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Seeds blossom to reveal hidden pasts on Watchmen

Hong Chau
Photo: Mark Hill (HBO)
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For the second straight week, Watchmen introduces a badass, game-changing woman to the canon of heroes. If last week was about unearthing the past, this week is about sowing the seeds of the future. Acorns, surprise babies, and a catapult filled with dead bodies bear new fruit to the mystery salad that is Watchmen.

Lady Trieu (Hong Chau) takes time very seriously. As a trillionaire, the word “no” must be completely foreign to her. After all, she can drop in on a stranger, and perform a life-changing miracle in under three minutes. A worshiper at the altar of Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), similarities between these heavy-hitting CEOs quickly becomes apparent. Which makes me wonder, could Lady Trieu be the next big bad, or am I simply seeing a red herring?

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Chau makes the third leading woman who is forty or older to enter Watchmen, and she’s every bit as wonderful, calculating, and intimidating as Regina King and Jean Smart. She plays Trieu like a fox, luring people in with intelligent questions, giving lots of thought to each word, but always ready to make difficult decisions. Jokes about disposing of babies lead one to believe Trieu possesses the ability to be the big bad. Both Trieu and Veidt have access to cloning technology. We’ve seen the way Adrian callously murders his clone servants in prior episodes, but this week raised the stakes to something unimaginable. Somehow, Veidt grows human babies underwater, pulls them up in crab traps, and fiendishly disposes of any weak specimen. After killing three million people, a few more babies won’t tip the cosmic scales against him.

Jeremy Irons (left), Christie Amery (right)
Photo: Mark Hill (HBO)

Trieu walks around as queen of her kingdom—makes sense considering she’s worth the GDP of a first world country. Unlike Veidt, Trieu doesn’t needlessly destroy. She’s got a plan. Step one, The Millennium Clock, stands to be the first wonder of the new world, putting into perspective just how fundamentally the world changed after 11/2. Step two: Lady Trieu’s daughter Bian (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport) looks like she will play a central role in Trieu’s plan. We saw Bian in episode two purchasing every available newspaper, and she swore she reads all of them every single day. Not just an avid reader, she appears to be her mother’s right hand in the company. I think she’s a clone of Lady Trieu.

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Trieu dresses completely in white. In Buddhism, white clothes typically represent the mourning of a close relative. Trieu briefly mentioned her mother wished that she would never leave Vietnam right before she died. Considering the role that family trauma plays in the series so far, it’s safe to guess that she might still be grieving her mother. However, if we look at the use of non-linear time throughout the franchise, Trieu could also be mourning a death that hasn’t yet occurred. Her connection to Veidt could mean another large terrorist attack looms on the horizon. But Veidt dropped the squid to bring about world peace. Perhaps she doesn’t think Adrian went far enough. Or, the dark and insidious plot Reeves spoke of is known to Trieu, and she aims to course correct.

My other big prediction this week is that the clock could be a time machine of sorts. The fact that only a direct nuclear blast could take it out leads me to believe that Doctor Manhattan may be the one to destroy it, or Trieu aims to do what her predecessor Veidt couldn’t, and will use the clock to kill Manhattan. After all, from Trieu’s perspective, Doctor Manhattan’s the worst terrorist there is. Manhattan singlehandedly ended the war, and many died in the process.

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Lady Trieu named her daughter Bian, which means “secretive.” When Bian tells her mother about her bad dream, she seems to be reliving her mother’s death march during the American War, as it would have been known to Lady Trieu in Vietnam. Truth be told, what little I know about that war comes from pop culture references, and is heavily tainted by U.S. revisionism. (I highly recommend this article from The Atlantic if you want to learn more about how Vietnam views the conflict.) I hope that the show will take a moment to acknowledge unknown events as they’ve done for the Black American community. William Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.) mentions wanting his granddaughter to know him, which is why he left pills in her glove compartment. I guess they’ll inform Sister Night (Regina King) of his past identity? The IV drip must be giving Bian her mother’s memories. But then why does Lady Trieu see a distinction between sharing her past with her daughter and Will sharing his with his granddaughter? Whatever they’ve got cooking feels tenuous. Trieu isn’t sure she can trust Reeves, even though he’s willing to blow up any relationship he might have with his last living blood relative in just 72 hours.

