The season finale of HBO’s Watchmen perfectly set things up for Season 2 with a cliffhanger to rival anything we’ve seen before. But should Damon Lindelof’s series even get a second season, or does that final shot provide more closure than another batch of episodes ever could?
On Sunday, HBO aired the ninth and possibly final episode of Watchmen, the acclaimed sequel series to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ iconic 1988 DC Comics graphic novel, Watchmen. The finale, which by comparison had the most rudimentary structure of a superhero story (a villain unveils their master plan for the heroes to thwart at the last minute), ended in exactly the way you expect from Damon Lindelof: Open-ended, with lots of questions.
Here’s everything that went down in the season/series finale of Watchmen, titled “See How They Fly” and how the episode blows open the world of Watchmen wide open for a continuation that, in the best-case scenario, would never see the light of day.
Warning: Spoilers for the season/series finale of HBO’s Watchmen ahead.
In “See How They Fly,” viewers learn Lady Trieu’s (Hong Chau) ultimate plan: To steal the powers of Doctor Manhattan Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
She shadow supported the white supremacist group, the Seventh Calvary, allowing the masked terrorists to steal supplies from her in order to build a “cage” for Doctor Manhattan. The Calvary thought they were stealing from the ultra-powerful Trieu, but she allowed it to happen all along.
The Calvary hoped to transfer Manhattan’s power into Oklahoma Senator Joe Keene Jr. (James Wolk). Keene Jr. resented his position in the Appropriations Committee that paid reparations, or “Redfordations,” to the families of the victims of the 1921 Greenwood Massacre, also known as the “Black Wall Street Massacre.” But just as Trieu verged on obtaining Manhattan’s powers, Angela (Regina King) disrupted her plan. With the help of Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), who modified his randomized squid rain to become lethal. As a result, Trieu is killed when her giant device crushes her.
But Doctor Manhattan, Angela’s lover, is dead. Or is he? As suggested by the episode, Manhattan may have left a piece of himself inside an egg (“Watch the eggs,” Manhattan tells her when he’s making pancakes). It’s similarly hinted at in their first encounter in Vietnam, where Manhattan says he can “transfer” his abilities into an organic material, which can be consumed.
You know, like drinking an egg.
Watchmen ends with Angela cracking open and drinking the egg that may or may not contain Manhattan’s powers. She dips her feet into her pool — can she walk on water? Does she have the Biblical powers of Doctor Manhattan? We don’t know, because that’s when Watchmen cuts to credits.
How HBO’s Watchmen ended the saga, again
Prior to Watchmen’s premiere on HBO, producer Damon Lindelof (previously of Lost and The Leftovers) insisted his Watchmen stands on its own and doesn’t require knowledge of what he calls the “Old Testament” (the comic). But so much of Watchmen is steeped in themes of legacy and inheritance — knowing the original and how it ended enriches the symmetry found in Lindelof’s series.
Like the original Watchmen, the series finale involved 1) the master plan of a raging narcissist, 2) the violent deaths of innocents via alien sea life (“Everyone, and everything, within five square blocks is about to be obliterated,” Ozymandias says), and 3) the “disappearance” of Doctor Manhattan.
True to what Lindelof promised, his Watchmen wasn’t a reboot, but a “remix.” There were twists that kept the show from simply mimicking the comic. Instead of screwing off to space, Doctor Manhattan is now, unequivocally, dead. Ozymandias, who got away with the crime of the millennium, is knocked out and carried away by Laurie and Looking Glass, presumably to finally answer for his crimes of 11/2.
In short, HBO’s Watchmen changed what we thought would be in the end. Ozymandias didn’t see his utopian dream become reality. Laurie and Dan Dreiberg (Nite-Owl II) never lived out their days in secret bliss (where is Dreiderb anyway?). And the publishing of Rorschach’s journal didn’t change the world, it only stoked the ancient fires of racism for white nationalists to continue terrorizing people of color.
When Watchmen published its final issue over 30 years ago, we were left to wonder what shape its world would take. Now, we have an answer.
With Angela possibly inheriting Manhattan’s powers, we’re left to wonder what that will look like. What does it mean for Angela, a black woman in a world inundated by the rage of white men, to have the powers of a god? As the HBO series proved, we can imagine a million stories, but none of it matters, because you can never guess what story Watchmen will tell.
It doesn’t matter if Angela gets Doctor Manhattan’s powers. What matters is that, this is the point where Watchmen ends, and it’s up to the universe (HBO) to decide whether Watchmen should ever continue.
Watchmen has long been subversive as a superhero tale in that it approaches story and structure in the most classic way, with an anarchist’s voice. Just as the comic critiqued mainstream superhero comics, the HBO series comes at a time when superheroes completely dominate media with never-ending sequels, spin-offs, and continuations. Watchmen dares viewers to actually ask themselves, “Is this more of what you want?”
As Lindelof told The Hollywood Reporter:
“I feel that this ending is the closest to Watchmen, based on what you just said. It’s not that it’s not important as to whether Rorschach’s journal is going to get published or not. It’s just that it feels like a good place to end the story. Both stories moving forward are less interesting than ending in that moment of choice. Without demystifying it further, that’s what our math was.”
Is there a Season 2 of Watchmen?
Lindelof has been adamant that Season 2 is unlikely. Due to the monumental work it took to make Season 1 live up to lofty ambitions, not to mention working against the wishes of its fabled creator Alan Moore.
As Lindelof told THR, “I don’t think I’m interested in, nor do I think the audience is interested in, ‘Let’s just do more of the same.’ Because then it wouldn’t be Watchmen. It requires a new idea. Maybe that idea is going to come from someone else. I would welcome that, one hundred percent.”
Of course, just because Lindelof isn’t interested doesn’t mean it won’t happen. After all, the comics didn’t stop when Alan Moore wanted them too, and the show might not either. As long as there’s more money to be made, and (hopefully) an interesting story to tell, Watchmen may continue forever.
Once again, to echo Doctor Manhattan: Although Watchmen is over, and may be forever, nothing ever actually ends.