HBO's Watchmen is not exactly an adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic graphic novel. It's a new story set in the same world where all the events of the comic happened. Using the graphic novel as a canonical text gives executive producer Damon Lindelof the opportunity to pack the show full of references that Watchmen fans will appreciate. And if you're watching Watchmen without having read the comic, maybe this can help you understand the context of the show. Here are all the Watchmen Easter eggs embedded in the show. This post will be updated as the season continues. If you see any Easter eggs I missed, let me know on Twitter.
Episode 1 - "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice"
Squids. The first Easter egg of the season is this poster in Angela's (Regina King) son's classroom. The kids need to learn about squids because every now and then tiny ones rain from the sky. This is apparently an aftereffect of what happened at the end of the graphic novel, when Adrian Veidt dropped a psychic squid on Manhattan that blew up and killed millions of people. It was supposed to unite the world against a supposed alien attack, but Veidt was exposed by Rorschach's journal, which was posthumously published in a right-wing magazine called the New Frontiersman. It's unclear at this point in the show whether or not Veidt's plan succeeded or if people believed Rorschach (they probably didn't, because Rorschach was a pretty easily discreditable fringe-dwelling nutjob).
The Future Is Bright. This sign wielded by an optimistic fellow as Angela heads to her bakery is the inverse of the sign carried by Walter Kovacs -- Rorschach without his mask -- in the comic. He was a doomsday prophet with a sign that said "The End Is Nigh."
American Hero Story. The Minutemen get the FX treatment. The Minutemen were the first group of costumed heroes, assembled in 1939. (The second group was assembled in the '60s and consisted of the comic's main characters.) The members were Captain Metropolis, Silk Spectre, Hooded Justice (pictured above), the original Nite Owl, Silhouette, Dollar Bill, Mothman, and The Comedian. They fought crime and served as American propaganda during World War II. They fully disbanded in 1949, amidst infighting, scandal, and tragedy. They definitely have an interesting enough story to warrant an O.J. Simpson-style limited series.
Nixon. In the Watchmen reality, Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, used nuclear superman Dr. Manhattan to win the Vietnam War, annexed that country into the United States, and was reelected five times until he died in office. Gerald Ford, Nixon's Vice President, succeeded him. Ford was defeated in 1992 by Robert Redford, who has been president ever since. Nixon has since been adopted as a right-wing symbol, as President Redford is a liberal who implemented a federal reparations program for victims of racial violence and their descendants. Got all that?
Rorschach. The Seventh Kavalry is inspired by the masked vigilante who never gave up the fight even after costumed adventuring was outlawed. That inspiration might be based on a misinterpretation, as Rorschach's libertarian ideology was not explicitly white supremacist. The speech this Seventh Kavalryman makes -- "Cop carcass on the highway last night. Soon the accumulated black filth will be hosed away, and the streets of Tulsa will turn into extended gutters overflowing with liberal tears. Soon all the whores and race traitors will shout 'save us.' And we will whisper, 'No,'" -- is a remix of the passage from Rorschach's journal that opens the graphic novel: "Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'Save us!'... and I'll look down and whisper 'No.'"
In the graphic novel, a psychiatrist tried to understand Rorschach by having him look at the ink blot psychological tests from which he drew his name. On the show, the Rorschach test gets a modern upgrade with the Pod, which measures reaction to Rorschach-style stimuli. Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson), the masked detective who administers the test, is styled as sort of an anti-Rorschach. Rorschach's mask also tightly covered his whole head, but it constantly moved and changed. Looking Glass' mask is an unchanging, impenetrable mirror.
Poison pill. Adrian Veidt staged an attack on himself to make it look someone was preying on costumed heroes, and to keep the guy he hired to shoot at him from talking, he slipped him a poison pill and made it look like a suicide. The Seventh Kavalry member who shot the Tulsa cop actually took a suicide pill.
Dollar Bill. In the Seventh Kavalry's hideout, Angela sees an old framed bank advertisement featuring Dollar Bill, one of the original Minutemen. The Dollar Bill character was created by the National Bank Co.'s marketing department to capitalize on the costumed hero fad and give customers a sense of security that their money was being protected by a superhero, and this ad makes clear that the customers they were selling to were white people who wanted their money kept safe from black people. In the comics, Dollar Bill was considered a decent, upstanding man by his peers, which of course does not mean he wasn't racist. Like Rorschach, Dollar Bill has been co-opted as a white supremacist symbol, maybe justifiably, maybe not. Dollar Bill was killed while attempting to thwart a robbery when the impractical cape the bank made him wear got caught in a revolving door and he was shot at point-blank range.
Nite Owl's ship. The design of Tulsa PD's aircraft is very similar to the one used by Dan Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl. They even both have a flamethrower.Jeremy Irons, Watchmen" data-image-credit="Colin Hutton/HBO" data-image-alt-text="čJeremy Irons, Watchmen" data-image-credit-url="" data-image-target-url="" data-image-title="čJeremy Irons, Watchmen" data-image-filename="191020-watchmen.jpg" data-image-date-created="2019/10/20" data-image-crop="" data-image-crop-gravity="" data-image-aspect-ratio="" data-image-height="1380" data-image-width="2070" data-image-do-not-crop="" data-image-do-not-resize="" data-image-watermark="" data-lightbox="">
The Watchmaker's Son. The subject of unconfirmed-but-definitely-Veidt's (Jeremy Irons) play is Jon Osterman, who became Dr. Manhattan as the result of a laboratory accident. Jon Osterman's father was a watchmaker, and he encouraged his son to become a nuclear physicist instead of following in his footsteps.
A newspaper headline earlier in the episode said that Veidt has been declared dead, so whatever is going on with Veidt at his manor in the Welsh countryside surrounded by clones is a secret from the world. He was introduced on the show riding a white horse, which is a reference to the band Pale Horse, who were performing at Madison Square Garden when the squid hit, and also his status as a bringer of death.
The drop of blood. This is a reference to Watchmen's most iconic image, a smiley face pin with a drop of blood on it. In the graphic novel, the pin and the blood belong to the Comedian, who is murdered by being thrown out of a window. His murder catalyzes the story, not unlike how the murder of Chief Crawford (Don Johnson) will catalyze the show's story. Angela will investigate Crawford's murder like Rorschach investigated the Comedian's. And like Rorschach, the more she learns, the more questions she's going to have.
Watchmen airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on HBO.
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