Review: Watchmen’s Finale Avoids Answering its Own Questions

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I had my reservations about how vaguely Angela’s character was drawn in my original review, and after the Cal revelation, the problem grew even worse: Angela’s interior life had been kept a secret for most of the show, and was only exposed to us at a moment of terrible rupture and change. Their marriage, which was the site of their becoming, their deep attachment, is hidden from our view. I struggled to believe their romance, even as it became the biggest story of the show.

And in the final moments of the finale, hours after Manhattan is horribly killed, Angela devours a raw egg which, she suspects, might hold his godlike powers. I was surprised by her enthusiasm to follow in his footsteps—and found that I could not really identify Angela’s character traits enough to know what she believes about wielding absolute power, or how she would carry the grief of losing her husband, or how she would feel about experiencing time all at once (which might make intimacy difficult with her children, for example).

The show has conflated Angela’s emotions with the racial injustice it investigates—most notably, in the episode where she overdoses on Nostalgia and learns her grandfather’s memories. But the Manhattan revelation backgrounds the show’s retelling of history—in favor of centering the technicalities of Manhattan’s powers in particular and the merits of absolute power, in general. As a result, the finale magnifies the season’s flaws, delivering a clever conclusion that is heavy on bells and whistles (Peteypedia is, by the way, amazing) but struggles to amount to anything.

The finale featured the showdown over Dr. Manhattan’s powers, which technology turned into a coveted and harvestable resource. Senator Keene (James Wolk) wants to use it to re-establish white supremacy, with the help of the Seventh Calvary. Lady Trieu—who we find out, was conceived via a tube of Veidt’s sperm and an inseminator while her mother quoted the original Lady Trieu—says that she wants to create the just world that Manhattan couldn’t or wouldn’t.

There are compelling reasons for neither Keene nor Trieu people to be all-powerful and blue—there is a compelling argument, in fact, for no one to be all-powerful and blue. But what frustrates about this ending is how Watchmen recuses itself from actually making any of the arguments, tweaking the questions without answering them. The show has been about racial justice, but in the finale, it’s unclear if Trieu’s execution of the leadership of the Seventh Cavalry counts as justice. Trieu does the execution at Reeves’ behest, which complicates her act even further; at the end of the episode, Reeves reminds his granddaughter Angela that her recently vaporized husband didn’t do enough for racial justice. The show seems to end with cynicism towards superheroes and despair at ever finding justice. But it also ends with Veidt in the custody of the federal government and Angela on the brink of full godlike power. I appreciate that Watchmen had a great sense of humor about itself, as evidenced by the enthusiasm with which it made jokes about Manhattan’s large blue member. A story with this many twists should be a fun, over-the-top ride. But some of the finale’s decisions suggest a Watchmen that doesn’t quite know what to do with the serious topics it has introduced, and so leaves them unresolved.

Watchmen, the comic, does not have a hero. Each character has their failings and strengths, and each has to face a crisis that remakes or destroys them. But Watchmen, the TV show, has always had a hero in Angela, who is a vaguely sketched character precisely because of how much the show wants the audience to like her energy and spirit, without looking too closely at the state-sanctioned beatings she deals out, or the secrets she keeps for most of the show. My frustration with Watchmen is that I don’t believe she eats the egg because she wants to. She eats the egg because we want her to eat the egg. Because, despite Watchmen’s insistence in every other corner that powerful heroes are bad for society, be they Adrian Veidt or Lady Trieu, the show still yearns, on some level, for King’s Sister Night to save this world. The show’s details don’t always align, which is frustrating, and the comic’s world doesn’t really make space for heroes, which is dispiriting. But even when the vision had flaws, creating a heroine out of Angela Abar is a beautiful dream to have dreamed.

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