In 1985, a squid from another dimension appeared in New York and killed 3 million people with a psychic blast. I feel like I have a decent idea of what that psychic blast must have felt like, because it’s how I feel after noting all of the Easter eggs and comic references in the fifth episode of HBO’s Watchmen series.
Here are all the Easter eggs from Episode 5, and we will update the list with any that are missing.
DOOMSDAY CLOCK ON THE RADIO
When the episode opens, we hear a snippet of a news broadcast where the anchor mentions that the Doomsday Clock has been set at “one minute to midnight.” The Doomsday clock is a real-life metaphor for how close humanity is to man-made global catastrophe. In the comic, it was set at this time right before Ozymandias unleashed his squid on New York, as we’ll soon see.
A JERSEY CARNIVAL
Young Looking Glass/Wade Tillman and his fellow proselytizers are attempting to convert sinners at a carnival in Hoboken. In the graphic novel, Jon Osterman and Janey Slater visit a similar carnival in New Jersey before his transformation into Doctor Manhattan.
The group leader calls the New York-New Jersey area a “whore’s den,” echoing Rorsarch’s famous “all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’ ...And I'll look down and whisper ‘No,’” quote.
The Watchtower is a Jehovah's Witnesses publication, but it’s fitting that it would feature in the Watchmen series.
THE VEIDT METHOD
One of the people Wade passes by as he’s looking for someone to convert is reading what appears to be an issue of Tales of the Black Freighter, complete with an advertisement for Adrian Veidt’s much-promoted workout routine, “The Vedit Method.” This same comic appeared in the graphic novel.
PALE HORSE POSTER
Pale Horse, as we’ll be reminded later in the episode, was the name of the band that was playing in Madison Square Garden the night of the squid attack.
KNOT TOPS AND KATIES
The group Wade ends up talking to are Knot Tops, a gang who frequently appeared in the graphic novel. They’re known for their distinctive hairstyle and use of a drug called KT-28s, or “Katies” for short. One particular Knot Top is wearing a shirt that says “Katies” on it, which really underlines the connection.
As Wade screams in the middle of the carnage, we zoom out past Sinatra Drive, a real street in Hoboken, just as Ol’ Blue Eyes’ classic “New York, New York” starts playing. Again, a little on-the-nose, but it works
Not really an Easter egg, but there’s our first “live-action” glimpse of the infamous squid. The 2009 Zack Snyder movie swapped the squid for an imitation of Doctor Manhattan’s power gone haywire.
OPPENHEIMER, THE MUSICAL
As part of the “return to New York” ad, we see a glimpse of a couple who have apparently just seen the hit new Broadway musical based on Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic Bomb.
PROMETHEAN CAB CO.
In the background of the Broadway shot, there’s a sign for the Promethean Cab Co., which also operated in the original graphic novel.
"LITTLE FEAR OF LIGHTNING"
The title of the episode is a twist of a quote from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, “If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning.” Presumably, it refers to Wade’s discovery later in the episode that the inter-dimensional squid isn’t real, meaning he shouldn’t really have a reason to “fear lightning.”
As Looking Glass, Wade rolls up his mask partways and eats beans straight from the can, which is extremely Rorschach-core.
While eating his beans, Wade watches the next episode of American Hero Story, which once again features Hooded Justice and another Minutemen-era hero, Captain Metropolis. The two were rumored to be lovers, as the show portrays.
Back at his day job, Wade watches some kid try a new cereal with a name and logo that brings Watchmen’s iconic smiley face button to mind. The camera even zooms out from the button, echoing the way the first issue of the comic begins and ends with a zoom in or out from the Comedian’s blood-stained button.
PET CLONING AND PET KILLING
Wade’s ex-wife works at a lab where they clone people’s pets. Less advanced versions of this service actually exist in the real world, but in Watchmen’s reality, the technology stemmed from some of Veidt’s advances that allowed him to create Bubastis, his genetically modified Lynx. Lady Trieu further developed the technology, as seen in the previous episode. Also, the way the little puppy is unceremoniously incinerated resembles the sad way Bubastis met her end in the original comic, when she was disintegrated in Veidt’s attempt to stop Doctor Manhattan.
One of Veidt’s many business ventures in the comic was Nostalgia, a brand of cosmetics and perfumes. The drugs Will gave to Angela share the same name, but if Veidt’s old Nostalgia was supposed to evoke the comfort of the past through a fondly remembered scent, the pills, which Trieu Pharmaceuticals created, are literally memories in medicinal form.
