Watching Watchmen: Episode Three

watch3“Hello. Hello? I can’t hear you, but I know you’re there. I have a joke for you. I know what you’re thinking, but this is a funny one. Damon Lindelof, you remember him? The guy who ruined Prometheus and co-wrote that horrible Star Trek Into Darkness, and was show runner of Lost who dragged that thing out to THAT ending. Well, he’s making a new show now, based on Alan Moore’s Watchmen comic book/graphic novel… the damn thing’s almost an actual sacred thing to comic book fans. You may have seen the movie. I KNOW you’ve seen the movie. You’re keeping quiet but I know you’re a big fan of that Snyder fella, well anyway, this show is kind of like that film but its not. Its really more to do with the Moore book, but it feels like the film and borrows its title font and how it throws episode titles up on the screen and it visually owes something to it…

“Well a lot of the third episode, it centres on a phone booth, and Laurie Blake is on the phone to Dr Manhattan, who’s on Mars ignoring everybody. Or he’s SUPPOSED to be on Mars but who knows for sure, Dr Manhattan is like God, he could be Everywhere. So Laurie -yes, she’s the Silk Spectre in the original book, but she’s 30-odd years older now and spandex costumes aren’t her thing anymore- well, she’s sold out to The Man, and she’s working for the Feds like her dad the Comedian did, or was that the CIA? Anyway, she’s hunting costumed heroes now, instead of being one. Set a thief to catch a thief, something like that. 

“Well, where was I? No, the question was rhetorical, I don’t expect you to say anything, but I know you’re listening. So Laurie is cracking a joke to her ex-lover, ex-costumed team-mate who’s maybe on Mars on the other end of the phone. Yeah, people can phone God in this show. I guess it cuts out the Middle-man, all that clergy nonsense. God is listening, they say, but they say it as ‘Dr Manhattan is listening’ but of course its all a matter of faith, the phone call just like prayer- maybe prayer for the 21st Century. I wonder if they charge Laurie’s credit card? Is it free, like reverse-charges or something? I guess God/Dr Manhattan would be good for it. Anyway, I reckon Dr Manhattan IS listening ‘cos he damn near drops a car on Laurie’s head at the end of the episode. No, that’s not the joke. Not this joke.

“No, this joke… hasn’t exactly got its punchline yet. Well, you see, this series so far, and this episode especially… its got all sorts of Easter Eggs for fans. There’s Laurie of course, and there’s mention of her boyfriend -her other boyfriend, this gal got around in her day- who was the Nite Owl II, who’s in prison now, apparently, and if Laurie does this job for this Presidential hopeful who hires her, well, he may be able to get her old beau Dan out of jail. So off she goes to Tulsa, where eps 1 & 2 took place. 

“I know, you’re waiting for the joke. I’ll get to it, honestly. Did I say it was funny? Well, maybe its more ‘funny peculiar’ you know how it is. See, the weird thing is, this show is deliberately arch and off-centre but in the Real World we got Trump with his thumb on the Nuclear Button and Boris over here in charge of Old Blighty, and Putin flexing his fishing muscles over in Russia, its kinda hard for film-makers and show-runners to trump reality, pardon the pun. We’re living in a Strange World so a show has to be VERY strange to seem strange, you know? Jeremy Irons, he actually gets into his Ozymandias costume in this episode, yeah, like in the comic, not the film version, and it kinda comes off like that 1960s Batman show, you know?I think that may have been deliberate, but yeah, Jeremy Irons in a superhero costume, how strange is that? As strange as Laurie carrying a giant Dr Manhattan dildo in her briefcase? I know, what kind of show is this?

watch4“So the episode returns to the main storyline with the Seventh Cavalry possibly being responsible for the death of the chief of the Tulsa Police and Laurie is investigating it and attends the funeral, and yeah, it continues the ‘Chief Judd Crawford shadowing the Comedian’s murder mystery’ thing by the funeral being very like the Comedians, except there’s a suicide bomber and it all gets messy. And Laurie knows something was in Judd’s closet but it seems Angela took it away. The two ladies don’t get along its like an Alpha Males thing, sorry, Alpha Females thing, very 21st Century. 

