Regina King as Angela Abar/Sister Night
Don Johnson as Judd Crawford
Tim Blake Nelson as Wade Tillman/Looking Glass
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Calvin “Cal” Abar
Andrew Howard as Red Scare
Jacob Ming-Trent as Panda
Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips
Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks
Dylan Schombing as Christopher “Topher” Abar
Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves
Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt
Jean Smart as Laurie Blake
Hong Chau as Lady Trieu
Creator: Damon Lindelof
When masked vigilantes are treated as criminals by government agencies, some band together to start a mutiny while others aim to stop it before it yields chaos.
I had heard about HBO’s Watchmen for some time, and I’ve been meaning to watch it. I read the graphic novel, and I’m a big fan of the Zack Snyder movie. It was hard to imagine what a follow up to the graphic novel would look like. The end result was not what I expected at all, and yet was more than welcome. HBO’s Watchmen is incredibly bold and ambitious, incredible on just about all fronts, and is one of my favourite TV shows in recent years.
I’ll do my best to talk about the show without spoiling anything. First of all, something to address is the source material itself. HBO’s Watchmen is a sequel to Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen. If you read the original graphic novel, then you’re all set for this show. If you haven’t, I’d recommend reading it. However if you really aren’t into reading comic books or graphic novels, the simplest alternate way to get up to speed thoroughly would be to check out the 2009 movie (director’s cut preferably), and afterwards looking up the differences between that and the novel, especially with the ending. The reason why I say this is that despite much of HBO’s Watchmen’s story being standalone, the world it exists in is very specific and strange. So it really pays to have some level of familiarity with it, not to mention many major aspects of the plot from the original story are significant parts here. Now you could go into it completely blind and still enjoy it, but having that background definitely adds something to the show. With all that being said, HBO’s Watchmen still manages to be a standalone story. It’s in tune with the nature of the original comic, it’s very much in that world and there are a couple of characters from the original Watchmen story who make appearances. However, it is its own thing and doesn’t just ride off the success of the source material.
The writing throughout the show was great, I was riveted throughout all 9 episodes. There are fully realised characters with depth and motivations, the dialogue is great, and the plotlines were fascinating. Before going into the show, I did hear about how Watchmen started slow and how some people had to persist through it before it hooked them. I wouldn’t say that its that slow, the early episodes are establishing the characters and with setting up the overarching mysteries and questions of the show. I was intrigued with the characters and plotlines, and I was satisfied with the answers that were given at the end of the story. With that said, some parts of the show might be confusing for the most part, but by the end everything becomes clear. Some of the structures of the episodes can be disjointed with regards to the narrative, but I found that the risks actually worked quite well. It clearly has no interest in pleasing a mainstream audience, and really commits to the strangeness, which I’m glad they did. The sociopolitical commentary, thought provoking themes and the connections to real life events were quite effective and notable aspects of the show. The original Watchmen story was a take on American exceptionalism, the show carries almost a similar take, this time on white nationalism. It spends time investigating America’s racist heritage and handles relevant real-life issues like racism, white nationalism and generational trauma, and I thought it handled it well. It’s not subtle at all, but I loved it for that. This show even opens with the Tulsa Massacre of the early 1920s, an event that some Americans today didn’t learn about until they watched the show. If there’s any problems I have, it’s just that there are some characters that I liked that I would’ve liked to have seen more of, specifically Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass, and Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake. Each of them have an episode more focusing on them and they really shine, especially Looking Glass, who I found one of the best characters of the show. However it’s not really their stories, so it’s not too much of a flaw. So far, another season hasn’t been announced for Watchmen, but honestly I though it ended quite well and I’m not sure where they’d go from here if they were to continue the season. I’m satisfied with the point they ended the show on.
The cast are all great, every character is memorable and the casting for each was perfect. Regina King plays the lead character, and she’s incredible in her part from beginning to end. She conveys an incredible amount of emotion and energy into her performance. It’s not just her though, the likes of Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons Louis Gossett Jr., Don Johnson and Hong Chau are all exceptional in their roles.
Each of the episodes are directed very well. The cinematography is great and visually stunning, and this show is full of impressive and memorable shots. The use of colour is particularly great, some of the shots are definitely inspired by the framing of some panels in the original graphic novel. All of the show is well made but one of the stand out episodes was episode 6, which is a flashback episode. Not going to give too much away but there are so many stylistic choices made which was outstanding and added a lot . It’s not really an action show, but the moments of action are directed quite well. One of the most standout elements of the show on a technical level is the electronic score from Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, which is extraordinary and heightens many of the show’s best moments. The pair have composed plenty of outstanding scores for movies and tv, but this has to be one of their best works to date.
HBO’s Watchmen is fantastic, audacious and gripping from beginning to end. The cast are perfect on their parts, the writing is fantastic, and it’s an incredible continuation of the Watchmen source material. I’d recommend doing whatever you need to do to get up to speed with the original story and jump right into this show as soon as you can. It’s one of the best pieces of live action comic book media I’ve ever seen.