Now that HBO's pseudo-sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' celebrated comic book series Watchmen has been unveiled to the world – it seems the world's liking what they're seeing so far from Damon Lindelof's "remix". Even die-hard Watchmen purists appear to be slowly coming around – and they should.
Bleeding Cool didn't exactly pull any punches when praising just how powerful the Nicole Kassell (Castle Rock)-directed series premiere "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice" was (check out our review here). The Kassell-helmed, Lindelof/Nick Cuse-written "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship" keept the momentum going by deepening the conspiracies at play (review here). Jean Smart's Agent Laurie Blake took center stage in "She Was Killed by Space Junk", elevating the tension while serving as "devil's advocate" for the viewer (review here).
Which brought us to "If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own" (review here), which introduced us to trillionaire Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), saw Angela (Regina King) look to Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) for help when Laurie's investigation starts hitting a little too close to home, and revealed how Adrian (Jeremy Irons) trains – or "harvests and incubates" new servants – as he attempts to escape wherever he is to go… somewhere…
With "Little Fear of Lightning", Looking Glass learns that the scope of what's at play is bigger than he first thought – and extends all the way back to 11/2. Meanwhile, it looks like Adrian's getting close to take-off – but to where? And what (and who) is he escaping from?
"Watchmen" episode 5 "Little Fear of Lightning": The origin story of Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) is at last revealed, as is the truth behind the greatest hoax in American history. Far away, The Smartest Man In The World (Jeremy Irons) plots a daring escape. Written by Damon Lindelof & Carly Wray; directed by Steph Green.
One of the things that's impressed me the most about this season (has there been talk of a second season?) is how each of main characters has had their chance to shine. With "Little Fear of Lightning", it's Wade Tillman's turn in the pod – and Nelson presents us with a soft-spoken, heartbreaking backstory of a man whose life feels like an "old west ballad".
Except with PTSD over fears of another interdimensional squid attack with resulting psychic backlash.
Young Wade was a Jehovah's Witness "missionary" in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1985, when the squid dropped on New York City. Lead into a "hall of mirrors" at a street festival by a girl associated with a group of "knotheads, Wade's tricked into getting naked with the girl Running off with his clothes.
Then it happened.
Wade was one of the "lucky" ones who suffered psychic trauma from the blast but wasn't killed – and I guess we can properly surmise that also contributed to his heightened "perception" skills. Walking out of the hall naked, he was no longer a man stripped of clothing – he was stripped of faith.
He would go on to join the force after "White Night" in an effort to seek justice – but also going with a mask and hat made with a metal to keep a psychic attack from happening to him again. A man in a mask who can see through anyone's lies – who then becomes a man who runs a group for other 11/2 trauma victims, who can't see the danger that buys him a beer.
I feel like I'm channeling Laurie when I say, "Text – f***ing-book classic superhero origin story, right?"
But what happens when reality clashes with the comic book? When the story can't be contained within the panels? When certain truths that define a person's being, motivate them to move on and strive to be better, turn out to be a lie?
You end up with "The Ballad of Wade Tillman" – a heartbreaking tale of a man who learns that what he should be fearing lives much closer to home. When it's the Seventh Kalvary delivering that truth to him via Sen. Keene (James Wolk) – the very group he joined the force to fight – Wade begins questioning everything over the past three decades.
After the opening to the video Adrian filmed and left for President Redford, there are no more questions. Wade finds himself facing a different type of psychic assault – one that no mask or foil hat can shield him from…
There was no "interdimensional alien attack".
The entire thing was a hoax.
President Redford's known this entire time.
And that's not including the parts we didn't get to see.
So when we learn that Wade took Sen. Keene's "strong recommendation" to snitch on her to Laurie, we see it being done by a man with nothing to lose, nothing to belive in. But even with that in motion, in that moment when he apologizes to Angela before she's arrested? We still see the act of decent, flawed man trying to do whatever "best" it is he can to "save the day" – even if Angela may never know the truth.
And yet as intelligent of a man as Wade is – and having been presented the truth of what happened to him – he still won't let go of the detection system. Because when the truth is shown to be a lie, how can anything be true?
