It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship – | Review Score – 3/5
She Was Killed by Space Junk – | Review Score – 4/5
If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own – | Review Score – 3/5
Little Fear of Lightning – | Review Score – 4/5
This Extraordinary Being – | Review Score – 4.5/5
An Almost Religious Awe – | Review Score – 4.5/5
A God Walks into Abar – | Review Score – 4/5
See How They Fly – | Review Score – 4/5
If there was ever an argument for more shows to release all their episodes in one go rather than weekly, Watchmen is the perfect case study. What begins as a methodical, oftentimes mundane crawl through racial tension and bizarre disjointed plots converge into a spectacular second half that brings everything together in the best possible way. With some gorgeous visuals, an interesting overarching narrative and plenty of thought provoking themes and ideas, Watchmen somehow changes from one of the bigger disappointments of the year to one of the best shows in the span of four weeks.
The basic plot line here acts as a spiritual successor to the comic books of the same name, set some time after a cataclysmic event that wiped out New York and sent the megalomaniac Ozymandias into exile. Watchmen does tailor its plot a lot more for those clued up with the lore around this one but newcomers, like myself, can still enjoy this one with little prior knowledge around this.
In this near-future, extremist hero Rorschach finds his image perverted following his death by a group of radical white supremacists known as The Cavalry. Fronting the fight against them, and determined to stop this racist group once and for all, sits Angela, also known as Sister Night to her crime fighting vigilante brethren.
When Police Chief Judd is found hanging from a tree, Agent Blake arrives to spice things up and get to the bottom of who the culprit is. As the season progresses, more of Angela’s past is uncovered as well as the truth regarding the blue God Dr Manhattan’s whereabouts. All of this converges together into a dramatic finale that answers a lot of the questions raised throughout this mini-series while leaving plenty of scope for a possible follow-up, and plenty of ambiguous questions hanging over the final scene.
To spoil much more about the plot would be to do this show a disservice but suffice to say Watchmen rewards those who stick with this. One episode sees Angela fly down the rabbit-hole, experiencing the memories for one character with everything in black and white, save for a few pockets of red for blood. Another portrays time as non-linear, jumping back and forth through scenes, while the early episodes’ disparity and deliberate confusion makes for a very satisfying watch when you finally get some answers. This self-awareness is partly why the show works so well but waiting six weeks to get to the good stuff is something that ultimately hurts the integrity of this, serving much better as a straight-forward binge from start to finish.
Visually though, Watchmen looks fantastic. There’s some wonderfully trippy scenes dotted throughout the show and much like Mr Robot, the show embraces its own symbolism and themes, spinning those ideas into visual treats dotted through the episodes. Whether it be the recurring use of the colour blue to signify Dr Manhattan or the aforementioned black and white scenes used to emphasize racial tensions, all of these choices are perfectly composed on screen and delivered with some great finesse.
The biggest problem Watchmen has is ironically its greatest strength. As mentioned earlier, the show feels like a completely different entity during its second half, making the opening four episodes somewhat of a drag to sit through, especially given the lack of context around what’s happening with characters like Ozymandias. In hindsight, elements like the squid rain and Dr Manhattan being mentioned constantly are important foreshadowed nods to later on in the show but watching through with little knowledge of this at the time is a tough sell – especially with a show released once a week.
Watchmen is one of the best shows of 2019 but it requires a good amount of patience to really believe that. The final five episodes are in a completely different class, boasting a masterpiece in visual storytelling and composition, all wrapped up in a creative and self-contained story that leaves things on a suitably ambiguous note at the end. It does take a while to get there, and the opening half of the season is a bit of a drag, but if you can get through that, Watchmen bows out 2019 with one of this year’s best mini-series.