was very slight), because I feel at times it made the costume characters feel too limited.
I would have preferred a takeaway that having superpowers would not have made a difference to what would have happened.
The problem is that it’s desperately trying to convince you that this is Watchmen. In order to be more LIKE Watchmen, it needed to focus on being its own property and have less OF Watchmen in it. The last two episodes needed to focus more on 'saying' and less on 'feeling'. But those first six episodes were priceless!
I would have wanted nothing more than that for a whole season. Discussion, questions, challenging society, and confronting us with uncomfortable truths. But… the ratings didn’t pick up until we got that blue guy, who used to be a white guy, now pretending to be a black guy, and hogging the whole plot to his apparent emotional arc.
So I suppose I’m alone on that one, so I’ll nod out here.
I'm not gonna pretend like he was tough to look at.
P.S. Because Lady Trieu did not re-absorb Dr. Manhattan’s powers, wouldn’t that mean that his particles were still in that machine when it exploded? Wouldn’t that mean that he could simply re-assemble himself? “It’s one of the first things I learned to do.”
P.P.S. Did neither Senator Redneck nor Lady Trieu read a dossier on Dr. Manhattan? And how, after he got his powers, he stopped caring about literally everything? Did neither of them contemplate that by attaining his powers, they would then view their goals as irrelevant, and suddenly stop caring at all, because they would see how little consequence human actions have when your scale of time is eternity?
P.P.P.S. I'm sorry about being a day and a half later with this than I wanted. Been getting crazy post-semester burnout.
Make sure to check out my twitter (@NTHerrgott) and my Instagram (nt.herrgott). I suck at time management SO BAD that I'm still working on editing photos to get them up. Thanks for sticking by me while I disappeared into education-land! :3