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There was just the tiniest bit of trepidation leading into the Watchmen finale. Would the show, which had so far exceeded all expectations, stick the landing? Thankfully, the answer is yes. On one hand, “See How They Fly” the season (and perhaps series?) finale of the show is almost too simple in its approach. After week after week of jaw-dropping, mind-blowing episodes that bucked typical TV tradition, the finale unfolds in a fairly straightforward manner.
It’s almost as if after weeks of impossible highs we’re not forced to come back down. But that doesn’t make the episode any less satisfying. There’s some question about whether or not the series will return for a second season at all. If it doesn’t, we can rest comfortably knowing that the show beat the odds, stuck its landing, and delivered the very best TV of the year.
A Worthy Adversary
The strange saga of Adrian Veidt has confused viewers through this entire season, but it all comes together – at last. Did you guess that Lady Trieu was secretly Adrian’s daughter? Congrats, you were correct! In the 1980s – in fact, in 1985, the day before the squid attack – Trieu’s mother Bian snuck into Adrian’s office, stole some of the sperm he’s kept on hand, and impregnated herself.
Despite being the smartest man in the world, Adrian had no knowledge of this – until 2008, when Trieu came calling on him with a grand plan. She was going to succeed where her father failed and fix the world. Her solution: kill Dr. Manhattan and absorb his powers. Yes, it’s the same exact plan that the Seventh Kavalry wants to enact in 2019, but it looks like Trieu got there first. But to make this plan happen, she would like a very hefty loan from her father. But Adrian is untouched and unmoved, and flat-out turns her down.
Of course, things change. During their meeting, Trieu just happens to mention she has a space probe set to fly by Europa at a specific time and date with the hopes of catching a glimpse of Dr. Manhattan. The moment she says this, it’s easy to figure out where this is going. That probe is the one Adrian signaled to by spelling out SAVE ME with the corpses of his many, many dead servants. And now we get the full message: SAVE ME, DAUGHTER.
And so it goes. After seven years of captivity in Europa, Adrian’s freedom is at hand when Trieu sends a ship his way. His escape is briefly hindered by the Game Warden, but Adrian is able to get the upper hand rather easily. And we learn that all of this has been more or less staged by Adrian for his own amusement. He knew he had years to kill before his rescue, and so he hoped to concoct himself a worthy adversary to pass the time. Sadly, the Game Warden wasn’t up to the task.
As it turns out, Adrian has been back on Earth for a while. In fact, he’s been right in front of our eyes – in gold. In order to help Adrian survive the trip through space, Trieu whips up a device that encases her pop in solid gold, effectively turning him into a statue – the same statue we’ve seen in Trieu’s garden several times. And now, with her big plan about to unfold, it’s time to thaw him out. Welcome back, Adrian.
Every Moment We Were Together, All At Once
Last week’s episode gave off serious “The Constant” vibes, recalling what might be Lost‘s best episode. That said, while the romance between Jon/Cal/Dr. Manhattan and Angela was handled nicely, I didn’t quite buy it the way I did the love between Lost‘s Desmond and Penny. This week underscores things just a bit better with one key scene: Dr. Manhattan is on the verge of dying, with a far-away look in his eyes. “Where are you?” Angela asks, pained. “I’m in every moment we were together, all at once,” the blue god replies, and we get silent flashes of Angela and Cal happily together. It works incredibly well.
Manhattan finds himself imprisoned by the 7K, who have built a big, Manhattan-proof cage out of melted-down batteries. He can’t escape, and the cage is messing with his mind. And Joe Keene – who drops any pretense of pretending he’s not racist and launches into a speech about how he’s sick and tired of having to apologize for being white – is all set to absorb Manhattan’s powers and become him, all in front of an audience of 7K/Cyclops members.
But things don’t go exactly as planned. For one thing, Looking Glass has infiltrated the group, wearing a 7K mask. He and the still-captive Laurie Blake are off to the side, trying to figure out what to do. For another, Angela shows up and tries to stop everything, insisting that Lady Trieu is onto these racist goons and has a plan of her own.
