“Watchmen” is at different times the best, strangest or goriest show I have ever watched, and I’m obsessed with it.
When it comes to describing “Watchmen,” I’m at a loss. How does one describe a show that features a half-honorable police officer beating up bad guys in the coolest outfit I’ve ever seen, an old British man pulling dozens of live human enfant clones from the bottom of a pond and a superhero vigilante turned FBI agent who happens to be in love with a man who’s lived on Mars for thirty years? It’s a show that mashes together wildly mismatched genres and storylines in a way that feels alarmingly random at first but gradually develops into one single thread of story. It’s a show that depicts minorities and women as powerful and superior. It’s also one of the best-made shows I’ve ever seen and yet another one of HBO’s successes.
“Watchmen”’s name reminded me immediately of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, and I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the novel’s key themes replicated here (which I won’t reveal for fear of spoiling the story). The show’s main conflict involves an underground clan of white supremacists resurfacing after years of peace, and the conflict is handled beautifully. “Watchmen” depicts a dimension very similar to ours, but far advanced even though it takes place in 2019 — and the show makes clever, quiet choices to truly enhance the sense of political progression.
It’s shown in subtleties: in the man carrying his child through a scene of horrific violence while his wife holds the shotgun. It’s in the women characters married to more attractive, younger, more fit husbands. It’s in the eccentric trillionaire businesswoman refusing to let a male character pass a certain point in her office building, claiming that only women were allowed to go that far. It’s in the array of black, female and gay characters taking center stage throughout the six available episodes, and being written just as brave and complex as you’d hope they’d be. “Watchmen” handles its deep messages and comments on racism and family and humanity flawlessly.
The show is relatable in the way grieving characters are left mourning and confused as they learn more and more about a fallen friend’s secrets, in the way strife builds between disparate characters and in the way people deal with trauma from the past. Mistakes are made. Officers draw their weapons on fellow officers accidentally, risky moves don’t work out, dramatic lines are scoffed at. Things aren’t perfectly sculpted — it’s all a little messy.
But the show is also…strange. The first episode is fairly regular. It shows the futuristic world and its political strife, and has just enough action, emotion and suspense to get you hooked. The second episode gets…weirder. And the third gets weirder still. By the sixth episode, I honestly had no idea what I was watching. The show is utterly, entirely strange. Like, a-guy-painted-blue-baring-full-frontal-nudity-before stepping-into-an-incinerator-and-burning-to-death-before-being-replaced-by-a-clone-of-himself sort of weird. Like, a-man-using-a-catapult-to-throw-himself-to-another-planet-and-using-the-frozen-bodies-of-his-test-subjects-to-spell-out-words sort of weird. The show is only just starting to make sense as every episode allows a few more pieces to click into place and information is dispensed carefully and subtly. The weirdness is explained. It becomes less random. It becomes part of an ever-growing story.
The show has a scene in every single episode that has made my jaw drop, and not just because of the weirdness. Plot twists and cliffhangers leave me desperate for the next installment — Every. Single. Episode. That doesn’t happen on accident. The writers of this show are spectacular at what they do. I have no doubt that the scenes that come across totally random and pointless will fit exquisitely into the real story, which is still being unraveled episode by episode.
That being said, the show isn’t perfect. There have been a few scenes that make me wince at how overdramatic the characters are, and that’s genuinely my least favorite movie and TV blunder anyone can make. The show is also in its first season, though, and is still finding its footing, although it does strike me as a brave, outlandish show that doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything, especially because of that very fact that this is the opening season. Almost every part of the show is risky and audiences less inclined to be mind-bendingly confused will almost definitely turn it off around the end of episode two.
Episode seven is one of my favorite episodes of any TV show I’ve ever seen, and the start of episode five is one of the best-made scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. There are only two episodes left in the season and after the latest installment’s cliffhanger, I can only imagine the journey audiences are about to go on.
Do yourself a favor — watch “Watchmen.”
Story by Samantha Joslin