Watchmen—The Series

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9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Smart, tight writing, great cast, visually compelling

Nothing

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Who still watches the Watchmen?

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a tragedy occurred in 1921.  Now in 2019, police wear masks to protect themselves and find themselves at battle with a group called the Seventh Kalvary which wears the mask of Rorschach and is intent on starting a race war.  When tragedy strikes the police force, Detective Angela “Sister Night” Abar (Regina King) discovers that her own past could be playing a role in the game and that outcome could have worldwide results.  With Detective Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) sent in to investigate for the FBI, the past and the future are coming together once again…and the question of “Who watches the Watchmen?” still hangs in the air.

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The “Button” for the 21st Century?

Watchmen—The Series is an HBO limited series.  The show is a comic book, fantasy, drama created as a sequel to the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon 1987 acclaimed post-modern comic book series Watchmen.  The show was released to positive reviews, awards, and immediately gained a cult following.

I loved Watchmen and was pretty wary (like most) when they heard about the series.  The original comic was edgy and different.  I didn’t get to until the early 1990s, and I’m glad I waited because much of it would have gone over my head.  The dystopian future created by Moore and Gibbon has a lot of historical basis and the Watchmen series takes a similar path.  Though I did enjoy the movie, the series is a follow-up to the comic book and features references to the original ending…which already could confuse some.  What is nice about Watchmen is that everything pays out eventually.  Due to the plot there is a ******spoiler alert****** for the rest of the review.

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What happened after the squid?

The series forces you to dive right in with little explanation.  There are lots of strained relationships, odd history, and even squid rains.  It could feel a bit overwhelming for a person starting the series, but the writing for the show is smart.  Nothing is random (a theme championed by Dr. Manhattan), and everything is explained.  The show doesn’t always spell it out, but the events line up.  The writing is solid, tight, and filled with in-jokes if you rewatch episodes.

The show took on greater meaning in 2020 as race relations coupled with the strain of COVID-19 bubbled over and many saw the questions and ethics of the series as almost predictions of events.  Much like in real life, the lines blur between good and bad, police and civilians, and right and wrong.  Angela’s “trip” to the past forces her to reckon with what her grandfather faced and see what has changed and what hasn’t changed.  It is a thought provoking look that allows viewers to have their own answers.

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The past is our history and our curse

What helps to propel the show is the cast.  I’ve always been a big fan of Regina King and she delivers here as a character that is both angry and sympathetic as she tries to figure out if her position in the police is a good one.  Jean Smart also has always been entertaining and she adds the needed levity to the heavy plot as a smartly written lead.  There aren’t any weak links the series.  You have Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Regina King’s husband whose odd behavior is later explained in the series.  Like many older actors in these type of series (I’m think Anthony Hopkins in Westworld), Jeremy Irons gets the “yuk-it-up” role, but it kind of fits the character as he evolved from megalomaniac in Watchmen to being driven insane on the moon of Jupiter.  Louis Gossett Jr. was a casting surprise as Angela’s estranged grandfather, but I also really like Jovan Adepo as the younger version of Gossett who was struggling with racism and other issues in the past.  Don Johnson kicks off the series but like with many shows, his death is the provocation of most of the events.  Hong Chau arrives in the game a little later, but is a standout in her scenes where she goes head to head with the other actors.  Tim Blake Nelson has a great stand-alone episode and really fills out his character with it since until his episode, he’s rather paper thin…and you even get a fun cameo by Michael Imperioli.

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Everyone is screaming for help

The series also has a nice flashy style.  I liked the look and feel of the Watchmen movie, and though this isn’t a sequel to it, it feels like a visual sequel.  There are some similar scenes and the blending of comic book and reality is still a highlight of the series.  The directors have to make the costumes functional, but they still in the bottom line need to be costumes (and with a character like Laurie, they are able to call that out).

Watchmen begins and ends just how it needs to.  There is a lot of hate in Watchmen.  It is the type of hate that spreads from one generation to the next and becomes ingrained in people.  The original goal of Veidt was to bring people and the world together through the tragedy of the squid attack…it did not work.  I think in the post 9-11 world we get this better…almost everyone was united for a bit, but the in-fighting and past continues to affect day-to-day life.  Despite this and the sadness, the series takes a turn at the end.  You have a sense of wonder and hope in the end which is something the world needs now.  Things aren’t perfect, there is still hate, there is still death, but there is possibility.  The series is marketed as a “limited series” so hopefully, it will remain so…and as a result, I think it will grow in popularity over the years.

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“It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”

Episode 1        It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice Airdate:  10/20/19

In 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a young boy (Danny Boyd Jr.) is saved from the racial massacre uprising by his parents and finds himself alone.  In 2019, the Seventh Kalvary is rising in Tulsa as followers of Rorschach, and an attack on a police officer leads Chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) calls in his agents to find the killer.  With Tulsa police hiding their identity after a Christmas “White Night” massacre, Angela Abar (Regina King) continues to work for the police as Sister Night.  With the Kalvary on the run, the Tulsa police think the worst is behind them, but when Angela receives a call from a strange man in a wheelchair (Louis Gossett Jr.), she learns that her problems might just be beginning.

