It took Watchmen eight episodes to do it, but the series finally managed to make Ozymandias’ side story interesting. But the new revelations about what the world’s smartest man is up to continue long after this week’s credits have finished rolling.
One of the only things Adrian Veidt ever really wanted out of life was to be recognised for the sheer scale magnitude of his brilliance, something he sought first by becoming a superhero, then a successful business tycoon, and then a ruthless terrorist responsible for killing millions of innocent people in order to save billions. His hubris aside, Ozymandias’ biggest flaw has always been his inability to be satisfied with the reverence he was actually afforded by his peers (the man was famous, after all) and his constant desire for more. On some level, that desire, and his plan to avert nuclear war, is what drove him to drop a mutant squid onto New York City.
Depending on how you look at things, Ozymandias’ plan was successful, albeit in a way that resulted in a related-outcome that would forever get under the megalomaniac’s skin. The squid plan could only work if no one knew that it was he who orchestrated it and that the squid itself wasn’t actually an inter-dimensional monster. This week’s episode of Watchmen showed us just how much emotional agony not being credited for saving the world caused Ozymandias and how an old friend attempted to ease his pain by making him an offer that brought him to the strange mansion we’ve seen him in throughout the season. But the episode’s post-credits scene makes it obvious just how brilliantly hellbent he’s been to escape the place for years.
While there was much speculation as to where Ozymandias has been this whole time, “A God Walks Into Abar” reminds us that his mansion is actually located on Jupiter’s moon Europa, a location where Doctor Manhattan had previously created life and built a kind of shrine to an English man and woman who took his family in while they were fleeing Nazis in the ‘30s. Ozymandias might have found some comfort living in seclusion in a place filled with nothing but people whose sole purpose was to unwaveringly adore him, but he, like Doctor Manhattan, is a person who understood (and disliked) being pandered to, and so in time, he began to devise a means of escaping the place.
Initially, it seemed that while the clone servants of the mansion were all well-meaning, but perhaps not the most intelligent beings. However, the latest episode showed us they’re all quite capable of independent, sophisticated thinking. For every one of them that might hand Ozymandias a horseshoe when what he needs is a knife to cut a cake, there are others living on the moon—like the Gamemaster—who live independent of him and have complex thoughts about morality, justice, and the law.
The only real law of the land is that no matter what, Ozymandias isn’t allowed to leave the moon, which is precisely what he’s been trying to do all season. But after building himself a spacesuit and a catapult capable of launching him beyond the atmosphere where he spelled out “SAVE ME” with the bodies of dead clones, he’s caught by the Gamewarden who informs him that he’s to be put on trial for his crime. Of course, Ozymandias is found guilty, and by the first ending of the episode, it’s unclear what his punishment is to be aside from having tomatoes smashed in his face by the clones who ask him one by one whether he’ll stay with them.
The post-credits scene, however, shows us that following his trial, Ozymandias ends up being thrown in prison like the common criminal he is. Despite the fact that the Gamewarden hates what Ozymandias has done, he comes to visit the man in his cell to ask him why he would ever want to leave the moon because the Gamewarden sees it as a heaven of Doctor Manhattan’s creation. The fact that the Gamewarden can recall witnessing the beginning of life on the moon suggests that he might be the first of the human beings Manhattan created (Adam and Eve), which would explain the unique role he plays amongst his kind, and it opens up the possibility that the mansion isn’t necessarily a prison of Manhattan’s making. The two powerful men did seem to be getting the best our of their deal, after all.
Strange as the clones’ behaviour has been this season, it’s very much a possibility that after Doctor Manhattan left them on Europa, they all felt a deep sense of abandonment they never could have expressed to their creator in a way that would have convinced him to stay. Ozymandias being a human, though, they are infinitely more capable of keeping the man put, ensuring they’d never have to go through the trauma of being left alone again. If that were the case, then Ozymandias’ “SAVE ME” message could actually be interpreted as having been a call for help to Manhattan, the only person alive who could get him out of the land of fawning English people.
Angered though the Gamewarden is, he still cares for Ozymandias on some level, as is evidenced by the cake he offers the man from the other clones. As Ozymandias digs into the cake, it becomes clear that the genius has somehow planned for this moment all along because within the cake is yet another horseshoe, echoing the scene in episode one when one of the clones hands Ozymandias a horseshoe, which makes an infinite more amount of sense with this new information.
It’s unclear whether the horseshoe baked into the cake was something Ozymandias gamed out himself, a simple mistake made by one of the less intelligent clones, or a purposeful move by the clones, but the man wastes no time gleefully tossing his cell room bed to the side to begin digging into the floor underneath with his new tool (how effective a blunt object like that will be is another question).
Clearly, Ozymandias wants out and the clones are none too pleased that he wants to be free of them, but the question now is whether this is all some sort of elaborate game Ozymandias is playing with himself because he’s bored, whether the clones are attempting to keep him on the moon because they love him, or if Manhattan himself created them specifically so that the moon would become a prison for the world’s most infamous, unknown mass murderer.