As viewers discovered while watching the premiere, HBO's Watchmen is a downright-bizarre comic adaptation. That's because it's not technically an adaptation at all. Instead, it's a little like those reboots that imagine the characters from a TV show or movie decades later. The original comic was set in 1985. In HBO's version, it's 2019, three decades on. Most of the characters are brand new. But there's one character introduced in the premiere who fans think is an older version of one of the original comic characters. But this Watchmen theory about Jeremy Irons’ character suggests the situation could be way more complex than fans are thinking. Warning: Spoilers for Watchmen follow.
When Jeremy Irons turns up in the new Watchmen series, he's dressed like he's on Downton Abbey, riding across the moors on his horse. He lives in a giant castle, with a pair of weirdly overeager servants, ready to celebrate his birthday. But Irons' character, who is not named, seems rather easily irritated by all this.
He's got a plan he's working on. But who is he? And where is he?
Fans believe Irons is playing an older version of Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias. In the comics, Veidt is in his late 30s, a former child prodigy whose belief in his superiority as a superhero has led him to start acting like a supervillain.
Irons' age tracks, as 35 years on, Veidt would be in his late 60s/early 70s. The lifestyle tracks, as Ozymandias saw himself as someone who should be living in lavish luxury. Even the servants track. These not-quite-right creatures seem strangely inhuman, and could easily be part of a cloning experiment. (In the comics, it is suggested as the story ends that Veidt's next project is cloning.)
But that's where things get weird. Because the premiere also shows a newspaper that announces Veidt's death. So who, or what, is this man in the high castle?
Would Veidt fake his death? It's plausible,. But then how is he still living in a castle where anyone can spot him? That's where the cloning aspect comes in. What if Irons is not the real Veidt, but a clone?
In the comics, the character who suggests the idea of Veidt getting into cloning is Doctor Manhattan. Unlike Vedit, who is, after all, only human, Manhattan is not. Due to an accident, he is now immortal, all-seeing, all-powerful. And in the brief glimpse of him in the premiere as part of a newscast shows him on Mars, destroying a castle.
More importantly, Manhattan has reasons to keep Veidt alive in some format. The Watchmen comic's big denouement comes when a Giant Alien Squid falls on NYC, killing millions. This "alien invasion" was a hoax Veidt set up to end the threat of nuclear war, by giving humans a new enemy. Veidt may be dead, but the mini-squid rainstorm in the premiere shows someone is still keeping up the pretense squids can fall from the sky at any time.
Manhattan knew about the hoax and helped cover it up. If Veidt died on him, it would make sense to clone the man up on Mars. Manhattan must keep Veidt going, as long as the sky shall squid.