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Let's Discuss What's Up With Adrian Veidt on 'Watchmen'

jeremy irons, adrian veidt, watchmen
Veidt prepares to catapult | Mark Hill/HBO
Veidt prepares to catapult | Mark Hill/HBO
Warning: This investigation into the whereabouts and predicament of the Jeremy Irons character Adrian Veidt on the HBO series Watchmen contains major spoilers through Episode 5.

If you're reading this, you've already seen Watchmen Episode 5, "Little Fear of Lightning," in which a bunch of information was just dumped on a bunch of characters. Sister Night is about to find out some secrets about her grandfather, thanks to the bottle of Nostalgia pills she just wolfed down. Looking Glass discovered, thanks to Senator Keene, that the past 30-plus years of his life have been a massive lie; he now knows that the giant psionic squid that squelched down on Manhattan in 1985 wasn't an alien monster but a weapon deployed by Adrian Veidt to prevent nuclear war. But that hasn't even gotten us to the biggest question yet: Where the hell is Adrian Veidt, anyway?

While his storyline, and how it fits in with the larger Watchmen plot, is still very much a mystery, this episode gave us our biggest clues yet about his location and what he's been up to when he finally broke out of his idyllic prison and onto the surface of a planet or moon for just long enough to send a message to... someone. But there's a lot we still don't know, and that means there's a lot to theorize about.

watchmen, adrian veidt, jeremy irons
The catapult awaits | Mark Hill/HBO

Where the hell is Adrian Veidt, anyway?

If you've gotten this far, you know Jeremy Irons' haughty character is not on Earth... or anywhere close to it. After his clone servants catapult him into the clouds, the sky seems to wink out of existence, replaced with the starry blackness of outer space as he drifts slowly down to some extraterrestrial surface. On the horizon, we see what looks like a planet -- is it Earth? No, it is not. The celestial body in question actually looks a lot like the cloudy morass within the atmosphere of Jupiter. While there's no sight of the Big Red Spot, those cloudy autumn-toned stripes seem awfully familiar.

Also, if you pay attention, Debussy's "Clair de Lune" plays while Veidt rearranges his dead and catapulted clone servants into his interplanetary plea for help, and the translation of the song title could indicate that he's on a moon somewhere -- probably not the Moon, as some had theorized (thanks to a clever but likely misleading dissolve in Episode 4), but Jupiter does have at least 70 moons. So is he on a Jupiter moon? Probably!

Yes, a TV news program in Episode 1 showed a clip of Dr. Manhattan destroying a structure on Mars that resembles the castle we've seen Veidt living in, which could conceivably mean that Veidt has been confined in some way on Mars, but it's looking less likely after this episode. So I'm just going to commit to saying that Veidt has been on Europa, one of the largest moons orbiting Jupiter, so that I will look good retroactively if it turns out to be correct.

Who is Veidt trying to contact? 

When Veidt makes it out of his prison bubble and touches down on the lunar surface, he begins dragging the dead, frozen bodies of his clone servants around, using them to spell something out. The "message" he spells out appears to be "SAVE ME D," but cuts off before we can read what comes after the "D." Does he write "SAVE ME DLADY TRIEU"? "SAVE ME DEMOCRAT ROBERT REDFORD"? It just doesn't line up. "SAVE ME DR" (or DR MANHATTAN) definitely does. (It might also have said "SAVE ME DAN DREIBERG," one of the last of the Crimebusters to be so far unaccounted for in the show, but that seems particularly unlikely, given how little he's been mentioned on the show or the Peteypedia so far). Somehow Veidt was able to predict where that satellite would be right at the moment he escaped, which means he knows a lot more about his prison than he's let on -- which leads me to believe he must have had a hand in building it.

Who the hell put Adrian Veidt there?

The show hasn't offered many clues as to how Veidt managed to find himself banished to a moon two planets away from Earth. Three people are likely to have been involved with him getting into his current predicament: himself, Dr. Manhattan, and Lady Trieu. Let's tackle them in order.

Veidt could have done it to himself, perhaps on purpose, perhaps by accident. He's pretty old. Per a document in the Peteypedia, he would have turned 80 a couple of months before the present-day events depicted on the HBO series. Maybe he decided he wanted to retire and get completely away from humanity? If you recall, Veidt's scientists created teleportation technology in the lead-up to dropping the squid on Manhattan (and you see teleportation devices in this episode when the 7th Kavalry kidnaps Looking Glass), and they also cloned animals, so he could conceivably have sent himself out into the stars to live by himself for the rest of his days, with only clones for company.

One point in favor of this theory is that Veidt has it pretty great: a giant mansion on a piece of green land big enough for a herd of bison to roam in, with all kinds of technology at his disposal to while away his days tinkering around with, a lake full of clone babies in crab pots. I mean, that's the life! If you were imprisoning someone, wouldn't you want the imprisonment itself to be a punishment? But none of this solves how he could survive on a Jupiter moon without some help from a certain blue being.

Also confusing matters is that, according to the report, Veidt was declared missing in 2012, the same year that Trieu Industries purchased his remaining businesses. As of 2017, Trieu Industries also controlled Veidt's estate, and the man known as Ozymandias was declared "presumed dead" by multiple world governments and Trieu Industries in 2019. It's doubtful that Veidt knows anything about that, given that he's likely been isolated two planets away, likely for years. In fact, it seems certain that he has been duped by whoever put him in his current location. But who put him there?