Regina King
Photo: Mark Hill (HBO)
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Angela’s last 72 hours have been a whirlwind. A long lost relative returns. Then, as suddenly as he appeared, he’s gone again. She buried her mentor, who may have been a racist, discovered the long lost relative who killed him, covered it up, thwarted a domestic terrorist attack, and now she knows the FBI is on to her misdoings. In the middle of such chaos, she retrieves an acorn that expands not just her family tree, but the knowledge she has of herself. For Black Americans, putting a face, a job title, even a name to our ancestors frequently proves a challenge. Slavers moved our enslaved ancestors around like cattle. In other words, no one recorded their names on official documents. As a Black American who has tracked their genealogy, I can say that getting a picture, not of someone in chains, but someone who made choices with their life that directly led to my existence proved riveting. King performed the family tree scene with devastating subtle emotion. How co-writers David Lindelof and Christal Henry wrote Angela’s send-off speech to Reeves moved me. Squatting before the only known picture of William, as a little boy standing between his parents, she tells the old man to leave her alone. There’s so much being said about the emotional scars abandonment leaves even a generation later. But knowing William’s history also lets the viewer mourn for the man he might have been if he hadn’t witnessed such horrors at a young age. It’s another profoundly moving scene.

Speaking of moving, Laurie’s (Jean Smart) made herself quite at home at the Tulsa Police Department. Usually, a small window of grievance gives officers a chance to adjust to new leadership. But Laurie’s not working on anyone else’s clock. Having slept with Petey (Dustin Ingram) did not change their relationship dynamic. He’s still a lovesick puppy following her around, taking orders, and sitting in the backseat of the car. I wonder if he’ll become what she was for Manhattan, a tool used by the government to keep the almighty in check. One thing Petey did that was helpful this week was put some more context into the American Hero Story television show. The guy with a PhD in history found himself disgusted by the inaccuracies of the show. So far, everything we’ve seen in the series matches up with the history given in the original text. This means there could be some big changes to the canon. Many people have already mentioned the similarities between Hooded Justice’s costume and the costumes Bass Reeves wore in Trust in the Law in episode one. With William taking Reeves’ last name as his own, perhaps the first superhero was a Black man. Imagine.

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This world still hasn’t seen a Black man as president, which seems important given the reparations and the racial hostility brewing under the surface. A change in the highest office could mean Black Americans will end up right back where they started. I maintain that Senator Joe Keene smells bad. His overly polite, quick smile, heavy bodyguards, cleft chin, and the too charming accent are all part of an act. I don’t trust him. And was “I’m not supposed to know who you are” a thinly veiled threat against Angela? He better not play with her.

Well, we’ve got three days (episodes?) to see what it is Trieu and Reeves crafted. I wonder if we’ll hate them, as Reeves predicted, or if their actions will bring about a new world perspective. Will that baby come back into play? How will Laurie and Angela handle Angela’s crime and the big secret? I hope we get some more answers next week.

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Regina King (left), Jean Smart (right)
Photo: Mark Hill (HBO)

Stray observations

  • Cal (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) calmly telling his children God doesn’t exist and then making them waffles is the first Hallmark style scene I’ve seen for atheists. I thought it was rather stunning in its simplicity.
  • The Silver Surfer wannabe, who I will refer to as Lube Man until name confirmation, was a wild C plot that I hope we comes back to soon. Were they spying on Angela, or did they just happen to cross paths? Could they be an agent of Trieu, or are they part of a completely different outfit? Either way, Red (Andrew Howard) and Pirate Jenny’s (Jessica Camacho) complete dismissal of this mask could spell trouble.
  • The vivarium connects Trieu and Veidt again. Veidt had a vivarium in Antarctica. They’re designed for study. Veidt studied the global trends and used them to build his empire via capitalism. I wonder what Trieu studies.
  • Veidt said he was the servants’ master but not their creator. Many have suggested that Manhattan keeps Veidt contained here, able to predict his every move. Makes sense given Manhattan’s warning at the end of the novel, “Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”
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About the author

Joelle Monique

A contributor for Playboy and Hollywood Reporter Joelle writes about film, television, and comic books. A speaker, host, and avid podcaster her reviews have been featured on NPR, BBC1, and ET.