It turns out that an extensive knowledge of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s beloved comic book isn’t required to watch the new show. Despite this, the showrunner has gone ahead and laced episodes with numerous references and callbacks to characters and moments the die-hards will pick up on immediately.
Below are all the Easter eggs and mentions you might have missed the first time around. Spoilers follow.
1 | Rorschach’s mask
This revised version of Watchmen is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which we swiftly learn is home to a white supremacist group known as the Seventh Kavalry. Their mask of choice? The one worn by Rorschach, a character from the graphic novel. We later see another version of Rorschach in the form of Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass. He works for chief of police Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), and his mask – plain silver to the naked eye – becomes something more sinister to whoever’s looking at him when inside an interrogation structure known as “the pod”.
2 | Dr Manhattan
In a very brief news broadcast, we see Dr Manhattan on Mars – where the graphic novels left him – creating structures out of sand. The episode also features several references to watches, most notably the title of the five-act play Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons) tells his servants he’s writing (The Watchmaker’s Son). These have undoubtedly been placed there with Dr Manhattan in mind: before he became the blue atomic god, he was Jon Osterman, whose father was a meticulous fixer of time-pieces.
3 | The Comedian
Even those with a casual interest in Watchmen will be familiar with the smiley face logo and splash of blood on the cover. In the series, this symbol is referenced just before we meet baker-by-day, masked vigilante-by-night Angela Abar (Regina King), who we see teaching bakery in her child’s class. As she cracks some eggs into a glass bowl, the camera shows us the view from underneath – and the yolk forms to make a smiley face. This was the badge of The Comedian, who dies at the very beginning of the comics. The shocking end to this episode – the death of Judd! – is most probably a reference to this, emphasised by the splash of blood on his police badge.
4 | President Robert Redford
In the comics, we learn that the actor-director was planning on running for office in the 1988 election. We learn here that Redford succeeded in ousting Richard Nixon (who remained America’s leader in the comics for far longer then he did in real life), and has been in the White House since the 1990s.
5 | Squid
When asked by Entertainment Tonight what Watchmen newbies need to know going into this series, Damon Lindelof – referring to the graphic novel’s climactic events – said: “In November of 1985, an enormous alien squid landed in the middle of New York City and killed three million people.” Our first hint of this in the show is a poster in the background of the aforementioned classroom scene depicting a giant octopus. The words “Anatomy of a squid” lie below it. Just one scene later, when sires blare out, we see everyone pull their car over to prepare for... a squid rain shower. The world is still feeling the after-effects of that event, which happened thirty years previous.
6 | “Adrian Veidt officially dead”
We see a newspaper with this headline. Arian Veidt is the aforementioned Ozymandias, who we later see alive and well in an unknown location.
7 | “...and I’ll look down and whisper ‘No’”
In an eerie video sent to the Tulsa police force, we learn the Seventh Kavalry have appropriated the famous mantra taken from Rorschach’s journal – “All the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’... and I’ll look down and whisper ‘No’” – to match their racist ideas.
8 | “Who watches the Watchmen”
This quote isn’t uttered verbatim in the episode, but Lindelof can’t quite resist hinting at it. In the scene where Judd Crawford addresses the secret police force of Tulsa, he caps his speech with the Latin phrase “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”, which translates as “Who will guard the guards themselves'."
9 | Nite Owl
When we see Angela, in costume as Sister Night, sat in Judd Crawford’s office, we see her drinking from a mug that’s shaped in the face of Nite Owl. This is the hero from the comics whose mask was worn by both Hollis Mason and Dan Dreiberg at different stages. If this isn’t enough, we also see Angela’s children using owl-themed chopsticks later in the episode.
10 | Under the Hood
In the same scene, we see a book titled Under the Hood sitting on Judd’s desk. This book is the autobiography of Hollis Mason and it details the events leading up to his first appearance as Nite Owl, and discusses the formation of a superhero team named The Minutemen (more on that below). Fun fact: Under the Hood is also the title of a Batman comic book story arc, published by DC, that was written by – that’s right – Judd Winick.
11 | Dollar Bill
When Angela ambushes the white supremacist compound, she spots a poster featuring Dollar Bill, a bank-sponsored superhero mascot from the graphic novels. Why is he being championed by the Seventh Kalvary? Well, the poster in question shows him dragging a black man out of a bank captioned with the disturbing text: ”Our banks are clean and safe and family-oriented and we keep the riff-raff out.”
12 | Owl Ship
Is the hovercraft vehicle that chief of police Judd Crawford and his accomplice Pirate Jenny the same one from the Watchmen comics? No. Lindelof told IGN that the tech created by Dan Dreiberg is now commonly used by law enforcement after being replicated by them rather than being Archimedes, the name of the precise one used by characters in Moore’s work.
13 | The Minutemen
In what is quite clearly a loving send-up of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror/Crime Story anthology shows, we see bus posters and TV trailers for a new series called American Hero Story: The Minutemen. For those who don’t know, this is the league of masked adventurers formed by Captain Metropolis and Silk Spectre in the graphic novels that was designed to recruit costumed fighters to help America. In the trailer, we see the show features Captain Metropolis, The Comedian, Moth Man, Dollar Bill, Nite Owl and Hooded Justice – the first ever masked adventurer.
Watchmen continues weekly every Sunday on HBO and airs in the UK the following evening at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.