Hmmm… a character unwilling to compromise their morals even in the face of annihilation? Reminds us of someone… here's hoping Looking Glass has that dude's skills when it comes to taking out bad guys, though.
● How about that opening? Second best opening this season (high praise considering the series' opening), with Lindelof not shying away from the squid. Instead, fully embracing the horrific nature of it while effectively using Wade's backstory to properly demonstrate the size and scope of Veidt's attack. Lindelof makes the squid work because Gibbons made the squid work in the comics. Don't reinvent the wheel – just learn to love the squid (and not that S.Q.U.I.D. nonsense, Zack Snyder)
● As much as I love how Laurie nipple-twists the masked cops ("Mirror Guy"), I'm hoping we start to see some cooling of tensions between her and Angela. I have a feeling that Angela downing a bottle of Nostalgia (memory pills from Louis Gossett Jr.'s Will) will end up being a bit of an "icebreaker" next week.
● This week's episode almost rivals AHS 1984 when it comes to use of '80s music.
● Interesting perspective on how hard it's been getting people to return to or live in New York City, and how Steven Spielberg directed a film called Pale Horse that included scenes mirroring "The Girl in the Red Coat" moments from Schindler's List.
● So the Seventh Kalvary is looking to open interdimensional portals – but for what? Keene makes is pretty clear it's not going to be another squid. Instead of dropping something, are they looking to take something away?
● Then we have Adrian, who finally gets his message out ("SAVE ME") to the… world??? We're still siding with him being imprisoned on Mars – but our Lady Trieu theory still keeps buzzing around. Either way, Adrian's about to pay for his little walkabout – but how high of a price will it be?
The Road to HBO's "Watchmen"
From Damon Lindelof and set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own. The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, and James Wolk.
In the following featurette, Lindelof explains how the original comic book series influenced him to take the core themes of the series and find a way to apply them to a modern society. King offers more details on both the terrorist group at play during the season as well as the personal conflicts that arise when one dons a mask in the name of the law:
In the following clip, King takes us behind the scenes on production with a set visit to show us anything and everything Watchmen – or at least what Lindelof will allow:
HBO's Watchmen stars Regina King as Angela Abar, Don Johnson as Chief Judd Crawford, Tim Blake Nelson as Det. Wade Tillman aka Looking Glass, Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves, Adelaide Clemens as Pirate Jenny, Andrew Howard as Red Scare, Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias, Frances Fisher as Jane Crawford, Jacob Ming-Trent as Panda, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Cal Abar, Adelynn Spoon as Emma Abar, and Jean Smart as Agent Laurie Blake – as well as Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips, Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks, Dylan Schombing, James Wolk as Senator Keene, Hong Chau as Lady Trieu, Dustin Ingram as Agent Dale Petey, and Lily Rose Smith.
Watchmen is produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television; executive producer-writer Lindelof; executive producer/director Kassell; executive producer Tom Spezialy; executive producer-director Stephen Williams; and executive producer Joseph Iberti.
Based on the iconic graphic novel co-created and illustrated by Gibbons and published by DC.
Nine Inch Nails duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are on board to compose music for the series.
In May 2018, Lindelof shared a series of Instagram posts to update fans on progress on the project (with a pilot directed by Kassell) and to emphasize that his vision was not a direct adaptation of the original graphic novel, but rather a "remix" that utilizes important elements from the original story while telling its own narrative. Here are some excerpts from those posts:
"We have no desire to 'adapt' the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted.
They will however be remixed, Because the bass lines in those familiar tracks are just too good and we'd be fools not to sample them. Those original twelve issues are our Old Testament. When the New Testament came along it did not erase what came before it. Creation. The Garden of Eden. Abraham and Isaac. The Flood. It all happened. And so it will be with 'Watchmen.' The Comedian died. Dan and Laurie fell in love. Ozymandias saved the world and Dr. Manhattan left it just after blowing Rorschach to pieces in the bitter cold of Antarctica."
"This story will be set in the world its creators painstakingly built…but in the tradition of the work that inspired it, this new story must be original. It has to vibrate with the seismic unpredictability of its own tectonic plates. It must ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens. Most importantly, it must be contemporary. The Old Testament 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. 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."
"Some of the characters will be unknown. 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…"