With the latest episode of Watchmen, "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship," we’ve learned just a little bit more about Jeremy Irons’ character, who is all but confirmed to be Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias. Sure, they haven’t specifically named him yet onscreen, but as creator and showrunner Damon Lindelof recently told IGN, “I am very comfortable saying you can't call something Watchmen unless Adrian Veidt is in it.”Ozymandias is the former masked adventurer who, in the original story, turned out to be behind a far-reaching conspiracy which resulted in the death of some three million people, all to stop a nuclear war from taking place (long story). Now, over 30 years later on the HBO show, it sure seems as though that plan worked. But how does Veidt feel about what he did back then? And what exactly is he up to now, seemingly living in isolation with those weird clone-like servants of his? Oh, and why is he staging a reenactment of the birth of Dr. Manhattan in the latest episode? And will Veidt’s story ever connect to what’s going on in Tulsa? Let’s dig in with Lindelof and Irons on these questions and more…
Adrian Veidt’s Guilt
“I think anybody must properly carry a bit of guilt,” says Irons when asked about his character’s state of mind in relation to the attack in the original comic. “And guilt is a bit of a prison, isn't it? So I think we probably get the feeling that he does feel imprisoned in a sort of way in his life, and he's trying to change his life and trying to fill his life so that he has something to do, which is probably how most people feel. … You try to generate enthusiasm in your soul by doing what you do well.”
Irons compares Veidt’s actions to real-world situations like the bombing of Dresden in World War II, or civilian casualties in the Middle East.
“We carry that knowledge and I suppose as generations pass that guilt dissipates,” he continues. “Although many people would say, ‘Ah yes, but you have to do that in order to keep the peace.’ We all rationalize.”
Does Ozymandias’ Story Have Anything to Do With Tulsa?
Each of the first two episodes depicts Irons off doing his own thing at and around a stately manor, far from the events of the rest of the show in Tulsa. So far it may feel as though the character is disconnected from the bigger story involving Sister Night, the Seventh Kavalry and everything else happening in Oklahoma, but Lindelof recommends that viewers hang tight.
“To me one of the things that I love about the original Watchmen was occasionally you would just be dropped into the middle of some inexplicable scenario,” says the showrunner. “Like, for example, you'd be on the island with Max Shea and he'd be having a conversation about the squid, except you didn't realize that that's what they were up to yet. And then that story [eventually] perfectly dovetailed with the rest of it.”
It was also important for Lindelof to have a strong element of science fiction in his show, which appears to be emerging with the clone storyline.“I love stories that just get progressively weirder and weirder and weirder, and you ain't seen nothing [yet],” he laughs. “Because there is a progression for Ozzy. But by the end of the fifth episode you at least know what the stakes are. You'll know a lot more about what's going on. And clearly I think that it's important for me that [that] story is going to come crashing into the rest of the show. It's not a parallel track that I'm just telling to delight myself. The two stories are definitely going to connect at some point.”
The Birth of Dr. Manhattan (Again)
Episode 2 includes a fun scene — which eventually turns somewhat horrifying — where Irons’ character reenacts the creation of Dr. Manhattan as a crude stage play, with his staff of clones/robots/whatever (Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips and Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks) playing the lead roles while also providing musical accompaniment and working as the crew.
“I think it's just a way of filling the evenings,” says Irons of the play. “I mean, it's also a way perhaps of coming to terms with the situation. On Broadway we have various plays which allow us to sort of try to come to terms with the 2008 crash, for example Lehman Brothers or various others. I think we write books and we write plays to try and sort out in our heads what happened. And maybe this is a fairly primitive way.
“I mean, he's no Harold Pinter as playwright!” laughs the actor. “I don't think it's one of his great talents. I found the dialogue a little wooden. But what do you do to fill the time?”
"Nothing ever ends."
Of course, whereas in the world of Watchmen, the man who was Dr. Jon Osterman “died” in the intrinsic field experiment only to be reborn as the nearly omnipotent Dr. Manhattan, in the play here Mr. Phillips simply gets burned alive when Irons’ character detonates that switch. And a different version of Mr. Phillips descends from above the stage, painted in blue. After the scene ends, the charred corpse it to be taken down to the cellar “with the others.”
Irons says he’s not sure his character is “creating” life with these clone-like figures, “but life exists around him” and he's taking advantage of it to his own ends.
“His world is not exactly as our world, but similar in some ways,” the actor teases. “There's films, documentaries, about industrial breeding of chickens. And you see all those chicks coming down the whatnot, and the sorters sorting out the ones that are the cocks and not the hens and chucking them and thinking, ‘Well, they won't produce eggs.’”Irons sees his character as taking the same approach to his servants.
“Similar sort of attitude, really,” he says. “Not valuing life, or valuing life but only on a certain level. It's what will serve us.”
For more on the show, read our review of Watchmen’s second episode, check out what Damon Lindelof had to say about the latest use of the Owlship, find out what the status is now of the main characters from the original story, check out all the Easter Eggs we’ve found on the HBO series, and get the lowdown on that squid storm from the pilot.
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