Watchmen review: The graphic novel lays the foundation for this story

By Sameer Mitha | Published on 18 Oct 2019

The first episode of the Watchmen TV show airs on November 24 in India on Star World.

It will be available on Hotstar starting 21 October 2019.

The show uses the events of the graphic novel as a foundation to tell its own tale.

Watchmen review: The graphic novel lays the foundation for this story
Watchmen review: The graphic novel lays the foundation for this story

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Straight off the bat, I’d like to make a disclaimer. I have not read the Watchmen graphic novel and my only exposure to the superhero franchise was the 2009 film adaptation by Zack Snyder. Honestly, I really liked the movie. So, watching Watchmen for me was more like wondering what elements of the movie will be familiar and what will be new. If you are a die-hard fan of the graphic novel, I suggest you look elsewhere as this review is from the perspective of one that enjoys superhero movies and TV shows but isn’t super into Watchmen.

The Plot: Racism, alternate history and mask are for your own protection

The plot of the show is pretty grounded, laying the foundation of an alternate history where superheroes are real and so are vigilantes. Popular names like Rorschach, Dr Manhattan, Ozymandias and more are thrown around as though they are known to people. If you have seen the Snyder movie, it's enough to get a grip on who these guys are and why you should care for them. 

The series takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA in an alternative reality in 2019 - 34 years after the comic ends. Cops now wear masks to protect their identity. This is because of a mass attack on law enforcement agents in the dead of night by a group called "The Seventh Cavalry" (wearing Rorschach masks). It is because of this incident that we are introduced to our protagonist Angela Abar (played by Regina King). A family woman claiming to be retired from law enforcement, she dons a mask to take on the "The Seventh Cavalry". 

Now the plot may not sound like a lot and that's because I’ve left the juicy bits out. It's safe to say that the first 2 episodes lay the foundation before thrusting you headfirst into a world filled with political motivation, emotional baggage and a 'cavalry' that thrives on racism. The only downside here is that you need to have seen the Snyder movie to at least have a grip on some of the iconic characters as the show does little to bring you up to speed, at least in the first 6 episodes. Amazon’s The Boys (another superhero show based on a comic) does take the time to introduce you to iconic names before the plot thickens. Same for a show like the Umbrella Academy on Netflix. But here’s the thing. Watchmen the TV show isn't based on the comic. Nor is it a direct adaptation. It is inspired by, or rather a spiritual successor, a continuation if you will and that's where I think it is important to know some of the characters that defined Watchmen.

Overall, the plot of the show is engaging and interesting. The manner in which key characters are introduced giving you enough of their backstory and motivation to keep you invested yet hiding enough to keep you guessing. This is good as it will keep you guessing and hooked. If the legacy was explained a bit, it would be better for newcomers to the franchise.

There’s the old and then there’s the new

Since the show is a continuation of the story of Watchmen, there are the old characters that we have highlighted above, and then there are the new ones. We have of course our protagonist who goes by Angela Abar in the day, faithful wife and mother. But when the mask comes on she is the ruthless ‘Sister Night’. We also have a character by the name of Panda, Red Scare, Mime and more, each bringing something unique to the table. 

Then we have a returning character from the old, Laurie Blake (played by Jean Smart). She is an FBI agent whose job is to take down the masked vigilantes roaming the streets. Her character is one that is linked to the past when the Watchmen roamed the streets and the Blue God still walked the Blue Planet. Laurie’s link to the original Watchmen is represented through one-way phone calls she made to Dr Manhattan and these sequences are the best throwbacks to the original characters. Enough said. 

There is really little more I can tell you about Watchmen without spoiling it for you. The truth is, spend your weekend catching up on some of the lore. There are enough YouTube videos to help you with that. The show is gripping, engaging and has some very interesting plot twists. Coming to the tone, the show isn’t childish like Super Girl or the Flash nor it is as gritty as The Boys. It has a dark tone to it, filled with brutal violence, good sarcastic humour and a background score that makes each key character feel like a badass! 

You can catch the first episode on November 24 on Star World at 10 PM. The show will be available on Hotstar as well starting 21 October 2019. 

Sameer Mitha

Sameer Mitha lives for gaming and technology is his muse. When he isn’t busy playing with gadgets or video games he delves into the world of fantasy novels.

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