How Watchmen Set Up That Big Twist

Did you see this coming, Cal? Seems like you would have … Photo: HBO

Anyone familiar with the original graphic novel Watchmen has probably been wondering, since the beginning, when exactly one of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s most iconic creations might make an appearance in the HBO drama. During the first six episodes, the glowing blue presence of Doctor Manhattan has been hiding at the edges of the screen, where we’ve gotten brief glimpses of him in artwork and video footage; while other characters from the book, like Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) and Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), have played a key role in the story so far, it wasn’t ever clear that the scientist-turned-omnipotent god would show up.

However, even if you’ve never read a comic book before, the big reveal of episode seven, “An Almost Religious Awe,” will undoubtedly have a massive impact on how you look at the series: Calvin Abar, Angela’s lovely and loyal husband, has been Doctor Manhattan the whole time. Should we have seen this coming? Certainly, there are several Reddit users who are gloating right now, because there have been many hints along the way that Cal might be so much more than what he seems. Let’s review:

Will Reeves hasn’t been wrong yet

Angela’s 105-year-old grandfather has seen some stuff, and it appears that with age and experience comes a certain level of knowledge. It’s Will who is the first to mention that there’s no reason why Doctor Manhattan can’t disguise himself as an ordinary human (given all of his other amazing abilities, like becoming 100 feet tall or making copies of himself). Will has been right about a lot of other things, such as Judd’s secret alliance with the Seventh Kalvary, so when Lady Trieu tells Angela in episode seven that it was Will who suggested to her that Doctor Manhattan was in Tulsa, not Mars, it’s easy to see why Trieu believes him.

Cal’s “accident”

Vague reference has been made to the fact that before he and Angela left Vietnam, Cal was in an accident, and in episode seven it’s revealed, via Lady Trieu, that it was a car accident that left Cal with “total amnesia.” Lady Trieu, being a memory expert, is very skeptical of this story, and if it’d been revealed earlier, perhaps more viewers would have joined her in that.

We never learned how Angela survived the White Night

In the episode-two flashback to the horrific Christmas Eve when Tulsa’s police officers were massacred by the Seventh Kalvary, we see Angela fight for her life and take out at least two of her attackers. But the scene ends with her passing out as one remaining masked man aims his shotgun at her, point blank — the only other person around who could have saved her is Cal, though he was seemingly unarmed and knocked down.

Topher’s castle

Photo: HBO

In episode two, Angela sits down for a conversation with Topher while he plays with a magnetic toy set, building a castle that looks strikingly like the castle on Mars attributed to Doctor Manhattan in news footage. Perhaps Topher is just copying what he saw on television, but he might have also picked up on something latent from Cal.

The significance of “Sister Night”

We learn the direct inspiration for Angela’s choice of disguises in “An Almost Religious Awe” — an old blaxploitation movie called Sister Night: The Nun With the Motherf*cking GunAs Reddit user MIRROR_POOL notes, nuns are considered to be “married to God.”

Laurie sure is interested in Cal

Laurie Blake (née Laurie Juspeczyk), in her youth, wasn’t just a costumed crimefighter — she was also, for a period of time, Doctor Manhattan’s lover. And boy, she hasn’t forgotten him, as evidenced by her choice of, ahem, personal massager. So while actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is objectively a very good-looking man, there may have been something either conscious or unconscious about Laurie’s assessment that Cal is “fucking hot.” Also, it’s unclear just how much Laurie knows about where Doctor Manhattan might be. On the one hand, she does pay visits to Manhattan booths, sending audio messages to Mars, but she also says that she’s pretty sure he’ll never listen to the messages. In the long run, the coy way she talks with Angela definitely makes it seem like she knows a whole lot more than she’s telling — whether or not that’s true, though, remains to be seen.

Speaking of Laurie’s special friend …

Reddit user AlvinItchyCock is responsible for this one: The brand name for the Doctor Manhattan dildo is Excalibur, meaning it’s a very short walk indeed to Ex-Cal-Abar.

Cal seems to instinctively trust Laurie

In episode four, Cal and Laurie have a conversation without Angela present, and afterward, when Angela asks him about it, Cal tells her that he lied to our favorite FBI agent about the night that Judd was killed. (And he “hates to lie,” a very Doctor Manhattan sort of attitude.) However, he also tells Angela, “I think she wants to help you … just a feeling I have.” It would make sense for Cal to still trust his former lover on some level.

Cal’s take on the afterlife

When the Abar children ask Cal about what happens when people die, Cal responds with a blunt summation that when people die, they just stop existing. It’s an attitude very much in line Doctor Manhattan’s own blunt understanding of life and death, enhanced by the godlike powers that give him a level of omnipotence. (It’s also not exactly the warmest and fuzziest message to pass down to kids. Though Cal is capable of joking about Santa Claus, as we saw in the Christmas Eve flashback, so maybe he still allows for a little bit of magical thinking in these kids’ lives.)

American Hero Story almost got it right

In the Looking Glass–centric episode five, there isn’t much to discuss that’s relevant to Doctor Manhattan, except for one bit of overheard conversation about American Hero Story — dispatcher Panda is arguing with Red Scare about whether Doctor Manhattan is also secretly Hooded Justice. He’s wrong about that, but hey, Doctor Manhattan is part of the Hooded Justice family, to some degree.

How Watchmen Set Up That Big Twist