HBO’s Watchmen: Adapting the Unadaptable (Review)


Image credit to HBO, DC Comics, and Koby Haldorson

Ashton T. Livingston, Editor-in-Chief, Writer

For years, people called Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal graphic novel Watchmen unadaptable. In 2009, Zack Snyder took a shot at adapting the graphic novel into a movie. The movie is a shot for shot remake but loses almost all the life and luster of the comic. In 2019, HBO’s Watchmen premiered. This time around, instead of directly adapting the book, the series takes place 30 years after the ending of the book. Now with this show an audience member with no background knowledge of the book can kind of go in without reading it, but you will indefinitely get lost. So I highly recommend reading the book. It’s the only graphic novel to ever reach the New York Times top 100 books of all time 

The show takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is quite far from the book’s setting of New York. We come into a world that has developed so perfectly from what we left off on in the book. After an event known as the ‘White Night’, in which a white supremacy group wearing the mask of one of the comic’s seminal characters known as the Seventh Calvalry broke into the homes of cops and tried to murder them. This event caused a law in the show which allows police to wear masks and costumes to protect their identity and their families. The shows lead, Angela Abar, is one of these police officers who goes by the name of Sister Night (played by Regina King). From there we’re introduced to characters new and old as the mystery of the show unravels. 

One of the standout characters for most fans was the new character Looking Glass, not only because he looked cool but because he had some of the best character traits and possibly the best storyline. His character suffers from PTSD that was caused by the ending of the book. This whole thing is a driving part of his character and his motivations and for those who’ve read the book know exactly how this would affect his character. Tim Blake Nelson brings this character to life in just the most amazing of ways. There is not a single thing I don’t love tim Blake Nelson in, he’s that good. 

The cast in general is just amazing. Everyone in this show is on their A-game. One scene that works so well for me includes the character Looking Glass and members of the Seventh Calvary. This scene shows the mix of great plotting by amazing writers and great actors. The acting is great here and the whole show is elevated by great writing. 

The writing on this show always had me begging for the next episode. Each episode gives you more and more bits and pieces of the mystery and has you trying to piece together the mystery yourself. The mystery itself too is amazing. Each episode gives you a piece of the puzzle and the last episode puts each piece into perspective leaving you going “ohhh!!” at the screen. 

That itself is one of my favorite parts of the show. How invested you get into it the more it goes on due to its great writing and mystery. But, it is held back by its somewhat reliance on you reading the original graphic novel to understand some of the things and characters in this show. But, if you are new and just watch this show you can catch up and invest yourself into new characters and even old ones, the show does somewhat bring you up to speed. This show has great acting, great writing, an amazing mystery, great everything. But, there are those who called the show “too woke” for addressing modern issues such as racism. To those who say that, read the original comic again and tell me that book isn’t “woke”. 

Many of the criticisms people had toward this show mainly come from that area. But these criticisms mostly come from people who truly did not understand the book and think that Rorschach is an amazing action hero who’s really cool and brooding. He is not, he is a murdering psychopath who is pretty racist and if you like him you are not a good person. Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novel even said this. 

Watchmen is some of the best television I’ve seen in a long time. HBO yet again creates big budget movie quality television that tells an amazingly compelling story that

invests the audience completely. Watchmen uses great actors, amazing writing, fantastic world building, and so much more to craft the perfect sequel to the greatest comic book of all time. Watchmen gets an A+ from me. Watchmen is rated TV-MA for violence, language, sexual imagery, and adult themes.