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“Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”

Episode 2        Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship Airdate:  10/27/19

Chief Judd Crawford is dead.  As Angela hides her knowledge of the crime and the involvement of the man she found at the scene, she begins to search for clues to the identity of the man in the wheelchair called Will who seems to know a lot about her.  Angela’s search of Crawford’s home makes a shocking discovery.  Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) continues his own game at his manors with his servants Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) and Ms. Crookshanks (Sara Vickers).

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“She Was Killed by Space Junk”

Episode 3        She Was Killed by Space Junk Airdate:  11/03/19

Agent Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) is called in to Tulsa to investigate Crawford’s murder and takes Agent Petey (Dustin Ingram) as an assistant.  When the funeral is attacked by a Kalvary member, Laurie determines there is more to the murder of Crawford and Sister Night than might be apparent.  A call to Laurie’s husband Doctor Manhattan on Mars ends with a surprising punchline with the return of Angela’s missing car.  Ozymandias tests the boundaries of his imprisonment against the orders of the Game Warden.

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“If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own”

Episode 4        If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own Airdate:  11/10/19

Lady Trieu (Hong Chau) continues to take possession of land around the Millennium Clock and claims land before the crashing of an object.  Angela continues to investigate Will and her relationship to him while calling in Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson) on her discovery of Crawford’s Klan costume and Will’s pills.  Laurie gets closer to Angela and joins Angela in speaking to Lady Trieu about the potential ties to Angela’s car’s return.  Trieu meets with Will and plots their next move.  Veidt harvests new Crookshanks and Phillips and tests the boundaries of his land.

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“Little Fear of Lightning”

Episode 5        Little Fear of Lightning Airdate:  11/17/19

Wade recalls being in Hoboken, New Jersey on November 2, 1985 on the day of the squid and suffers PTSD from the experience.  Laurie reveals a secret to Wade about her methods of uncovering the truth about Crawford’s murder.  Wade contacts his former girlfriend (Paula Malcomson) about the pills found by Angela and discovers their purpose.  When Wade is approached by a woman (   ) at a recovery group meeting, Wade finds himself mired in a conspiracy that might mean he has to make a choice on where his loyalties are.  Ozymandias makes his move but catches the attention of the Game Warden.

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“This Extraordinary Being”

Episode 6        This Extraordinary Being Airdate:  11/24/19

Angela is under arrest for her cover-up of her grandfather’s crime but taking her grandfather’s Nostalgia pills has left her a fugue state where she is trapped in her grandfather’s memories.  Seeing Will’s past, Angela learns of her grandfather’s ties to the Hooded Justice and the terror of a group called Cyclops.

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“An Almost Religious Awe”

Episode 7        An Almost Religious Awe Airdate:  12/01/19

Angela finds the Lady Trieu’s treatment for the Nostalgia is starting to work, but has questions for her grandfather about what she has seen.  Petey discovers that the Seventh Kalvary has come for Wade but that Wade had his own surprise for them.  Ozymandias faces a jury of his peers for his crimes against them.  Laurie’s attempt to question Crawford’s wife Jane (Frances Fisher) about the Angela’s talks under the effect of the Nostalgia has consequences.  As Angela begins to come out from under the effects of Nostalgia, she finds herself remembering her own childhood in Vietnam…and is forced to make a decision about her husband Calvin (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

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“A God Walks into Abar”

Episode 8        A God Walks into Abar Airdate:  12/08/19

Dr. Manhattan has returns to Earth in 2009 and meets Angela in Vietnam.  Out to convince her of his identity, Dr. Manhattan begins to weave a web of time where he exists all at once and recalls their first meeting and a tragic end.  Angela learns that her actions could be influencing what is happening now and that the Kalvary and Trieu both have plans for Manhattan.

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“See How They Fly”

Episode 9        See How They Fly Airdate:  12/15/19

Veidt finds himself back on Earth and recalls his first encounter with Trieu.  The Seventh Calvary under the control of Senator Joe Keene (James Wolk) prepares to take control of Dr. Manhattan’s powers, but Trieu might have something to say about it.  When Dr. Manhattan interferes with the plans, Veidt finds he might have another chance to change the world with the help of Laurie and Wade, but Angela finds herself having to come to terms with her past and future.

Related Links:

Watchmen

Watchmen (2009)

Before Watchmen:  Comedian/Rorschach

Before Watchmen:  Minutemen/Silk Spectre

Before Watchmen:  Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair

Before Watchmen:  Night Owl/Dr. Manhattan

Watchmen:  The End Is Nigh

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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