In 2014, HBO and Damon Lindelof brought to television an under seen and completely underrated three season series called The Leftovers. While it sounds post apocalyptic, the show focused on society’s reaction to an unexplainable event and provided alternate takes on humanity in a “What if” storyline. 140 million people disappear around the world with no answers and those left behind just have to deal. It very much is as depressing as it sounds, but it was some of the most captivating television I had ever seen. Every episode refused to shy away from the dark side everyone has within themselves, but also the light that sometimes gets ignored. It had a great run and was allowed to end properly under creative freedom.
Damon Lindelof brings us into another alternate reality where superheroes exist, but are integrated into all too familiar politics and a society that’s not afraid to embrace its racism and reignite the past. Although WATCHMEN was originally a 1986 graphic novel that was later turned into an R-rated Zack Snyder movie, Lindelof provides an alternate introduction into this world by focusing on new characters (and maybe some familiar ones). Those expecting an exciting, action packed blood bath might not exactly get what they want. Sure it has those scenarios, but the series stays as grounded as a superhero show can be and the violence is not mindless.
Right off, viewers are warned that this isn’t some fun show to watch casually as it opens with an extremely brutal look at the Tulsa, Oklahoma race massacre of 1921. Nothing is hidden off camera as we witness white citizens shoot and burn down black people and their property. It’s a hard watch, but a necessary reminder and plot device that takes us to 2019 Tulsa. Per the show’s present day, Tulsa is terrorized by the Seventh Kalvary, a KKK like cult that’s just as much of a threat to the police as they are to people of color. Police have to mask their physical identities and lie to their friends about what they do for a living in order to protect themselves and family.
WATCHMEN primarily focuses on Angela (the incredible Regina King), a cop who runs the night dressed in a nun-like outfit, but fights with the best of them. Angela switches from devoted wife to protector of civilians at the drop of the dime and she’s awesome to watch get into her zone. However, by the end of the first episode, she is drawn into a conspiracy where it’s questionable as to who she can trust. Do those close to her have bigger ties to the Seventh Kalvary than she wants to admit or is someone setting them up to look like the bad guys?
To be a vigilante superhero is illegal and people like FBI agent Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) take pleasure on taking them down, despite the general population’s views on superheroes. It can easily be said that every character in this world wears a mask of some sort as they all have a secret they’re hiding or a facade they lurk behind, but those are just minimal examples of all the metaphors WATCHMEN explores. Racial tension is a heavy dose to swallow for some, but fans of the source material will embrace this and comprehend the message behind it. Whatever one’s real political views are, it can’t be denied that some scenarios explored in the series will remind you of real life news stories.
Snyder’s WATCHMEN was the R-rated superhero movie before it was cool and still holds up, even if it has multiple cuts depending on how definite a viewer wants to be with the source material. It’s not a must watch in order to start watching the series. Most of the characters are new and even the easter egg references won’t leave your head scratching as Lindelof is patient to explore everyone and everything. Jeremy Irons is an immediate award winner with his performance that’s thrown in every so often that is both funny and incredibly cruel.
WATCHMEN is a series that live on for a very long time as it lives in a universe full of stories and characters both real and magical at the same. I’m confident the show will be beloved by long time fans of the graphic novel as well as bring in some new viewers that will be just as obsessed. WATCHMEN debuts Sunday, October 20 at 9pm/10pm ET/PT on HBO.