Written by comics legend Alan Moore in the mid-80s, Watchmen is one of the most popular graphic novels of all time, so it’s no surprise that a story that’s been a favourite for generations, and is just as much about masked vigilantes as it is socio-political issues, has been so easily adapted for a 21st-century audience.
Set 30 years after the events fans are familiar with, creator Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) drops us into a world not entirely unlike our own, but with an alternative timeline where Robert Redford has been president for the past three decades, police wear Handmaid’s Tale-esque face masks, it rains alien squid on occasion, the police fly Owlships, and Rorschach has become a new symbol for hate.
In this timeline, nuclear disaster was prevented not because the Cold War came to an end, but because Ozymandias created a giant squid monster to take down New York City, thereby uniting the world’s superpowers against a common alien threat. This is where history starts to splinter and go off into an alternate reality that’s unnerving, exhilarating and highly entertaining.
Described as “a dazzling reinvention” by Rolling Stone, “breathtaking” by New York Times and “brilliantly written” by Vanity Fair, here’s why you should be watching Watchmen:
What happened to Ozymandias?
Seemingly retired in some giant Victorian mansion in the English countryside, the more we see of Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons) and his bizarre behaviour, including repeatedly catapulting his cloned servants into the sky and violently re-enacting the moment of Dr Manhattan’s creation, the more it becomes apparent that he’s not here.
So, where is he? Has Ozy been excommunicated to Mars, watched over by Dr Manhattan? Is he stuck in some sort of mental prison? There’s a lot of fan speculation about his imprisonment, which no doubt has something to do with murdering three million New Yorkers in the faux-alien invasion.
1980s superhero Silk Spectre II makes a return as FBI Agent Laurie Blake (Jean Smart). Older, world-weary and with enough confidence to cut through all the bull, she is a formidable opponent in the fight against the growing tide of hate and conspiracies taking place in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Comic book original, Sister Night (Regina King) a.k.a. Angela Abar also returns as a masked police officer dressed as a scary nun who secretly investigates the connection between her police chief’s murder, her grandfather, the 7th Cavalry (a local hate group who hide behind Rorschach masks) and Dr Manhattan. Regina King’s portrayal brings all the sass and action, and it’s through her backstory that much of the mystery unravels.
Based in part on Rorschach, new fan-favourite Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) is a survivor of the NYC giant squid attack, and it’s through him that we learn about the emotional and mental effects of the incident on generations of East Coast Americans. It’s no surprise that his reflective mask could easily be mistaken for tin foil, but even though he is one of the more damaged characters, his flaws also make him the most likeable and relatable in the series. His interrogation technique is equal parts creative and unsettling, so his presence on the show provides a good balance to all the fast-paced action.
The 7th Cavalry
The most enigmatic aspect of the series is arguably the 7th Cavalry, a local hate group that has sprung up over the last three decades and adopted the Rorschach mask as its symbol and disguise. In the series, they seem to be moving toward a big climax that has sci-fi elements and involves the use of superheroes.
With Rotten Tomatoes giving the series a rating of 96%, and producer Damon Lindelof stating that he has no intention of continuing the story, it’ll be interesting to see if a new line-up of creatives come on board next year to renew the knockout drama which has already won four Critics Choice Awards.
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