“TV Review: Watchmen”
HBO’s Watchmen is ambitious, unparalleled, and ahead of its time. Damon Lindelof took the sacred text of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and not only breathed new life into it, he also cast the whole original text in a brand new light with the additions he made with the new series. It’s not only one of the best shows of the year, I’d argue it’s THE best show of the year, and is one of the best comic book adaptations of all time.
At first glance, it would be easy to be confused by all of my statements above. For someone who’s never seen the series, or only saw the first few episodes and gave up on it, it would seem like I’m just trying to pump up the series to make myself look cool. But those who stuck through the entire thing were given a show that was unlike anything we were expecting from this series, and barely scratched the surface of what I thought was possible after the first episode aired. The story of Angela Abar, a detective for the Tulsa police department, quickly becomes something much larger and intentionally meta, showing that the while this Watchmen barely recreates scenes from the graphic novel, it is definitely inspired by it.
Taking place over thirty years after the events of the graphic novel, Watchmen is barely recognizable from the story comic fans know. There’s no signs of Rorschach or Nite Owl, Doctor Manhattan is shown only on television screens, and while Jeremy Irons is the series worst kept secret as Ozymandias, he’s completely removed from all of the other cast members. The only original story character that has a sizable role is Laurie Blake, the former Silk Spectre, played masterfully by Jean Smart as a no-nonsense FBI agent brought in to investigate the death of Judd Crawford, the instigating event that kicked off these insane nine episodes. At first glance, this was a strange way to adapt this series, but now that we’re all done, I’m stunned at the brilliance of adapting it this way. Watchmen‘s themes still ring very true today, and by showing the after effects of the “squid event” decades after it occurred, it puts the larger themes of “for the greater good” into more question, especially when the world of Watchmen thirty years later is just as, if not more, polarized than it was before.
Of course, all of my gushing can’t leave out the amazing Regina King. As Angela Abar (aka “Sister Night”), King crushes every scene she’s in. It doesn’t matter if she’s cracking skulls or tripping on the outlawed drug Nostalgia, King is a gem to behold in this series, and while she already had a very strong career before Watchmen, if there’s any justice in this world, she’ll be in even more demand. King is a fantastic lead character with a commanding screen presence. You can’t take your eyes off her.
You may have noticed that I’ve barely covered the plot of this show. Well my friend, that’s on purpose. The beauty of Watchmen‘s narrative is how it plays out, setting up seemingly minute or weird revelations and giving them extreme purpose as the show goes on. Much like how the original comic played with ideas of time and space, the show does that as well, setting up a world similar to our own, but with some very extreme differences. It’s best to avoid what you can going in.
Damon Lindelof got a lot of heat for the ending of Lost, but as someone who caught up with that show way after the fact, I didn’t (and still don’t) understand the heat he got for it. I would argue that anyone who is still upset over a show that ended over ten years ago should give Watchmen a try, as Lindelof has truly outdone himself, delivering a show that is full of grace, care, and great respect for the source material. Amazingly, Watchmen has become one of the best adaptations of a comic property by not even being an adaptation of a comic property. Hell, I’m even going to call it as the superior adaptation of the comic. Zack Snyder’s movie had the benefit of style and fantastic casting, but only Lindelof’s version can truly stand next to the original.