If you’ve been keeping up with HBO’s Watchmen, chances are that at some point, you’ve been deeply confused. From raining squids to a lake of clone babies and all the extra-dimensional anxiety in between, showrunner Damon Lindelof and his team of writers have answered questions with more questions at nearly every turn. (Not that this is a surprise. This is, after all, the same man who had a hand in creating the Smoke Monster and the Others in Lost.)
In this past week’s episode, “This Extraordinary Being,” the mystery box was opened at last, as questions that had stemmed all the way back to the series’ cold open during the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 were finally resolved. The sixth episode’s big reveal of Hooded Justice’s secret identity as Will Reeves made for a brilliant hour of television that masterfully tied together more than five hours of screen time and an acclaimed graphic novel created more than 30 years ago. And yet, fans on Reddit had it figured out weeks ago.
Watchmen is the perfect breeding ground for Reddit theories, like Mr. Robot, Westworld, Game of Thrones, and many shows before it. Between Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s original story, HBO’s ever-expanding online collection of FBI Agent Dale Petey’s files, and the series’ slow-paced, meticulous storytelling, Watchmen has given its fans plenty of material to work with week to week. In honor of last week’s unveiling of a popular theory, we’re going to go through some of the other existing theories circulating on Reddit, break them down, and consider their likelihood, using both the TV series and the comics as sources of evidence.
Be warned, Reddit almost always gets it right; fans are smart as hell and the Reddit community is a great place for people to piece together clues, form theories, and share a wealth of great memes. The story behind Bernard and his connection to Arnold was quickly figured out in Westworld Season 1; Redditors pieced together Jon Snow’s true identity (R+L=J) early on, as well. If you don’t want to risk getting spoiled, it might be time to turn back now—but do know that this is all speculation and, as of writing this, I HAVE NOT WATCHED BEYOND EPISODE 6.
Now, with all disclaimers aside, let’s throw on our Reflectatine hats and talk Watchmen theories.
“Lube Man” Is FBI Agent Dale Petey
Let’s start off with a pretty straightforward one.
In the fourth episode, as Sister Night is dumping all evidence that could reveal her connection to her grandfather, Will Reeves, she turns around to see a skinny man decked out in a shiny silver suit and swimming goggles staring right at her.
Lube Man’s grand entrance is absurd, and he is easily the funniest “superhero” concept in the Watchmen universe (although Mothman and Red Scare aren’t far behind). Even Lindelof himself couldn’t resist joining in on the fun and took to Instagram to share his thoughts on the character.
As cl3arlycanadian points out, “[Petey] is a fanboy, has the same build, is infatuated with heroes. He also had a reason to be following Angela, and was privy to her superhero personality.” No other character has had as similar of a build to Lube Man as Petey; pair that with the fact he has a “hard-on for the past” (Laurie Blake’s words, not mine) and the superhero era, as well as that Petey has either gotten left out of every meaningful situation or just gotten dunked on by his superiors, and it wouldn’t be that shocking if he wanted to throw on a shiny suit and douse himself in oil to pass all the free time he has on his hands while in Tulsa.
Cal Is Doctor Manhattan
This theory is bold, but one that has been posited by several Reddit users. Through six episodes, Doctor Manhattan has made only brief appearances either in dialogue, on TV screens, twisted theatrical productions, and via one, uh, big blue dildo. But Doctor Manhattan is set to appear in full at some point—we know as much from one of the season’s trailers.
Cal, Angela’s stay-at-home husband, has also been one of the series’ most mysterious characters. We know that he and Angela met in Saigon, Vietnam, and that something happened to him there that Angela didn’t want him talking about to Agent Blake, but we know little of his background beyond that.
As ksendor outlines, there are a few stand-out instances that suggest that Cal could be the blue god himself: He’s quick to affirm that Doctor Manhattan can’t pretend to be human in a conversation with Angela; Laurie has taken a liking to Cal and mentions him to Angela on several occasions; the camera holds a shot on Cal’s surprised face when he sees Laurie at Chief Crawford’s funeral; and at the end of the graphic novel, Doctor Manhattan suggests he has a renewed interest in humanity.
It’s true that, at least in the comics, Doctor Manhattan can’t pretend to be human. But the mere fact the show would explicitly say as much certainly leaves open the possibility that they’re misdirecting—just as they did with the false narrative in the show-within-the-show, American Hero Story, Cal’s line could’ve simply been a tactic to misdirect the audience. Even more, Doctor Manhattan is, again, pretty much a god—it’s been 30 years since we’ve last seen what the good doctor is capable of, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see that he’s figured out how to disguise himself as a human. On the other hand, Laurie’s interest in Cal could simply be related to the fact that, as she’s suggested herself, Cal’s hot.
In the comic, Doctor Manhattan did tell Adrian Veidt that he’d regained interest in humanity, but he also said, “I’m leaving this galaxy for one less complicated.” To that, Adrian responded, “But you’d regained interest in human life,” and Manhattan replied: “Yes, I have. I think perhaps I’ll create some.”