“DOES IT EVER END? OF COURSE IT DOES.”
At the support group, Wade contradicts Doctor Manhattan’s final words from the graphic novel, when he tells Vedit that “Nothing ever ends.” However, later conversations in the episode imply that Wade doesn’t exactly believe the optimism he’s selling.
“TECHNICALLY, DOCTOR MANHATTAN WON VIETNAM”
The United States lost the Vietnam War in the real world (although the conflict did catastrophic damage to Vietnam and many surrounding countries), but in Watchmen’s reality, Doctor Manhattan won the war in two months. Vietnam would eventually become a state.
STEVEN SPIELBERG’S PALE HORSE
As we learn, in Watchmen's 1992, Steven Spielberg made a movie about the Dimensional Incursion Event, titled Pale Horse because of the band that was playing Madison Square Garden when the squid attacked. It’s described as being black-and-white except for certain flashes of color, like a little girl’s red coat. This would seem to imply that, in Watchmen’s reality, Spielberg made Pale Horse instead of the gripping Holocaust drama Schindler's List, which is similarly in black-and-white and came out in 1993.
TOBACCO IS OUTLAWED
Just a minor detail, but apparently tobacco is outlawed in Robert Redford’s America.
THE WALL OF TVS
The 7th Kavalry sit Wade in front of a wall of TVs, which is an obvious visual allusion to Veidt’s wall of TVs in his Antarctic lair, where he learned about the success of his gambit to unite the world against his squid invader.
“WHERE’S THE ORIGINALITY IN THAT? NO, WE’RE GONNA DO SOMETHING NEW.”
In October, showrunner Damon Lindelof told SYFY WIRE that he thought it would be “super-duper lame to adapt the original Watchmen,” and repeat all of the original graphic novel’s beat for TV, which is why he instead decided to create a sequel of sorts. Senator Keene’s promise that the Kavalry isn’t planning to just drop another squid on the world seems like a sly wink at Lindeloff’s adaptation.
“I LEAVE IT ENTIRELY IN YOUR HANDS”
When letting Wade know that the decision to watch his video or not is his choice, he quotes the very last line of the graphic novel, when The New Frontiersman’s editor Hector Godfrey tells his hapless employee Seymour that the choice of what to pull from the crank box and put in the paper is up to him. Seymour has Rorsarch’s journal in front of him when Godfrey says this meaning that in both instances, the truth behind Veidt’s plan is about to be revealed.
While telling President Redford his plan in the pre-recorded video, Veidt invites Redford to be his “partner in building a Utopia.” He’s almost certainly talking about the better world he wants to build, but it’s worth noting that in the graphic novel there was a movie theater with that name in New York right by where the squid first appeared. The theater, which was renamed New Utopia after the Dimensional Incursion Event, was probably owned my Veidt Enterprises, and showed lots of old sci-fi movies to subconsciously prime people for the idea of alien invaders.
Veidt launches himself into the sky and he suddenly appears on the surface of one of Jupiter’s moons. (This would appear to debunk the theory that he’s on Mars with Doctor Manhattan, though it still seems likely that Doctor Manhattan has something to do with Veidt’s captivity). In order to write his “SAVE ME!” message out of the broken, frozen bodies of his deceased servants. It’s similar to the moment in Tales of the Black Freighter, the graphic novel’s comic-within-a-comic when the protagonist uses the bloated bodies of the dead to create a buoyant life raft for himself. It’s not quite as literal, but Veidt’s message is also a life raft of sorts.
“I DID IT!”
After assembling his message, Veidt throws up his hands and yells “I did it!” This is the same thing he says after news reports reveal his plan with the squid did, in fact, bring an end to the Cold War.
“YOUR GOD’S ABANDONED YOU”
Upon returning back to his manor estate, Vedit comes face-to-face with The Game Warden. Much of the Warden’s character is still a mystery, but it seems increasingly likely that Doctor Manhattan created this facsimile of human life, as he implied he might in the final moments of the comic.
DOCTOR MANHATTAN IS HOODED JUSTICE???
Panda, who by all accounts appears to be the idiot of the Tulsa Police Department, is telling Red Scare his theory that Doctor Manhattan was Hooded Justice. That this was a real fan theory that got written up by a number of entertainment news sites is embarrassing.