Dr. Manhattan is the only being in the known Watchmen universe with godlike powers. In the comic books, he made it possible for Laurie Blake to breathe on Mars by creating a bubble around her. When Veidt catapults skyward, he reaches a point where the atmosphere changes from habitable to unhabitable -- in other words, he's pushed through a bubble that someone created into the surface of a moon, and the best guess about who could have created such a bubble is Dr. Manhattan. But did he put Veidt in the bubble? If Dr. Manhattan didn't imprison Veidt after the events in the comic book, what could Irons' character have done to make Dr. Manhattan concerned enough to do that to him this time? Also, Veidt's note -- "SAVE ME D" -- seems to have been cut off, and the most likely intended recipient (the "D") of the message would be Dr. Manhattan. Why would he think Dr. Manhattan would save him if Dr. Manhattan had put Veidt there in the first place?

That brings us to Lady Trieu. As far as I can tell, she doesn't have the power or technology to send someone to outer space, let alone create a habitable bubble utopia on a distant moon. Remember, though, that previous episodes have indicated that Veidt willingly accepted being sent to the Europa utopia, as part of an agreement that he seems to have violated, per the masked warden. Could Lady Trieu have double-crossed him? Who would have the intellect to double-cross the self-proclaimed smartest person on Earth? Trieu seems pretty smart. She also now owns his businesses and controls his estate, in a still unexplained turn of events, and the timeline of that transfer of ownership seems to match up with Veidt's disappearance seven years ago. So maybe Veidt is trying to return to Earth to exact revenge? And maybe he is petitioning Dr. Manhattan to help him do it?

Why Dr. Manhattan would care is another question, and here's some speculation: What if Dr. Manhattan created the bubble world on Europa, but intended it only for the life he said he wanted to create at the very end of the comic books, and then Lady Trieu somehow found out about it and somehow figured out how to teleport Veidt into the bubble and then sold him on the idea of building a utopian society there in retirement? It does make some sense that Dr. Manhattan and Adrian Veidt might have a common enemy. Lady Trieu is Vietnamese, and Dr. Manhattan did win the Vietnam War for America; perhaps her parents were killed by Dr. Manhattan, or maybe she herself was injured somehow by him. It's possible that Lady Trieu is playing a long revenge con against Dr. Manhattan.

It's also interesting that Veidt's teleportation technology, which Trieu would now own, is being used by the Seventh Kavalry, and that the Trieu logo can be seen in the back of the Seventh Kavalry truck that Looking Glass followed. Is she in cahoots with them secretly? This article in the Peteypedia could hint that they may want to be teleported off-world to create their own utopian society. Maybe she offered them the ability to go to the same place where Veidt is in exchange for... something? Will did say "tick tock" at the end of Episode 4, which could indicate that he also knows about the conspiracy, and his involvement would make it likely that Trieu is merely using them for some purpose and will double-cross them in the end.

My best guess is that Veidt's prison is one of Lady Trieu's design, possibly piggy-backing off a bubble world originally created by Dr. Manhattan. He could have created two people to inhabit the world, a la Adam and Eve (only these two were made in the likenesses of Dr. Manhattan's human form, Jon Osterman, and his pre-accident flame Janey Slater), and the many versions of them that we see are copies of the originals. Lady Trieu could have outfitted the world with clone technology and other gizmos and sent Veidt there, with the promise that she'd continue his work on Earth. But it was all a ploy.

Now, sequestered away in her compound filled with her own groundbreaking technology plus a life-like statue of none other than Adrian Veidt in his Ozymandias costume (and Adrian Veidt at more or less the age he is now, interestingly enough), Lady Trieu does seem to be running things in Tulsa secretly from behind the curtain.

Is Veidt's storyline happening in the past?

One of the major theories floating around out there is that all the Veidt stuff actually doesn't line up with the rest of what we're seeing on the show at all. Everything on Earth with Sister Night, Looking Glass, and all the other characters seems to be happening at a linear pace, save for the occasional flashback to Tulsa pre-Trieu or Operation Squid Drop, but Veidt's story exists in a more liminal space. If you pay attention to the cakes his clones make for him, you'll notice that a candle is added every episode: the first episode celebrated his first "anniversary" with a single candle, the second episode celebrated his second with two candles, etc. And in Episode 4 he mentions that he's been wherever he is for "four years," and in the "coming up this season" trailer, there's a shot right at the end of Veidt blowing out what looks like seven candles (squint hard and you'll see seven flames).

Given that he disappeared in 2012, it follows that his plotline in episode one could have taken place in 2013 (i.e., the one-year anniversary of his arriving on Europa), and Episode 5, with him catapulting onto the moon's surface, took place in 2017 (coincidentally, the same year that Trieu Industries took over Veidt's estate). There are still four episodes, left, so, if this theory is correct, it's likely his storyline will catch up with the other characters' storyline in one of the final three episodes. Two other events on the show that might impact Veidt's arrival back on Earth: in the first episode, Judd watched a news broadcast of Dr. Manhattan destroying a castle on Mars, and in Episode 4, a comet landed on the property Lady Trieu buys. Could the statue Lady Trieu has in her Vivarium actually be Veidt, in a Boba Fett-like carbonite? And is the re-appearance of Dr. Manhattan indicate that he's headed toward Earth?

Who the hell is the Game Warden?

Whenever Veidt tries to do pretty much anything, he's been plagued by the Game Warden, a mysterious masked rider who accosts Veidt whenever he strays out of bounds. Hunting the bison is a no-no, as is catapulting himself skyward to escape moon jail. But who is he? Is he another clone? A Veidt creation gone wrong? A prison guard put there by someone else to make sure Veidt doesn't get up to any funny business while he's serving his sentence? He looks like Mr. Philips with a mustache and a mask, so it's likely that he's a safeguard put in place by Lady Trieu to ensure that Veidt stays in line.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.