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What Are Lady Trieu and Will Reeves Counting Down to in ‘Watchmen’?

In the fourth episode of the HBO series, we met the most powerful person on the planet, learned more about the confinements of the former most powerful person on the planet, and got a few more details about Angela Abar’s mysterious grandfather—but questions still abound

HBO/Ringer illustration

After taking a moment to meet Laurie Blake last week, and hear her long-winded joke that served as a mini history lesson on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, the fourth episode brings us back to Angela Abar as she continues to deal with the fallout of police chief Judd Crawford’s death. And also, someone trades a real live baby for a house.

A lot happened on this week’s episode, “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own,” so we’re going to switch things up here to focus on what we learned about three significant characters, before considering their potential connections to the source material. To paraphrase Will Reeves, I’m going to give this episode to you in pieces, as we try to unravel the growing mystery in HBO’s Watchmen.

The Key Players

Lady Trieu

“Legacy isn’t in land, it’s in blood, passed to us from our ancestors and by us to our children.” —Lady Trieu

All screenshots via HBO

At last, four episodes in, we are finally introduced to Lady Trieu, and what an introduction it is. (Shouts to the first Asian character in Watchmen!) Trieu’s presence has only loomed in the background thus far, whether it be her Millennium Clock towering over Tulsa or her company-powered phone lines in Tulsa and D.C. (and likely elsewhere) that allow anyone to send a message to Doctor Manhattan on Mars. From the moment a Tulsa couple, the Clarks, finds Lady Trieu standing on their porch in the episode’s opening scene, it’s clear that Trieu is powerful and calculated, and that she means business.

Trieu arrives late at night without warning, sets a binder and an hourglass on the couple’s living room table, and addresses them with complete resolve: “Fortunately, for the next three minutes, you two are the most important people in the world.”

Lady Trieu is the trillionaire owner of Trieu Industries. She made her vast wealth in “advanced pharma and biomedical tech,” eventually earning enough to acquire Veidt Enterprises in 2017 after Adrian Veidt’s disappearance. Now, she’s in Tulsa at the Clarks’ doorstep, ready to negotiate a deal (soft emphasis on the word “negotiate”).

“I want your house, right now,” she tells the Clarks, as she waves her hand around the room of the house that’s about to be hers. “This house … I want it. Oh, and also the 40 acres it sits on.”

Barely allowing the baffled couple to get even a word in to decline the offer—they are, after all, on the clock—Trieu brings up the subject of legacy, and how “legacy isn’t in land, it’s in blood, passed to us from our ancestors and by us to our children.” She cites records of the couple’s failed attempts at getting pregnant 10 years earlier, and tells them she’s here with a solution. “I’m not here to offer you money for your land. I’m here to offer you legacy. I’m here to offer you a child.”

Shocked and deeply offended, Mrs. Clark demands that Lady Trieu leave their home, but moments later, Trieu’s daughter brings in the Clarks’ genetically engineered baby, whom Trieu had brought in anticipation of their negotiations. She assures the Clarks that the baby is their biological child and gives the couple a mere 30 seconds to decide on its fate—which was more than enough time for them to sign the contract—before the house begins to shake, and Lady Trieu, her daughter, and the Clark family run outside to watch a falling object crash down at meteoric speed onto Trieu’s newly purchased property.

“What is that?” Mr. Clark asks. “That,” Trieu responds, eyes widened, “... is mine.”

After being kept on the sidelines to start off the season, Lady Trieu is suddenly at the center of everything happening in Tulsa, from her role in the mystery surrounding Veidt to her partnership with Will Reeves. Her arrival raises even more questions: With all the money in the world, why did she choose Tulsa for her technologically advanced facility (and why is it built to withstand “anything short of a direct nuclear blast”)? Is she the new Adrian Veidt, with plans of guiding Earth toward utopia?

Adrian Veidt

“With your help, with your lives; with your broken, mangled bodies. One way, or another, I will escape this godforsaken place.” —Adrian Veidt

In the first three episodes of the season, Adrian wrote and produced a play about Jon Osterman, killed Mr. Phillips by lighting him on fire, ate a lot of cake, killed another Mr. Phillips during an experiment, shot a buffalo, dictated a letter addressed to the mysterious “game warden,” and dressed up in his Ozymandias costume for a late-night hunt. To this point, it’s seemed as if Adrian is just a bored, retired (and sadistic) rich guy with far too much time on his hands. But as Watchmen’s deliberate ambiguity has quickly taught us, it’s never safe to assume anything. Now, about that lake of clone babies ...

