"Watchmen" is a bold and audacious sequel that broadens the commentary from what many people consider the greatest graphic novel of all time.
The new HBO series is an original continuation of the acclaimed graphic novel that takes place nearly 40 years after the events of Alan Moore’s book. The very concept of “who watches the Watchmen?” seems to have directly influenced the world of the show, as typical societal roles have been dramatically overhauled to fit a world where superheroes exist. The series’ premiere explores a world that has been shaped by extraterrestrial invaders and superpowered beings, creating a far cry from the utopian state for society.
"Watchmen" is set in the present-day of an alternate reality, where vigilantes are outlawed and hunted by the U.S. government. It is important to remember that the day-to-day existence of the "Watchmen" world has already been significantly altered, with the U.S. winning the Vietnam War, and the repeal of the 22nd amendment keeping Richard Nixon in office until Robert Redford succeeds him in the early 90s. With the world at peace due to the false attack from Doctor Manhattan, a new supremacy group called the Seventh Cavalry begins to cause chaos around the country. In response to the extreme methods of terrorism enacted by the Seventh Cavalry, the police are forced to wear masks in order to conceal their identities and protect their loved ones.
The pilot wastes no time delving into the complex reality that the events above have created, as the initial present-day conflict informs the viewer on the role of law enforcement in this world. Despite the extensive change that has happened to protect law enforcement, the scene seems to focus on the restrictions that have been put in place before the police officer can take action. The scene takes a non-objective look at the situation, as the officer fights against the chain of command in order to unlock his firearm. The scene is a stellar one that beautifully sets up the series, as it draws the audience into a world that is significantly different, given the prior history.
The viewer continues to follow the role of the police through Regina King’s character, who transforms into the vigilante Sister Night while she is on the job. From her transition onto the job to the interrogation tactics used by a fellow detective, the show focuses on the blurred line between the police force and vigilantes, as the enforcement of masks has made it hard to distinguish between the two.
From the events of the pilot, it seems that the series is connected to the original graphic novel in name only. While the story of the series is meant to answer its questions, the events of the graphic novel have drastically influenced what is happening, dictating the world in which the series takes place.
Because of Ozymandias’ actions in the original comic, the world is unified in peace and ready to combat the threat of Doctor Manhattan, whom they falsely accused of bringing about an alien invasion that destroyed New York City. It’s unclear if the world knows that Ozymandias initiated the attack in an attempt to blame Doctor Manhattan. However, the world is aware of Rorschach’s Journal, which was published in the newspaper to expose Ozymandias as the real conspirator.
Rorschach and his journal have made some impact on the world, as the Seventh Cavalry wear his mask and seem to mistakenly take his writing to a new extreme. Ozymandias, on the other hand, is thriving in isolation, as he is living well off on possibly self-inflicted banishment. The series will continue to explore its connection with the original graphic novel, with Silk Spectre II’s introduction hopefully explaining how the events of the original comic have influenced the story of the series.
Even just one episode in "Watchmen" appears to have already moved past the events of the original novel, dead set on exploring a reality that has been shaped by costumed vigilantes. The pilot aggressively pulls viewers into its elaborate world, positioning them so they can see how drastically this society differs from our own. The series will continue to explore the near dystopian nature of the world, as the following episodes are said to fill in some gaps between the novel and series. Whether viewers are familiar with the source material or not, the “Watchmen” series is made to appeal to all audiences and is one that should not be missed.