(Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 11, 2019, and has been republished now that the entire series is available to watch for free on HBO.com.)
HBO’s Watchmen series is off to an explosive start, and the show based on the groundbreaking comic book series isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Episode 1 of Watchmen was packed with call-outs to its source material and clues about where the story is headed, and both the second episode and third episode offered even more Easter Eggs. TV series creator Damon Lindelof has given audiences a lot to absorb in each episode, and there’s a good chance you might have missed some intriguing elements. To help you get the most out of your Watchmen experience, we’ve put together a list of some of the key comic references, Easter Eggs, and story hints from episode 4.
(Note: Plot details from the most recent episode of Watchmen will be discussed below, so make sure you’re caught up with the series to avoid spoilers.)
The episode’s title
Each episode’s title in Watchmen has played into the that chapter’s theme in one way or another, from the second episode’s “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” referencing the George Catlin painting of the same name, to the last episode’s Devo call-out with “She Was Killed By Space Junk.” Episode 4’s title is “If you don’t like my story, write your own,” and it’s a nod to Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, which also happens to be the book Cal (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the husband of Angela Abar (Regina King), is seen reading in the episode.
The book chronicles the life of a Nigerian wrestler whose family and culture are forever changed by British colonialism in the late 19th century. Despite his attempts to improve his family’s status through the traditions of his clan, the protagonist of the story finds his world falling apart after Christian missionaries begin changing the very rules he lived by.
Books, real and otherwise
Things Fall Apart isn’t the only noteworthy book referenced in the episode. In one of the episode’s early scenes, a woman at a farm stand can be seen reading a copy of Fogdancing. This fictional book is part of the complicated history of the Watchmen timeline invented by the original comic’s creators, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
In the world of Watchmen, the writer of the Tales of the Black Freighter pulp comic series — a fictional comic book that’s mentioned throughout the original Watchmen and tells an allegorical story-within-the-story tale involving pirates and marooned sailors — also wrote a novel titled Fogdancing. The novel was adapted into a film twice before the author disappeared under mysterious circumstances. (The Black Freighter was referenced in the show’s second episode via the name of the motel where Laurie Blake is staying.)
Introducing Lady Trieu
Big Little Lies actress Hong Chau was finally introduced as the mysterious Lady Trieu in this episode after being mentioned an episode earlier. She’s one of the most enigmatic new characters introduced to HBO’s Watchmen universe, and appears to be the common link between many of the show’s biggest mysteries: Tulsa riot survivor Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.), Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), the falling squid (since she seemed to know about the latest incident before it happened), and the investigation connected to the murder of Chief Crawford (Don Johnson) and the rise of the 7th Kavalry.
Adrian Veidt’s talents in the field of genetic manipulation are considered one potential reason behind the proliferation of clones around the exiled — or rather, imprisoned — genius in Watchmen. As mentioned in the analysis of episode 2, Veidt was often accompanied by a genetically modified lynx named Bubastis in the original Watchmen comic, and that lynx makes an unexpected appearance in the show’s fourth episode.
Angela’s adopted son Topher (Dylan Schombing) can be seen holding a stuffed toy version of Bubastis in the episode, which he later gives to Angela when she mentions that she was afraid during the attack at the cemetery an episode earlier.
Although it initially seemed like most people in Watchmen had adopted a ho-hum attitude toward recurring, seemingly unexplained showers of squids, we learn in this episode that Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson) — the Tulsa detective better known as Looking Glass — is on the opposite side of the spectrum of interest. If the interior of his fortified bunker is any indication, Tillman has a bit of an obsession with the squids raining down on the region. If anyone is likely to give the show’s audience the answers we’re hoping for, Tillman appears to be the most likely character to do so.
It’s worth noting that episode 4 continues to offer more visual and thematic similarities between Tillman and Walter Kovacs, the vigilante Rorschach. Along with their trademark masks, both characters display obsessive personalities (particularly when it comes to conspiracies), excellent detective skills, and appear to be more comfortable wearing their masks than being without them. The original Watchmen comic frequently depicted Rorschach slurping up messy food with his mask pulled up over his mouth, while the TV series did the same with Looking Glass in the second episode. In episode 3, those similarities continue to develop.
Possibly the biggest mystery in Watchmen is Adrian Veidt’s predicament. Surrounded by disposable clones on what appears to be a sprawling European manor, Veidt exists in a world where tomatoes grow on trees and new assistants can be fished out of the water as infants and grown to adulthood in minutes via some sort of industrial contraption. Veidt makes frequent mention of being imprisoned in the environment we see in the show and is seemingly using his cloned minions to find a way out — a path which has thus far only yielded deceased, frozen bodies.
There are a few more subtle mysteries at play in Veidt’s predicament, too. Throughout the series, his cloned servants have repeatedly offered him a cake celebrating his “anniversary,” but the number of candles on the cake has increased by one each time this scenario unfolds. In episode 4, we see yet another cake — this time, with four candles — amid the piles of dead servants in his dining room. There’s also the mystery of the silver horseshoe which popped up in the first episode and then again in this episode, with Veidt declaring that he doesn’t need it … yet.
One popular rumor suggests that Dr. Manhattan has somehow imprisoned Veidt on Mars, creating a fantastic world for him to solve his way out of (perhaps the greatest puzzle he’s faced), and the frozen bodies his escape efforts have produced thus far are a result of being exposed to the freezing air outside his prison. Another theory suggests that it’s Lady Trieu who has imprisoned him, given the reverence she shows him and her own, mysterious backstory. Either way, episode 4 only adds fuel to the speculative fire that makes HBO’s Watchmen so fascinating.