Let’s Crack Open Watchmen’s Egg Symbolism

Who’s the real Egg Man here? Photo: HBO

Sometimes, shows like Watchmen bury their symbolism deep within the narrative, hinting at larger themes only from time to time. But then sometimes an omnipotent blue guy sits at a table and makes an egg appear out of thin air to prove to a woman he loves that he has the ability to create life.

Given their fragility, their purity, and the potential they contain, eggs are a long-established metaphor for life. Plus, they’re essential to the philosophical question of which came first, the chicken or the egg — the sort of fascinating paradox that defies actual answers.

Fascinating paradoxes that defy actual answers are a Damon Lindelof storytelling staple, so it makes sense that eggs have been a key part of Watchmen’s iconography since the first episode, often in a not particularly subtle way. But the degree to which they matter as a metaphor, especially for the revelations of the finale, “See How They Fly,” means it’s worth examining just how they’ve been used over the season, whether as a seemingly random reference, a casual snack, or a literally life-changing gift.

Episode 1: “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”

Photo: HBO

In her first scene of the series, Angela separates egg whites from yolks in her demonstration to Topher’s class, tying in to her cover story as a local baker. Here, by the way, is what she says as she shows off her water-bottle vacuum trick:

“Egg whites are made of protein. When we whip them, we get bubbles, and it’s the proteins that form the walls of those bubbles. If we don’t have walls, it all comes tumbling down. Now, those walls are strong, but they won’t stay that way if just even a little bit of yolk gets mixed in with the whites. So that’s why we gotta separate them.”

It’s both accurate when it comes to the culinary sciences and a curious note to include in a story about white supremacy. The yolks, of course, also invoke a smiley face (dabbed with a touch of red), similar to the iconic button featured in the opening panels of the Watchmen graphic novel.

Episode 2: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”

Photo: HBO

Just how much Will Reeves knows about everything is one of the finale’s big unanswered questions, but of all the things he chooses to cook while waiting for Angela to return to her bakery, he picks hard-boiled eggs, even deliberately going out to the grocery store to buy them. (He’s also kind of a sloppy eater and tosses the peels on the counter for Angela to clean up later.)

Note, of course, the episode’s closing music: the Beastie Boys’ “Egg Man.”

Episode 3: “She Was Killed by Space Junk”

Eggs only get a mention in dialogue this episode, in the joke Laurie tells Doctor Manhattan about the “three heroes” who are trying to get into heaven. Clearly describing Adrian Veidt’s scheme to save the world by killing 3 million people, Laurie imagines Adrian telling God, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a couple of eggs.”

Episode 4: “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own”

Photo: HBO

The opening titles of this episode evoke the sound and image of an egg being broken open, followed by the letters of Watchmen spelled out in bright yellow yolk. And then we meet the Clarks, a nice Tulsa couple living quietly on their farm, selling eggs at a roadside stand during the day and doing jigsaw puzzles at night.

The most important eggs in their lives, though, aren’t the ones they sell — they’re Mrs. Clark’s harvested ova, which were collected by a fertility clinic years ago when the couple attempted to conceive a child. When Lady Trieu arrives to buy their farm, she comes with more than cash to use as leverage; she has successfully conceived a child with their genetic material. In exchange for the baby and $5 million, the Clarks agree to sell.

Photo: HBO

Also, when Will got airlifted away from Angela, he left behind a mess in the bakery, and what happens to the rest of the eggs he purchased is never addressed. They aren’t the same eggs Angela and Cal use the next morning to make waffles for the kids: If you compare the containers, you can see that Will’s carton is yellow cardboard (and there are only six left), while the Abars’ eggs are in a shiny Styrofoam container that appears to hold 18 eggs, not 12 — which feels right when shopping for a family of five and may also have bigger significance down the line.

Episode 8: “A God Walks Into Abar”

Watchmen took a three-episode break from making obvious egg references, perhaps because the writers knew just how big a deal eggs would be in the final two installments.

The most important moment of episode eight is, of course, when Doctor Manhattan creates an egg out of thin air to prove to Angela his ability to create life, though it doesn’t exactly impress her: “A chicken would have been better.”

Photo: HBO

He then explains that he would never pass along his abilities to someone else without their consent, but he could, in theory, transfer his “atomic components into some sort of organic material. If someone were to consume it, they would inherit my powers.”

Angela asks him to clarify. “So you can put them in this egg, and if I ate it, I could walk on water?”

“Theoretically, yes.”

It’s a clear foreshadowing of the finale, but it’s also not the last time eggs come up in “A God Walks Into Abar.” The literal invocation of the chicken-or-egg paradox frames the death of Judd Crawford: Will killed Judd because Doctor Manhattan told him about Judd’s Cyclops connections 10 years ago, but Doctor Manhattan mentioned these connections back then only because Angela asks him to ask in the present.

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer appears to be both, at exactly the same time,” Doctor Manhattan concludes, before realizing he’s hungry and transporting himself to the kitchen to make waffles. It’s here that a frustrated Angela smashes the levitating carton of eggs to the ground (which of course will become even more important in the finale).

For the record, the carton that appears here is not the same one Cal and Angela were cooking with in episode four, as the label clearly says it contains a dozen eggs, and it also appears to be a cardboard carton, not Styrofoam.

Photo: HBO

This could mean it’s the same carton of eggs Will left behind at Angela’s bakery; how it got from there to the Abar house is unknown, but there are countless answers. Or, hell, maybe Cal went to the grocery store that morning. Who can say for sure?

Episode 9: “See How They Fly”

So much of Lady Trieu’s aesthetic, in both her wardrobe and production design, has evoked eggs (especially the emphasis on shades of white). And nothing exemplifies this more than the ship Trieu sends to pick up Adrian and deliver him back to Earth — it has a distinctly egg-like shape.

But that, of course, is not the biggest egg-related event of the episode.
When, at the very end, Angela goes to clean up the broken eggs in her kitchen, she discovers one of them is intact. Perhaps a parting gift from her lover of ten years? Perhaps just a fluke?

Photo: Mark Hill/HBO

Whatever it may be, she can’t forget what Manhattan told her 10 years before, so she goes out to the pool, slurps down the egg, and tentatively extends a foot down to the water. At which point, cut to black.

The closing-credits song is a cover of “I Am the Walrus,” by Spooky Tooth and Mike Harrison. Beyond the lyric used in the episode’s title, the song contains, of course, the famous line “I am the egg man,” which is one of those classic Beatles references with plenty of interpretations that defy exact definition. That in itself fits nicely into any attempts to understand what, exactly, is going on with Watchmen and the eggs. They are there, and on one level they clearly mean something. But some questions, egg-related or otherwise, will likely always defy explanation.

Let’s Crack Open Watchmen’s Egg Symbolism