The Watchmen TV series is now fully underway, with three episodes having dropped and the remaining six set to land in the coming weeks. But if you’re watching the Watchmen HBO show, you’re likely to have some questions.
The TV adaptation / sequel (brought by show creator Damon Lindelof) to the 1980s Watchmen comics is a dazzling blend of old and new – with iconic masked heroes appearing alongside striking new characters, and a plot that reflects the political reality of the world we actually live in, instead of just paying tribute to what came before.
But it’s also a whirlwind of sci-fi elements, mysterious caped crusaders, and callbacks that can be hard to keep track of – especially if you aren’t au fait with the original comics.
That’s why we’ve put together the key questions you might be asking from each episode – starting with the most recent episode (3: She Was Killed by Space Junk) and leading onto the earlier episodes in case you need a refresher.
If you still feel like you’re in too deep, with no idea what’s going on, we recommend this Watchmen beginner’s guide for a run-down of the key events and figures from the original comics. Otherwise, read on for our in-depth Watchmen HBO episode guide, for everything in the Watchmen TV series that may have you scratching your heads.
And yes, there are spoilers. Did you really have to ask?
Watchmen episode three: what went down this week?
What’s the hold up?
Episode three opens in a bank, being seemingly held up by criminals – though it turns out to be an FBI sting to draw in an illegally-operating masked vigilante. Despite police wearing masks, members of the public still don’t get the same rights to conceal themselves for their personal brand of justice.
Who is Laurie Blake?
Laurie Blake is the FBI agent leading the bank operation, and who’s flown in to Tulsa, Oklahoma to lead the Seventh Cavalry investigation after the death of the police chief. She’s also the second Silk Spectre in the Watchmen comics, having inherited the mantle after her mother – and the daughter of The Comedian, who’s killed in the opening pages of the comics.
Her name may seem like a small issue, but going by her father’s name – given he attempted to sexually assault her mother – is a surprisingly public acknowledgement of her heritage, even if she now works to imprison vigilantes rather than being one.
What went down at the funeral?
The funeral scene in episode three is a clear nod to The Comedian’s funeral in the comics, though not quite as sombre or lacking in action. This time, a Seventh Cavalry member interrupts the service and takes Senator Keene hostage, and ends up exploding in the dug grave underneath Judd Crawford’s coffin. While noone else was hurt, the event seems somewhat staged, and if anything makes Keene seem more suspect than before.
Why is Adrian Veidt making a suit?
Adrian Veidt was, as ever, hard at work. This time, instead of putting his servants in a stage drama of Dr Manhattan’s life, he seems to be stitching and crafting a suit – not unlike a metal diver’s suit – though Mr Philips again doesn’t survive the experience, being found frozen to death inside it.
The encounters with the gamekeeper suggest Veidt is being kept prisoner in this location, and the frozen servant makes us think there’s some kind of natural obstacle to him leaving. We know things aren’t quite as they seem in Veidt’s world, with tomato trees and multiple clones wandering around the place, and aren’t ruling out the miniature ‘paradise’ being a pocket dimension out in space somewhere under the dominion of Dr Manhattan (which would explain the need for oxygen in the diving suit).
What are those phone booths?
Since Dr Manhattan’s departure to Mars back in the 80s, it seems a whole industry has sprung up around the quasi-deity, with blue phone booths giving punters a chance to send messages to the surface of the red planet. We very much assume it wasn’t a Dr Manhattan-approved venture, and it’s likely Laurie is using it as a way to connect, however vicariously, with her past lover.
That sex toy
Yes, it seems that Dr Manhattan merchandise has extended far – with what looks like a blue, metallic sex toy brought by Laurie Blake to her hotel room, acting as a supplement / reminder of the relationship she once had with the atomic superhero.
Did a car fall from the sky?
Mirroring the end of episode two, when William was abducted in Angela’s car by a UFO, the same car drops down in front of Laurie Blake, largely smashed, at the end of episode three – with William no longer in it.
We still don’t know where the car’s been, but the way the falling object matches Laurie’s story of the little girl throwing a brick (in the Dr Manhattan phone both) is the kind of dramatic irony torn straight from the comics.
Watchmen: when’s the next episode out?
You can look forward to more confusion – maybe with some answers – next week at the same time. Head to our how to watch Watchmen online piece for more details.
Watchmen episode two: Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship
Letters from the sky
While Watchmen episode two doesn’t revisit the events of the Tulsa race riot directly, we do see an earlier scene set during World War One, when William’s father is serving in the US military.
Anti-US propaganda is dropped out of air vehicles, with messages questioning the US’ treatment of persons of color as second-class citizens – in order to demotivate soldiers or attract defectors to the German cause.
It’s one of these sheets of paper on which he writes “WATCH OVER THIS BOY” when sending his son to safety out of Tulsa.
Why is Angela hiding what happened?
One of the curious character choices in the episode is how Regina King’s Angela doesn’t turn in William straight away, despite him claiming credit for the death of the police chief.
It’s clear there’s more going on than meets the eye, and the idea of the chief (a close friend of hers) having “skeletons in his closet” is clearly enough to keep her from turning him in immediately – and that’s well before she finds out William is her grandfather.
Indeed, when Angela goes to check Crawford’s closet, she finds a Ku Klux Klan outfit, suggesting he may have been involved in some of the Seventh Cavalry’s plans.
Wait, did you say grandfather?
Yup. Angela takes William’s DNA – from a mug of coffee – to the Greenwood Centre for Cultural Heritage, a museum dedicated to (seemingly) those affected by the Tulsa race riots and similar acts of racial violence in American history, and finds out that William is her biological grandfather. Twist!
Was that Mothman?
As the police investigate the scene of Crawford’s death, various moth-themed characters flit and fly about the scene with cameras, attempting to get a close eye at what’s happening.
From the remarks of Red Scare (“F***ing moths!”) and their replies (“I have a right to see what’s happening here!”) we’d assume that they’re either journalists or voyeurs trying to capture and sell footage of high-interest crime scenes, not unlike Jake Gyllenhaal in the movie Nightcrawler.
Mothman was one of the original ‘Minutemen’, the first band of masked heroes in the Watchmen comics, and this little interaction shows another way the legacy of those vigilantes has been shaped in modern day.
What was that Christmas scene?
One tense scene is set on Christmas Eve, when Angela and her husband – played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – are attacked by members of the Seventh Kavalry, after which the (now deceased) police chief visits her in her hospital bed.
This is a flashback to “White Night”, the night when many police officers were murdered in their own homes.
Who is Topher – and what is he building?
One thing we learn in this episode is that Topher – one of the children under Angela’s care – was a child of a police officer killed on White Night. She also refers to the police chief Judd Crawford as Topher’s “uncle”, though Topher reminds her there wasn’t a biological link.
When Angela goes to tell Topher that Crawford is dead, he seems to be building a medieval castle out of magnetic blocks – like a futuristic version of Lego – that mirrors the castle inhabited by Jeremy Irons’ Adrian Veidt.
Tomato trees? Really?
One of the weirder moments of a consistently-surprising series: Adrian Veidt appears to pluck a tomato from a tree, though they grow on runners in our own reality.
More signs that something isn’t quite right where he is, though whether it’s something transdimensional, virtual, or otherwise is yet to be revealed.
Did Veidt really kill his servant?
Yes and no. We see a stage play, The Watchmaker’s Son, written by Veidt in his castle and performed by his two servants.
Except, he actually has a lot more servants, as the two characters we’ve seen, Mr Philips and Ms Crookshanks appear to have numerous doubles or clones, one of which is burned to death during the staging of the play.
More on this as the story progresses – though it’s worth mentioning that Dr Manhattan could make duplicates of himself in the comics, and that title of “The Watchmaker’s Son” certainly refers to the blue superhero himself.
What was that grocery store all about?
The grocery store is shown in a section of the American Hero Story TV-show-within-a-TV-show. We see Hooded Justice, the first-ever masked vigilante, crash through a window and assault various criminals attempting to hold up the store.
This points to more potential clips from the show in the episodes ahead, and a way of revisiting classic characters despite the 30-year time jump from the comics.
There was a UFO?
Certainly a bold ending for the episode, possibly matching that of the first. We see William, now being arrested by his granddaughter, lifted into the air by a flying machine that connects magnetically to Angela’s car and drags it out of shot.
Aliens didn’t play a part in the Watchmen comics – other than perhaps the so-called ‘alien squid’ – and knowing the technology available to the likes of Nite Owl and Veidt, it’s likely this was a terrestrial kidnapping.
Martial Feats of Comanche Horseman?
The title of the episode is an intriguing one, especially as it’s also the title of the painting shown in Crawford’s home.
The painting is an 1834 work by the artist George Catlin, and depicts Native American warriors on horseback – specifically concealing themselves on one side of the horse to prevent being seen or struck, which is also shown in the Ballad of Buster Scruggs mini-series starring Tim Blake Nelson (who plays Looking Glass in Watchmen).
