The second episode of HBO’s Watchmen, “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship,” aired tonight and referenced the comic’s own Doctor Manhattan/Jon Osterman multiple times. After a nuclear physics experiment goes wrong in 1959, Jon was transformed into a blue, god-like being with many extreme abilities and no true weaknesses other than his eventual lack of feeling and understanding towards humans. After the events of the comics, which takes place in 1985, he makes the decision to leave Earth.
During the episode, which is set 34 years after the events of the comics, Angela Abar (Regina King) interrogates the mysterious Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.) over Tulsa’s latest murder. While Reeves claims responsibility for the death, Abar isn’t buying it considering the man is 105-years-old and needs a wheelchair. During the interrogation, Will brings up Doctor Manhattan whose origin story is later shown through a play put on by Jeremy Irons’ character.
“Maybe, uh, I’m Doctor Manhattan,” Will tells Angela.
“He lives on f***ing Mars,” Angela retorts. “And he can’t do that… Look like us.”
Will goes on to list Doctor Manhattan’s powers and asks the question, “Why can’t he be like us?”
Will soon admits that he’s not actually Doctor Manhattan, but this was the first real description of the character’s powers in the series. During the show's premiere, he was mentioned on the news, which showed him still living on Mars. Later in episode two, Angela retells the story to her husband, Cal (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who repeats the same argument, “No, he can’t. And he’s on Mars.”
While the comics don’t show Doctor Manhattan completely transforming into other human beings, this moment does feel like it's foreshadowing a future appearance by the famous comics character, possibly disguised as someone else. He may appear to still be on Mars, but he has the ability to multiply himself and be in two (or more) places at once. You can read a description of the character’s powers from Fandom.com below:
“Jon is able to phase any part of his body through solid objects without damaging them, produce multiple copies of himself which function independently of each other, project destructive energy, disintegrate people, create force fields, transmute, create and destroy matter, move objects without physically touching them (telekinesis), reverse entropy, and, he suggests, create life."
In addition to Angela and Will’s conversations about Doctor Manhattan, we also see Jeremy Irons’ character putting on a play about Jon’s transformation into Doctor Manhattan. While the show has yet to address that Irons is Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, the clues are only becoming clearer and considering he’s listed as such on most websites, including IMDb, it's probably safe to refer to him as Veidt.
During his odd little play, Veidt has his mysterious servants, who appear to be clones, recreate Jon’s transformation to Doctor Manhattan almost exactly how we see it in the comics, but with an overdramatic and somewhat poorly written twist.
During a Watchmen press event, ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak to Irons about the play, and we asked if he thought the moment was fueled more in resentment or nostalgia.
“I think it's slightly nostalgic, slightly trying to understand, slightly filling a long evening. When things happen we tend to, over the next 10 years, write plays about them. What we're trying to do is to understand and to see how it makes us feel and to learn,” Irons explained. “So I think it is some version of that in his wanting to do a play about that. But as I say, not a very good play. I thought-they're not good actors, are they? Very wooden performance,” he joked.0comments
What do you think about the Doctor Manhattan references in tonight's Watchmen episode? Tell us in the comments!
Watchmen airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.