You could start anywhere, really. You could start your discussion about Watchmen with any spot in the HBO show’s first — and probably only? — season. You could start at the beginning, with the depiction of the Black Wall Street attack and the tone that set going forward, how it draped a filter of race and injustice over all the proceedings. You could start with Angela’s grandfather being the assumed-white masked vigilante Hooded Justice, the most consequential reveal in a series stuffed with them, or with the love story between Angela and Jon. You could even, if you want to try the Dr. Manhattan thing, start everywhere all at once, covering all of that and Lube Man and frozen squidlings raining from heaven like heavy artillery. The options are almost limitless.
I am not a blue god, though. If I’m being honest, most days I shoot for “about 80-85 percent of a regular person” on the productivity scale. I’m going to start in one place. I’m going to start with the end.
There are exactly two things that could have happened when the screen cut to black after Angela stepped out onto the water. The first is the most fun and most probable, I think: that she lands on top of it and remains upright, the power of the Dr. Manhattan egg coursing through her veins as she realizes she has also become a god among humans, the ability to right wrongs and stop wrongdoers now at her glowing fingertips. That would be cool. I would very much enjoy the concept of a superhuman Regina King saving the world over and over from her home base of Oklahoma. I would watch that show as soon as right now.
The second possibility is that the egg she ate raw like a boxer from the 1940s was just a plain raw egg and, one second after the screen cut to black, she flopped into the swimming pool in her clothes, gagging on both the taste of a raw egg and the realization that she just slurped it down like a maniac for nothing but a shot of protein. That would be hilarious. I kind of wish the show had done it, now that I think about it. Like, cut to black when her foot touches the water, start the credits, let the ambiguity hang in the air for maybe 10-15 seconds, then blammo, splashdown, the full-on Cam In Halt And Catch Fire flail.
The thing is, it almost doesn’t matter which thing actually happened. At least not right now, today, with creator Damon Lindelof saying he’s done and no firm plans from HBO to continue with a new showrunner. It could matter very much if the show goes on, and it could work either way. (Option 1 — Regina King is a neon blue time-hopping deity; Option 2 — Regina King is still Sister Night but has learned again that there are no shortcuts to real justice.) But if this is really all we’ll ever get from this iteration of Watchmen, it was worth it just for the ride.
Think back on everything that happened over the show’s nine episodes. Think about the first eight, especially, before the payoff really started paying off. What a blast that was, right? What a fun and deep and silly and profound viewing experience it all was, even for me, someone who never read the comics and was familiar with the Watchmen story up to and including the level of “brief Google search.” In hindsight, I’m glad I went into it all mostly blind. It meant I spent less time hunting for Easter eggs and callbacks and more time just immersing myself in that world, a world where masked police officers and a brilliant man who very recently lived on a moon in outer space teamed up to stop that man’s biological daughter and a crew of racists led by Bob Benson from Mad Men from acquiring a near-unlimited amount of power. It’s incredible all of this worked.
(A heartfelt shoutout to James Wolk, an absolute icon of the Peak TV era. Look at his credits: Bob Benson on Mad Men; rogue zoologist Jackson Oz on my beloved Zoo, a show in which he once slapped a four-star general while demanding to know the location of a demon mutant sloth; a loosely-fictionalized version of Elon Musk on Billions who died in a rocket explosion; and now a racist senator on Watchmen who said the phrase “squid pro quo” and later died in a science mishap that left his body a puddle of goo.)
(More like Blob Benson.)
It’s also incredible how deeply human and thoughtful it was, given… well, given everything that happened. The show took an unblinking look at race in America and the consequences of hundreds of years of policy that got us here. There was a touching love story that ended with tragedy and hope. There was an evil narcissist saving the day with, again, frozen squid projectiles from the sky. The show was a whole lot — an almost reckless amount — from the very beginning right up to the very end.
And maybe that should be the takeaway from Watchmen. Maybe we should look at the experience as a whole, the fun we all had on the journey, the almost limitless list of questions raised by the first few episodes that slowly got answered as the show progressed. (Not all of the questions, though. I still want to know more about the Panda Cop and why his mask is so dirty. Someone get Panda a new mask. Come on. Sister Night has all those gadgets. It’s only fair.) In this view, my view, there’s no need to know what happens next. Anything could happen. Life very rarely gives you a nice, clean ending. Things just stop where they stop. And when they do, your best option is to look back at everything that got you there, all the twists and turns and Lube Men (this last one applies more to the show than you, probably, but still), and appreciate the ride itself. That’s the point.
Watchmen was a heck of a ride.