The world is full of Watchmen purists, people who believe the original comic is sacrosanct and inviolable, and that any attempt to follow it up is doomed to failure because it misses the point of the original. And then there are people like Damon Lindelof, who decided to make a Watchmen TV series for HBO because those people are clearly wrong and need to be shown the error of their ways.
Just in time for SDCC 2019, HBO has dropped a new Watchmen trailer, and it’s our most revealing look at the mysterious show to date. It is also nuts you guys. There is so much in this that is shocking or gorgeous or incredible that we had to pick through it on your behalf, finding every easter egg or hint at the plot that we could dig up.
Did you miss the trailer? Here’s your chance to watch it:
Okay, now that you’re caught up, here we go!
Here’s what we know about the world of HBO’s Watchmen:
It takes place after the events of the original story. In it, Nixon never stopped being President, and by the 1986 of the comic, the world was about to catch fire. The doomsday clock, which counts down how close we are to nuclear annihilation, was inching closer to midnight. A confrontation between a super-powered United States and the nuclear-capable Soviet Union seeming inevitable.
The world was seemingly saved by Adrian Veidt, also known as the hero Ozymandias, who had kidnapped a bunch of scientists, had them invent a telepathic monster AND teleportation technology that didn’t really work, then dropped the monster in the middle of Times Square so that it could connect to seven million minds and explode from the failed teleport. His reasoning was that an alien menace would force the world to unite, rather than destroy itself.
This world had seen superheroes before – The Minutemen were a postwar superteam of mostly masked vigilantes who got together to fight crime. Eventually, masked vigilantism was outlawed, forcing the heroes to either operate illegally, become government stooges, or get out of the game.
Dr. Manhattan, the only actually superpowered one out of the group, decided to do a little stooging and a little retiring. After the events of the original story, he retired to Mars.
Here’s what we can tell from the trailer regarding this sequel’s story:
Rorschach died at the end of the original comic, killed by Dr. Manhattan because he was going to reveal the truth about Ozymandias’s telepathic spaghetti monster to the world, nullifying its impact. In the new series, Rorschach is actually a bunch of people, reciting one of his most famous lines from the comics (“…they’ll look up and shout ‘Save Us’ and we’ll reply ‘No.'”).
Regina King is a Tulsa cop, and it looks like the Rorschachs break into her house and attack her family as part of what seems to be an anti-police wave of violence.
The Rorschach gang attacks the cops, and the cops decide to fight back with masks of their own. With official sanction from their leadership – Don Johnson is Tulsa Chief Judd, giving the masked police their marching orders. And Regina King puts on a mask and kicks a metric ton of ass.
Included in their number appears to be Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass, a new character for the show.
The world also looks like it’s seriously unstable. This is a pretty radical redesign of the flag (though it has the same 50 stars on it – I checked), and you don’t suddenly have a crazy libertarian militia group spring up if everybody’s happy.
Contrary to reports, Veidt is still alive but is set apart from the other characters based on the trailer.
So is the Silk Spectre – Laurie Blake, taking her “father’s” name and working for the FBI on the mask murders in Tulsa.
An amnesiac Hooded Justice, one of the original Minutemen who was widely regarded to be a Soviet spy before his death in the ’50s, also appears in an in-show documentary.
WHAT REMAINS AN UTTER MYSTERY (and some conspiracy theories)
There is something else going on throughout this trailer. It seems like the bulk of the story is going to focus on the cops vs. Rorschachs, just based on the burn they get in the trailer, but there are two other stories floating around in the background: some ominous, looming, larger threat, and what the hell happened with Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan.
At some point, Jon leaves Mars. He blows up his castle and disappears.
And Veidt (who was the character the pirate story in the comics was referring to) is on some sort of luxurious estate arrest?
There is a reference to a vast conspiracy made by this guy, who I can’t identify, but miiiiiiiiiight be Rorschach’s psychiatrist and therefore someone with access to his diaries and theories of what was going down at the end of the book.
Here’s some other random stuff that looks awesome nonetheless:
The Owlship is back and firing beams of fire at drones.
Cops are dressed like Egyptian deities. Maybe they’re working for Ozymandias?
Nite Owl is maybe back too?
But ultimately the best part of the trailer is the loading up of symbolism. Breaking eggs to look like the smiley face button is like a flashing neon sign.
If Rorschach represented the malleability of superheroes to be what you wanted them to be, I bet Looking Glass is their ability to reflect on you whatever you want them to. Rorschach was, in the comics, eating straight out of the can whenever he was shown eating, so this seems like a deliberate parallel.
“Raining squid” is very biblical and very out of line with the rest of the trailer, but it makes sense, preceding…
Dr. Manhattan’s return!
Here’s my theory: the show is a direct sequel to…the movie. That taxi ad looks a LOT like Matthew Goode’s Ozymandias from the film version. Making it a sequel to the movie also makes it a sequel to the book because the movie could not have possibly been a more literal adaptation of the comic (making it both a faithful adaptation and the pinnacle of missing the point in human history).
The whole point of the book was to take apart superhero comics and poke at their absurdity as morality plays. That’s what the end of the book is – Rorschach’s journal gets sent to the New Frontiersman and picked up by a chunky dude dripping ketchup on his superhero shirt. Comic Book Guy is about to judge the hell out of the story (incidentally, has there ever been a time when Moore wasn’t FULL of contempt for his readers? I don’t think there was).
The greatest failure of the movie was to make itself a literal adaptation of the source material and not use it as an opportunity to provide the same commentary on the ballooning superhero film genre (only maybe without the contempt). Lindelof is really good at what he does, so I’m betting he’s using this metaverse and these characters to tell a story that’s as culturally relevant and blasphemous towards his medium as the comic was.
Watchmen premieres in October on HBO.