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The ‘Watchmen’ Season Finale Exit Survey

After the dust settled in Tulsa, the Ringer staff talked about Lady Trieu’s turn, the best episodes of the season, and whether Damon Lindelof should return for a second installment

HBO/Ringer illustration

Doctor Manhattan is gone, Adrian Veidt is in custody, Will Reeves is sleeping in the guest room, and Angela Abar is outside seeing whether she can walk on water. HBO’s Watchmen ended Sunday night, bringing to a close a stunningly inventive and powerful continuation of Alan Moore’s comic. Upon seeing the finale, Ringer staffers ate a raw egg and came to share their thoughts.


1. What is your tweet-length review of Watchmen?

Andrew Gruttadaro: The best superhero show/movie/thing of the year.

Jackson Safon: Is one egg enough for an omelet? Is Watchmen the best show of 2019?

Miles Surrey: It would be a thermodynamic miracle but I really hope Alan Moore emerges from the shadows to give Damon Lindelof a pat on the back. This was a near-perfect season of television and a thrilling, thematically appropriate extension of the original Watchmen universe.

Sean Yoo: A uniquely brilliant superhero TV show featuring some of the best commentary on racial, social, and political issues. Also:

2. What was the best moment of the finale?

Surrey: When Bob Benson from Mad Men, wearing a thong, hopped into a chamber thinking he’d become a living god but then turned into a pile of red goo. Good way to deal with white supremacists, IMO.

Gruttadaro: This isn’t really one moment, but Hong Chau was amazing in this episode—the wry confidence and tinge of mystery she imbued in Lady Trieu made the character delightfully entertaining, even as it became clearer and clearer that she wasn’t a good guy.

Safon: The entire sequence from Lady Trieu teleporting everything to her going full Vince Carter over Frédéric Weis and dunking all over the Seventh Kavalry. We had spent the entire season wondering what Lady Trieu’s ultimate plan was and that moment was the culmination of all of it. I’ve never seen someone that condescending have that much swag.

HBO

Yoo: After all the end-of-the-world dust settles, Angela goes back to where it all began, in the movie theater where a young Will Reeves was hiding out during the Black Wall Street massacre nearly 100 years ago. Angela finally talks to her grandfather, with her new knowledge of the man who was once Hooded Justice, and they discuss being under the mask and the emotions you feel. Will asks Angela if she felt what he felt while in his memories; “anger,” she says. Will corrects her: “That’s what I thought, too, but it wasn’t, it was fear and hurt. You can’t heal under a mask … wounds need air.”

It’s a line that transcends the superhero genre and reveals so much more about the current state of the world. A visceral moment like this is what sets Watchmen apart from all the superhero shows of the past.

3. What was your least favorite part?

Gruttadaro: I did feel that some of the action superseded a lot of the heavier questions Watchmen started out asking. The conversation between Angela and her grandfather at the end solved some of this, but where in previous episodes the action had been informed by the show’s larger themes, in the finale the two seemed more separate.

Yoo: The show seemed to rush its way toward the finish line, especially during the scenes involving the Seventh Kavalry and the Oklahoma senator. Were they being built up this whole season only to be a distraction away from Lady Trieu’s big plan?

Safon: Adrian Veidt, the smartest man in the universe, Mr. I’m Playing Chess While You’re Playing Checkers, really couldn’t see that wrench coming to knock him out? After an entire speech about Lady Trieu’s hubris, that ended up being his downfall?

Surrey: JUSTICE! FOR! LUBE! MAN! (Though I firmly believe, given his lanky build, that Lube Man was actually Laurie Blake’s FBI coworker/fling.)

4. What was your favorite episode of the season, and why?

Yoo: “This Extraordinary Being” will go down as one of the most iconic origin stories in the history of the superhero genre. There’s not much else I can say that hasn’t already been said regarding that powerful episode of television.

Surrey: “This Extraordinary Being” was, well, extraordinary—but I think I slightly prefer the penultimate episode, “A God Walks Into Abar,” for combining Doctor Manhattan’s mind-bending timeline-jumping with a genuinely affecting love story.

Safon: I’m a sucker for “when a plan comes to fruition” episodes, so I think I’m going with the finale. It was great to finally see all the characters in the same place, and each reveal gave another layer of depth to both the story and the characters.

Gruttadaro: “Little Fear of Lightning.” Most superhero tales refer somberly to earth-shattering events, and Watchmen could have done the same with the intergalactic squid that Adrian Veidt dropped on New York City, killing 3 million people in 1985. Instead, through Wade and with immense feeling, it captured just how cataclysmic that day would have been; how it would have left most of the world in eternal fear, and in search of answers. It’s not the flashiest episode of the season, but it’s the one that enforces the human stakes of the story.

5. Has Watchmen changed the way you think about superheroes or superhero movies?

Surrey: Between this lone (?) season of Watchmen and The Boys, I’m optimistic there are still ways the superhero genre can surprise, subvert, and captivate us on screen.

Yoo: I learned that superheroes don’t have to be doing superhero things for me to enjoy superhero-related content.

Safon: This was my first experience with the Watchmen universe and I didn’t really think of it as superhero content. Supernatural, yes. Super good, yes. Superhero, no.

Gruttadaro: You don’t really return from hearing Will Reeves say, “You can’t heal with a mask.” Batman and I need to have a chat.

HBO

6. Let’s talk about the ending. What happens when Angela’s foot touches that water?

Gruttadaro: I thought the “wobbling-top-at-the-end-of-Inception” thing was, in the words of Lady Trieu, “too cute by half,” and I really wanted to see Angela just fall in the pool like an idiot. Which is what I think happened, by the way.

Yoo: Obviously, she walks on the water and immediately turns into a glowing blue god.

Safon: I’m conflicted, but I lean toward Angela just falling in the water. While it would tie a lot of things at the end of the episode together, I don’t think it really makes sense for Doctor Manhattan to give his powers to Angela. The last two episodes really paint Doctor Manhattan’s powers as burdensome—if he really loved Angela, I don’t think he’d want her to have them.

Surrey: Let the mystery be.

7. Watchmen has not been renewed for a second season and Damon Lindelof has been vocal about this season being a contained story. Will there be another season? Should there be?

Safon: Selfishly, I’d love another season, but I don’t expect there to be.

Yoo: I can’t imagine there being another season, especially with how complete this one felt. I am very content, and if Lindelof decides to end things here rather take it on a Lost-like journey, I think I would be even happier.

Gruttadaro: If Lindelof has an idea for a second season, he should do it. But let’s not force this. I’ll really miss Watchmen, but I’d rather my memory of it not be tainted by a second season that isn’t as layered and powerful as the first.

Surrey: If HBO had its way a second season wouldn’t be a question, but Lindelof might’ve exhausted most of his narrative options outside of Angela’s ending. Besides, going one-and-done after what Lindelof and Co. accomplished would be a God/Manhattan-level flex.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.