I like this theory, but my guess is that Doctor Manhattan will tie into the show as the god that created all the servants that Adrian has been hanging out with on the Jupiter moon Europa (or wherever the hell the other side of that portal leads to), rather than unveiling himself to secretly be Angela’s husband. There’s a lot left to be learned about Cal (and from the looks of this next episode’s teaser, it seems we’ll soon learn some answers about what happened in Vietnam), and it’s still unclear what exactly happened to him on the White Night, but it might be too much of a thermodynamic miracle for Doctor Manhattan to be living among the humans as Mr. Abar.
Angela Is a Clone
Watchmen has already had its fair share of clones thus far, between Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks and the pet cloning company that Wade Tillman’s ex-wife works for. That would leave the possibility of a big reveal of a human character being a clone—not unlike the Bernard reveal in Westworld—and Angela has emerged as a likely candidate on Reddit.
When Angela was shot on the White Night, as driller2x pointed out, she took a shotgun blast to the chest, and when she woke up in the hospital with Judd Crawford at her side, she could recall the first attacker with the knife—but she never asked about the second attacker. It’s possible that the real Angela died that night, and the Angela we’ve seen is a clone whose memories have been fueled by Nostalgia. It seems like a stretch, since we’re currently unaware of any possibility of Nostalgia having a long-term effect like that, as well as the fact that Angela’s memory of the night might be a little hazy since she was, you know, shot point-blank. But the White Night is a pivotal moment in the HBO series, and there are still many lingering questions as to what actually went down.
Lady Trieu Was in the Original Watchmen Story
One of the best theories that relates back to the comics is that Lady Trieu was actually introduced long before the HBO series takes place, back in Moore’s story. As rbonaime suggests: “In the book, the Comedian kills a Vietnamese woman who is pregnant with his child. Dr. Manhattan stands by and watches and the Comedian says how Manhattan could’ve intervened. My theory is that after what we saw in the book, Manhattan did intervene, and the baby is Lady Trieu.” There’s a panel during the book’s Vietnam War flashback where Doctor Manhattan is staring at the pregnant woman lying on the floor, right after the Comedian shoots her.
Without the context of the show, there was never much reason to believe that Doctor Manhattan would intervene to save the baby, since the moment is just a memory that Manhattan has of the Comedian while he’s standing at his funeral years later. But it’s certainly possible that Manhattan, at a time when he was not yet uninterested in humanity, could’ve saved the baby, and that that baby could now be the most powerful woman in the Watchmen universe.
But funnily enough, it seems as if HBO and the Watchmen team is well aware of these existing Reddit theories, and they’ve even gone as far as trolling fans with one of the most recent Peteypedia files. In an article dated October 2018, the Tulsa Star-Sentinel’s Jay-Jay Whitman addresses the facts and fiction behind the trillionaire Lady Trieu. One of the items is precisely this theory, and in it a Trieu spokesman’s response to the writer’s inquiry is simply: “Lady Trieu has no father.” Not a terribly convincing response, I must say, but it very well could suggest another potential tie to cloning. The real nugget in the section is this: “Bian My did have one unforgettable encounter with Mr. Blake. In 1971, Mr. Blake and his battalion of ‘Blazin’ Commandos’ passed through her village outside My Lai. Their uniquely warm demeanor made quite an impression on her.”
Beyond the fact that the My Lai Massacre was a real-life horrific incident in 1968, 1971 is when that Doctor Manhattan flashback takes place, as he watches Blake shoot down the pregnant Vietnamese woman. The “warm demeanor” seems like an ironic reference to Blake’s battalion burning down Trieu’s mother’s village during the war—a potential callback to the nightmare that Lady Trieu’s daughter mentions at the end of the fourth episode. Trieu’s daughter is also named Bian, and just before she tells her mother about her nightmare, we get a quick glimpse of a strange-looking IV beside her bed—the same one hooked up to Angela when she finally awakes from her Nostalgia-induced coma in Episode 6. Now that we know about Nostalgia’s effects, we have confirmation that that nightmare was most likely not a dream at all, but a memory.
The tangled web around this theory brings a classic meme to mind, but whether or not Lady Trieu is in fact Blake’s daughter, a connection to that scene from the graphic novel seems imminent.
Doctor Manhattan Is …
While searching through the many theories on Reddit, my favorite was simply this: “I think Doctor Manhattan is Doctor Manhattan.”
For every theory to come true, there are many more that are bigger reaches that fall by the wayside. Sometimes elaborate theories—à la Hooded Justice—turn out to be true, and other times, a theory is just that: a theory.
As a final dunk on all the Watchmen conspiracy theorists out there, that same Peteypedia file closes with this comment from the Trieu spokeswoman on the popular theory that the Millennium Clock is a time machine: “Your theory is most entertaining, but I hope you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t come true. Sometimes, a clock is just a clock, you know.”
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.