Before Watchmen premiered on HBO, the identity of Jeremy Irons’ “Lord of the Manor” was one of the show’s biggest mysteries. And while it quickly became clear that he really was Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, the mystery was far from over. With the Season 1 finale, we finally know exactly how Veidt’s confusing timeline matches up with the rest of Watchmen, but if you’re still a little confused, we’ve got you covered.
Warning! Full spoilers for the Watchmen finale ahead.
The biggest clue came early on in the form of Veidt’s yellow and purple birthday cakes. As one astute fan noted, the number of candles on the cake kept going up as the season progressed, revealing that each time we saw Veidt a year had passed in his story. By Episode 8, he’s got seven candles, suggesting seven years have passed since he first arrived on Europa.
But when exactly did all those scenes happen? Let’s dive in.
November 1, 1985
The day before Veidt teleported a giant squid on top of New York City, killing 3 million people in the original Watchmen graphic novel, he recorded a message to President Redford that the Seventh Cavalry acquired at some point before the present day.
On this same day, a Vietnamese refugee named Bian who worked as a cleaning woman in Veidt’s Antactic facility injected herself with a sample of his semen. Bian then gave birth to the woman that would grow up to become Lady Trieu, and then Trieu in turn cloned her mother and used the Nostalgia drug to let her reacquire memories from her previous life.
Lady Trieu reveals herself to Veidt at his Antarctic facility and explains that Doctor Manhattan emits a specific radioactive frequency that her subspace antenna detected on Europa. That means he’s not on Mars!
She also reveals that her space probe should reach Europe to take photos in “exactly 5 years, 72 days, 9 hours, and 17 minutes.” Remember that number because it’s very important.
Six months after Doctor Manhattan first met Angela in a Vietnam bar, he visits Veidt in Antarctica. This is when Manhattan offers Veidt the chance to go to Europa, referring to it as a utopia. It’s also when Veidt gives Manhattan the device that subdues his powers.
We see Manhattan teleport Veidt away, so we know that this is the start of his adventures as Lord of the Manor.
In Episode 1, Veidt comes back to the manor on Europa following a leisurely ride on a horse to celebrate his one-year anniversary by writing a play while naked.
Episode 2 is the big debut of Veidt’s play about Doctor Manhattan’s origin story that climaxes with him burning a Mr. Phillips alive.
Veidt spends his 2012 anniversary in Episode 3 designing and constructing a new space suit that he tests out on a Mr. Phillips. It fails, and we see that Phillips is frozen as if exposed to the vacuum of space.
After the Game Warden interrupts him while hunting and prevents him from skinning a buffalo, Veidt smashes the cake for his third anniversary that Phillips and Crookshanks present to him.
To celebrate his fourth anniversary in Episode 4, Veidt slaughters a room full of Phillips and Crookshanks copies. He then crafted another pair so they could help him launch all of the bodies into outer space.
Breaking the mold a bit, Veidt’s Episode 5 scenes seemingly take place not long after his scenes from Episode 4. After perfecting his space suit, Veidt has a small army of Crookshanks and Phillips launch him out of the atmospheric bubble into the vacuum of space on the moon’s surface where he assembles perhaps hundreds of bodies to spell out “SAVE ME DAUGHTER,” all the while frantically checking his watch. He knows exactly when Lady Trieu’s space probe is set to fly by. Soon thereafter, he’s pulled back into the estate and taken into custody by the Game Warden.
In 2008, Lady Trieu said the probe would fly by Europa in “5 years, 72 days,” which is the only reason why we know that the scenes on Europa in Episodes 4 and 5 take place in the same year. It also means that Veidt and Trieu’s conversation had to happen in late 2008 for all of this to occur in 2014.
After Veidt is caught by the Game Warden, a ridiculous trial that lasts a full year finds him guilty. The sequence involves Veidt farting in the courtroom and a surprising number of pigs, but the end result is that he’s sent to a prison cell in the manor.
While in prison and reading Fogdancers during the Episode 8 post-credits scene, Veidt receives his anniversary cake with seven candles and a surprise horseshoe inside of it. He then spends the following year digging an escape tunnel with that horseshow.
During a scene in the Season 1 finale, Lady Trieu’s spaceship arrives on Veidt’s eighth anniversary on Europa. He takes a moment to make a wish over his moldy cake from last year, and that’s when the ship arrives. His body is preserved in some kind of golden metal substance for the journey. (Using current real-life technology, even just a probe flying to Europa would take six years, but it seems Lady Trieu has developed a faster method of space travel.)
Using the Deep Space Network, the photos from Lady Trieu’s probe probably took less than a half-hour to reach Earth. Somehow, Lady Trieu was able to construct a ship designed to efficiently bring one person all the way back to Earth, and the round trip took only around 5 years? That’s pretty incredible by today’s standards, but given all of the advanced technology in Watchmen, it makes sense that Trieu would be able to pull this off.
“Do you have any idea what it took for me to bring him here for this!?” Lady Trieu screams at Doctor Manhattan after he teleports Veidt away in the finale. She must have spent a lot of money to pull it off.
Adrian Veidt spends all of 2018 as a golden statue drifting through space.
Various newspaper headlines in the first episode declared Veidt dead by the time the series begins around September 2019. When Angela Abar and Laurie Blake visit Lady Trieu’s facility in Episode 4, the Ozymandias statue is already in her small garden area.
Remember when Lady Trieu bullied the couple out of their home at the start of Episode 4? We never learn explicitly what crash-landed on the property, but considering how precisely Trieu was able to predict its arrival, it must have been the ship carrying Veidt. After he was revived, he followed his daughter around until Manhattan transported him, Laurie Blake, and Looking Glass to his Antarctica facility. There, he adjusted his squid-rain technology to rain enough tiny frozen squids down to destroy the device that would have initiated the power transfer.
In the very end, Veidt is taken into custody by Blake and Looking Glass, so it seems like he’ll finally have to answer for his crimes — assuming the smartest man on Earth doesn’t find a way to escape from jail before long.
Watchmen is available to stream on HBO Now and HBO Go.