WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the second episode of HBO's Watchmen, "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship," which premiered Sunday.
Set 34 years after the events of the seminal 1986-1987 comics series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, HBO's Watchmen unfolds in a world shaped by the actions of the omnipotent Doctor Manhattan and "the smartest man on the planet," Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias. Technology, politics and even unexplained weather phenomena -- or are they transdimensional attacks? -- all bear their fingerprints. And Veidt is, of course, responsible for the tragedy that pulled the United States and Soviet Union from the brink of nuclear war: the "alien squid" attack on New York City that left millions dead.
However, as we saw in the premiere episode, Veidt has been declared dead, although his actual status is apparently the subject of multiple conspiracy theories. That's with good reason, because as we also saw in that episode, Veidt, played by Jeremy Irons, is alive and well, at what looks to be a posh estate in the English countryside. We can debate how well he is, though. Despite being surrounded by attentive servants, and apparently wanting for little, Veidt appears bored, and throws himself into writing a play, "The Watchmaker's Son," which we previously noted is a reference to Jon Osterman, aka Doctor Manhattan.
But there's more going on here than met the eye in the series premiere; it is, after all, Adrian Veidt. With Watchmen's second episode, "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship," we gain a slightly better understanding, but are ultimately left with even more questions.
How Long Has Veidt Been Here?
We know from the newspaper article glimpsed in the premiere, and republished as part of the Peteypedia files, that Veidt, age 80, was officially declared dead in September 2019 following a seven-year global search. Although his last public appearance was in 2007, the reclusive Veidt wasn't declared missing until 2012 when, following the purchase of his companies by Trieu Industries, members of his board of directors traveled to Antarctica to secure his blessing. What they found instead was Veidt's retreat, Karnak, empty.
But we know Veidt hasn't been at this mysterious estate that entire time: His servants hold an unintentionally somber anniversary celebration in each of the two episodes; the first cake has one candle, and the second two. Where was Veidt for those previous five years?
Where Is Veidt's 'Country Estate'?
We might surmise, given the rolling green hills, architecture and squawking gulls, that Veidt is living in luxury (and secrecy) somewhere along the coast of the United Kingdom. However, we're provided with a couple of clues that suggest otherwise.
The first is that newspaper article, which refers to a "global search" and a declaration of Veidt's presumed death by "authorities on three continents." That makes it highly unlikely he's simply wiling away his days riding horses and writing plays at his country estate, waiting for journalists, or else some government agency, to come knocking.
The second, and far more clever, clue is how we're introduced Veidt and his location. Let's call it the "reverse Star Wars," in which the camera pans up, from the aftermath of the raid on the Seventh Kalvary hideout to the stars, which fade into what we presume is a beach. That may very well indicate Veidt, like Doctor Manhattan, is no longer on Earth.
Why isn't clear, as Antarctica would surely provide him with the privacy he might need, and he appears restless, as if he doesn't want to be ... wherever he is.
'The Watchmaker's Son'
Although Doctor Manhattan forsook Earth for Mars in October 1985, two weeks before the "Dimensional Incursion Event" (that is, the staged attack on New York City by the giant squid creature), he still consumes Veidt's thoughts, 34 years later.
Starring Veidt's butler as Jon Osterman and his maid as Janey Slater, Jon's girlfriend, the play "The Watchmaker's Son" is a dramatization of Doctor Manhattan's origin, as detailed in Watchmen #4. May may quibble with Veidt's writing, which tends toward melodrama, but you have to give him credit for the production values: a naked Manhattan as deus ex machina, descending from the heavens, and, oh, yeah, the horrible death by fire of Veidt's butler.
And that's the real revelation of this scene: that Veidt's servants are some kind of clones, there only for his convenience and amusement. ("Should we put him in the cellar with the others, sir?" the new Mr. Phillips asks his master, referring to the charred, previous model.) Well, that, and Veidt places Manhattan's words to him in the mouth of his actor: "Nothing ends, Janey. Nothing ever ends," which suggests Ozymandias still sees a role for himself in the events of a world that believes him dead. Just because Doctor Manhattan long ago removed himself from earthly concerns doesn't mean that Veidt has.
So What Is Veidt's Plan?
Alas, it's too soon to tell. Aside from the periodic "squid showers" around the globe, none of the events in the primary storyline appear connected to Veidt in any way. It's difficult to imagine "the smartest man on the planet" being concerned with a white-supremacist group in Tulsa, Oklahoma (even if it does drawn inspiration from a former colleague), or with the family tree of police detective Angela Abar (Regina King).
Whatever he may be planning likely doesn't directly involve them, but we can't discount their arcs somehow intersecting with his. Given Veidt's continued fixation with Manhattan, it's far easier to envision him seeking a way to lure his (ahem) old friend back to Earth. For what reason, though? To finally prove that he "did the right thing in the end"?
Developed by Damon Lindelof, HBO's Watchmen stars Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, James Wolk, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith and Adelynn Spoon. The series airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.