It finally happened! If any of you thought that HBO’s Watchmen would not dare give us some giant alien squid, you were finally proven wrong. Not only do we get a beautiful and haunting recreation of the end of Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore’s graphic novel, but Damon Lindelof and company manage to make it vital to the story they’re currently telling.

And that’s not all: there’s still an insane number of references and nods to the source material. So join us, won’t you? Let’s look at all the references to the original Watchmen and more in “Little Fear Of Lightning.” As always, this will be spoiler-heavy.

Newspaper Headlines And Doomsday Clock

The original Watchmen used newspaper headlines both to increase tension with gloomy news of the impending nuclear apocalypse and for world-building, expanding the scope of the story to make it a global event. The show’s logo became a radio this week, and we could hear several headlines that actually appear in the graphic novel such as “California Governor Urges Hard Line,” and “French Withdraw Military Commitment from NATO.” 

Of course, the most significant of these is the last one, stating that “the doomsday clock is standing at one minute to midnight.” The doomsday clock was a vital recurring image in the comic, as each of the twelve issues were counting down to the end of the world. And the beginning of this episode picks up exactly one minute to midnight and what many would consider the apocalypse.

The Veidt Method

We see a man reading a magazine with an ad for “The Veidt Method.” This is a reference to a magazine with ads seen on the back cover of the “Tales of the Black Freighter” comic, as seen in the graphic novel. The magazine is a self-improvement and fitness guide published by Veidt Enterprises, and supposedly offers readers a chance to hone their minds and bodies to near-perfection, as Adrian Veidt himself did. In the graphic novel, these are a nod to the old Charles Atlas ads. It also foreshadows what Veidt will do to save the world, a “method” that will kill millions of people.

Pale Horse’s Last Concert

One of the all-time greatest and certainly most tragic fictional bands, we see a brief image of an ad for a Pale Horse concert also featuring the band Krystalnacht. The name Pale Horse served as a reference to the horse that Death rode with the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Throughout the original Watchmen, we saw posters and advertisements for the band’s big Madison Square Garden concert that was to take place on November 2, 1985. Sadly, the concert was cut short as most of the venue was destroyed, as we’ll see below.

GWAR Never Changes

GWAR (or Gay Women Against Rape, not to be confused with the hard rock band), was a militant lesbian feminist group whose slogan was “castrate all rapists.” Their symbol is the Female symbol in pink with teeth drawn in the top loop and was perhaps meant to resemble Vagina Dentata imagery. 

The Knot Tops And Katies

As Wade walks down the New Jersey carnival, he attempts to talk with some Knot Tops. They were a New York City gang, which the graphic novel used as the replacement for the skinheads of our world during the 1980s. The Knot Tops appeared frequently in the original Watchmen, and were known for wearing their hair in knots and their appropriating Japanese imagery and symbols. One of them is wearing a t-shirt that has the name “Katies” on it, which is a reference for their frequent use of a drug named KT-28s or “katies.”

Giant. Freaking. Alien. Squid!

Not so much an easter egg as a shot-for-shot recreation of one of the most iconic images of the original Watchmen (and also a reminder that Zack Snyder’s film adaptation changed this ending because the squid was deemed too weird). After teasing us with tiny squid rains throughout the show, we finally get to see the big one.

It is midnight on November 2, 1985. As Wade exists the funhouse, naked and humiliated, he notices everyone around him is dead. Then in one continuous tracking shot, the camera crosses the Hudson Bay into Manhattan, where chaos reigns. Madison Square Garden (and Pale Horse) is destroyed and everyone is dead. The cause? A giant squid with a single eye and what looks like a human brain has teleported into the city, in what would later be referred to as the Dimensional Incursion Event. The whole thing is pretty faithful to the comic, including a shot of the Institute of Extraspatial Studies where the teleportation tech was housed. And if you want to know more about how the whole scene was recreated, you can head over to Polygon where I talked with some of the key people involved about the scene in all its cephalopod glory.  

Promethean Cabs And Millennium Ads

During the “come back to New York” commercial, we briefly see how the city has been rebuilt in the 30 years since the Dimensional Incursion Event. Not only is “Oppenheimer” the new Broadway hit musical (Maybe Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired by a biography on Oppenheimer instead of Alexander Hamilton), but there is an ad in the background for something called Millennium, and also the Promethean Cab Company is still in business.

