HBO’s Watchmen ended a captivating first season this past weekend with a finale that, in my opinion, fully delivered on the building promise over the freshman season. It answered questions satisfactorily, and it provided a thrilling 67 minutes of real action, compelling emotion, and a cliffhanger ending that didn’t feel like a cop out. It’s the rare show that, as soon as the finale ended, I immediately wanted to watch it all over again.
It’s really that great.
The series, mostly written by Leftovers‘ showrunner Damon Lindelof and directed by a collection of impressive talents, steered the Watchmen legacy away from the action-heavy histrionics of the Zack Snyder film toward the socio-political origins of the graphic novel. Lindelof refused to comment on the true ties of the series to the original source material, but it’s fully a sequel to the graphic novel in all of the best ways. It uses the story to explore race relations in an alternate America that feels all-too-close to real world America.
It daringly explored a hidden (at least to white America) massacre of African Americans in 1921 Tulsa and tied that legacy of unresolved black rage to the original of the Watchmen themselves. It explored the persistence of white supremacy groups and of the potential pitfalls of a liberal American president. All of this while dazzling with unique visuals and carefully orchestrated action sequences. Of course layered with consistently top-notch performances from Regina King, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons, Tim Blake Nelson, and more.
This one blew me away unexpectedly. I am completely here for it.
Moving forward, the Television Academy would be remiss to avoid embracing Watchmen in a similar way they did Westworld. It’s as compelling visually and built with as careful a directorial hand as that sci-fi series. But in many ways, it completely one-ups Westworld by not only serving a consistent theme through the entire season but also doing so in a way that didn’t fully confuse the audience. Sure, I had to Google a few things from the original Watchmen legacy, but that’s ok. I was able to figure it out on my own. Can’t say the same for that other show.
In my opinion, to ignore Watchmen is to ignore the tremendous topics it explores. We still have a long way to go until the Emmy season, and guild nominations, so far, are not providing a great showing. Maybe people need to really catch up to it. Maybe they were burned by other, similar series and needed to see it stick the landing as well as it did. But deserving of major accolades it is.
Now, do I want a second season? That’s a complicated issue. My immediate response is no, I don’t. It’s a perfect and perfectly contained series that works brilliantly as is. It doesn’t necessarily need to expand its universe with another bout with the Seventh Kalvary or another Trial of Adrian Veidt. Lindelof and team focused on a series of issues in this season and explored them expertly. If they have something slimier to explore in another season, then I would welcome it as long as its as carefully thought out as this one was.
Just don’t make Watchmen Season 2 an attempt at resurrecting a super hero series where there was none before. It would kind of unravel everything they’ve done, I suspect.
For now, I’m perfectly happy with Watchmen as it stands. And I’m eternally grateful for the experience.