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‘Nothing ever ends.’
Our first glimpse at HBO’s Watchmen series arrived during the Golden Globes, and it’s full of iconic imagery.
The new footage dropped as part of an HBO ad previewing what it had in store for 2019, and while we’re no closer to figuring out exactly what is going on, there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding what we’re seeing.
In this iteration of Watchmen, masks are seemingly everywhere. Cops wear them, everyday people seem to wear them, and someone whose mask looks very much like Rorschach’s—are they a flashback, a copycat, or a tribute?—wears one. Another person dons a cowboy hat and tips it toward a hallway of police officers.
In fact, the only face we see is that of Jeremy Irons (who is reportedly playing an older version of Aaron Veidt). Irons speaks the only line of dialogue in the teaser, and if he is playing Veidt, it’s a rather ominous line: “It’s only just begun.”
For its first superhero TV show, HBO is entering the expansive world of Watchmen.
HBO announced on Aug. 17 that it gave a series order to a “remixed” adaptation of the iconic graphic novel by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins, more than a year after reports of the show’s existence first surfaced. It’s got plenty of star power in its corner between the cast and showrunner Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), but it’s also got big shoes to fill—and a shadow looming over it.
For one, there’s the film adaptation. Warner Bros. released a Watchmen film directed by Zack Snyder in 2009, which received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. And while it currently sits at 64 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s been criticized for losing the nuances contained within Moore, Gibbons, and Higgins’ graphic novel in favor of a dark and gritty take on the source material.
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An adaptation of Watchmen on HBO also comes—along with lofty and nearly impossible expectations from fans—without the support of the person who created it. Prior to the theatrical film’s release, Moore said that he’d “be spitting venom all over it,” and he has not given his blessing to this version. Even Lindelof has noted that Moore would not approve of his show, adding that Moore “has been consistently explicit in stating that Watchmen was written for a very specific medium and that medium is comics.” Gibbons, on the other hand, has given Lindelof his blessing.
It’s hard to tell how it will pay off or if it’ll work until it airs, but there might just be enough working in its favor for it to work. Here’s everything we know so far about the Watchmen series.
Watchmen’s series pickup arrived nearly a year after HBO ordered a pilot.
HBO programming president Casey Bloys told the Hollywood Reporter as part of a larger discussion on HBO shows becoming more inclusive behind the camera that the Watchmen writers room included four women (three of whom were non-white) and a man of color among the nine writers.
“Because of the things that Damon wants to discuss, he felt, and I agree, the African-American voices were very important,” Bloys told the Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t want to give away what the show is or who the characters are just yet, but he did have a lot of African-American voices in the room. If it is decided that it will go forward—and I’m crossing my fingers and fully expect it will—that will be an important component going forward.”
HBO announced that musicians Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have joined Watchmen to compose music for the show. Reznor and Ross are no strangers to composing music for film and TV; their previous composition credits include Gone Girl, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Vietnam War, and The Social Network, which won them the Oscar for original score.
According to Lindelof, Reznor and Ross were the first musicians he considered to score the show—and they’re pretty big Watchmen fans themselves.
“I called HBO while we were still writing the pilot and begged them to consider pursuing the brilliant Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross as composers,” Lindelof wrote. “‘That’s so weird… ‘ HBO responded, ‘They just called US asking about Watchmen.’ Turns out Trent and Atticus are as big fans of the original masterwork as I am of Trent and Atticus.”
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For 30 years, we’ve known what Watchmen looks like... but what does It SOUND like? I called HBO while we were still writing the pilot and begged them to consider pursuing the brilliant Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross as composers. “That’s so weird... “ HBO responded, “They just called US asking about Watchmen.” Turns out Trent and Atticus are as big fans of the original masterwork as I am of Trent and Atticus. Their music, from NIN to Social Network to Vietnam is original, visceral and deeply emotional. And so, it is with great excitement and gratitude for the thermodynamic miracle that brought us together to announce that Watchmen officially sounds like THEM.
A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on
HBO and Lindelof announced the start of production on Watchmen with a mysterious Instagram video on Oct. 15 featuring someone wearing a yellow mask or bodysuit and a police officer uniform. We don’t know much about the character (or if they’ll have a major role), but the police did play a part in getting superheroes outlawed in the Watchmen universe after they felt that the presence of superheroes threatened their jobs.
“Who watches the Watchmen?” the caption reads.
