Set in an alternate history where “superheroes” are treated as outlaws, “Watchmen” embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel while attempting to break new ground of its own.
It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice
During Tulsa's Black Wall Street massacre in 1921, a black child loses his parents O.B. and Ruth in the chaos and escorts an orphaned baby to safety. Ninety-eight years later, masked Officer Charlie Sutton is hospitalized after being shot by a member of the Seventh Kavalry, a white supremacist group. Chief Judd Crawford calls for retaliation to hunt down the shooter. Angela Abar hears of the shooting and hunts down a suspect under her secret persona, Sister Night. With help from another costumed police officer, Wade Tillman / Looking Glass, Angela elicits the shooter's location at a cattle ranch used by the Kavalry. Angela, Judd, and other officers hunt them down, instigating a shootout that results in the deaths of all Kavalry members present, including the shooter. Sometime later, Judd runs over a spike strip while driving to the hospital to visit Sutton. Angela receives a call from someone who instructs her to find something at a countryside tree. She heads to the location, where she finds an elderly black man in a wheelchair below a hanged Judd. Meanwhile, an old lord living at an unspecified country estate writes a play called The Watchmaker's Son and celebrates an "anniversary" with his two servants.
Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship
In World War I, O.B., a soldier in the American army, pockets a piece of German propaganda challenging their racial equality. In the present, Angela takes the elderly man she found under the tree to her hideout. He says his name is Will and claims to be her grandfather, which she later validates. The police round up several suspects from Nixonville on suspicion of Judd's lynching. Will warns Angela of Judd's duplicity, which she initially doubts. During Judd's wake however, while searching his house, she discovers a Ku Klux Klan outfit in a secret closet. She asks Will how he knew, to no avail, so she arrests him. As she places him in her car, a flying craft drops an electromagnet and takes the vehicle away with Will inside, dropping the propaganda his father had given him. Meanwhile, the lord watches his servants Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks perform his play: a retelling of Doctor Manhattan's origins. The lord incinerates Phillips as part of the play and names one of his other servants—apparent clones of Phillips and Crookshanks—the new "Mr. Phillips".
She Was Killed by Space Junk
After faking a bank robbery to draw out the vigilante Mister Shadow, Agent Laurie Blake of the FBI's Anti-Vigilante Task Force is asked by both the FBI and Senator Joe Keene Jr. to investigate Judd's murder. Laurie tracks down the Tulsa police rounding up Kavalry suspects and learns about Judd's funeral, where she makes contact with Angela. A Kavalry member wearing a suicide vest attempts to seize Joe, but Laurie kills him while Angela saves the other attendees. Later, Laurie talks to Angela, discussing the wheelchair treads at Judd's lynching and Judd's secret closet; warning her not to protect Judd. That night, Laurie uses a special phone booth to tell Doctor Manhattan a "brick joke" while he is on Mars. As she leaves, Angela's empty car drops in front of her. She looks up, sees Mars, and laughs. Meanwhile, the lord unsuccessfully tests a protective suit with a Phillips clone. He hunts down a bison for its thicker hide, but is stopped by the "Game Warden", who later writes to remind him of the terms of his imprisonment. The lord responds in a letter acknowledging these terms, signing it as Adrian Veidt and goes out to hunt again in his Ozymandias outfit.
If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own
Lady Trieu buys out the farmland of an Oklahoma couple just moments before an object from space crashes onto their property to claim ownership of it. Angela learns about Will's parents at the heritage center, when she hears her car crash outside and meets Laurie, finding a pill bottle inside. Later, Angela leaves the pill bottle and Judd's KKK outfit with Wade, and fails to capture an unknown vigilante who witnessed her dispose of Will's wheelchair. Laurie finds Will's fingerprints in Angela's car, as well as a connection to Trieu's facility at the Millennium Clock. Trieu provides them with a list of people with access to new lightweight drones, and in Vietnamese, tells Angela that Will wonders if she got the pill bottle. That evening, Trieu talks to Will about being upfront with Angela, but with events to come to a head in a few days, he would rather she figure it out herself. Meanwhile, Veidt collects fetuses from a lake to grow new clones of Phillips and Crookshanks after killing off all of the existing ones. With their help, Veidt launches the dead bodies with a catapult to test the limits of his prison.
Little Fear of Lightning
Wade suffers PTSD as a survivor of Veidt's 1985 squid attack. Laurie bugs Wade's desk, and learns that Angela asked him about the pills. Wade's ex-wife, Cynthia, tells him the pills are Nostalgia, which contain other people's memories. The Kavalry lure Wade to a warehouse, where they are testing a teleportation portal. Joe explains both he and Judd are Kavalry members trying to keep them in check. Joe coerces Wade's help to learn what Angela knows about Judd's death after showing him a video Veidt made a day before the 1985 attack and addressed to future President Redford, explaining his long-term plan; shaking Wade to his core. At the station the next day, Wade gets Angela to state that her grandfather was behind Judd's death. Laurie hears this and arrests Angela, but not before she ingests the pills. Wade returns home after work and Kavalry members arrive with guns. It is revealed that Veidt's prison is on a moon of Jupiter as he arranges servants' frozen bodies to spell out "Save Me" so they will be visible to a passing space probe. However, he is pulled back into the prison and arrested by the Game Warden.
