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Watchmen, explained: Easter eggs and references from episode 7 of HBO’s series

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published December 2, 2019, and has been republished now that the entire series is available to watch for free on HBO.com.)

HBO’s Watchmen series has swiftly become one of television’s hottest series, and the show based on the groundbreaking comic book series isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

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So far, the series has been filled with call-outs to its source material and clues about where the story is headed, with each episode offering even more Easter Eggs and mysteries for fans to ponder. Show creator Damon Lindelof has given audiences a lot to absorb in the hit series, so along with a brief recap, we’re taking a deep dive into some of the key comic references, Easter Eggs, and story hints in each episode. Here’s what to know about episode 7 of the series.

(Note: Plot details from the most recent episode of Watchmen will be discussed below, so make sure you’re caught up with the series to avoid spoilers.)

The title

The seventh episode of the series is titled “An Almost Religious Awe,” and like the title of episode 6 (“This Extraordinary Being”), it’s a call-back to the original comic. In the original series’ alternate timeline, when Dr. Manhattan uses his superhuman power to bring the Vietnam War to an end (leading to Vietnam becoming the country’s 51st state), he describes the experience as follows: “The Vietcong are expected to surrender within the week. Many have given themselves up already… Often, they ask to surrender to me personally, their terror of me balanced by an almost religious awe.”

Given the content of the episode, which is shaped by events following the Vietnam War and involves Dr. Manhattan, the tie to this particular chapter of the comic makes plenty of sense.

Recap

In episode 7, Angela Abar deals with the aftermath of her overdose on the memory drug Nostalgia and sifts through the mess of recollections she shares with her grandfather, Will Reeves, the famous vigilante known as Hooded Justice. She learns that Lady Trieu is working with Reeves to stop the 7th Kavalry — the modern incarnation of the same white supremacist cult Reeves battled years ago — from capturing and harnessing the power of Dr. Manhattan, who is living in disguise on Earth and is not actually on Mars.

In the episode’s final scene, it is revealed that Dr. Manhattan has been disguised as Angela’s own, loving husband, Calvin “Cal” Abar. She’s forced to bring him out of hiding by brutally beating him to death and pulling an object out of his skull with a familiar shape: The atomic structure of Hydrogen that Dr. Manhattan adopted as his personal sigil.

Meanwhile, Wade Tillman (a.k.a. Looking Glass) appears to have survived an attack by the 7th Kavalry, but has disappeared. FBI Agent Laurie Blake, on the other hand, is taken captive by the 7th Kavalry after uncovering their insidious scheme to put one of their own in the White House.

Oh, and Adrian Veidt is found guilty of his crimes in a trial populated by clones, and offers no defense for the millions of deaths he has caused in his lifetime.

Elephants, elephants, everywhere

Elephants were a recurring motif in episode 4 when Lady Trieu was first introduced, and they’re all over this week’s episode.

From the opening scene in which a young Angela flips past several video tapes of animated elephants “Trunky” and “Tusky,” to Lady Trieu’s own elephant-shaped insignia, to the massive elephant Angela discovers herself (literally) linked to late in the episode, elephants are everywhere in episode 7.

We haven’t been given a definitive explanation of the role they play in the series yet — making them a literal and figurative elephant in the room — but elephants are associated with having long memories, and the theme of hereditary memory has informed much of the series’ narrative so far. Whether it’s Angela reliving her grandfather’s experiences, Lady Trieu’s efforts to resurrect her mother through memories implanted in her cloned daughter, or both Cal and Looking Glass being forced to come to terms with false memories, memory is one of the show’s most prevalent themes.

It’s also worth noting that Lady Trieu herself has a connection to elephants. The character likely gets her name from the 3rd Century Vietnamese warrior who fought the Chinese during their occupation of the region. Often compared to Joan of Arc, she reportedly rode elephants into battle against the exponentially larger Chinese occupying force.

You can also read past recaps of the Easter Eggs and references from Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, and Episode 6.

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