Watchmen (Mini-series) (2019)
A very well-constructed mini-series
Released on HBO in 2019, the Watchmen mini-series is like a jigsaw puzzle being revealed piece by piece without knowing what the picture is until the very last moment. There isn’t a single wasted scene. If you’re a fan of good writing, you’ll appreciate the effort that went into intentionally fracturing the story. The end result is a show that handsomely rewards viewers who’ve been paying attention.
HBO’s Watchmen is a sequel of sorts that exists within continuity of the 1986 DC graphic novel. Set in 2019, the story centers around Angela Abar, who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband and three children. Abar is secretly a masked police officer and uses the alias ‘Sister Night’. As a white supremacist group called the Seventh Kavalry becomes a growing threat in Tulsa, the story smartly connects the Minute Men and three of the original Watchmen to Abar as she investigates the case.
I’m a huge fan of the graphic novel, on which both the HBO mini-series and 2009 Watchmen movie were based. Like many fans, I had serious concerns that focusing on new characters set within the world of Watchmen might be a disservice to the source material. But showrunner, Damon Lindelof, masterfully weaves a web of interconnected stories that answers questions that the graphic novel left unanswered. Angela Abar, although the main protagonist of the mini-series, is ultimately used as a vehicle to complete the story arcs of the three original Watchmen characters as well as that of one of the Minute Men. Through very clever use of time and space, the HBO mini-series is effectively both prequel and sequel.
The fractured storytelling is used to great effect to make the mini-series feel like a 9-hour movie. Almost every character isn’t who he/she appears to be. The twists and turns come fast, but the reveals never feel cheap. Instead, the story is able to reveal itself organically in the mini-series format. Much of why Watchmen works is due to a solid cast of actors that accepted the challenge of presenting characters who have many layers and hidden histories. Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jean Smart all had standout performances.
As with the writing and acting, the music and visuals were applied to Watchmen with surgical precision. The Nine Inch Nails duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed a score that, like the HBO series in general, feels other-worldly. The pulsing synthetic sounds merge effortlessly with scenes to the point that the absence of music delivers confusion or shock just as effectively as a jump scare might in another show (I’m thinking of you, Lube Man). The costumes, sets, camera work and CGI all combine to create something unique. No other episode captures the essence of just how effective the visuals are than This Extraordinary Being (Episode 6). The use of color, floating props and interchanging actors in the same scenes make the entire episode feel radical in an already radical show.
There’s very little I can say without spoiling something. But I would say that the cartoonish racism in the third act was a negative. Some nuance to the ‘evil racist bad guys’ would have gone a long way. Fortunately, as with most of the show, there’s something bigger at play. Still, for such otherwise solid writing, it was disappointing to have such a prominent and recurring theme reduced to a talking point that might feature in a high school debate on racism.
Overall, I was absolutely amazed by the creativity and detailed construction in storytelling . If you’re like me, you’ll be pondering the logistics of Watchmen as much as the overall mini-series itself. I’d highly recommend HBO’s Watchmen to fans of the 1986 graphic novel. But I would warn them that it’s more of an expansion to the world than an adaptation of the original work.
I’d also tell them to stick around for an end credits scene in episode 8. I missed it the first time.
Source: Watchmen (HBO mini-series) (2019)