Watchmen Series Discussion Post (Here There Be Spoilers)

By Daniel Dern: Having (a) read Alan Moore & Dave Gibbon’s original WATCHMEN comic book  mini-series as it was coming out (and keeping up with the discussions on Usenet), (b) watched Snyder’s 2009 movie (see my write-up, “I Watched The WATCHMEN (Movie, That Is)’), and, (c) least importantly, read DC Comics Before Watchmen 37-issue prequel (and d) having, somewhere, a set of the original Watchmen pins), I can say with reasonable confidence that you don’t have to have read/seen any of these to watch HBO’s new Watchmen mini-series. At least, not as of Episode 1, which is all that’s been aired as I write this.

If you have read the original comics and/or seen the movie (particularly the former), you will spot, or know a little more about, some of the bits (although these will, presumably, be explained as in further episodes), e.g., (1) the little blue guy doing something on Mars, (2) the old rich white guy, (3) a cake that I think looked sort of like a squiddy monster, (4) the use of watch and watchmaker references and imagery.

On the other hand, at least so far, the “Rorschach” inkblot masks, and people wearing them, in HBO’s series may, for all I know/we might find out, have no relation to the original.

That said, one episode in, it’s incredibly well done. It slightly reminds me of the recent (still going, IIRC) Legion show in the way that many of the scenes don’t immediately make sense or fit together, although Legion went mind-bendingly over the top on this, while this is simply, “whoa” level.

This is an grim show so far — unsurprising given what the show is focusing on and how — and I don’t anticipate much if any cheerful parts, although hopefully there’s some glimmer or change or hope at the (very) end.

Now to wait for HBO/BBC’s His Dark Materials mini-series, premiering on HBO on November 4. The trailers look awesome. Very different from the Disney movie (just a comment, not a criticism — Disney’s looked spot on to how I “saw the book in my mind as read it”).

Add your thoughts about the new Watchmen series in comments. *SPOILER WARNING*

5 thoughts on “Watchmen Series Discussion Post (Here There Be Spoilers)

  1. Legion ended this August, actually. Went under the radar in its final throes.

    As for Watchmen, while I’m not super familiar with the comic or the movie I am a fan of Lindelof’s The Leftovers, so I’m thinking I’ll check this out when the season finishes. The racial politics angle has me especially intrigued (and King has a career of admirable work to her name)

    One more thing: Mike, toss a review of The Lighthouse into a Pixel Scroll one of these days. People need to know!

  2. I just got finished watching Episodes 1 for the SECOND time. I’ll be sending in my own review very shortly. Spoiler Alert; it will be a RAVING THUMBS UP!

    Chris B.

  3. So, another alternate history series. First, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, then this one, and soon (or now) FOR ALL MANKIND, in which the Soviets get to the moon first and the space race continues and doesn’t stop. Are we seeing the start of a trend? How about BRING THE JUBILEE, in which the Confederates win at Gettysburg and then win the war? The future of TV promises to be fun!

  4. I liked the first episode a lot, and if what they are aiming to do with this is what I think they’re aiming to do, then it’s a very good idea. That is, if it is a good idea to do any kind of Watchmen follow-up at all (and I realize that that’s a whole other can of worms), then the best way to do it is to set it in the present day, treat all of the outlandish events of the original series as history, and try to create an alternate 2019 that has a similar relationship to our world as Moore’s 1985 did to our world then, rather than imitating the style of Moore’s 1985.

    I think the way it (so far) treats law enforcement, and the concept of authority in general, is also potentially a good idea. In Moore’s Watchmen, the actual authorities are thinly sketched—the federal government is utterly corrupt, the local police are reasonable but barely a factor; the ethical dilemmas all revolve around whether vigilante justice and individualist power fantasies can ever really be heroic, and Moore argues pretty strongly that they can’t. By now, due to Moore and others, that’s extremely familiar ground. It looks to me like the territory Lindelof & co. are staking out has to do with collective power fantasies: what would it look like if the government and the police were pursuing goals that a broadly liberal audience might be sympathetic toward (unlike the Comedian’s role as an agent of imperialism and tyranny), but still couldn’t resist the thrill of costumes and gadgets and unapologetically stomping the bad guys. It’s a strange mix of utopian reformism and deep cynicism, and I’m really interested to see where they go with it.

    Also, I don’t think this was exactly a fault in Moore’s Watchmen but it was kind of a gap, possibly due to being written by a young British guy: the comic doesn’t really engage with US history prior to the 1970s or late ’60s. I mean, his superheroes got started in the early 20th century, but there was very little sense of what those days were really like; the alternate-history elements carry far more weight than the previous 200 years of US history. The TV show starts out very strongly in that regard: the 1921 Tulsa massacre weighs heavily on the 2019 story, and Bass Reeves is a figure that I’m fairly sure Moore did not know about because if he had, there’s no way he could’ve resisted putting him in the comic somehow. There’s also a very brief sight gag in this involving one of the most obscure background characters from the comic, Dollar Bill, that pushes back against Moore’s somewhat romantic view of the 1940s (probably informed by his love of Golden Age comics).

    Of course this could all still end up going bad in all kinds of ways, but there’s a lot here that makes me hopeful.

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