HBO’s explosive WATCHMEN series (2019) is an amazing chronological and thematic continuation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel, a bizarre mishmash of odd events and odder characters that all fit together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle to expose the complete picture. I fell in love with its audacity, larger than life characters, action, mundane weirdness, and commentary on masked heroes.
It’s about 35 years after the events of WATCHMEN. In Tulsa, OK, the police have been fighting a white supremacist group called the Seventh Cavalry, a terrorist organization inspired by Rorschach’s journal. In the original WATCHMEN, Rorschach embodied the inherently fascist tendency of the superhero, a creature unflinching in his devotion to an absolute moral code with only one right and wrong, but also trapped and tortured by it. Opposing them are the police, which after a devastating terrorist attack have been forced to wear masks to hide their identities, with the detectives taking on full costumes and personas. One of these detectives is Sister Knight, who leads a double life until the arrival of her grandfather, which changes everything and becomes part of multiple story lines converging on the city.
This is a bold continuation of the WATCHMEN universe, hitting all the right notes. First, there are hard-hitting ideas about race relations without being preachy, starting with the horrific Tulsa Massacre of the 1920s, a real event that isn’t taught in American History at school. Second is pulling in just enough elements of the original comic, such as Rorschach masks, America winning the Vietnam War, the return of several characters (now older), and numerous quirks and Easter eggs. Third is a mosaic story that could be interpreted as multiple characters being the main hero. And lastly, this being WATCHMEN, there’s a philosophical take on superheroes: how the mask hides a deep trauma driving the hero to fight (and in some cases is used as a vehicle for narcissism), how the mask means you can’t tell who the good and the bad guys are, and how the masks and persona don’t do much more than average policing than mythologize vigilantes.
In short, I loved it, from its grand vision neatly tying together a huge number of plot elements to its constant weirdness that is always later revealed to make perfect sense. No word yet as far as I can tell on a second season, which I’d definitely watch. Highly recommended.