Nothing against Avengers and Spider-Man and Batman and all of those other caped crusaders, but when it comes to comic books being adapted into movies and TV shows, well, let’s just say we’re ready for something new. Enter the upcoming debut of Watchmen (October 20, 9 p.m., Crave)—not only does the series take over Game of Thrones’ sweet timeslot, but it comes with some very high expectations thanks to everyone involved. We were among the lucky group who got to see the premiere when it first screened for critics last summer, and to say it gave us a bunch of feels would be an understatement. This show is fresh, relevant, and features people in masks, but make no mistake: Watchmen far exceeds what you’ve come to expect from a superhero series and here’s why:
The queen of television
First of all, anything that involves Regina King immediately has our undivided attention. The Oscar-winner has a track record of picking relevant projects that play up her amazing talents (American Crime, The Leftovers) and Watchmen is no exception. The part of Angela Abar is so many things all at once: in the premiere alone she’s a mom, a wife, an undercover agent, a mentee, a friend and a kickass fighter, and she may even have some baking skills tucked in there underneath it all.
“She is a product of her experiences, her environment, and as you hopefully continue to watch the episodes you will see why she’s this woman that feels she needs to wear several masks,” King said during this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour. “We see a lot of the story that’s happening through Angela’s eyes, through Angela’s perspective, and we are reminded how we go around in our day-to-day taking off masks and putting them on.”
— Regina King (@ReginaKing) October 15, 2019
The creative force
Make no mistake about it, when it comes to blending genre content with emotional and complicated stories that impact us all, Damon Lindelof is a rare bird. The showrunner has been responsible for other watercooler shows like Lost and The Leftovers, and his treatment of this material is on-point. It took him more than two years to develop the series to his specifications, and to fully realize this world, which presents an alternative history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws and racial tensions are higher than ever.
“The book was highly political,:” said Lindelof during the TCA tour. “It was about what was happening in American culture at the time even though it was being presented by two British artists. What, in 2019, is the equivalent of the nuclear standoff between the Russians and the United States? It just felt like it was undeniably race and policing in America. And so [those ideas] started to graft into the Watchmen universe and needed to be presented in a responsible way.”
The emotional impact
The series opens with some harsh, historically-sound scenes that are hard to watch and don’t hold back from showcasing the actual horror of it all though it’s hard to talk more about it without giving anything away—you really have to see the show for yourself. These scenes importantly set up so many relevant themes (race, class, social divides and the role social plays in all of it) that are carried throughout the rest of the series.
Then there’s that aforementioned look at the law and law enforcement, which everyone can agree is especially relevant today. It’s all capped off by a few well-choreographed fight scenes, some truly creative shots from director Nicole Kassell, and an amazing score with music that gets under your skin and parks itself on your bones. There’s one interrogation scene in particular that we still can’t stop thinking about—it may be the best one ever featured on television. It all adds up to a look at tough topics with no easy answers.
“It is definitely not supposed to be a world that you recognize. We’re using alternate history, science fiction, popular fiction to Trojan-horse themes that are prevalent in the real world in a fictional one,” Lindelof offered. “In a traditional superhero movie, the bad guys are fighting aliens and when they beat the aliens the aliens go back to their planet and everybody wins. There’s no defeating white supremacy. It’s not going anywhere, but it felt like it was pretty formidable foe.”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the other all-star cast, including the one and only Miami Vice and Nash Bridges actor, Don Johnson (aka Dakota Johnson‘s dad), who plays Angela’s mentor Judd Crawford. Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons, who is pretty much known for everything but will always be the voice of Scar to OG Lion King fans, plays a super creepy rich guy with servants that will make your eyes pop, and Louis Gossett Jr. (also an Oscar winner) also has a role that is ominous AF. Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow), three-time Emmy winner Jean Smart (Frasier), James Wolk (Mad Men), and a whole slew of other impressive actors round out this cast.
So how different is this treatment than other iterations of hero dramas? For one all of the “heroes” are grounded in reality rather than gifted with massive supernatural abilities. For another, Watchmen, as the source material, has always gone against the grain of what hero stories are—that’s part of its universal appeal and why so many people say it’s one of the greatest graphic novels of all time.
“As much as it’s a book of its time, it’s also very timeless.”
Fans and industry professionals at #SDCC share why the graphic novel had such an impact on the world of comics. pic.twitter.com/QvPff4Kj5x
— Watchmen (@watchmen) October 14, 2019
But Writer Alan Moore has been none too happy about this televised version, though—or any adaptation of any of his works. That’s something Lindelof has had to come to terms with (as much as possible anyhow), and it may even drive him to make this story better in the long run.
“I don’t think that I’ve made peace with it and that’s the way that he would want it, too. It’s an ongoing wrestling match,” he admitted. “Alan Moore is a genius in my opinion; the greatest writer in the comic medium and maybe one of the greatest writers of all time. I have made personal overtures to connect with him and explain to him what we were doing and he made it clear that he didn’t want that to happen and I want to respect that.
“As someone whose entire identity is based around a very complicated relationship with my dad, who I constantly need to prove myself to and never will, Alan Moore is now that surrogate. So, the wrestling match will continue.”
We can’t wait to see how it pans out.
Watchmen debuts Sunday, Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. ET on Crave.