In the original Watchmen, Adrian Veidt has made a fortune selling a perfume called Nostalgia (more on that later), but once the squid destroys New York, his vision for an utopia is put into place, so Nostalgia becomes old news and is replaced with a perfume called Millennium. As for the cab company, we see the sign for the headquarters of the Promethean Cab Company in the background of many scenes in the comic, as it stood right across the street from both the place where the squid appeared, and the news stand we occasionally cut back to. It seems the company stayed in business after so many years, and their slogan remained “Bringing light to the world.”

Titles And Fears

The title of the episode “Little Fear of Lightning” is part of a quote taken from a longer line in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The full quote reads: “If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning.” The parallel is clear, as the show just showed us the giant squid that scared people so much it literally ended the Cold War in an instant.

Why’d Ya Spill Yer Beans?

We continue with the Looking Glass/Rorschach parallels, this time in the form of Wade eating a can of beans for dinner, which was something Rorschach was prone to do in the graphic novel.

Under The Hood And Captain Metropolis

In the graphic novel, we only learn of the original Minutemen through casual conversation, and the excerpts from the biography “Under the Hood” written by Hollis Mason, AKA the first Nite Owl, who wrote about Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice having an affair. Continuing what we’ve seen about Hooded Justice, he never takes his mask off, not even during sex.

A Box Of Cereal Is Full Of Details

The first thing to notice about Happy Harry’s Smiley-O’s is the smiley face that gives the cereal its name. Of course, this brings to mind The Comedian’s smiley face button, which is a recurring image in the original Watchmen. But the most interesting easter egg here is the name of the company – Happy Harry’s. In the graphic novel, that is the name of a bar that Rorschach uses as an information hub, since it’s frequented by sleezy criminals he beats up for intel.

Memories In Pill Form

The purpose for the pills that William had way back in episode 1 have finally been revealed, and they sound fascinating and weird. They seem to be actual memories you can take. As pills. Is this what Lady Trieu was feeding her daughter in last week’s episode? The pills get their name from Adrian Veidt’s famous Nostalgia perfume, which is seen all over the original Watchmen

Doctor Manhattan Won Vietnam

As Wade says, the US technically didn’t win the Vietnam War – Doctor Manhattan did. In the original graphic novel, it was mentioned that Doctor Manhattan gave the US a big, clear, blue advantage over the Vietcong. This led to the war being over in just two months, and Vietnam becoming another state in the union. Oh, and Manhattan did all that while actually wearing underwear.

Did Liam Neeson Star In The Pale Horse Movie?

It’s good to know that, no matter what universe, Steven Spielberg still wins a bunch of Oscars with a black-and-white drama in the early ’90s. Only it seems that in the Watchmen universe, Spielberg didn’t make a gripping Holocaust drama called Schindler’s List, but instead one about the Dimensional Incursion Event. Titled Pale Horse because of the band playing at Madison Square Garden (see above), the film is still shot in black-and-white, except for a scene in which a little girl is seen wearing a red coat while stumbling around Herald Square. The important question is, did he still make Jurassic Park?

Portals And Interdimensional Studies

As Wade discovers the hideout for the 7th Kavalry, he stumbles upon a portal device that seemingly transports basketballs around the hideout. Though he mentions a slightly different name, Wade says this is the same portal as the one used in Herald Square by the Institute for Interdimensional Studies (or Extraspatial Studies in the comic). It is through this portal that the squid materialized in Manhattan on November 2, 1985.

I Leave It Entirely In Your Hands

As Senator Keene leaves Wade with the choice of remaining ignorant or knowing the truth about the giant squid, he tells Wade that he’ll “leave it entirely in your hands.” This, of course, is the very last piece of dialogue of the graphic novel, uttered by The New Frontierman’s editor Hector Godfrey as he tells his employee Seymour that the choice of what to pull from a box of correspondence to put in the paper is up to him, just as Seymour is looking at Rorschach’s journal. In both instances, the phrase comes just before someone finds out the truth about Veidt’s plan.

I Did It!

Just as Veidt briefly escapes his prison and arranges a message of the surface of one of Jupiter’s moons (which says “Help Me D…” who is D? Dan, AKA Nite Owl? Doctor Manhattan?), he celebrates by throwing his arms up in the air and saying “I did it” in the same manner as he celebrated the news reports coming in saying that world peace was achieved after the giant squid destroyed New York.

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