We have arrived at the final episode of Watchmen season one, which makes me incredibly nervous, because if you’re familiar with Damon Lindelof, then you know sticking the landing isn’t his strong suit. Even though the story is mostly in focus now, and we can see how things connect, there are still a lot of questions to answer. Some of the questions are plot driven, such as: Is Adrien Veidt back on Earth? Is Adrian Veidt Lady Trieu’s father? Will Laurie Blake survive? Where is Looking Glass? What happened to Doctor Manhattan? And some questions are more thematic, such as: How does causality relate to the theme of racial injustice? What will Angela’s and Lady Trieu’s actions reveal about generational trauma? Will there be a reckoning in Tulsa for the riot of 1921?
One thing is certain—Watchmen has been a breath of fresh air in the superhero narrative space this year. I couldn’t get behind The Boys because nihilism is boring and saying “superheroes are actually dicks” is uninteresting when there is nothing to counter it. Watchmen is critical of superheroes and the superhero mythos, and it has its own bleak vision of the world, but it is still a story that makes room for hope and love. Not, like, a lot of hope and love, but the moment Angela charged out of her house, to at least try and save Manhattan, is one of the best and most romantic hero moments. Of course that’s when Manhattan falls in love with her, because that is when Angela is her best and truest self, fighting to protect her family and save the man she loves.
I don’t expect Watchmen to be the kind of superhero story where the good guys all walk away from the fight unscathed. Frankly, I won’t be shocked if everyone dies. But I am interested to see if, in its final act, Watchmen comes down on the side of hope or despair. Heartbreak seems a given—Angela is probably not getting a happily ever after, and a bunch of people are probably going to die—but for all that Watchmen critiques superheroes, it is still very much about a particular hero on a journey. Here at the end, all that really matters is what Angela’s journey reveals about the world in which she lives, and how her actions change, or don’t change, that world.