The weight given to this painting suggests something is being hidden, or even that a character thought to be dead may have more of a part to play than first thought…
Watchmen episode one: It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice
What’s all this about the Seventh Cavalry?
The story kicks off 30 years after the events of the graphic novel, which is taken as canon for the events happening onscreen. In an alternate timeline to our own, masked vigilantes not only exist, but are treated as outlaws. At the same time, state police officers resort to donning masks themselves to protect their own identities in the fight against a band of white supremacists, the Seventh Cavalry – who, much like show creator Damon Lindelof, have riffed on their source material, taking the writings of the deceased character Rorscach as gospel for their racist ideology.
We’ve seen at least one police officer killed by the group, and the police force has been granted access to more firepower to meet this threat.
What were the Tulsa race riots?
The historical flashback that the show opened with was the Tulsa race riots of 1921, a real-life event where swarms of white American citizens descended on the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma – trashing businesses and killing hundreds of black residents. It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.”
A young boy caught up in the violence is shown wandering away from the wreckage of a carriage shot from behind – and seems to be the same person found with the body of police chief Judd Crawford (more on that later).
The brief mention of “Redfordations” in the classroom appears to be a system of reparations granted under Robert Redford’s presidency, allowing descendents of those affected by the riot some kind of financial support – and it’s clearly a sensitive subject within the TV show.
What is American Hero Story?
American Hero Story would be a somewhat clumsy name for a TV show, if it wasn’t such a clear play on words around the American Horror Story anthology series. You’ll catch sight of the title on various vehicles – and a blimp – in the first episode, with an audio announcement stating that “tomorrow night, the countdown ends. American Hero Story: The Minutemen.”
It seems that the history of the comics is being adapted for TV in HBO’s TV adaptation too – though how they’re represented, and how it matches up with reality, may well be explored in later episodes.
What was White Night?
The chillingly named White Night sounds like a classic Christmas horror movie, and its use in Watchmen episode one isn’t far off. It marks the Christmas eve when members of the white supremacist group Seventh Cavalry attacked the homes and families of Tulsa’s police force, leaving many dead and others injured – and sparking the use of masks for police offers wishing to keep their identities safe.
Where is Nite Owl? Have we seen him yet?
While there’s no explicit mention of Nite Owl, the owl-themed vigilante from the Watchmen comics, there’s plenty to suggest his presence in the story. Regina King’s character is seen holding an owl-shaped mug in the police chief’s office, while Nite Owl’s flying contraption (“Archie”, as its known in the comics) is seen flying, diving, and crashing while under the command of the same police chief.
The Nite Owl persona was passed down to Daniel Dreiberg in the comics (as seen in the 2009 film), so it’s possible we’ll see a brand new character who’s taken on the mantle – or an old character returning to do so.
Did squid really rain from the sky?
It’s likely a reference to the giant squid that demolished Manhattan in the comics – which was the original endgame threat that brought humanity back from the brink of annihilation, though it’s unclear whether Adrian Veidt’s hoax was ever revealed as such to the American public. And if the original squid was a fake, we’re unsure where these squid rainstorms may have come from.
What’s in the pod?
Tim Blake Nelson takes on a curious role as the police interrogator, though it’s not the vein you usually see in American crime dramas. Nelson’s character – Looking Glass – wears a reflective mask and asks a suspect leading questions in some kind of interrogation chamber filled with flashing images, seemingly to confuse or disorientate those brought in. While not a mind-reading superpower, it’s a good example of the enhanced, trained abilities of the heroes in Watchmen, as well as harking back to the psychological examinations Rorschach went through in the comics.
Who killed Judd Crawford?
Chief Judd Crawford is found hanged at the end of the episode, but the circumstances around it aren’t exactly clear. While the Seventh Cavalry seems the obvious choice, the mysterious wheelchair user seen earlier in the episode is the only one nearby, and seems to be the one who summoned Sister Knight to the spot. His prior lines also asked whether he “he could lift 200 pounds”, which could have been foreshadowing to him lifting the police chief’s body.
What is Jeremy Irons even doing?
Hard to answer this one. The Tony, Emmy, and Oscar-winning actor is clearly up to something as billionaire Adrian Veidt, though how his time spent in the countryside with a number of servants – with terrible table manners, apparently – is yet to be revealed. But the use of a horseshoe for a knife, and seemingly lacking mental faculties of Veidt’s butlers, suggests something is amiss – and we wouldn’t rule different dimensions out.