Watchmen S1E9: See How They Fly

by thethreepennyguignol

Man, it’s good to have a finale that actually feels like a finale, you know what I mean?

There’s been an uptick, recently, in what I’ve narcisstically dubbed the Episode Nine Phenomenon – which is to say, seasons of television that cram their traditional finale fodder into their second-last episode to leave the final episode of their season open to set up for the stories to follow. And I see why that’s a thing, I do, but I miss the days when you could look forward to a real ending, one that closed the doors without scrambling to open new ones along the way.

And that, to me, is exactly what See How They Fly, the season finale of this debut series of Watchmen, delivers on. In just an hour, Damon Lindelof and his distinguished company have managed to turn out a jam-packed, character-driven close-off to the season as a whole. And the best thing I can say about it right now? Is that I’m not looking forward to season two.

Okay, hear me out. This episode was jammed to the brim with revelations, major developments, big character beats, everything that I’m looking for from the end of a story. Lady Trieu (the already much-missed Hong Chau, whose cold, calculated, somehow charming performance has been one of the many highlights of this season) is actually Adrien Viedt’s daughter – and he isn’t the only OG Watchman that she’s coming for, as she reveals her plans to imbue herself with Doctor Manhattan’s powers in order to better the world. Like all great bad guys (though I’m reluctant to actually call her that, if only in the hopes that in my politeness she may leave me her killer wardrobe), Trieu’s reasoning is abjectly clear and makes a hell of a lot of sense – what selfishness does it take to just sit on the power that Manhattan has, when he could change the world for the better with such ease?

Of course, like every plan she’s ever put into place, Trieu is at least mostly successful in her mission (though does end up getting crushed under her own Deus Ex Machina, because not every plan’s a winner, eh?), and Doctor Manhattan is no more. Now, I think this is actually a good idea for the series as a whole – having a character who can do literally anything basically removes all stakes from the story as a whole, and having his appearance be so brief and so final makes a lot of sense for the world that this Watchmen iteration has created. But, in my soft gooey parts, oh my God was this just a gorgeously handled sequence; those final moments that Angela and John share are so dearly earned, not least by last week’s stunning love story, and I don’t care how much of a cliche it makes me – even my stone-cold ass had a little blub at their last goodbye. Proving that Doctor Manhattan really can do anything.

To the thematic elements of this season, though, and how they were wrapped up in this finale: Will Reeves and Angela share a scene after Trieu’s plan has been thwarted, and this is, arguably, where the whole season crytallises into one piece. You can’t heal behind a mask, Will reminds Angela – wounds need air. And it seems like, at last, she is ready to accept that. She has a whole lot of healing to do, after everything she has lost, but she has finally reached a point where there are no masks left to conceal her pain. Their conversation takes place in the Dreamland Theatre, where we started the series, and where Will’s first encounter with the masked hero was born – it makes sense that it comes here to die, too.

And she’s not the only one who is finally ready to shed the mask: Tim Blake Nelson (on whom, I realized this week, I have developed the most ridiculous crush, even if I didn’t get to hear him say Oklahoma again) is involved in using the outer-space trauma squid to save the world, and even does it without his Mirror Guy facade, and Laurie faces her role in the 1985 tragedy and arrests a returned Adrien. And Adrien, while he might want to hide behind the mask, doesn’t have that luxury any longer – even Trieu points out that it’s hardly befitting for a man his age. Apart from maybe birthday parties.

But, like I said, I’m not looking forward to season two. And that’s because this season provided such a beautiful, fully-formed arc in its own right. Obviously, I’ll be back to watch and probably write about the next season of Watchmen, and I truly think it’s one of the best shows of 2019 and maybe even of the decade at large. But for now, I’m happy with the story we got. It’s been a gloriously ambitious, witty, and moving ride, and I want to sit with this first season for a while before I think about what’s to come next.

Well, that’s us for the season! Thanks for following along with my recaps, and I really hope you enjoyed them. If you liked this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out my American Horror Story recapsGame of Thrones snark-caps, my Doctor Who reviews, and my Star Wars movie retrospective on my other blog, No But Listen. As ever, please consider supporting me on Patreon for access to exclusive posts and a chance to choose what I write about!

(header image via Film)