Watchmen creative team
Lindelof will helm the show with Nicole Kassell, Tom Spezialy, Stephen Williams, and Joseph Iberti all on board as executive producers. Kassell also directed the pilot.
In a letter to fans posted to Instagram on May 22, Lindelof said that he was approached three separate times about bringing Watchmen to television, with the earliest instance occurring very soon after the release of the theatrical film.
He also highlighted Watchmen’s strive to be more inclusive with all aspects of the project as he shot down the preconceived notion that Watchmen was a story only for people who look like him.
“I have the pleasure of sitting in a Writers Room each and every day that is as diverse and combative as any I’ve ever been a part of,” Lindelof wrote. “In that room, Hetero White Men like myself are in the minority and as Watchmen is (incorrectly) assumed to be solely our domain, understanding its potential through the perspectives of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community has been as eye-opening as it has been exhilarating. We’ve committed to doing the same in front of and behind the camera. And every single person involved with this show absolutely adores Watchmen.”
HBO has yet to reveal who will be writing on Watchmen apart from Lindelof.
Watchmen will feature an all-star cast, which includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith, and Adelynn Spoon. HBO confirmed the full cast on Aug. 17.
Variety has described King as the lead of the show while the rest of the cast will have more supporting roles. It’s unclear who any of the actors attached to Watchmen are playing, but Lindelof has teased that the cast will portray both new and familiar characters.
“Some of the characters will be unknown,” Lindelof wrote. “New faces. New masks to cover them. We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising yet familiar set of eyes…and it is here we will be taking our greatest risks.”
According to Slashfilm, Irons will play an older version of Aaron Veidt, who fans will also know as Ozymandias. In the original Watchmen comic, Ozymandias was behind the fake alien invasion of New York, which he facilitated to unite the world against those aliens (which included a fraught U.S. and U.S.S.R. on the brink of nuclear war) instead of turning their weapons on each other. Jean Smart has also joined the cast as an FBI agent who is “tasked with tracking down vigilantes.”
While promoting The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Nelson revealed that he’s playing a new character called Looking Glass, who is described in casting call as an Oklahoma cop, an interrogator, and a behavioral scientist who “may also be a bit of a sociopath.” Speaking to Collider, Nelson said that Lindelof expanded the role after initially approaching him.
“He said, ‘You know what, I really would like you to be a part of this. Here’s how I wanna enlarge the role. If you’ll trust me, then I’d really like you to come on board,’ Nelson explained. “What he had to say was certainly enough, but more importantly, the pilot script and what it seemed like he wanted to address with the show, which is way beyond your run of the mill comic adaptation, really intrigued me.”
When it greenlit the series, HBO released an official logline for Watchmen, which gives fans an insight into what Lindelof has in store.
Set in an alternate history where “superheroes” are treated as outlaws, WATCHMEN embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel while attempting to break new ground of its own.
Watchmen, according to Lindelof, won’t be a straightforward adaptation, and it won’t be a sequel. His show will look at the universe created in the comics while adding new storylines. But it also means that everything that happened in the comics also happened, so his show won’t be retconning those choices, either.
Lindelof confirms that the source material of Watchmen is canon and that he has no desire to mess around with any of the events that occur in it. But he also stresses that his Watchmen, on top of a new and original story within Watchmen’s world, “must be contemporary.”
The Old Testament [of Watchmen] was specific to the Eighties of Reagan and Thatcher and Gorbachev… ours needs to resonate with the frequency of Trump and May and Putin and the horse that he rides around on, shirtless,” Lindelof wrote. “And speaking of Horsemen, The End of The World is off the table… which means the heroes and villains — as if the two are distinguishable — are playing for different stakes entirely. The tone will be fresh and nasty and electric and absurd. Many describe Watchmen as “dark,” but I’ve always loved its humor-worshipping at the altar of the genre whilst simultaneously trolling it.
Set photos appear to indicate that at least part of Lindelof’s Watchmen series will take place after the events of Watchmen given the involvement of one of the characters in newspaper headlines created for the show.
HBO released a brief teaser following its announcement that it ordered a full season of Watchmen. There’s no footage of the show, but it features a couple of nods for comic book fans. The tagline in the teaser, “Nothing ever ends,” is said by Dr. Manhattan to Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias) toward the end of Watchmen after Dr. Manhattan kills Rorschach. You can also see a close look at the Comedian’s badge (a blood-splattered smiley face).
Watchmen release date
Watchmen will air sometime in 2019, though HBO has yet to release an exact date.
Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.