In Episode 4, we find Adrian alone in a rowboat, floating in a lake at night. Adrian is fishing with what’s essentially a lobster trap, except when he pulls up his catch from the water, it’s a cluster of, uh, human babies. “What do we got here?” he says of the first batch, before chucking a HUMAN BABY back into the water. After settling on two of them, Adrian leaves the lake and travels to a room that has, for lack of a scientific term, a human-life-cycle microwave. He places the babies inside, twists a couple of valves here, cranks a lever there, and enjoys a piece of cake amidst the ensuing screams in the background. Within moments, the babies have grown into the newest iterations of Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks, showing us the process of his clones’ creation.

While his new clone-servants process their environment, Adrian takes them on a tour back to his mansion, through a room full of slaughtered copies of Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks (Adrian says he had a “rough night”), and back out into a field with a catapult ready to launch the corpses of their fallen predecessors.

“Four years since I was sent here. In the beginning, I thought it was a paradise. But it’s not. It’s a prison,” Adrian says to Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks, who, like us, have only the faintest idea of what’s happening. “And so, with your help, with your lives; with your broken, mangled bodies. One way, or another, I will escape this godforsaken place.”

Beyond the fact that I’m now rooting for these sad, helpless clones to band together for a Westworld-like uprising against their master, this moment is a crucial revelation on Adrian’s predicament. He isn’t off somewhere enjoying his retirement, hiding under the guise of his publicly declared death—he can’t even leave his retirement home. And based on the fact that the catapulted bodies are disappearing in midair, as if they’re reaching some invisible barrier, Adrian’s location is likely concealed enough to where no one could ever find him. How exactly he ended up in this situation, whether originally sent by choice or in some connection to Trieu, is still unclear (not to mention how his adversary, the “game warden,” factors into everything, where the hell he even is, and a hundred other unanswered questions). But one thing is certain: Adrian will escape, no matter how many Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks he needs to sacrifice along the way.

Will Reeves

“And you’re concerned about whether I am in? Well, I am in—all the way.” —Will Reeves

The last time we saw Will Reeves, he was sitting shotgun in Angela’s car as it was being lifted by a massive magnet and taken away during Episode 2’s cliffhanger. Last week, that car landed at Laurie’s feet, in the very same spot, with Will nowhere to be seen.

The next day at the Tulsa police precinct, Laurie informs Angela that, using prints collected from Angela’s impounded car, she has identified an unusual passenger in her car: Will Reeves. Angela, still suspicious of Laurie, says nothing of her knowledge of Reeves. But Laurie’s resources prove useful, as she reveals valuable information about Will’s background and potential whereabouts. “Apparently he was a cop in New York City in the ’40s and ’50s,” she tells Angela. “Retired young, fell off the grid.”

If Will was in New York City around that time, he would’ve been in the right place for the height of the superhero movement—and the emergence of the Minutemen—in Alan Moore’s comic. This is a significant piece of evidence for those who buy into the theory that Will Reeves is the vigilante Hooded Justice, a popular one amongst viewers on Reddit. Not to get into the weeds of it too much, but this theory hinges on the fact that Will claimed to have killed police chief Judd Crawford by hanging him with a noose, a prominent component to Hooded Justice’s costume, along with the fact that Hooded Justice’s true identity had never been previously revealed.

Following another lead on Angela’s car, Laurie, Angela, and agent Dale Petey travel to Lady Trieu’s facility, where they track down the same aircraft that took Will. Trieu invites Laurie and Angela into her vivarium (Petey really can’t catch a break), where she provides them with the list of all her employees capable of flying the aircraft. Switching to Vietnamese, under the assumption that Laurie won’t understand her, Trieu says to Angela: “Your grandfather wants to know if you got the pills.” Though a little taken aback by his mention, she still doesn’t miss a beat: “Tell that old fucker he can ask me himself.” The pills that they’re speaking of—the ones Will left in the glove compartment of Angela’s car—are now in the possession of detective Wade Tillman, a.k.a. Looking Glass, after Angela gave them to him for his “ex” to run tests on. But, as we later find out in a conversation between Reeves and Lady Trieu at her facility at the end of the episode, the pills are just another clue Reeves has left behind for Angela to find as he slowly reveals his identity and what happened to the police chief.

