Season 1, Episode 4 – “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own”
Written by Christal Henry & Damon Lindeloff
Directed by Andrij Parekh
Lady Trieu makes her first appearance after a brief mention in the second episode, and it is quite a debut. A childless farming couple receives her visit one evening, and she offers them something more valuable than money for their land. Infertility keeps them from bearing children, so Lady Trieu has gotten rid of the middle man and simply combined their DNA and has grown an infant for them. They eagerly sign over the land seemingly just in time as an object falls from the sky, which Lady Trieu asserts is hers now. There are definite signs she knew this event was going to happen before it did.
In Vietnamese folklore, Lady Trieu is the name attributed to a heroine who rebelled against the Wu, one of the Three Kingdoms of China. Her story begins with her as a variation on the Cinderella story, under the heel of a cruel sister-in-law who forced her into servitude. She kills the sister-in-law and heads into the mountains, where Trieu gathers a band of a thousand followers who were also eager to fight against the injustices of their community. She was known for wearing gold robes into battle while riding a war elephant. Eventually, her troops’ numbers dwindled, and she went into hiding, finally committing suicide when all seemed lost. Today her name adorns at least one street in most Vietnamese cities.
I’m not quite sure how directly tied to this legend the Lady Trieu of Watchmen will be, but it is no coincidence that she’s named this. She helps develop the themes of parentage in this episode by her interactions with Bian, her daughter. It’s implied that Bian is a clone as she wakes suddenly in the night seeking comfort from her mother due to nightmares. The dreams she describes sound like the experiences of a person during the Vietnam War, which Bian would be too young to have lived through, leaving us to assume she is a clone of Trieu or someone else. This isn’t the only clone glimpsed, as Adrian Veidt is seen harvesting new staff from an underwater nursery of infants in a lake nearby his manor.
It’s established in the Watchmen universe that genetic engineering exists but isn’t widespread. Veidt created his cherished pet Bubastis in the comic book, so it’s not a far leap to assume those on the fringes of sound science are creating their own people. I’m coming to suspect that it’s Lady Trieu who has Veidt imprisoned. Bian appears to be a product of cloning, and Veidt has been left with a never-ending crop of clone servants to do his bidding. It also appears he’s trapped in a false reality or pocket universe of some sort. I’m leaning more towards the former as multiple dimensions was a lie used by Veidt to explain his massacre at the conclusion of the comic book.
The issue of parenting comes up when Cal, Angela’s husband, has to address the death of Judd Crawford with his children. Angela seems to want to assure them that Judd is in Heaven; however, it’s Cal who is very kind, but clear that Heaven doesn’t exist and that Judd just simply ceased to exist. Interestingly, Angela would be the one wanting to pacify the kids with stories of faith and religion when she delivered the news of Judd’s death to her adopted son Topher with a sort of bluntness. Cal’s honest conversation with his kids is juxtaposed against Lady Trieu’s dismissal of Bian’s nightmares. One parent feels the need to be open & honest, the other doesn’t seem concerned over some graphic and terrifying dreams.
Lady Trieu is building a giant clock for some unknown purpose, couched in the language of great achievement for mankind. Her foreknowledge of the astronomical event in the episode’s opening has me wondering if this clock is just a monument or actually a tool used to foretell events or at least calculate the probabilities of when and where rare occasions will occur. We know she bought Veidt’s company after he went missing the years that followed the events of the comic book. At one point, she drops the line, “So much of my success grew from the seed of his inspiration.” We know Veidt is a liar from what he did at the end of the comic, but he is also an immensely arrogant man who justifies his evil acts by referencing his intelligence. He sees himself as above ordinary people because he sees the depth of the world. Trieu is Will’s ally and the one responsible for his wild rescue by air in episode two. The terms of their alliance are still a mystery, only that Trieu has begun to doubt his commitment now that he’s met his granddaughter Angela. I know I am eager to learn what exactly these two are up to and if they are part of a more massive cabal.