HBO series 'Watchmen' Review: As dark and diabolical as any superhero series

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Exactly a decade after Zack Snyder shocked everyone with a dark, satirical and dystopian take on the superhero genre unleashed through his third feature film titled Watchmen, HBO has come out with a new TV series of the same name. The series is created by Damon Lindelof. Now, Snyder’s film, based on a 1986–87 DC Comics limited series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, was set in an alternative history in the year 1985 at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The underlying idea was to subvert and satirise the superhero construct. In the alternative history, the United States won the Vietnam War thanks to vigilante superheroes. As a result, the Watergate scandal was never exposed and President Nixon’s supremacy remained unchallenged, especially with the abolishment of the 22nd amendment which prevents a person from getting elected to the office of the US President more than twice. However, Soviet Union now stood in his way as World War III started to look more and more imminent. Under the circumstances, a vigilante-turned-billionaire Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias came up with a master plan that saved the world from a nuclear war. But it came at a huge price and nothing was ever same again.

The new HBO series is set 34 years after the events of the comic series. The events take place in 2019 Tulsa, Oklahoma. Vigilantes are now outlawed due to their violent methods, best demonstrated by Ozymandias’ actions exposed by the writings of a masked vigilante named Rorschach. A white supremacist group, the Seventh Kavalry, inspired by Rorschach’s writings and his mask, is waging violent war against minorities and the police. The police officials are forced to wear masks in order to protect their identities while on the job. Robert Redford, who is now the president of the United States, has enforced special reparations called “Redfordations” for victims of racial injustice, which further triggers race-based animosity.
Now that the premise has been laid out, it’s worth mentioning that the HBO series brings back some of the most popular vigilante superhero characters from Snyder’s film such as Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Doctor Manhattan. It also introduces cool new characters like Sister Night. In other words, it offers a nice blend of the old and the new. In fact, the fans of the original comic series or Snyder’s movie will discover a lot to cherish in the new series. For, there are twists and turns abound. Also those approaching it for the first time wouldn’t feel alienated. However, it’s advisable to watch Snyder’s film beforehand in order to understand the intricacies better. The biggest USP of Lindelof’s series other than its labyrinthine storyline that always keeps one guessing are the superlative acting performances on offer. Regina King as Sister Night, Jean Smart as Laurie Blake, and Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias deserve a special mention. Also, Don Johnson as Judd Crawford is brilliant in his brief appearance. The series is as dark and diabolical as a superhero series can possible get. It’s even darker than the Amazon Prime series The Boys and it’s certainly not meant for the faint-hearted.   
Rating: 8.5/10
A version of this review was first published in The Sunday Guardian
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