“Is this going somewhere I hear you ask? Well, no, I don’t hear you really, obviously, as you’re not talking and no, I’m not sure. You see, while this is a very (surprisingly) good show, it has our boy Lindelof behind it and he doesn’t end things well. Frankly he’s a bloody joke at endings. Oh no, did I drop the punchline already? Well you see the jokes still possibly on us. This is episode three and there is still six left and I’m fairly certain Jeremy Irons is being held captive on Mars or somewhere in space and fairly certain Dr Manhattan is behind it, and if Jeremy -sorry Adrian Veidt- gets out then humanity could be in trouble, but really there’s six episodes left and we’re all searching for clues and hints and wondering What It Means and Whats Going On and the irony is, when we get to the end we might have custard on our faces, this is Lindelof we’re talking about here. The joke might be on us, as we get carried away actually enjoying this thing until he pulls the rug from under us.

“I mean maybe the punchline is that there is no punchline and its all a big tease with a cliffhanger ending to leave us gagging for a second season. That would be cruel, almost as cruel as how GOT ended, but its a cruel world, you know? Disney owns Fox so the Mouse owns the Alien, I don’t know what Walt would have thought of THAT. But there’s something wrong about that, and yeah just how twisted do you think HBO could be, after what they pulled with GOT? 

“Goodness I’m babbling now and this call must be costing a fortune. Did I mention I’ve done this on reverse charge? No? Ha, well, maybe that’s a good enough joke. Possibly not really but maybe its good enough for now. We’ll see how funny things are after episode nine. I’m really enjoying this show right now though, so maybe I’ll give you another call next week…. 

 

Watching Watchmen: Episode One

watch1Casting aside my misgivings regards yet another IP being rebooted, HBO’s Watchmen series certainly seems promising on the evidence of its first episode (“It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”). Set 34 years after the climactic events of the original comic (and the movie adaptation, to a degree) the world of Watchmen 2019 is quite different from what we might have been expecting, but also uncomfortably familiar.

Watchmen in all its guises takes place in an alternative reality- in a similar way to the ‘future’ of Blade Runner, or the 1960s America of The Man in the High Castle, the depicted reality is one altered by alternate historic events. The comic’s 1985 is an America that won the Vietnam War and in which Watergate never happened so still has Nixon as President . HBO’s 2019 has Robert Redford as President since 1992, pushing racial reforms at odds with white supremacists who are running amok (in the form of a terrorist group who call themselves the Seventh Cavalry and model themselves after the masked vigilante Rorschach, who died in 1985). A few years prior, masked members of the Seventh Cavalry attacked off-duty police officers and their families, so now the police keep their identities secret too, wearing masks whilst on duty. The law has adopted the manners of the once-outlawed masked vigilantes of old. Masked heroes. Masked villains.

watch2One of the biggest doubts about this new Watchmen is the fact that the show-runner is Damon Lindelof of Prometheus and Lost infamy. I’m prepared to cut him some slack mostly due to his earlier HBO show, The Leftovers, which was quite brilliant and a critical darling even if it failed to connect with a sizeable audience. The Leftovers was a poetic slow-burn and on the evidence of this first episode, Watchmen may follow suit. While it sets the mythology up of this alternate 2019 it does so slowly and doesn’t hand-hold the audience at all, which may intimidate some. It also seems to require some familiarity with either the 2009 Watchmen film (can’t believe its ten years already) or perhaps even more so, the original comic/graphic novel, which in particular may be a stretch. Jeremy Irons, for instance, turns up towards the end of the first episode and is clearly an aged Adrian Veidt, the man who masterminded a fake alien invasion that averted World War Three in the original Watchmen comic, but Joe Public unfamiliar with comic or film will be quite in the dark. Likewise lots of Watchmen Easter eggs are spread about for fans to note and feel clever about, but which will possibly leave many viewers bemused by some of the visuals.

Hopefully the mythology and premise will entice viewers to remain and stick with it. It seems very confident in being its own thing which does remind me of the sheer bloody-mindedness of the classic series The Prisoner. Its either a brave move or a reckless one, we’ll have to wait and see. Season One lasts nine episodes, and all being well I’ll be writing weekly reviews of each one.