As one of the most influential graphic novels of all time, Watchmen is treated by its braniac creator, Alan Moore, as a sacred piece of art who’s alterations and adaptations immediately divert to sacrilege. Truth be told, the source material is so dense with clever reflection on American society, that no external vision, be it a movie adaptation, prequel, or sequel, can ever capture the level of astute insight it provides. When director Damon Lindelof of Lost, The Leftovers, and Prometheus fame announced his “remix” for HBO, unsanctioned by Alan Moore, it was completely fair for people to freak out a bit, especially considering the 2009 Zac Snyder adaptation that fell short of excellent. I personally don’t give a crap about what Moore thinks since the man is certifiably insane, but Lindelof’s track record for wrapping up a cohesive story had been spotty at best. Strangely enough, I can’t recall a TV show or movie that has opened up as many mystery boxes and closed them so perfectly as I saw in HBO’s Watchmen. With the subtext of thoughtful political messaging, HBO’s Watchmen seems to be a strong contender to be one of the top 10 TV shows of the past decade, a perfect sendoff to 2019.
Considering the graphic novel featured a blue glowing god-man, a super genius that catches bullets, violence, sexual abuse, and a giant squid that end the nuclear arms race, both newcomers and fans of this franchise alike will find this series’ genesis confusing. The show primarily revolves around Angela Abar: a cop in Tusla Oklahoma who’s secretly dual-hatted as masked-vigilante Sister Night in an alternate modern-America where vigilantism is outlawed unless employed by the police. What does her story, a classic sheriff (Don Johnson), and the horrible 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre of Tulsa have anything to do with the Watchmen that is familiar to fans? Hell if anybody knows. Moreover, what does some creepy blonde dude (Jeremy Irons) in a British manor with robot-esque servants have anything to do with a profoundly violent period of American history, or the embers of white supremacist that existed long after that event? The newbies probably had no clue.
HBO’s Watchmen started fresh for everyone. These plot threads, with their own meaning and intrigue, gradually diverge even further apart, yet towards the middle of the season, somehow are brought back together again, building towards an explosive finale. Through this story, the Watchmen universe is built into a fresh new image. It is politically relevant, but in my mind never insulting. It explores racism in America, but the commentary is so thoughtfully reflective on multiple political viewpoints that I cannot see this show divulging into tensely heated controversy. What’s perhaps most incredible is the show balances symbolism with intrigue and twists incredibly well. When the shocking finale explodes on screen, everything feels distinctly Watchmen-esque, but simultaneously brand new. Coming from one of the most famous dudes in Hollywood to not answer important plot questions, this is a major achievement for television.
I feel like I’m walking on eggshells in trying to discuss this show, since it is easy to spoil, and best viewed with as little context as possible. I will discuss this show’s themes and performances in a later, spoilery write-up. The bottom line for those who are considering watching this show: fan of the source material or not, I guarantee this will be one of the most interesting works of TV that you have seen. It should absolutely be viewed with an open mind. This show’s greatest flaw is that the first few episodes are slow burns and politically heavy, not offering substantial material for the greater plot. That doesn’t mean the journey isn’t worth the reward, but it’ll require some level of patience from the viewer. I look forward to diving deeper into what this show presents for its viewers, as I’m sure it’ll foster deep discussions as the finale resonates with American cinematic culture. 8.8/10Follow @ReelMasterShots