"Watchmen" S1E4: Rewriting Legacy
How to spin a universally known narrative anew? Watchmen takes the narrative of the first superhero and gives it a new spin. A spin that can affect the entire discourse of the story; I am enjoying it! The episode was about the cycle of life and literally opens with the hatching egg imagery! And it also replants the question: how far would one go to accomplish their desires? This was also a very balanced episode that gave each individual narrative an equal time-space continuum.
Lady Trieu (pronounced "True"), the trillionaire obsessed with time has finally arrived, and with her comes bag of complications that I would love to try to nitpick without spoiling. Her name is derived from a third-century Vietnamese Warrior, who resisted the Chinese state of Eastern Wu. Vietnam of the Watchmen Universe is part of the U.S., so it’s interesting to see the richest person in the world at the moment comes from a former communist nation! She surrounds herself with elephant motif objects and attires in Vietnamese garments, and has built herself a vivarium similar to Veidt's in the comics. Her vivarium is like a pocket Vietnam because she promised her mother she would never leave her country, now the 52nd state of the USA. She also has the personality that would rival Lex Luthor: ruthless businessperson, clarity of vision, and with a grand plan of future. We most probably have the series Antagonist here.
Since this episode parallels the narrative of the Man of Steel, let's talk about Cal aka Calvin Abar; Cal is phonetically similar to that of Kal-El! And he is definitely attractive because Laurie can’t keep her eyes off him. Cal also has a very pragmatic approach to life; while his youngest daughter is upset that their uncle Judd is not going to heaven, instead of consoling the child Cal introduces the girl to the notion of nothingness! He is calm and planned, and reads Chinua Achebe, (the episode title is taken from the novel Things Fall Apart). Cal is the polar opposite to Angela’s hotheadedness, which reminds of a certain couple from the comic. There is also a certain mystery about his accident in Vietnam where he met Angela. If the fan theories about Cal being the blue man on Mars and Will’s constant emphasis on Dr Manhattan being able to clone and change his appearance is proven true, Cal might be our Dr Manhattan in disguise for all we know! Because like Superman in the DCU, Dr Manhattan is the strongest being in this universe.
Adrian Veidt, now in the fourth year of his captivity, proves my concern true about his maids and butlers: they are indeed clones growing in a swamp! Poor things are indeed dumb, though they are made in man’s image, they are bereft of any free will or fear of death, both crucial for evolution! For reasons unknown, the swamp also reminded me of the elaborate womb scanner from the opening scenes of Man of Steel. Adrian has also murdered his entire staff; according to him he got carried away, but I feel he did so to use their skin to make a thicker suit because he was unable to use the skin of the buffalo he killed in episode three.
Will the old man is back and we find out more about him; his history hints more and more towards the confirmation of his identity as Hooded Justice. I would’ve loved to learn more of his grand plan but we do know now who helped him fly in the sky and how. Pete Laurie’s assistant proves to be a big history nerd, while Laurie uses her own traumatic past to connect with Angela. She ends up reducing all the masked vigilantes to their personal trauma; technically Batman is the best example of this anecdote. Angela still proves to be a tough nut to be cracked by Laurie, but she is definitely getting under Angela's skin and this irritation is not helping Angela's generally careful personality.
Fertility, death, and legacy are core themes of this episode: the Clarks, a childless farmer couple, sell eggs on their farm; we have a man running in shiny costume that makes him look like a sperm on the run; Cal makes eggs for the children while he explains nothingness; Lady Trieu uses seed metaphors to explain her business model; and Angela uses an acorn to study about her heritage.
It is also interesting to see the clash of cultural ideologies. Trieu is a woman who looks forward to the future and has a strong connection to her past. She cares and remembers and believes legacy is passed down through blood and pays respect to her elders by erecting a life-size statue of Veidt showing his actual age. Though never explicitly said, Angela is not interested in the past much and legacy is not her concern either as she loses the Nazi Pamphlet from the first episode. Laurie, on the other hand, has dropped her mother’s surname and picked her biological father’s moniker; history to her is a loop of human stupidity. Though each woman in the story so far is a product of collective violence not of their own making—war, race crime and sexual abuse— their reactions have chosen different modes of channels.
My final question is: what landed on that farm? Is it Dr Manhattan? Is it Adrian Veidt? Or has the baby from Krypton finally arrived?
Man of Steel (2013)
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe