Who watches the Watchmen? Well, if you’re reading this, chances are you! There’s also a chance you’re just mighty curious what the new HBO series from Damon Lindelof is all about and that’s totally cool too.
The series, which is based off the comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is…confusing. Especially if you haven’t read the comics or seen the movie adaptation. And that’s totally fine. Lindelof gave us Lost and The Leftovers, Watchmen is in that same vein. It’s not going to be a cut and dry story about good, evil, heroes and villains.
The premiere began in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 with the KKK attacking black residents. A young boy is placed in the care of fleeing residents with a note: “Watch Over This Boy.” His travel companions don’t survive, but he does, as does a baby…and the show circles back to that later.
In present day—2019—the events of the Watchmen comic series happened. Doctor Manhattan is on Mars. Robert Redford is president. The US won the Vietnam war and the country became a state. Squids rain from the sky. Oklahoma police wear masks, their identities hidden from the public following an attack. There’s a white supremacist group called the Seventh Kavalry that wears masks of Rorschach, the costumed vigilante from the comics who refused to conceal the truth about an alien invasion and was killed. His journals fell into the hands of a rightwing publication, which could explain the Seventh Kavalry.
A routine traffic stop by a masked officer ended in gunfire—he had stopped a Seventh Kavalry member—and the police force’s drive to apprehend the perp was the main driving force of the episode.
Back to the masked officers—superheroes were outlawed, but there’s Regina King as Angela Abar aka Sister Night. King kicked major, major, major butt in the premiere. She explained that she used to be a police officer, but was injured in the line of duty, so she retired and planned to open a bakery…but her bakery isn’t open yet. It’s a front for her police work.
The police tracked members of the Kavalry to a cattle farm, but their planned ambush was thwarted and an even bloodier firefight ensued. The police were successful—comic fans will recognize the aircraft Chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) was in as one of Nite Owl’s—sort of. The Kavalry was taking old watch batteries, those with synthetic lithium, for what purpose? Angela theorized a cancer bomb.
The episode ended with the officer from the beginning waking up, and Chief Crawford going to see him…but he never made it. Instead, he was ambushed and hanged. Angela received a mysterious call at her home, somebody claimed to know who she was and that they had something to show her, so she made her way to the designated point and found Chief Crawford swinging from a tree and an elderly man (Louis Gossett Jr.) she previously had a run in with. In his lap? The same note from 1921.
And then there’s Jeremy Irons‘ mysterious character who is definitely maybe Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias.
The first episode is a departure from the comics, yet it is set in the same world. “[W]e inherited a world from the original Watchmen that is in continuity with this world. Everything that happened in those 12 issues, happened. We’re not erasing or changing any of it…I feel like this is a continuation of, and in conversation with, the original Watchmen. Here’s another instance where I want to punch myself in the face: I called this thing a remix, because it doesn’t feel like a sequel to me. But it does by the traditional rules of a sequel, in that this chronologically follows the original. But it’s also kind of a prequel, because this story starts in 1921, which predates any of the events of the comic,” Lindelof explained to Rolling Stone. “I tried to make the Watchmen that I thought I would want to see as a fan.”
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Watchmen airs Sundays, 9 p.m. on HBO.