Watchmen (TV series)
|Created by||Damon Lindelof|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||4 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||52–67 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||October 20, 2019 –|
Watchmen is an American superhero drama television series, based on the DC Comics limited series of the same name created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The TV series is created by Damon Lindelof for HBO, with Lindelof serving as executive producer and writer. Its ensemble cast includes Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeremy Irons, and Jean Smart.
Lindelof likened the television series to a "remix" of the DC limited series; while a sequel taking place 34 years after the events of the DC limited series within the same alternate reality, Lindelof wanted to introduce new characters and conflicts that create a new story within the Watchmen continuity, rather than creating a reboot. The series focuses on events surrounding racial tensions in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2019. The white supremacist group the Seventh Kavalry has turned on the police over racial justice. The police conceal their identities with masks and allow masked vigilantes to join their ranks. Detective Angela Abar (King), a vigilante known as Sister Night, investigates the murder of her friend and superior Chief Judd Crawford (Johnson) and comes to discover many more secrets regarding the situations around vigilantism. In addition to new characters, the show features characters from the limited series, including Doctor Manhattan, Silk Spectre, and Ozymandias.
The series premiered on October 20, 2019, with the first season consisting of nine episodes.
Watchmen takes place in an alternative reality, 34 years after the events of the comic series. Vigilantes, once seen as heroes, have been outlawed due to their violent methods. In 1985, Adrian Veidt, formerly known as the vigilante Ozymandias, created a fake attack on New York City by a squid-like alien that resulted in millions being killed, coercing nations to work together against a common threat and to avert a nuclear holocaust. Veidt's actions disgusted his former companions, with Rorschach planning to tell the world of Veidt's misdeeds before he is vaporized by Doctor Manhattan, who subsequently left the planet, unaware Rorschach had sent his journal to be published beforehand.
The show takes place in 2019 Tulsa, Oklahoma. A white supremacist group, the Seventh Kavalry, has appropriated Rorschach's writings and masked image to wage violent war against minorities and the police that enforce special reparations for victims of racial injustice. On Christmas Eve 2016, during an event that came to be known as the "White Night", the Kavalry attacked the homes of 40 Tulsa police officers. Of those who survived, only two stayed with the force: Detective Angela Abar and Chief Judd Crawford. As the police force was rebuilt, laws were passed that required police to not disclose their profession and to protect their identities while on the job by wearing masks, allowing for masked vigilantes to work alongside officers in fighting the Kavalry.
Cast and characters
- Regina King as Angela Abar / Sister Night, a Tulsa Police detective who wears a nun's habit and balaclava
- Don Johnson as Judd Crawford, the chief of the Tulsa Police[a]
- Tim Blake Nelson as Wade Tillman / Looking Glass, a Tulsa Police detective who wears a reflective mask
- Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Calvin "Cal" Abar, Angela's husband
- Andrew Howard as Red Scare, a communist Tulsa Police detective who wears a predominantly-red outfit
- Jacob Ming-Trent as Panda, a Tulsa Police detective who wears a giant panda head as a mask
- Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips, a series of male clones serving as Veidt's servants
- Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks, a series of female clones serving as Veidt's servants
- Dylan Schombing as Christopher "Topher" Doyle, Angela's adopted son whose biological parents were murdered during the events of the White Night
- Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves, an elderly survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race riot and Angela's grandfather
- Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt, an aristocratic lord of a country manor, formerly known as the vigilante Ozymandias
- Jean Smart as Laurie Blake, formerly the second Silk Spectre, who has since become an FBI agent and a member of the Anti-Vigilante Task Force
- Hong Chau as Lady Trieu, the owner of Trieu Industries, a corporation that bought out Veidt Enterprises on news of his death
- James Wolk as Joe Keene Jr., the Republican Senator for Oklahoma who aims to become President; Keene's father is responsible for the law banning vigilantism in 1977
- Jessica Camacho as Pirate Jenny, a member of the Tulsa police who wears a pirate-inspired outfit
