REVIEW: Watchmen (2019 – Limited Series)

Release Poster – HBO

The following is a short review of Watchmen — Created by Damon Lindelof.

Alan Moore’s Watchmen is one of the most beloved comic book stories ever made. It is one of those graphic novels that comic book readers have been championing for decades, and it has been notoriously difficult to adapt. Zack Snyder tried and succeeded (to some extent) with his 2009 adaptation, which, of note, changed the ending of Moore’s story. Moore, infamously, is unwilling to endorse or watch adaptations of Watchmen, but I think it is time for the celebrated comic book writer to change his tune. Because Damon Lindelof (LOST; The Leftovers) has made a sequel to the iconic graphic novel that deals with timely issues and which also subverts all of the right tropes.

Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen takes place more than thirty years after the events of Alan Moore’s comic book, and it tells the story of Angela Abar (played by Regina King, who gives a memorable and outstanding performance), an African-American police detective hiding behind an alter ego while on the job. Smaller squids still randomly fall from the sky, Vietnam is an American state, and Robert Redford is the President of the United States. In the series, Abar is thrust into the middle of a potential conspiracy involving her friend and boss, police chief Judd Crawford (played by Don Johnson). When she encounters an old man in a wheelchair, closeted items, and nostalgia in pill-form, she is forced to reevaluate what she knows and experience the trauma that has defined her ancestry.

Damon Lindelof and HBO ran a pretty sizeable risk with this series. Though the original comic book is celebrated and iconic, it is still a comic book that most HBO audiences are unfamiliar with, and even if they’ve seen the film, then that film’s altered ending may confuse new audiences when they watch the series. So, I thought it was incredibly bold to make the series be an undeniable sequel. Though one character is basically just in the series to explain a few details (i.e. Dustin Ingram’s Agent Petey), the show is deliberately vague and obfuscating. If you don’t know about the huge squid at the end of the comic book, then you may not fully understand what is happening until halfway through the season. Thankfully, this season of television is so phenomenal that it should pique the interest of viewers who have no relationship with the original comic book.

Although spearheaded by a white, heterosexual male showrunner — Damon Lindelof — Watchmen is alert to social injustice. Lindelof has cited his writer’s room and Ta-Nehisi Coates-articles for giving the show the ammunition to treat themes related to social injustice with the weight and power that it does. In the first episode, It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice, the series introduced audiences to a tragic event in history that history books and classes have apparently turned a blind eye to (i.e. the Black Wall Street Massacre). Both the series’ handling and understanding of complex issues is commendable. The series was always appropriately damning when it needed to be. It was an enlightening series about ancestry, legacy, and reparations that never-failed to take my breath away, and the way the series handled its central love story in A God Walks Into Abar was outstanding. With just nine episodes, Damon Lindelof and his team succeeded in producing an outstanding follow-up series to the iconic graphic novel that was both thought-provoking, informative, and a moving must-watch drama.

A

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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