Spoilers ahead for HBO’s Watchmen. There are many mysterious allies and villains in Watchmen, and Episode 4 of the HBO series introduces us to yet another in the form of Hong Chau’s Lady Trieu. Though Lady Trieu is not in the Watchmen comics, she does seem to share traits with Ozymandias AKA Adrian Veidt, the main antagonist from the source material. With her endless money, advanced tech, and towering Millennium Clock, Lady Trieu may very well be controlling and overseeing everything that happens in the show herself.
The episode immediately establishes Lady Trieu as a mysterious figure with deep pockets and extensive connections. Her company, Trieu Enterprises, bought out Adrian Veidt’s company, Veidt Enterprises, and she now owns the IP to all the tech he created in the comics, from electrically powered vehicles to genetically engineered hybrid animals. She’s clearly expanded upon his genetic experiments, as demonstrated by her offering a fully developed baby to an infertile couple in exchange for their land. She’s building a massive Millennium Clock tower, and in a world that’s become technophobic, she pilots massive floating drones around like it’s nothing. Talking about a statue of Ozymandias in her garden, Lady Trieu says, "So much of my success grew from the seed of his inspiration."
She has a daughter, who may be a clone of Trieu herself, or is at least being intravenously fed Trieu’s memories — she has nightmares about being in a village, which was likely burned down by either the Viet Cong or American soldiers during the Vietnam War. And most importantly, she’s friends with Angela’s grandfather Will Reeves. Together they’re planning something big, and whatever it is will happen in just three days’ time.
Like everything else in Watchmen, the narrative surrounding this character is multilayered, and there are many references to dive into that may tell us what role Trieu has to play in the rest of the story. The first is the origin of her name: it comes from a real historical figure, Triệu Thị Trinh, colloquially called Lady Trieu. Lady Trieu lived in 3rd century Vietnam and resisted the rule of the Chinese Han Dynasty, which invaded her country and attempted to "civilize" the native Vietnamese.
In Vietnam: A Long History, author Nguyen Khac Vien writes that Lady Trieu once said, "I’d like to ride storms, kill sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of whatever man." Lady Trieu commanded a rebel army by age 21, and stories say that she rode into battle on an elephant while wearing golden armor and swinging a sword in each hand. Likely hyperbolic accounts claim she was nine feet tall, had a booming voice, and was unspeakably beautiful. Ultimately, Lady Trieu didn’t succeed in repelling the foreign invaders, but she’s lauded as a hero to this day in Vietnam.
Lady Trieu’s story involves some degree of mythologizing, but its also important context for the alternate world of Watchmen. In the show, Vietnam is a part of the United States, thanks to the towering meta-human Dr. Manhattan getting involved in the Vietnam War on behalf of the United States government. The combatants were so terrified of his power and destruction that they surrendered, and as a result Vietnam is no longer its own country. (This is why Angela grows up there before moving to Tulsa.) A powerful Vietnamese woman, who is at the right age to have lost family during the Vietnam War, being named after a historical figure who was supposedly larger than life, and who vowed to "drive out aggressors" and "reconquer the country"? Seems pretty important!
Based on the themes of Episode 4, Trieu’s background will likely be integral to whatever she’s planning. "Legacy isn’t in our land. It’s in our blood," she tells the previously infertile couple the Clarks. When she meets Laurie and Angela, she invites them to her vivarium, a humid greenhouse where she grows plants from Vietnam. "On her deathbed, my mother made me promise her I’d never leave Vietnam," Trieu explains. "So I found a loophole. Now Vietnam never leaves me."
In a show where Will holds onto a German pamphlet about America’s many injustices until he’s 105, Trieu’s statement may prove to be very prescient about their plans. Considering what they’ve both experienced at the hands of the United States government, it’s understandable that Trieu and Will would see eye to eye on what needs dismantling. Watchmen has already shown the Tulsa Race Riots, referenced the genocide of the Native Americans (with the name "Seventh Kavalry"), and now seems to be criticizing America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, as well as its colonization of other nations. Vietnam in Watchmen brings to mind the real life issues surrounding Hawaii, where debates rage about whether Hawaii should be a sovereign nation.
So what are Lady Trieu and Will planning? Well, just like Ozymandias did with Rorschach and Night Owl, Trieu may have already subtly told us. Ozymandias saw it as his destiny to save the world by essentially destroying a chunk of it. Perhaps Trieu and Will have come to believe something similar — but this time, their aim isn’t New York City, but the entire United States government itself. In a show that opened with the Tulsa Race Riots, it feels like it would make sense that the final act of the season will circle back and reference that in some way. Both of them suffered as a result of policies from the same political institution. So why not burn it all down and start over? Trieu’s daughter directly references that the Millennium Clock will be the first great wonder of "the new world" — an anarchic state where the playing field has been leveled, perhaps?
The question is, of course, where Angela, Laurie, Ozymandias, and even Dr. Manhattan (if that meteor from space was any indication) would stand on all this. Would Angela ultimately side with her grandfather? Will Laurie succeed in stopping their plans after she failed the first time to stop Ozymandias? And is Trieu working for or against Ozymandias? It’s a complex story to be sure, and fans will have to wait and see what Trieu has in store.
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