I would say that most definitely a highlight of 2019 for me was HBO’s Watchmen series. I felt like it captured the feel and mood of Alan Moore’s source material, while still being something completely its own. There were enough connections to the original book that it felt like easter eggs when you’d find them. How they turned the inter-dimensional, psychic attack into an almost 9/11 tragedy and showing characters still dealing with PTSD from it was both emotionally connective and also a way to give us something to grab onto and feel empathy for.
Character-wise, the show was filled with so many amazing performances; Regina King, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gosset, Jr, Don Johnson, Hong Chau, Frances Fisher, and James Wolk just to name a few, were all pitch-perfect in their roles.
Jean Smart seems to have reignited her already illustrious career. Her work on Legion, Fargo, Mare of Eastown, Hacks, and of course Watchmen, has been nothing short of stellar.
Tim Blake Nelson also turned in an amazing performance as Looking Glass. His history with the great psychic attack plays out wonderfully in a full episode, digging into his past and why he is the way he is.
Of course Regina King was just phenomenal. There are so many facets to her character, and each episode seems to pull back layers to show the depth and complications that make her who she is.
Everyone on this damn show was incredible. From Lindelof’s writing(with guest writers) to the overall look of the show to the twists and turns that you go through to get to the show’s masterful conclusion, Watchmen might be one of the best television series I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Certainly top ten ever.
One other thing that put this show over the top? The kinetic, dark, and intense electronic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. These two put something pretty damn special together. It’s the most in-your-face work they’ve done for cinema since probably The Social Network, or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. With each film they’ve scored since Fincher’s 2011 Stieg Larsson adaptation, Reznor and Ross seem to have pulled back a bit. From Gone Girl on there’s more subtlety in their scores, going in a more ambient direction. Their Mank score was an old school symphonic score, complete with Big Band numbers and almost hot jazz vibes.
But with Watchmen Reznor and Ross locked into some dark, electronic vibes. It’s as close to classic NIN as their scores have gotten, and it sounds amazing. They hone in on the tension of the world Lindelof’s Watchmen occupies, as well as the dystopian, sci fi elements that come into play.
Each volume of the score(there’s three total) all have their own distinct mood, while still calling back to themes heard throughout the series. They even have some fun with the third volume by creating a sort of alternate reality version of Nine Inch Nails, called The Nine Inch Nails. In this version Trent Reznor left the band years ago and Peter Murphy is a member of the band. It’s striking how unique each volume is, while still staying true to the themes, vibes, and overall feel of the series with each volume.
There’s probably not anything here you haven’t already read or heard one way or another. But let me set the record straight, the internet trolls, diversity antagonists, and overall “white dude complaining” should be ignored in regard to Watchmen. I’d read my share of jeers regarding any similarities in the Watchmen world and the racial divides we currently are living in. While this series intelligently works in current events in certain regards, this is by far a fictional, dystopian story being told here. The Tulsa Race Massacre is used as an origin story for one character, and the violent rumblings and after effects of that horrific day in American history emanate throughout the show. But it’s merely a jumping off point for the series, which then jumps into sci fi, crime, betrayal, and the power that anonymity holds.
All I will say is that if that first episode made you feel a little squirrely, please just stick it out for a couple more episodes. You’re seriously depriving yourself of some intelligent, awe-inspiring television.
Plus, The Nine Inch Nails did pretty okay on this one.