Season One, Episode Eight – “A God Walks into Abar”
Written by Jeff Jensen & Damon Lindelof
Directed by Nicole Kassell
Doctor Manhattan has always been my favorite character in the Watchmen story due to his tragic nature. He’s a man transformed into a god through a horrific scientific mistake. The result is he has omnipotence and omniscience and a disconnect from his fellow humans. Manhattan exists in multiple points in space & time simultaneously and knows everything that will ever happen to him. This leads to frustration from the people he has relationships with because he will be completely open about knowing when they will split or tragedy will strike. Intimacy crumbles and the shared history between these people begin to feel like a series of steps in a procedure, the discovery and mystery of love are gone.
The story of Doctor Manhattan and Angela is a beautiful and heartbreaking tale, an ouroboros where the ending is the beginning. The relationship ends at the moment it begins, and you can’t help but get misty-eyed watching it unfold. Angela knows that her relationship was always going to end in some sort of tragedy but believed she could change the outcome, despite Manhattan being very clear that what will happen will happen, and there isn’t a way to alter the path. The viewer is in Manhattan’s shoes, having preknowledge that a young Angela does not.
There’s a moment where Angela and Manhattan decide he needs to have a mortal vessel so that he can live among humanity. As a police officer, she can access the bodies in the morgue and has selected three men who have no next of kin. He and we know none of these bodies will be the one Manhattan picks. It’s just a matter of time until we see his destined body. We also know that while they live in Vietnam, something will happen that brings them to Tulsa. The inevitability of each decision represents a step closer to that moment of destruction. Manhattan visits Adrian Veidt and acquires an item he already knows he’s going to receive. This experience of simply walking over a series of pre-determined footprints makes your heartache for Angela.
The writers accomplish a reasonably tricky task, making us fall and root for a mortal & a god’s love. The chemistry between Regina King and her acting partner is beautiful, and she can convey charmed skepticism so well. But we also can see how she falls in love with Manhattan, convinced by his certainty and the mythic weight behind their romance. She and he are destined to be, and so as much as she might not believe it, the relationship will happen, and it will change their lives forever.
Even knowing that Manhattan is fated to die, we still cheer for Angela when she grabs her gun and attempts to take down the home invaders. Angela believes nothing is pre-written, she can change this all and save her love and live happily ever after. But she can’t. She doesn’t. He dies. In this episode, a god becomes the most human character in the Watchmen universe. Manhattan has always been the most human because his life is a struggle to come to terms with the question, “Is he still human?” Manhattan actively seeks out relationships with mortals not because he wants to use them, but because without these relationships, he would truly become the cold, distant, brooding god he fears.
There’s one more chapter in this story, and I will genuinely be sad that it’s the end, but happy that we have such a tightly written and well-told tale. There are a lot of loose ends to address, but I have a feeling we’ll get some fascinating answers to them. Where has Looking Glass gone? What is Will Reeves’s master plan? What happens when Lady Trieu turns on her clock? Will the Seventeeth Cavalry succeed in their diabolical goal? What did Manhattan need from Angela in that brief moment where he concentrated his attention on her? I am excited to find out.