Is Watchmen's latest grand plan centered around clones instead of a giant transdimensional squid? Over halfway into its first season, the mysteries of HBO's Watchmen series are yet to fully unravel. There are several main players on the board - Adrian Veidt, Lady Trieu, the 7th Kavalry, etc. - but the audience is currently unclear how these seemingly disparate pieces fit together in the grand scheme this Watchmen sequel is building towards.
Watchmen's latest episode, "Little Fear of Lightning," features an opening surprise by putting to film what many (including the director of the 2009 movie adaptation, Zack Snyder) deemed impossible to translate into live-action - the massive comic book squid attacking New York. In a flashback sequence, a young Looking Glass is in New Jersey at the time of the incident but manages to escape unscathed from the squid's psychic blast. The camera then zooms out to reveal the creature itself in all its CGI glory.
Although the specifics remain murky, it's clear that the Watchmen TV series is gradually working towards a second event of even greater magnitude. In every direction there are insidious conspiracies and grand designs in the works, but one common theme throughout Watchmen thus far has been cloning, with genetically engineered human copies appearing in several locations. It seems clear that clones will play a major part in Watchmen's finale somehow, but could they be replacing the giant squid from Ozymandias' original plan? Instead of staging a trans-dimensional attack to unite mankind, will humanity be replaced by clones who are easier to control and less likely to wage war?
Adrian Veidt's Plan Failed
Watchmen has gone to great effort to show how the fate of each main comic character didn't quite turn out as expected, and this is particularly true of Adrian Veidt, otherwise known as Ozymandias. As Veidt reveals in the film shown to Looking Glass in this week's episode, his intention was to drop a squid on New York, cease the hostilities between the United States and Russia, and then unite the entire world in a warm embrace of loving peace. Although the imminent war was averted, the rest of Veidt's plan has gone drastically awry.
Watchmen offers a geographically narrow viewpoint of its alternate take on 2019, but the outcome looks fairly grim nevertheless. Corruption is rife within the police and government, with Senator Joe Keene neck deep in the 7th Kavalry and Lady Trieu able to exert her influence over the city of Tulsa while showing very little regard for either morality or law. "Little Fear of Lightning" even drops a major hint that President Redford may have only been elected thanks to the influence of Veidt himself. Perhaps more concerning than the prevalence of corruption, however, is the burgeoning violence. In Tulsa, racism and white supremacists are apparently thriving, forcing the police into wearing masks to protect their identities. A previous episode confirmed that the mask policy was being considered by forces throughout the U.S., proving that Tulsa is not an isolated case.
Judged on the evidence available, Adrian Veidt's "utopia" has simply not come to pass. His plan in the original Watchmen story was a failure, providing the motivation and impetus for a second, bigger cataclysm. Veidt himself has mentioned having a plan in motion to correct humanity's course, but his current concern is breaking free from the outer space prison he currently resides within. Could there be another character capable of executing an improved version of Veidt's squid scheme?
Cloning Already Exists In Watchmen Thanks To Lady Trieu
Even at this stage, cloning has a major presence in HBO's Watchmen, largely due to the introduction of Lady Trieu, whose very first scene sees her giving an infertile couple a biological child of their own. Exactly how this miracle occurred remains unsaid, with Trieu merely referring the new mother and father to her empire of major pharmaceutical facilities across the county. One such facility is likely to be the animal cloning center Looking Glass' ex-partner works at. A trillionaire who made her money in cutting-edge medicine, Trieu is almost certainly behind the hi-tech cloning facility seen in this week's episode, and conducting public experiments on animals would allow Trieu to carry out human trials behind the scenes without too many questions being asked.
Viewers already have two big clues regarding Lady Trieu's intentions - she can create humans from others' DNA and can probably also clone animals - but the businesswoman's admiration of Adrian Veidt completes the trifecta. Not only did Trieu purchase Veidt's company after his apparent death, but she also has a statue of the former hero in her vivarium. It feels inconceivable that Trieu could have so much influence but not know about Veidt's engineering of the squid attacks. And if she idolizes him so, there's a good chance she might seek to correct his biggest failure - uniting the world with a large-scale disaster.
Strangely, cloning also seems to be a feature of Adrian Veidt's new lifestyle. Last week's episode revealed that Veidt created his servants by fishing babies out of a river and growing them forcefully in some kind of incubation chamber. This be could be an indication that Lady Trieu inherited her cloning tech from buying Veidt's business assets, and that the science originally came from him. After all, the character makes a copy of his own pet lynx in the DC comics. Alternatively, Trieu may be the person responsible for Veidt's imprisonment and the abandoned fetuses are her experimental cast-offs, which would also account for why Veidt's homegrown clones are imperfect. Then there's the theory that Veidt himself is a clone, based on the strange birthday cakes he's routinely presented and the fact that everyone else believes he's dead. Whatever the case, it's clear that cloning is at the forefront of Trieu's plan, although, for Veidt, it might just be a means to an end.
Is Doctor Manhattan Involved?
The mysterious Dr. Manhattan has yet to properly appear in HBO's Watchmen but the information revealed so far points to the dildo-inspiring superhero being heavily involved in whatever plot is currently afoot. In Watchmen's premiere episode, Dr. Manhattan can be seen on Mars and appears to be constructing the manor in which Adrian Veidt is imprisoned. More recently, Veidt's servant clones and the enigmatic Game Keeper claim "our God has left us and it's unlikely he'll return" which could certainly be an allusion to Dr. Manhattan, especially now Veidt is confirmed to be trapped in space.
Manhattan's involvement in Veidt's incarceration could connect the super-powered being to Lady Trieu. In the original Watchmen comics, Dr. Manhattan has the opportunity to punish Veidt and elects not to; why would he decide to do so over 30 years later if not at the behest of another. Furthermore, Dr. Manhattan has already demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice a certain percentage of the population for the supposed greater good, and there's nothing to suggest he wouldn't do so again.
It's perhaps also worth noting that Manhattan might be the very reason Veidt and Trieu can make clones in the first place. The full powers of the character remain uncertain and when Dr. Manhattan leaves at the end of the Watchmen comics, he claims to be trying to make a new form of life elsewhere in the galaxy. Perhaps the good doctor has decided that there's no place like home for that experiment to happen and that by replacing a certain amount of humanity (or even all of it) with hand-made clones, the species will be more docile and peaceful.
Watchmen continues with "This Extraordinary Being" November 24th on HBO.