- Dustin Ingram as Dale Petey, an FBI agent that joins Laurie in investigating the Tulsa situation
- Frances Fisher as Jane Crawford, Judd's wife
- Cheyenne Jackson as an actor who portrays Hooded Justice on American Hero Story
- Henry Louis Gates Jr. as himself, in the position of Secretary of the Treasury
- Lee Tergesen as Mr. Shadow, a vigilante who is drawn out by Laurie Blake
- Jolie Hoang-Rappaport as Bian, Lady Trieu's daughter
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by ||Original air date ||Prod.|
|1||"It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice"||Nicole Kassell||Damon Lindelof||October 20, 2019||101||0.799|
|During Tulsa's Black Wall Street massacre in 1921, a black child loses his parents Obie and Ruth in the ensuing chaos and escorts an orphaned baby to safety. Ninety-eight years later, masked Officer Charlie Sutton is hospitalized after being shot by a member of the Seventh Kavalry. Chief Judd Crawford calls for retaliation to hunt down the shooter. Angela Abar hears of the shooting and hunts down a suspect under her secret persona, Sister Night. With help from another vigilante, Looking Glass, Angela elicits the shooter's location at a cattle ranch used by the Kavalry. Angela, Judd and other officers hunt them down, instigating a shootout that results in the deaths of all Kavalry members present, including the shooter. Sometime after the shootout, Judd runs over a spike strip while driving to the hospital to visit Sutton. Angela receives a call from someone who instructs her to find something at a countryside tree. She heads to the location, where she finds an elderly black man in a wheelchair below a hanged Judd. Meanwhile, an old lord living at an unspecified country estate writes a play called The Watchmaker's Son and celebrates an "anniversary" with his two servants.|
|2||"Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship"||Nicole Kassell||Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse||October 27, 2019||102||0.765|
|In World War I, Obie, a soldier in the American army, pockets a piece of German propaganda challenging their racial equality. In the present, Angela takes the elderly man she found under the tree to her hideout. He says his name is Will and claims to be her grandfather, which she later validates. The police round up several suspects from Nixonville on suspicion of Judd's lynching. Will warns Angela of Judd's duplicity, which she initially doubts. During Judd's wake however, while searching his house, she discovers a Ku Klux Klan outfit in a secret closet. She asks Will how he knew, to no avail, so she arrests him. As she places him in her car, a flying craft drops an electromagnet and takes the vehicle away with Will in it, dropping the German propaganda his father had given him. Meanwhile, the lord watches Mr. Phillips and Ms. Crookshanks perform his play: a retelling of Doctor Manhattan's origins. Unexpectedly, the lord incinerates Phillips as part of the play and names one of his other servants—apparent clones of Phillips and Crookshanks—the new "Mr. Phillips".|
|3||"She Was Killed by Space Junk"||Stephen Williams||Damon Lindelof & Lila Byock||November 3, 2019||103||0.648|
|After faking a bank robbery to draw out a vigilante, Agent Laurie Blake of the FBI's Anti-Vigilante Task Force is asked to investigate Judd's murder by both the FBI and Senator Joe Keene Jr. Laurie tracks down the Tulsa police rounding up Kavalry suspects and learns about Judd's funeral, where she makes contact with Angela. A Kavalry member wearing a suicide vest attempts to seize Joe, but Laurie kills him while Angela saves the other attendees. Later, Laurie talks to Angela, discussing the wheelchair treads at Judd's lynching and Judd's secret closet; warning her not to protect Judd. That night, Laurie uses a special phone booth to tell Doctor Manhattan a "brick joke" while he is on Mars. As she leaves, Angela's empty car drops in front of her. She looks up, sees Mars, and laughs. Meanwhile, the lord unsuccessfully tests a protective suit with a Phillips clone. He hunts down a bison for its thicker hide, but is stopped by the "Game Warden", who later writes to remind him of the terms of his imprisonment. The lord responds in a letter acknowledging these terms, signing it as Adrian Veidt and goes out to hunt again in his Ozymandias outfit.|
|4||"If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own"||Andrij Parekh||Damon Lindelof & Christal Henry||November 10, 2019||104||0.707|
