Why you should be the one watching the Watchmen.

I was late to getting started on viewing HBO’s Watchmen (and I’m still behind, I just finished episode 7 this weekend, but hope to get caught up in the next couple of days). I was skeptical of the whole idea of the show from the start. For the same reason I’ve never read any of the comic book sequels or prequels; the graphic novel is pretty perfect and self contained. It doesn’t need a sequel, or a prequel, or anything else. The format of the book (all those nine panel grids and such) is also pretty intrinsic to making the whole thing work so well that I’ve always been skeptical of attempts to translate it into other formats. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the movie version, which with a few exceptions was a pretty straight ahead beat for beat remake of the book, ended up feeling fairly flat. I think it felt that way in part because it was just trying to ape what happened in the book, but the book is so tied up with comics that that just doesn’t work well in movie form. At least not without some reinterpreting for the medium (though that opening credit sequence that gave the history of the world was pretty brilliantly done).

Anyway, all of that being said… This show is sensational. If you’ve been avoiding the show for any of the reasons I’ve mentioned, do yourself a favor and watch the first couple of episodes. I think it’ll be hooked. This show, a sequel to the comic book (and not the movie), is REALLY good. It might be the best show I’m watching right now and I’m watching a lot of shows I really like these days!

I just can’t say enough good things about the show. It extrapolates what our modern world might be like if the events of the Watchmen comics had happened as they did in the graphic novel. The show doesn’t rely too heavily one just giving you more of what was in the comics, or just leaning on the same characters, (in fact it almost goes out of it’s way, especially early on, to not do that).

The show embraces it’s format format as a TV show (if not with quite the same vigor and experimentation as the comics did their own format) far more than the movie did. The show does a great job of actually having episodes feel like episodes, not just one long movie that happens to have been broken up into roughly one hour segments, but it is still very much serialized (in much the same way that the comic book issues feel like issues of an ongoing story and not just one story that’s been broken up into issues by page count).

The acting, writing, set design, costume design, and everything else about the show are top notch. I can’t really complain about any aspect of the shows production.

I can’t complain at all about its writing either. (And I’m not just saying that because I went to college with, and was a vague acquaintance of, one of the writers.) It’s clever and interesting, and I have yet to feel like someone is doing something just because the plot needs them to, rather than because their motivations as a character would lead them to do it. These people are all interesting and well fleshed out, and they act consistently with their character even when faced with strange situations.

The only caution I have in recommending the show to everyone is it’s fairly graphic violence and somewhat nihilistic tone. Lately I’ve been less and less interested in grim and dark tv shows and movies. The world is rough enough as it is. But Watchmen, which concerns itself very much with the racism of the present in the real world, does a good job with it. Things are grim and dark and tense, but it doesn’t feel excessive and it doesn’t just make me feel worse about the world. There’s a purpose to it, and it feels natural and interesting. Not like it’s just grim and dark because “that’s what makes things cool.”

Anyway, I just can’t say enough good things about this show. Unless it really falls apart in the next two episodes that I have yet to watch (and the snippets of reviews I’ve seen for the finale don’t lead me to think that will happen) it will go down as one of the best seasons of any TV show I’ve watched.

Stephen B's Blog @DrOct