Watchmen – S1 Ep9 – See How They Fly Review

Director – Frederick E.O. Toye
Writer – Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse
Cast – Regina King, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr, Hong Chau, Jeremy Irons

It would simply be too much to attempt to recap the events of the final episode of Watchmen. I think everybody would be better served to watch the episode for themselves and get their own takeaway from it. Rather than rehashing the events of “See How They Fly”, below is my take on the series as a whole.

The final (ever?) episode of Watchmen has been and gone, leaving us to reflect on a 9 episode season that has been, in my opinion, the televisual highlight of 2019. When the announcement was first made that HBO were going to make this show, picking up with the world of the source material in real time, 34 years after the events of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons wonderful 12 issue classic, I had somewhat mixed feelings about it. Whilst I am not of the opinion that certain things are sacred and should not be touched post-release, I did wonder if it was a good idea. Very much a self contained story, was there even the need to jump forward in time? Having now watched the entire season, the answer is very much yes!

What Damon Lindelof and his creative time have produced here is a wonderful slice of event television that will certainly stand the test of time. Everything about it was a home run. The casting, the writing, the direction, the tone, the score and the overall flavour are all top drawer stuff. Forging its own path whilst filling the show with countless Easter eggs and references to the past, the show rewards long time devotees and new fans alike with an immersive and engrossing viewing experience.

With so many story threads to tie up in this finale, there was the risk that there would not be sufficient time to bring it all together. There were so many different pieces on the board that it was a Herculean task to coordinate them all. Somehow though, every strand was gathered up for a suitably fulfilling ending, albeit with just a crumb of a cliffhanger ending that does leave the option there for further instalments should the showrunners see fit. Indicative of the series as a whole, this finale had no wasted screen time, no filler. With only 9 episodes available to tell a complete story, the narrative had next to no fat on the bone, only prime cuts.

With more outstanding performances than the law should allow, it is hard to pick out anybody from the ensemble. But, a special mention must go to Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, as their characters served as the anchors for the show, the basis for everything else to revolve around. Regina King’s Angela Abar was the character with the most screen time as the show was effectively her story, her journey from A to B. A character with more layers than an onion, Abar ran the gamut from moments of real vulnerability to badass moments aplenty. Mateen was also a revelation, with the true identity reveal of his character seeing him switch gears effortlessly, as well as providing the catalyst for so much to start make sense with the context of the show.

So, will there be more? Show creator Lindelof has stated that he hasn’t ruled it out completely, but as of now, all his ideas went into this season. Personally, I am conflicted on it. I think the series stands alone as a perfect story that requires no further instalments, I would be more than happy to see it preserved in time as a perfect 9 episode arc. That said, if more episodes did appear further down the line and they were of the same quality as what has come before, then it would be something that I would couldn’t resist. Time will tell if anything happens, but either way we should all be happy with what has been put out. But just remember, “Nothing end, Adrian. Nothing ever ends……”

Watchmen – S1 Ep8 – A God Walks Into Abar Review

Director – Nicole Kassell
Writer – Jeff Jensen & Damon Lindelof
Cast – Regina King, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Louis Gossett Jr, Jeremy Irons

Undoubtedly the highlight of the season to date, episode 8 of Watchmen was everything I had hoped for and much more besides. In a show that has been highly cryptic with the way in which it addresses questions and answers, this was as about as explicit as it gets. Filling in so many blanks and setting us all up for a thrilling finale next week, this was solid televisual gold.
Following the jaw dropping revelation last week that Angela’s husband Cal was in fact, the omnipotent Dr Manhattan, hiding in plain sight in human form, this instalment went all out in explaining how both he and Angela got to that point.

Everything was truly spot on with the way the episode was put together. The characterisation, the non-linear timeline, the tone and the dialogue were all pitch perfect. A special mention must go to the screenplay, courtesy of Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen, as it truly felt like something that could have been lifted directly from the page of Alan Moore’s magnum opus. The cadence and word choices of Dr Manhattan were extremely faithful to the character, the showrunners here have avoided throwing the baby out with the bathwater and given the loyal fans a nice representation of their beloved characters, whilst taking events to new uncharted territory.

Simultaneously existing in all timelines, Dr Manhattan is the star of the show here. His courtship of Angela juxtaposed with his exchanges with Adrian (finally we understand why he is on Europa and how that world came into existence) is riveting stuff. The performance of Yayha Abdul-Mateen II elevates the proceedings considerably, as his interpretation of the character is well realised. His Jon Osterman is affable yet remote, loving yet detached and logical. This is the character to a tee and the journey of the character since the end of the book is one that we can believe in and get behind. Whether blue or black, Mateen is utterly believable as the character and it is my hope that we get to see more of him in future seasons, yet to be confirmed.