This Extraordinary Being
Laurie tries to get Angela to agree to treatment before the Nostalgia kicks in, but the latter starts experiencing her grandfather's memories. In 1938, Will joins the New York Police Department, which is rife with racism. After discovering a plot called "Cyclops", his fellow white officers beat him and hang him from a tree, cutting him down at the last moment to warn him not to interfere in white affairs. While walking home, he puts back on the hood the white police had put on him when they hanged him, and he fights off men attacking a young couple. He is called a hero the next day and, supported by his wife June, he takes on the persona of "Hooded Justice". Will is invited to join the Minutemen by Captain Metropolis and begins an affair with him while June becomes pregnant. When Will finds that "Cyclops" is a plan by the KKK to hypnotize black people to incite riots among themselves, Will asks for the Minutemen's help in foiling the plot, but Captain Metropolis refuses. Enraged, Will dismantles the operation on his own, killing all involved. June, shocked by Will's consuming anger, leaves him and takes their son "home" to Tulsa. In the near-present, Will uses a modified form of the hypnotic technology to make Judd hang himself. Angela wakes up in Trieu's compound, and finds that Trieu has been treating her for the Nostalgia overdose.
An Almost Religious Awe
Angela continues to be treated for the Nostalgia as her memories of losing her parents and her grandmother June in Vietnam mingled with Will's. She also learns that the Manhattan phone booths supposedly connected to Mars route to Trieu's facilities before Trieu herself tells her Manhattan is actually on Earth, in Tulsa, disguised as a human. After learning of the Kavalry's plan to capture and destroy Manhattan to become like him, Trieu plans to activate the Millennium Clock within the hour to save the world. Angela breaks free, rushes home, and tells Cal she loves him as a husband – calling him by the name Jon – before she bashes his head in and pulls out a small disc shaped like Manhattan's symbol, causing his body to glow blue. Laurie goes to speak to Jane Crawford about her husband's death, but falls into a trap door and is taken to the Kavalry's headquarters, where Joe reveals their plan to capture Manhattan to restore white supremacy. Laurie's partner Petey tries to track down Wade, finding his fallout shelter filled with dead Kavalrymen, but no sign of him. Meanwhile, Veidt is put on a year-long trial by the Game Warden, which he treats as a farce.
A God Walks into Abar
In Vietnam 2009, Doctor Manhattan approaches Angela and convinces her that he is not an impostor by creating an egg out of thin air. He attempts to convince Angela to have dinner with him the next night, as they will fall in love later. Angela is highly skeptical, but Manhattan, after explaining his non-linear experience with time, explains that he had been creating life on Europa since 1985, and that in 2019, he will fall in love with her just as he is about to be taken by the Seventh Kavalry. He explains how he took up the identity of Cal to blend in, and used a device created by Veidt to give himself amnesia about his true identity until it was necessary for Angela to remove it. At Veidt's request, Manhattan transported him to Europa, and also visited Will to encourage him to help Angela in 2019. Angela, speaking to Manhattan in 2019, asks him to ask Will in 2009 how he knew of Judd's secrets, but realizes she gave that idea to Will just now. As the Kavalry prepare to attack, Angela goes to protect Manhattan, who sees this as the moment he fell in love with her, and helps her fend them off; knowing one last Kavalry member remained alive to use a tachyon cannon to capture him. In 2009, Angela accepts Manhattan's dinner proposal. In a post-credits scene, the Game Warden gives a captive Veidt another anniversary cake. Veidt finds a horseshoe baked inside and gleefully starts digging an escape tunnel.
See How They Fly
Veidt, having written "Save Me Daughter" on Europa, is picked up in Trieu's spacecraft. Trieu wants her father and Bian, a clone of her mother, present when she activates a machine she developed to steal Manhattan's power for herself. The Kavalry, working with the Cyclops leaders, capture Manhattan while Joe prepares to take his powers. Laurie discovers Wade is alive, disguised as a Kavalry member. Just as the Kavalry activate their system, Trieu teleports the setup to downtown Tulsa, finding Joe has dissolved into ooze, and kills the Cyclops leaders. Before Trieu kills him, Manhattan uses the distraction to teleport Veidt, Laurie, and Wade to Karnak, where Veidt reworks his squid-rain system to send frozen squid to pulverize Trieu's device; killing Trieu in the process. Angela takes shelter in the theater where Will and her children are, where Will explains Manhattan had worked with him to bring about this necessary conclusion. Laurie and Wade bring Veidt to justice using a copy of the 1985 video. While cleaning up eggs from the night before, Angela recalls Manhattan's statement about transferring his powers through an organic medium. Finding one unbroken egg, Angela eats it and attempts to walk on water as she saw Manhattan do the night before.