TV Show Review: Watchmen

Details: Official site is https://www.hbo.com/watchmen

Score: 7.8/10

I think it is undeniable that Watchmen is a masterpiece of a television show. The way it intermingles contentious, real events from history into this fictional world of superheroes in order to say a message, to convey meaningful themes is just impressive. That’s not to say this show is perfect. It is only to say that this show is impressive.

Watchmen was originally a very well received comic book miniseries. It is primarily known for playing off superhero genre tropes of the time and introducing many adult elements to its story which is about superheroes during 1980’s America. The television show takes place decades later in this fictional universe. A number of things have happened and the world has moved on from the catastrophe that occurred in 1985.

The main story of this show takes place mostly in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2019. Police wear masks and take on superhero identities in order to protect their real lives and families. Interestingly enough, the police in this world are more friendly towards people of color than those outside the police. It is at this time when a group of white supremacists kill some police officers and the police go to war against these domestic terrorists. Little does anyone know that the current conflict are intermingled with those famous superheroes of the 1980’s, The Watchmen.

The strongest aspect of this show is the world building. The makers of this show go to great lengths to  show multiple facets of this world and it is fascinating. This is an extremely detailed, well thought out world. It resembles the real world and takes many real events and then translates them into this fictional, superhero version. For example, the Tulsa riots were a real event that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Racist white people went down to one of the only affluent black communities in the nation and attacked and murdered them. This was about a hundred years ago so records are inaccurate, but estimates place deaths from one hundred to two hundred people. Something mostly undisputed was the use of airplanes by white people to drop bombs on the neighborhood.

The use of such a horrific, real event in this story is one example of just how creative and meaningful this story is. The show runners clearly have ideas they want to convey and they convey them masterfully. I’ve read various comments online of people learning about the Tulsa Massacre for the first time from this show. It’s a racist event mostly buried into the history of the United States, probably because of how awful it is and how it paints white Americans at that time as evil. It also helps convey ideas about racism in present day America and how many racists are frighteningly similar to the evil racists of that time period.

With all that said, this is still predominantly a superhero story. My biggest fear going into this show was that it would be too heavy handed with the real world politics and have too little to do with Watchmen. Thankfully, that was not the case. I think the most accurate way to describe this show is that it successfully intermingles the mythos of the Watchmen franchise with real world events and politics, which is really what made the original Watchmen comic book so well received. A successful Watchmen story cannot hide from real world controversies. It embraces them. It also embraces the craziness of a superhero story.

I generally don’t comment on how a show is shot unless it is noticeably good. The cinematography in this show is noticeably good. There is a lot of creative camera work and you can tell a lot of thought was put into how shots were set up and photography.

Overall, this was an impressive show that was extremely well planned and well thought out. The world they try to convey to audience is detailed in a way few other stories are or can be. The story structure itself is as creative as the comic book as it was based on. It is a complex story, but well told enough that I had no trouble following along. On a technical level, the way this show was shot shows extraordinary planning and creativity in lighting, special effects and camera work.

If I were to nit pick at some kind of flaw in this show, it would be that this show builds heavily off The Watchmen comic book. If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, you will likely be lost. I would say that reading the comic book or a synopsis of the comic book may be essential to truly enjoying this show. I think you can still watch this thing, but it’s going to be tough. I should also say that while the Watchmen movie will help you understand a lot of what is going on, there are some differences from the book and the movie and this show mostly follows the book.

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