But Keene doesn’t care. He steps into a chamber and prepares to become a god. And then it all goes to hell. Lady Trieu is able to teleport the entire room right to the center of the town. The exact spot of the Tulsa Massacre, where this entire season (and story) began. And since Keene is an amateur who has no idea what he’s doing, his plans to absorb Manhattan’s power don’t work out. The result: the Senator is turned into a huge puddle of bloody goo. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
With Keene out of the way, Lady Trieu reveals she struck a deal with Will to kill the 7K, and that’s exactly what she does, evaporating them into dust. And it’s oh so satisfying. The way Trieu is handled in this episode is brilliant – Hong Chau’s performance sells her as both someone to root for and someone to be afraid of. As Adrian explains, she’s a raging narcissist – like father, like daughter. And he doesn’t buy that she wants to use Manhattan’s powers for good.
A series of whiplash-inducing moments follow. First, Manhattan is able to transport Adrian, Laurie, and Looking Glass back to Adrian’s old home in Antarctica. There, Adrian cooks up a plan to stop Trieu by freezing the baby squid rain and dropping it directly on her. And it works! Just as Trieu is activating her Millennium Clock to become the new Dr. Manhattan, down comes the ice rain, destroying the clock and causing it to drop directly onto her. But not before she’s killed Dr. Manhattan, much to Angela’s horror.
With the ice squid still smashing into things, Angela escapes into a nearby theater – the same theater we saw young Will Reeves sitting in back in the very first episode. Everything comes full circle, because the old Will is there now, and grandfather and granddaughter sit down together and have a heart-to-heart. As Will tells it, Dr. Manhattan knew he was going to die and went through with things anyway. And then comes the most important exchange of the entire season. Discussing costumed crime-fighting, Will asks Angela if she knew how he felt when he put on his mask to become Hooded Justice. She says anger, but Will corrects her. It wasn’t anger, it was fear – and pain.
“You can’t heal under a mask,” he tells her. “Wounds need air.”
The Chicken or the Egg
Watchmen still has one last trick up its sleeve, and it might be the best one yet. The battle won, the bad guys vanquished, Angela and Will retire to Angela’s home. Meanwhile, in Antarctica, Laurie has decided to do the right thing and arrest Adrian for murdering six million people back in 1985, and Looking Glass is there to help. This is the only moment of the episode that doesn’t quite work. While Laurie and Looking Glass work well together, I don’t quite buy the way this moment unfolds, with Laurie deciding to finally, after all these years, turn Adrian in. Adrian doesn’t buy it either, but Laurie shrugs it off by saying: “People change.” It’s just a little too simple, and a little too neat.
While this moment doesn’t entirely work, what happens next does. Back at home, Angela cleans up – and finds the carton of eggs she knocked to the floor as Manhattan was floating it around in an attempt to make waffles. All the eggs are smashed – save one. A memory is triggered: Angela and Manhattan’s first encounter, and Manhattan telling her that if he transferred his particles into the egg and someone – like Angela – were to consume it, that person could then absorb Manhattan’s powers.
“It’s important for you to see me on the pool,” Manhattan told her last week. Angela steps outside into the morning air. Everything is clear. She cracks the egg and downs it like a shot. The water in her pool ripples ever so slightly as she stands at the edge, one foot hovering, ready to step. Ready to sink – or walk on water. Does she plunge into the pool – or step out like a newly formed diety? For the time being, the answer is up to you.
- Uh, excuse me, Watchmen. What the hell happened to Lube Man? This episode gives us zero Lube Man answers. But, if you pay attention to Peteypedia, the official supplementary material HBO has been releasing for the show, it’s heavily implied that the mysterious figure is FBI Agent Dale Petey.
- Another unanswered question: what the hell was up with the elephant that Angela found two episodes ago? While I think this is a highly satisfying episode, it’s a little mind-boggling to me that they didn’t bother to address that at all. Oh well.
- Although this episode ends with room for a second season, I’d be fine without one happening. I kind of love the idea of this being one self-contained, conclusive story.
- …that said, when and if the show returns, I’ll be more than thrilled to watch more of it.
- Looking Glass immediately throwing up every time he’s teleported got a laugh out of me each time.
- I feel kind of bad for Bian. She puts the pieces together to learn she’s a clone, only to then watch her mother/daughter die. Bummer. Wonder what will happen to her next.
- Jeremy Irons is so good at making Adrian likable, even though he’s a mass-murdering mad man.
- And that’s it for Watchmen season 1! If you stuck with these review-recaps the entire season, thanks! See you next season, maybe? Who knows!
