Case in point: a scene of a man (Sleepyhollow’s Tom Mison) covered in blue paint descending penis-first from the ceiling in the middle of a theatrical play/grisly murder scene (Mison confirmed to TVLine he used a body double). Yes, someone went full-frontal during Sunday night’s Watchmen episode, “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship.” It was the strangest thing you’ll see all week.
Let’s unravel the entire azure-genatalied moment.
Dr. Manhattan, the godlike superhero from Watchmen’s 1980s source material, is a looming memory in the HBO show’s world. As Billy Crudup reminded reminded audiences when he played Dr. Manhattan in 2009’s movie version of this story, the character is a gigantic blue, ab-stastic hunk prone to showing off his huge member.
While 2019’s version of Watchmen hasn’t given us Dr. Manhattan in the flesh yet, we have heard about him a few times. The first notable instance arrives at the beginning of “Martial Feats,” when Angela Abar (Regina King) and Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.) argue about how Will could have possibly murdered Judd Crawfrod (Don Johnson) in last week's premiere. Will claims he could be Dr. Manhattan, who has the ability to grow to 100 feet tall, make copies of himself, and be in two places at once. Why couldn’t he take the form of an elderly Black man? Angela reminds Will the one thing Dr. Manhattan can’t do is look like a human. Plus, he’s been on Mars for years.
For most of the episode, it appears that is “Martial Feats'” last big conversation about Dr. Manhattan. Then Veidt’s play happens. The man with the blue penis coming out of the sky should have tipped you off that it has something to do with pop culture’s most famous blue naked guy. Veidt’s play is Dr. Manhattan’s very grim origin story, as played by his two bafflingly loyal servants, Mr. Phillips (Mison) and Ms. Crookshanks (Christie Amery).
The play follows Dr. Manhattan’s exact beginnings according to the original Watchmen comics. Before Dr. Manhattan was Dr. Manhattan, he was Jon Osterman, a physicist in love with a fellow scientist named Janey Slater. After Janey’s watch stopped working, Jon, the son of a watchmaker, promised to fix it. Unfortunately for Jon, he left Janey's watch in a test chamber in their Arizona lab. The door to the chamber shut, trapping Jon inside. He was bathed in radiation and seemingly died. Eventually, Jon returned to corporeal form in the facility as something new — the far more powerful and nude Dr. Manhattan.
This is why, after Veidt incinerates the first Mr. Philips in a recreation of Jon’s death, a second Mr. Philips comes down from above giving the blue full monty and announcing, “I am Dr. Manhattan.” Vedit is clearly obsessed with authenticity in his bizarre play. If Dr. Manhattan is best known for going full-frontal, it’s not like he would let the man playing him cover up. This is a writer/director who so intensely wanted real tears from his actress, he set a man on fire to get them.
Although we can understand Veidt’s motives for getting Mr. Phillips 2.0’s clothing off, “Martial Feats” leaves us with a few glaring questions about this interlude. The trip to Veidt Manor confirms Veidt has, at minimum, three clones of both Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks. We still have no idea why, or how, he pulled that unsettling stunt off. All we do know is that there are even more burned Mr. Phillips bodies are hiding in the cellar — and Veidt has plans for them. What those plans are, and why Veidt has created an entire play about his MIA blue friend, is a mystery.
Maybe next week's “She Was Killed by Space Junk” will illuminate the answers to our burning Watchmen questions. Or maybe Tom Mison will be doused in blue paint and pushed onto a stage again. In Watchmen, anything is possible.