The wonderful scene between he and Veidt is a fanboy dream come true. The events of the book are referenced multiple times and the tragedy of Veidt’s actions are laid bare. Despite staving off nuclear Armageddon, his slaughter of millions has clearly weighed heavy on his soul. Living a solitary, joyless life, holed up in Karnak, Irons’ Veidt is a lost soul. His delight at seeing his frenemy Jon after the sour ending to their last meeting is clear to see, and the dialogue crackles with tension and affection. Despite Veidt’s willingness to go to Europa, his evident bitterness and not being able to go home makes one wonder what his plan will be when he eventually returns to Earth.

With just one episode left to go and a lot of ground left to cover, we should all be in for a treat next week. Will the 7th Kavalry be successful in their plot to destroy Dr Manhattan and take his power? Will Veidt get back home and play a part? What are Lady Trieu and Will Reeves up to? Whatever happens, make sure you watch episode 9 when it goes out this Sunday night.

Watchmen – S1 Ep7 – An Almost Religious Awe Review

Director – David Semel
Writer – Stacy Osei-Kuffour & Claire Kiechel
Cast – Regina King, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr, Hong Chau, Jeremy Irons

After the hugely enlightening events of episode 6, this week’s glorious instalment of Watchmen brought us back up to the present day, albeit with a liberal dose of flashbacks to the youth of Angela Abar. The game is most certainly now afoot, following a jaw dropping revelation at the end of the episode that has changed the whole game….

The MVP of the episode was unquestionably Regina King, as the running time was ostensibly dedicated to her and her emergence from her trip down Grandad’s memory lane, courtesy of an overdose of Nostalgia. In a very effective piece of storytelling, her own childhood memories start to embed themselves over the top of Will’s, providing clues to her back story as a child in the 51 State, Vietnam. The tantalising glimpse of Dr Manhattan in full flight on the battlefields of the Vietnam War was a fantastic money shot, tracking out across the carnage as the omnipotent being strides across. This shot was very reminiscent of the same scene in Zack Snyder’s 2009 film, only with less bells and whistles.

King was superb during the film, conveying confusion, anger and fear in equal measure. Abar is such a complex character, full of mystery, and King has done a great job of making the character accessible but keeping the audience at arm’s length. There has always been a sense that there is more than meets the eye with the character, with so much we as viewers are not being told. As I have already said in previous reviews, I personally love that method of storytelling as it demands thought and interpretation. Has she always known the truth behind her marital situation or was it the treatment at the hands of Lady Trieu that has unlocked her knowledge? Either way, she was fully lucid at the end of the episode and knew exactly what was going on with the location of Dr Manhattan and just who he has been masquerading as….

Spoiler Alert

So the truth behind Dr Manhattan’s whereabouts has now been revealed. No longer in exile on Mars, he has in fact been on Earth posing as a regular person. Who? Angela’s husband, Cal. The reveal at the end of the episode is quite a shocking situation as Angela reveals the truth. Did she know all along or not? Either way, the shock of seeing her refer to him as Jon (Manhattan’s real name) and proceed to bludgeon his head with a hammer was pretty jarring stuff. Removing a disc from inside his head, shaped like Manhattan’s symbol, proved the catalyst for him to start emitting a blue glow, albeit off camera. This raises a whole host of questions. Why is Dr Manhattan posing as human? What is his connection to Angela Abar? Does Lady Trieu know the truth and is she somehow involved in it? Was Manhattan posing as Cal against his will somehow? The final 2 episodes should be extremely interesting, with the promise of revelations galore in the ether.

With events all coming to a head over the final stretch of this debut season, tying up not only this story arc but hopefully giving us the whole truth regarding Veidt’s imprisonment and the culmination of the Seventh Kavalry’s schemes. For a show that has the slowest of slow burners, this week really has seen the pace pick up exponentially and the next two weeks could end up being THE televisual highlight of 2019.

Watchmen – S1 Ep6 – This Extraordinary Being Review

Director – Stephen Williams
Writer – Damon Lindelof & Cord Jefferson
Cast – Regina King, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr, Hong Chau, Jovan Adepo

The mysterious back story of Will Reeves was finally explored this week, to great effect. To date, the character’s past has been a closed book, with just little hints dropped via his interactions with Angela. But here, via a massive overdose of Nostalgia medication, Angela gets to relive her Grandfather’s past intimately, warts and all.

