Warning: If you have not seen the fifth episode of HBO’s Watchmen, spoilers for that episode are discussed below. This post has been updated with new quotes from Damon Lindelof regarding revelations in Episode 5.
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 exactly, 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. Lindelof went on to reveal to us that each time we see Adrian Veidt, a year has passed since the last time we saw him:
“What we’re learning about Adrian Veidt is that every installment that we get of the nine episodes, there’s only one episode where you don’t get a Veidt installment — the storytelling, he didn’t fit in there — but every other one you get [one]. And a year lapses in between each episode. It’s a story told on a very, very large canvas, each installment taking place on another anniversary of another year that he has spent wherever the hell he’s spending [it].”
Additionally, Episode 5 of the series finally saw Adrian get beyond whatever forcefield has been holding him in, and we saw him reach outer space. He appeared to be on a moon of sort, and not Mars as many previously suspected. Lindelof confirmed to us exactly where Adrian Veidt is being held captive, and why he chose that location:
“I think that if Adrian Veidt is trying to escape from prison, that’s not a good challenge for him. He’s going to do that very easily — there’s no prison that’s going to hold Adrian Veidt, unless that prison is on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Then it might be a little more challenging. I kind of felt like, if we’re going to lock this guy up somewhere—and by Episode 5 we still don’t know who locked him up and why—it’s gonna have to be quite an overwhelming challenge for him to escape, so that felt like this was a good place to put him and throw away the key.”
The assumption is still that it was Doctor Manhattan who put Adrian in this Europa prison, but the show hasn’t quite confirmed that just yet. But given all the information we’ve learned, and what Lindelof revealed to Collider, we can reasonably assume that the next time we pick up with Veidt, it’ll have been a year since he sent an S.O.S. to Earth’s satellite. Will help have arrived by then? We’ll find out soon enough as the best darn show on television continues.