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CS Scene of the Week: Lyra leads the resistance in His Dark Materials
Welcome to ComingSoon.net’s CS Scene of the Week column where we dive into the best scenes and performances television has to offer. For the week of December 2 to December 8, Lyra (Dafne Keen) completed the first part of her mission by saving Roger (Lewin Lloyd) and freeing the other kidnapped children with the help of Lee (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Iorek (Joe Tandberg), the Gyptians, and even the witch Serafina (Ruta Gedmintas) in the bittersweet sixth episode of HBO’s His Dark Materials.
MVP of the Week
Episode 5 of His Dark Materials ended on a dark note with a heart-wrenching funeral, complete with a hauntingly beautiful dirge, for Billy Costa (Tyler Howitt), who was stolen along with the other Gyptian children and served as a major catalyst for the story. The young boy ended up having his daemon cruelly severed from him before dying in front of his mother and brother after escaping from the research facility Bolvangar and being found by Lyra.
After the dark conclusion to Billy’s story and Lyra’s own sudden kidnapping at the end of the fifth episode, Episode 6, titled “The Daemon-Cages,” sees Lyra in the belly of the beast at Bolvangar where the missing children are being kept and experimented on. Essentially, on behalf of Lyra’s mother, Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson), they are attempting to successfully remove daemons from humans in order to “free” them from “sin,” and, naturally, children serve as more viable test subjects. However, Mrs. Coulter stops the process from happening to Lyra when Pan (Kit Connor) is nearly severed from her. Lyra sees right through her mother who attempts to emotionally connect with Lyra, while also arguably taking more of an interest in Lyra’s possession of an alethiometer than reuniting with her own daughter who nearly experienced a traumatizing procedure.
After fully rejecting her mother and her absurd plans to rid people of “sin” by separating the essential connections to their daemons and basically turning them into nearly emotionless zombies (akin to the removal of their very souls), Lyra leads the charge in freeing the children as she sets her plan into motion, and kicking off our scene of the week. The Gyptians, Lee, Iorek, and Serafina arrive to fight the Tartars guarding Bolvangar as well as the scientists, while Lyra and Pan destroy the machine that has been used to carry out Mrs. Coulter’s heinous experiments, culminating in an exciting and thrilling sequence that gives our heroes their first big win against their many enemies. Lyra and Pan can now focus on the next part of her mission, saving her father, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), from captivity with the help of Lee, Roger, Serafina, and Iorek, while the Gyptians return the saved children — some with uncertain future without their daemons — home.
Runner-Up of the Week
Prodigal Son is one of the best new shows on TV, led by The Walking Dead alum Tom Payne who stars as tormented criminal psychologist Malcolm Bright, who happens to be the son of infamous serial killer Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), aka “The Surgeon.” In the midseason finale of the FOX series, titled “Silent Night,” Malcolm finds himself in a house of horrors as he and Detective Owen Shannon (guest star Sean Pertwee) close in on an old friend and serial-killing protege of Martin, Paul Lazar (Terriers star Michael-Raymond Jones) who believes his killings are part of a “God-given mission to clean up the streets.”
Paul also plays a key part in Malcolm’s childhood as the criminal psychologist has been painstakingly trying to piece together repressed memories and flashbacks of a camping trip he went on with his father and Paul when he was younger and how that (and a seemingly horrific event he can’t remember) is connected to the mystery of the girl in the box Malcolm saw as a kid. After discovering Paul’s true identity, John Watkins, and inviting themselves over to the Watkins’ residence where Paul’s mother still lives, the ending of the episode escalates as Malcolm realizes the killer is still in the house, has slit Det. Shannon’s throat, and is now hunting for Malcolm while being cheered on by his just as disturbing mother who isn’t as sweet as she first appeared.
The episode ends on a serious cliffhanger, our runner-up scene of the week, with a terrified Malcolm being knocked out by Paul and experiencing another flashback featuring the man telling a young Malcolm a mysterious secret and all about the importance of having a good knife close by because “you never know when it’ll come in handy.” Paul ends up dragging Malcolm’s unconscious body away, and viewers are left with the knowledge that our complex and lovable antagonist has now been taken by a vicious serial killer from Malcolm’s past who will undoubtedly physically and psychologically torture poor Malcolm in a secluded area — and possibly finally give us some answers about the infamous camping trip — where Paul promises no one will ever find them when the series returns on January 20, 2020.
What did you think of our CS Scene of the Week choices? Are there other television scenes from last week you feel deserve a shout-out? Sound off in the comments below!