Shot with a highly effective black and white palette, the monochrome colour choice really helps to highlight the sense that this is a time long since passed.Enhanced by an off-kilter score that adds to the sense of unease and helps to remind us that these are memories that can often be slightly warped, it does feel as though we are in a dreamlike state. What follows is an odyssey through time, taking a huge swathe through the mythology of this fictional world. To be more specific, through the history of The Minuteman, the group that served as the de facto JSA in this world. Taking us back to the 1930’s, the narrative throws the viewer in the racially charged New York City that Will Reeves was calling home, embarking on a fledgling career in the police force. Faced with numerous obstacles merely because of the colour of his skin, the frustration and anger Reeves feels at the injustice all around him is palpable. Huge credit must go to Jovan Adepo, his performance as the young Reeves is fantastic. A charismatic screen presence with believable emotional range, the fact that the bulk of the episode is devoted to him is certainly no bad thing.

Without delving into full on spoiler territory, the odyssey that Reeves goes through is incredibly effective, equal parts terrifying and moving. Moments of real tenderness juxtaposed with sheer brutality, the plot never allows the viewer to sat comfortably. Where things truly intersect with the original source material comes with the revelation that a certain member of The Minutemen, Hooded Justice, is Reeves. Yes, they are one and the same. In a bold move that may make long time devotees annoyed, the way Reeves goes down the vigilante path is extremely well done indeed. Throwing Captain Metropolis into the mix only helps to add to the complexity of the character. Based on the events covered in the Before Watchmen series of books, this is quite a break from canon, or is it? Either way, it works and Lindelof and his creative team should be applauded for throwing a new twist into well worn events.

With an ending that answers all the questions regarding Judd Crawford’s demise, events are brought full circle back to the present day. In a manner typical of this show, many questions have been answered but so many more have now been posed. Now Angela knows the truth about her family lineage, what path awaits her? What is Reeves’ endgame? With so many disparate threads all moving at their own pace and only three episodes left, the remaining weeks are going to cover a lot of ground. Bringing together the Reeves family, augmented whatever Lady Trieu is up to, Veidt’s inevitable escape, the 7th Kavalry exposing the truth and the impending return of Dr Manhattan is a gargantuan task, and hopefully the creative team should have it in hand. This show has grown each and every week, the next 3 are going to be  a lot of fun and games.

Watchmen – S1 Ep5 – Little Fear of Lightning Review

Director – Steph Green
Writer – Damon Lindelof & Carly Wray
Cast – Jeremy Irons, James Wolf, Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr, Hong Chau.

A nice change of direction this week for Watchmen, with the main emphasis of the episode being based around the enigmatic Wade Tillman, aka Looking Glass, the mysterious police detective with a penchant for a reflective mask or two. In what was probably my favourite episode of the series to date, his backstory was fully explored to great effect, providing some wonderful moments of drama. For fans of the original source material, a real treat was provided in the form of a call back to Veidt’s squid attack in New York City 1985, with the young Tillman caught in the chaos. As a young Jehovah’s Witness, spreading the word in New Jersey, Tillman is the victim of a cruel hoax. Trapped in a hall of mirrors when the squid attack takes place, he is deeply traumatised by the carnage that ensues. The post attack devastation is laid bare for all to see, but the proverbial money shot is the camera pull out across the whole city, with the huge leviathan there, spread out like creeping death. A wonderful effects shot that wouldn’t be out of place in any Hollywood blockbuster for sure.

Wade’s journey into extreme paranoia, coupled with his PTSD, is realised by his omnipresent baseball cap being lined with the same reflective material as his mask, blocking out any psychic attacks. Tim Blake Nelson’s performance is extremely effective, full of pathos. Despite his batsh#t crazy exterior, the character has suffered in life and this episode really helps to get the audience on his side. As his eyes are opened to the truth behind the attacks, his entire world is beginning to fall apart. The cover up goes all the way up to the top, including President Robert Redford. With the end of the episode providing an ambiguous fate for Wade, I truly hope that we get to see more of him as the season continues.

Everybody’s favourite anti-hero/villain Adrian Veidt had an interesting journey to say the very least. Finally escaping his prison estate by way of his catapult, his end destination was Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. Yes, you read that right! How on Earth he has ended up there remains to be seen, but the smart money would be on Dr Manhattan relocating him. His ingenious use of the many corpses on the moon’s surface to create a sign was dark humour at its very best, with Irons once more going very big with his acting choices. His interpretation of the aged Ozymandias is an interesting one, played larger than life. Whilst not everybody’s cup of tea, I have thoroughly enjoyed his screen time and look forward to it each week. What next week has in store for him should be interesting, with his moonwalking cut short and him finding himself back to square to one.

We are now past the half way point of this season and more is started to be revealed. I am a fan of Damon Lindelof’s narrative choices, as he moves the story along at a slow pace, with often cryptic clues and events that need to be thought over and interpreted by the viewer, rather than being plain. As the promised return of Dr Manhattan draws ever closer, the storytelling is getting tighter and the tension is ramping up. With multiple combustible elements ready to explode, I can’t see much of a happy ending for the world here. The sense of impending doom is palpable. Until next week…tick tock….