WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the third episode of HBO's Watchmen, "She Was Killed By Space Junk," which aired Sunday.
In Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen comic series, Doctor Manhattan became (partially known) for taking residence on planet Mars, and building himself a castle made entirely of glass. However, shortly after his stint on the red planet, the character was pulled back to Earth. There, after realizing that humanity had no need for him now that a semblance of world peace had been reached, Manhattan left this universe behind, looking to visit another or perhaps even create some life elsewhere.
However, In HBO's Watchmen television series, which essentially functions as a sequel to the comic series, we see a modern world that was shaped by Adrian Veidt's fabricated attack on the populace. And what is perhaps most surprising is that, according to news segments, Doctor Manhattan is still living on Mars, spending his time building sand castles.
So far, the character had no direct effect on the story currently unfolding. However, the series' latest episode, "She Was Killed By Space Junk" would have us believe we just witnessed Doctor Manhattan's first direct action in the series. And, at first glance, it sure seems that way, but what if it's all a lie?
While Doctor Manhattan has not been seen in HBO's Watchmen yet, his presence still casts a long shadow over the events of the show. Characters are well aware of his existence, and they operate under the notion that he lives on Mars, detached from the rest humanity, but still close enough to have an effect on humanity. News segments show blurry, pixelated satellite footage of him on the red planet, as some wonder when the blue god might once again walk the Earth -- if he hasn't already.
What's more, the government seems intent on encouraging the people's belief in Doctor Manhattan. The episode reveals that multiple Doctor Manhattan phonebooths have been setup so that people may send recorded messages across space to the blue god himself -- a sort of prayer system, where people can talk to the all-powerful being, and believe they are being listened to.
In the episode, Laurie Blake spends most of the episode sending her former boyfriend an extended message, despite the fact that she doesn't really believe he will ever get it, let alone listen to it. However, when she walks out of the booth, a car smashes down from the sky right in front of her. Laurie takes this as a reference to the extra brick from the joke in her message and, as she looks up to the red star that is Mars, she laughs, now certain that Manhattan heard -- and answered -- her. The episode ends on this note, leaving us with the idea that we just saw Doctor Manhattan at work in the series.
However, that may not really be the case.
In fact, in this case, it's important to recall the ending of the series' previous episode. When "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship" came to a close, Angela Abar was about to take Will Reeves into custody. After placing him inside his car, the vehicle was taken straight into the air, lifted up by a mysterious, magnet-powered crane. We didn't see what type of craft was able to lift the car right off the ground without making any type of noise, but we still at least know that this type of machinery is part of the series' world.
Therefore, it seems likely that this machine also dropped a car in front of Laurie Blake. This could certainly be why the previous episode ended with a car being mysteriously lifted off of the ground. And if that is the case, it means Doctor Manhattan wasn't the one who "answered" Laurie, even if she doesn't believe that. This could have been the work of the government, listening in on her message, and wanting to ensure it kept a firm grasp on one of its best agents. It could've been a manipulative plot as part of the vast, insidious conspiracy the series has teased. Of course, it could just simply be a coincidence, with Angela's car falling right in front of Laurie, who took it as a meaningful sign.
The Watchmen comic book ended with Doctor Manhattan leaving his universe behind. Therefore, it seems odd that the series has the blue god not only still present in this reality, but spending all of his time on another planet. In a world where there are conspiracy theories that the government is staging fake interplanetary squid invasions to maintain the illusion that aliens are actively trying to invade the Earth, could the government also be influencing its people into believing Doctor Manhattan is still out there?
Sustaining the public's belief in an omniscient deity would be a logical way for the government to keep a tense public calm. Even if he left humanity behind, he was a hero once, and he could theoretically always return to save the world again. In fact, the public's belief in someone as powerful as Manhattan could be one of the only things helping keep a tense society from descending into all-out chaos once again.
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.