I haven’t posted a review about the Watchmen and that a shame. It is, really, a splendid and powerful piece. It uses the comics’ symbolic language to tell and increasingly rich and engaging tale.
Spoilers for an 80s comic, the original Watchmen was writer Alan Moore’s dissection of the superhero myth and its authoritarian roots. Now, before I get some commentary about comic creators (who were often very anti-authoritarian), Moore wasn’t targeting them. He was targeting the publishing companies and what the reading public seemed to favor. He targeted it and took it to its natural conclusion.
This made the Watchmen series a powerful, morally murky, violent mess. It was a chaotic tapestry elegantly written. So you could examine it again and again and still come up with new threads to pull on. It became the stuff of mandatory comic book history and college courses.
Amusing that when it came out, I was in college at the time.
The movie Watchmen, while it gets some visuals painfully accurate, does no justice to the series and, in fact, really doesn’t seem to get the message at all.
Then along comes the series, described more as “set in the same universe” rather than a sequel or prequel.
First scene first episode covers the Black Wall Street Massacre of 1921–a real incident–in blinding and overwhelming detail. It then cuts to an alternate -now- that has Robert Redford as president, a masked police department, and a strong KKK presence that is rabidly against reparations dispersed to the public.
In any other show I’ve seen, the good guys in this scenario would be obvious; the bad guys equally so. But here, they introduce visuals from the comic that immediately cue you to this fact. Things are not what they seem to be.
A pirate flag–which is a strong symbol from the comics–appears. In the original series, it signaled that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Placed in the TV series, you know whatever those characters might think, they’re in for a powerful fall from grace.
The costumes that the characters use depict very specific archetypes and tell a story within a story. And this is all before the main characters really even say a word.
The show goes on to examine systemic racism and its impact,just as insightful, and certainly as timely, as Moore’s original work. From the onset to its final episode, it lends insight and emotional heft to its subject matter. At the same time, it doesn’t reduce how complex the topic is.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s probably time. If you have, watch it again with fresh eyes. Like the comic series that came before it, you’ll find some new detail or nuance that you missed before. I guarantee it.
And to see its impact on the people and world around me is wonderful to watch. I used to be one of the uncommon folks that knew about the Tulsa, but check this out:
It’s amazing to see story alter the narrative of our world.