Caution: Spoilers ahead for Watchmen
HBO's Watchmen has finally arrived, and there's plenty to theorize regarding Jeremy Irons' enigmatic Ozymandias. In the original Watchmen comics by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Ozymandias is one of the story's core group of retired vigilantes whose true identity, Adrian Veidt, is known to the public. After hanging up his cape, Veidt used his status as one of the most intelligent men alive to build a business empire, but was secretly plotting to trigger a worldwide conspiracy.
Veidt believed drastic action was required to avoid the extinction of mankind and used his considerable wealth to genetically engineer a giant squid-like creature to attack Earth, pare down humanity's numbers a little and provide a common enemy for those remaining to unite against. While some of Veidt's former colleagues find his willingness to sacrifice millions of lives deplorable, others understood his "greater good" philosophy and, regardless of any moral qualms, Veidt's plan was executed.
The new Watchmen TV series has been deliberately vague about the identity of the character played by Jeremy Irons, but it has been widely reported that the veteran actor is an older version of Ozymandias. There are numerous similarities and teases to corroborate this suggestion, and a trailer from HBO accidentally referred to Irons' character by name in its subtitles. Still, there is no explicit on-screen confirmation of the character's identity in the Watchmen series premiere, and the closing credits list actor names only. Fortunately, there's enough of this mystery figure in the debut episode to begin to form some intriguing theories about Ozymandias' potential role in the new Watchmen story.
What We Know About Ozymandias In Watchmen So Far
As far as the world of Watchmen is concerned, Adrian Veidt is officially deceased. This was already confirmed in a promo trailer, but is reiterated in a brief shot of a newspaper headline during the opening episode. Of course, for a man who masterminded a conspiracy involving a supposedly trans-dimensional squid, faking one's death shouldn't be much trouble, and there are countless connections between Ozymandias and Jeremy Irons' Watchmen figure - the obvious wealth, the cake's colors, the talk of correcting the course of humanity, etc.
It's also clear that Ozymandias' grand plan from the original Watchmen story is still having a considerable impact in the present day. While Regina King's Angela is driving her son home from school, a siren begins wailing and a rainfall of miniature squid hammers down onto the road below. There's also a reference to "trans-dimensional attacks" in plural during the interrogation sequence between Sister Night and a member of the Seventh Kavalry. Dead or not, Ozymandias has obviously arranged for some follow-up to his original attack, likely in order to keep the population on their toes and maintain the pretense that mankind is under threat from strange monsters.
Apparently, most of the population has fallen for this deception. A conspiracy does exist which attributes the squids to an orchestrated campaign by the U.S. government, but this is largely treated with the same credibility as the moon landing hoax and The Beatles replacing Paul McCartney with a lookalike, and appears to be mostly supported by white supremacists. No one suspects Ozymandias' involvement, nor does anyone of import appear to take the conspiracy seriously.
Ozymandias Has Managed To Clone Himself
While there's a very strong chance that Jeremy Irons is playing Ozymandias in Watchmen, he might not be playing the original article. In Watchmen's premiere episode, Veidt appears to be enjoying life in his stately home with a small gaggle of servants to help around the house, but something is distinctly off about his domestic staff. Most prominently, the butler hands his master a horseshoe instead of a knife, as if it's the most natural thing in the world. Veidt's reaction isn't one of a man whose butler has suddenly forgotten what cutlery is, but more of a scientist whose robot is experiencing a malfunction.
While robots might be a little outside of Watchmen's remit, there is a precedent for cloning in the comic books. Veidt has already genetically crafted the squid used in the original New York "invasion" so has evidently made progress in creating artificial life forms. In addition to that feat of biology, Ozymandias' pet lynx, Bubastis, underwent mutations at his master's hand but, more importantly, the original creature was cloned after being killed, and Bubastis II appeared in the Watchmen sequel comic, Doomsday Clock. Given his rate of advancement in the field, human cloning might not be too far away for Ozymandias come 2019.
And if the servants are imperfect prototypes from such experiments, the Ozymandias features in Watchmen's premiere episode could be the first truly successful subject. This theory would help to explain several strange occurrences surrounding Veidt. The world believes the man has died because the real Veidt did, the butler refers to Veidt's "anniversary" rather than his "birthday" and there's only a single candle on the cake as if to commemorate one year of creation, and Veidt can sit in a chair naked getting massaged because he's free of human inhibitions (although the original Ozymandias certainly might've done something similar given his gargantuan ego).
What Is Ozymandias' Latest Grand Plan?
Aside from being a comic book supervillain, what motivation would Ozymandias have to clone himself? Eternal life is a possibility, but a little cliche for a series as unconventional as Watchmen. The overriding suggestion is that Veidt has another major scheme in the works. Despite dropping a squid from another dimension onto the world, mankind has not united in the way Ozymandias might've hoped, with violence and division still rife just within the city of Tulsa. How much worse might things have become on an international scale?
With his original plan on life support, Ozymandias has two choices: give up and accept humanity's inherent flaws, or come up with a second attempt to correct the species' course. Undoubtedly, Ozymandias would choose the latter. Cloning could either be a vital cog in that very plan, or simply a way of extending his own life long enough to carry out whatever mad designs have been concocted this time. The promo aired following Watchmen's season premiere sees Irons' character claim that the only way to "stave off mankind's extinction" is through fear, and the man is seen fiddling with a number of fantastical contraptions.
How, exactly, might Veidt scare humanity more than he did with a giant squid from another world? If fear is the key, cloning feels more like a means to an end, rather than the goal itself, but there are a number of potential clues in the plot of the Watchmen premiere as to what the true aim might be. Veidt's story currently feels very detached from the main narrative, in which police and masked vigilantes are rallying against the reemergence of a white supremacist group called the Seventh Kavalry.
However, it's clear that this group are driven by some unknown force from the shadows and are propagating the belief that the dimensional attacks are fake. If Veidt has found that aliens are unable to stoke the required sense of fear within humanity, perhaps he's resolved to use man against itself, and is somehow connected to the racist group as part of a bigger campaign to pit man against man. This might explain why the Kavalary so passionately believe Rorschach's journal, but why they pin blame on the government, rather than Veidt - because Veidt himself is feeding them information.
Watchmen continues with "Martial Feats Of Comanche Horsemanship" October 27th on HBO.