“The pills, they’re passive-aggressive exposition,” Trieu says to Reeves, as they sit together over a cup of tea. “If you want her to know who you are, just tell her.”

“She’s not going to listen,” Reeves responds. “She has to experience things by herself.”

As we now know, the “friends in high places” that Reeves once alluded to in a conversation with Angela in her bakery was a reference to the trillionaire herself, Lady Trieu. Together, they have big plans for Tulsa, and Trieu is afraid that Angela’s involvement will put them in jeopardy.

“When family’s involved, judgment gets cloudy, feet get cold. Deals get broken,” Trieu says. “You’re not in.”

Reeves, the 105-year-old man who was last seen traveling solely via wheelchair, stands up from the table. “My feet are just fine.”

According to Trieu, whatever it is Lady Trieu and Reeves have done, Angela—and likely the rest of Tulsa—will find out in only three days. And Reeves says Angela will hate him for it.

Looking up at the Millennium Clock, Reeves closes out the episode with a familiar, ominous refrain: “Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.” The Seventh Kavalry, after three years of peace, declared a reckoning on the Tulsa police force and the rest of the city in the series premiere, ending their video address with the same ticking countdown. Will—a victim of the Tulsa Massacre race riot of 1921—doesn’t seem to be a likely candidate to be a member of a white supremist organization, but here he is, at the center of Tulsa’s “vast and insidious conspiracy,” mouthing the Kavalry’s words.

If he is in fact Hooded Justice, then his costume would fit the mold—could it be an infiltration plan, a la BlacKkKlansman, or perhaps something closer to a, uh, Clayton Bigsby situation? Whatever his connection to the group may be—if any at all—Reeves has teamed up with the most powerful person on the planet, back in the city where his family and everyone he knew was murdered nearly a full century ago. He seems to be gearing up for its reckoning.

Comic Corner

The Trieu Facility

“A truly great man. So much of my success grew from the seed of his inspiration.” —Lady Trieu, speaking of Adrian Veidt

First seen in last week’s episode, as Laurie and Petey are on a plane flying over the city, Petey quotes what Lady Trieu said at the groundbreaking for the Millennium Clock: “Look on my works, ye mighty and despair.” It was, as Petey says, “a shout-out to Adrian Veidt after she bought his company” (as well as the poem “Ozymandias,” written by Percy Bysshe Shelley). The clock is the centerpiece for the elaborate facility Trieu has built in Tulsa. Trieu—a rich, smart, and ruthless visionary—is beginning to look like the HBO series’ stand-in for Adrian Veidt in his prime in Watchmen.

Since Trieu purchased Veidt Enterprises, she has access to all the technology Adrian had in the comic, as well as everything else he worked on in the subsequent decades. The vivarium that Lady Trieu greets Laurie and Angela in is almost certainly the same design as the one Adrian had at his own facility, Karnak, located in Antarctica. It’s worth noting that, at the same facility, Adrian had three servants, who, to quote a story on Veidt from the Watchmen publication Nova Express, “had been Vietcong refugees in danger of losing their lives in the purges following America’s victory without Veidt’s intervention.” (Naturally, Adrian ends up killing all three of them.) Trieu is a native of Vietnam, now the United States’ 51st state, and her daughter describes a mysterious dream of being in Vietnam when men came to burn her village.

Along with the vivarium, Trieu must be in possession of all of Adrian’s company’s innovations in genetic engineering, an “intrinsic field subtractor” like the one that created Doctor Manhattan, as well as the technology that granted Adrian the ability to teleport a giant squid to New York City. Adrian’s vision of a global utopia, as the HBO series has demonstrated, failed—and perhaps Trieu is here to finish what he started.

“So you’re building the eighth wonder of the world?” Laurie asks Trieu’s daughter, as she leads Laurie and Angela through the facility. “No,” she replies. “The first wonder of the new world.”

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic representation of how close human civilization is to man-made global catastrophe, which originates back to the Manhattan Project in WWII, at the pinnacle of society’s fear of all-out nuclear war. Midnight represents Armageddon. The Doomsday Clock appears on the cover page of each chapter in Moore and Gibbons’s 12-issue comic book series, starting 12 minutes from midnight and moving forward one tick each chapter. When the clock strikes midnight in the series’ final issue, Adrian’s squid lands in New York, killing three million people, and creating a new world in the process. The Millennium Clock’s purpose in the TV series is not as clear, but whatever it’s counting toward doesn’t bode well for Tulsa, and the clock is ticking.

Disclaimer: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.