|Lady Trieu buys out the farmland of an Oklahoma couple just moments before an object from space crashes onto their property as to claim its ownership. Angela learns about Will's parents at the heritage center, when she hears her car crash outside and meets Laurie, finding a pill bottle inside. Later, Angela leaves the pill bottle and Judd's KKK outfit with Looking Glass, and fails to capture an unknown vigilante who witnessed her dispose of Will's wheelchair. Laurie has found Will's fingerprints in Angela's car, as well as a connection to Trieu's facility at the Millennium Clock. Trieu provides them with a list of people with access to new lightweight drones, and in Vietnamese, tells Angela that Will wonders if she got the pill bottle. That evening, Trieu talks to Will about being upfront with Angela, but with events to come to a head in a few days, he would rather she figure it out herself. Meanwhile, Veidt collects fetuses from a lake to grow new clones of Phillips and Crookshanks after killing off all of the existing ones. With their help, Veidt launches the dead bodies by catapult to test the limits of his prison.|
|5||"Little Fear of Lightning"||Steph Green||Damon Lindelof & Carly Wray||November 17, 2019||TBA||TBD|
|6||"This Extraordinary Being"||Stephen Williams||Damon Lindelof & Cord Jefferson||November 24, 2019||TBA||TBD|
|7||"An Almost Religious Awe"||TBA||Stacy Osei-Kuffour & Claire Kiechel||December 1, 2019||TBA||TBD|
|8||"A God Walks into a Bar"||TBA||Jeff Jensen & Damon Lindelof||December 8, 2019||TBA||TBD|
|9||"See How They Fly"||TBA||Nick Cuse & Damon Lindelof||December 15, 2019||TBA||TBD|
Rumors of a potential Watchmen television series adaptation first came about in October 2015, with HBO in preliminary discussions with Zack Snyder, director of the 2009 Watchmen film. HBO later confirmed that they were seeking to develop a Watchmen series in November 2015.
By June 2017, HBO had begun negotiations with Damon Lindelof, as Snyder was no longer involved with the production. According to Lindelof, he had been long interested in making a Watchmen work since he read the comic as a teenager, and had been approached to write it at least twice before, but rejected the offers as they came out shortly following Snyder's film and felt he could not improve on that. In the interim, he developed the HBO series The Leftovers that ran from 2014 to 2017. The Leftovers was met with high acclaim, and led to yet another offer to write a Watchmen series, which Lindelof then accepted. Lindelof stated that his vision for the series was to be a "remix" of the comic series. While the show is a sequel to the comic, he wanted to make a story of his own that felt part of that universe without creating a reboot, and made sure that this was apparent from the first episode. He affirmed this idea in an open letter to fans posted on May 22, 2018.
Writing for the series started on September 19, 2017. The following day, HBO officially greenlit the production for a pilot and additional backup scripts as well. Nicole Kassell was announced as the director and executive producer for the Lindelof pilot on January 30, 2018 written by Lindelof. Lindelof opted to open the pilot on the 1921 Tulsa race riot, an event that he became aware of after reading The Atlantic article "The Case for Reparations" written by Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2014. Lindelof, curious as to the riots, found there was very little information about them, and strove to learn more. This was around the time that he had been approached again to write for the Watchmen series, and felt the massacre and its implication for the alternate reality's present, would provide an equivalent factor that the Doomsday Clock had been for the original comic series, and used racial conflict as a central element of the series. He believed it would also help more people learn about the 1921 event, and made sure it was represented accurately, including the use of aerial attacks to destroy the Greenwood district.
The show's credits identify the work as based on characters by Dave Gibbons, who along with Alan Moore wrote the Watchmen comic. Due to a falling out with DC Comics, Moore has asked for his name to be no longer associated with any film production of his works from that period, including for the Watchmen film. Lindelof had tried to reach out to Moore to get his blessing for the show but was rebuffed.
On May 23, 2018, it was announced that Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Adelaide Clemens, and Andrew Howard had joined the cast of the pilot. At least one of the actors was expected to have been cast in a potentially recurring role. In June 2018, it was reported that Jeremy Irons, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Sara Vickers had been cast in the pilot. On August 7, 2018, it was announced that Dylan Schombing, Adelynn Spoon, and Lily Rose Smith had joined the pilot's cast. In November 2018, it was reported that Jean Smart had been cast in a starring role and that James Wolk would appear in a recurring capacity. Additionally, it was confirmed that Irons would portray Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias, that Nelson would portray a newly-devised character named Looking Glass, and that Vickers and Mison would join the cast. In January 2019, it was announced that Hong Chau and Dustin Ingram had been cast in recurring roles.
