Warning: If you have not seen the third episode of HBO’s Watchmen, spoilers for that episode are discussed below.
One of the major questions going into Damon Lindelof’s new version of Watchmen on HBO was how the series would handle iconic characters from the original graphic novel. The Lost co-creator previously described his take on Watchmen as a “remix,” taking place in the same world that the graphic novel took place in, but focusing on different characters in a different time period. Indeed. HBO’s Watchmen is set decades after the end of the graphic novel, and follows up on that book’s events in ways both brilliant and subtle.
One unsubtle nod to the comics, however, comes in a mysterious character played by Jeremy Irons, who everyone pretty much assumed was playing Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias from the graphic novel. The show’s first three episodes had these little interludes set far away from the main setting of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which we watched Irons’ character do odd things in a manor seemingly somewhere in England.
We learned in Episode 3 that Irons is indeed playing Adrian Veidt, who in HBO’s Watchmen universe has recently been declared dead after having gone missing some time before. We also learned that he is a captive of some sort, and has with him multiple versions of the same organic beings—Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) and Mrs. Crookshanks (Sara Vickers). Are they clones? Robots? We don’t know, but we do know they’re fairly rudimentary and are basically used as puppets by Veidt.
Speaking with Collider, Lindelof shed a bit of light on the show’s portrayal of Veidt while still keeping things close to the vest. Most strikingly, Lindelof reveals how he approached this version of Veidt, and compares the character’s current situation to that of cartoon character Wile E. Coyote:
“Adrian Veidt is a character that I’m obsessed with and I was very compelled to wonder what happens to the Smartest Man in the World after he saves it. What’s your follow up act? More importantly, how do you deal with the frustration of ‘I saved the world but I can’t tell anybody that I saved the world.’ What situation do you put him in that it would be really interesting to watch him get himself out of, so the obvious idea that occurred to us was that he was under house arrest of some kind. We don’t know exactly how he came to be in this house or who his jailer is entirely at this point, but the idea is doing an escape story with Adrian Veidt that’s more like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner than it was like Escape from Alcatraz, that felt too delicious to not do.”
Indeed, the Veidt scenes are kind of like comic relief within each episode, and Irons appears to be having a blast with this character. While the specific details of his circumstance have not yet been revealed, I think Episode 3 gave us a big clue.
We watched as Veidt created a suit for Mr. Phillips and launched him… somewhere. Then we saw the aftermath, as Phillips had been frozen to death, his suit seemingly not tightly contained enough. This seems to suggest that despite the English countryside setting on the ground, Veidt wants to venture into space. We also know that he’s being watched over by a game warden, and is described as being held captive.
So here’s my guess: Veidt isn’t in Europe. He’s on Mars, being held prisoner by Doctor Manhattan, who is a looming presence within the series. In the pilot, we briefly saw news footage of Doctor Manhattan on Mars building what looked mighty similar to Veidt’s manor, and the key to his escape appears to be the ability to survive the elements of space. Why is Veidt a prisoner and how did he get to Mars? That much is unclear, but at the end of the Watchmen graphic novel, Doctor Manhattan allowed Veidt to follow through with his plan to save the world by sacrificing millions of lives, so Manhattan is one of the few who truly knows Veidt’s secret.
Whatever the case, Watchmen continues to be the most entertaining and most engrossing show on television right now, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what future episodes hold.