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Watchmen first impressions: HBO show cranks the story up at New York Comic Con – CNET

Watchmen's first episode screened to fans at New York Comic Con 2019.


HBO screened the first episode of Watchmen to fans at New York Comic Con on Friday, bringing us along for a musical journey through a world inspired by the comics, It's full of explosions and big fire fights and reminds me a bit of The Matrix's fight scenes without the slow-motion bullet time. Based on the original graphic novel, this show is meant to be a continuation or extension of the world originally crafted by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore.

This isn't meant to be a review of Watchmen's first episode (because frankly the experience of watching the show in a panel with cranked up theater speakers will not equate with how most people will experience the show), but I can tell you it focuses heavily on Regina King's Sister Knight. Other characters are introduced throughout the episode, and we'll learn more about them as the show carries on.

After an infamous massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officers choose to wear masks in order to protect their identities. Sister Knight, a former officer turned vigilante, enters the story as the police fend off a white supremacist group. She has a husband, kids and the ability to take down racist men with her fists (and guns).

Music is clearly going to be a big focus for Watchmen, with the show using everything from R&B to vintage barbershop chorus-style tunes and EDM when action picks up. When the latter style picks up during intense fight scenes, it feels like the battle scenes from The Matrix when heavy gunfire would be accompanied by a thumping beat.

What's particularly fascinating about the beginning of Watchmen is how it doesn't lean too much into the science-fiction aspect of the world quite yet. It's hinted at, but the first episode feels closer to the alternate realities of shows like The Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid's Tale. In a way, this first tale is something that could happen in real life if a few tragic circumstances and twists were added to the timeline.

That said, during Friday's Comic Con panel, show creator Damon Lindelof revealed that the intention isn't to string out the plot. The first season will be a coherent nine episodes with a beginning, middle and end.


Jean Smart's Laurie Blake has a connection to the original Watchmen story.

Mark Hill/HBO

"We plotted out these nine episodes so we knew exactly where we were headed," Lindelof said, noting that a second season is possible should viewers become hungry for it. So hopefully no cliffhangers.

Clips from future episodes were also shown, focusing on more characters like actress Jean Smart's Laurie Blake, who in a conversation discusses her connection with Doctor Manhattan from the original Watchmen story. 

A second clip introduces Hong Chau's Lady Trieu, who the actress describes as "the boss bitch." Trieu is seen sitting down with a couple and immediately outlining her demands. And a final highlight reel tees up the future of Sister Knight's storyline, a ticking clock and a possible looming nuclear threat (and of course it's nuclear, Doctor Manhattan is around here somewhere after all).

Watchmen also stars Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt (but one official tweet says "Probably who you think he is"), Don Johnson as Tulsa Police Chief Judd Crawford, Tim Blake Nelson as Detective Looking Glass, and many more. The show premieres Sunday, Oct. 20 on HBO.

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