While reports in July 2019 suggested that actor Robert Redford would play a fictionalized version of himself in the series, Lindelof affirmed later that the real Redford would not be appearing in the show; the use of Redford is a tribute to the comic where it is suggested that Redford was positioning himself for President, in much the same way actor Ronald Reagan became President.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were announced as the series' composers on September 20, 2018. In considering the series music, Lindelof had considered using Reznor and Ross as they had not composed for television before. By coincidence, when Lindelof suggested the pair to HBO, HBO reported that the two had been in contact with the network about doing the music just a few days prior, as they were big fans of Watchmen. Reznor stated he and Ross were also fans of Lindelof's previous work and thus sought to offer their services for the show. Reznor and Ross had already prepared pieces for the pilot episode prior to filming, allowing Lindelof to better incorporate it into the pilot. According to Reznor, their initial compositions were set for a "an aggressive, sort of sleazy tone" for the show, but adapted to the series as it changed tone throughout the first season.
Tying in with the first season, Reznor and Ross plan to release three albums of music from the show on both vinyl albums and through streaming services. The first volume was released on November 4, with the following two scheduled for November 25 and December 16, 2019.
Principal photography for the pilot commenced on June 1, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout the month, filming occurred in additional Georgia cities and towns, including Macon, Fayetteville, Newnan, Palmetto, Brooks, and Tucker. In October 2018, filming for the remainder of the first season began in Georgia. Filming locations that month included Palmetto, Brookhaven, Peachtree City, Decatur, and the MARTA station in Chamblee. In November 2018, shooting moved to locales such as Palmetto, Chamblee, McDonough, and the West Lake MARTA station. In December 2018, the production was working out of Union City, Newnan, and the Georgia World Congress Center.
Filming of the country manor scenes was treated as a separate production, similar in nature to the Tales of the Black Freighter comic narrative within the original Watchmen graphic novel. Filming of these scenes took place in September 2018 in Wales at the Penrhyn Castle. These were completed before most of the remaining episode scripts were finished, according to actor Tom Mison. According to Lindelof, these scenes are "the idea is doing an escape story with Adrian Veidt that’s more like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner than it was like Escape from Alcatraz, that felt too delicious to not do". Until the third episode, HBO did not identify Irons' character as Veidt, but only as "Lord of a Country Manor". Lindelof chose to keep Veidt's identity a secret in part to avoid having the show be considered a sequel of the comic, as well as in keeping with the storytelling mystery used by the comic, in which the identity of Rorschach is not revealed until midway through the series.
Watchmen has received widespread critical acclaim. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the series has a 96% "certified fresh" rating based on 84 reviews, with an average rating of 8.38/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bold and bristling, Watchmen isn't always easy viewing, but by adding new layers of cultural context and a host of complex characters it expertly builds on its source material to create an impressive identity of its own." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
The Daily Beast identified that many of these reviews were dissatisfied with how the show treated the original graphic novel, several which were focused on the impact that Rorschach had on the television series' narrative. Moore had written Rorschach to be a parody of several Steve Ditko characters such as The Question and Mr. A which Ditko had used to promote objectivism, from which Moore made Rorschach a right wing character based on that philosophy, and never intended Rorschach to be considered the hero of Watchmen. While many have agreed with the television series' use of Rorschach as an element in right-wing politics and white supremacy groups, fans have spoken out that the show does not respect Rorschach as a hero, and have called the series "a near utopia of today’s woke left", among other comments.
|1||"It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice"||October 20, 2019||0.3||0.799||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|2||"Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship"||October 27, 2019||0.3||0.765||N/A||0.704||N/A||1.470|
|3||"She Was Killed by Space Junk"||November 3, 2019||0.2||0.648||TBD||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|4||"If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own"||November 10, 2019||0.2||0.707||TBD||TBD||TBD||TBD|
According to HBO, the first episode of Watchmen had more than 1.5 million viewers on its first night across television and streaming services, the strongest debut performance for the network. The first broadcast of the episode, at 9 p.m. EDT, had 800,000 viewers, making it the most viewed debut episode for any premium-cable show in 2019. The second episode dropped to about 1.3 million viewers across the first night, with 765,000 watching the first broadcast, though this was considered a strong performance as the show aired alongside Game 5 of the 2019 World Series.
- Johnson is credited with the main cast in the first episode only, before being credited as a guest star in subsequent episodes.
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