HBO’s Watchmen has been shrouded in mystery and uncertainty ever since it was first revealed. A modern continuation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic graphic novel helmed by the guy who gave us one of the strangest (and best) TV series of the last decade in The Leftovers? Sign us up but also, we have questions. Like, do we really need more Watchmen? Now that the first episode has dropped, we can answer that last question with an emphatic “Yes!”
Just one episode in, Watchmen is already in the running for one of the best new series of 2019. However, while its quality is assured, the show itself is a perplexing affair that seems to raise more questions than it answers. Here are our 10 biggest questions after the series premiere of HBO’s Watchmen.
10 Who Is Panda?
If there’s one character in the Watchmen premiere who we want to know more about, it’s Panda. From what we can tell, Panda is in charge of firearms for the Tulsa police force. Panda has to grant an officer permission before they are able to un-holster their gun and he takes his job very seriously. When we finally see Panda in the flesh, he is indeed wearing a giant panda mask, which only serves to undermine his authority. He’s like that guy in your office who tattles to HR if you take a long lunch.
As annoying as Panda is, his presence opens up some interesting questions, such as why officers need permission to use their firearm in the first place. Hopefully we’ll learn more about how law enforcement works in this world … and why they let a guy in a panda mask control their guns.
9 What’s Going On With Ozymandias?
Nearly all the screen time in the Watchmen premiere is dedicated to new characters. However, we do get an extended glimpse at a pretty important player from Moore’s original story. At least, it seems like we do. While he’s not referenced by name in the episode, pre-release materials confirmed Jeremy Irons is playing an aged Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias.
As you’ll recall, Watchmen ends with Veidt killing millions of people in an effort to prevent nuclear war. We learn so little about Veidt in this episode (other than he likes to work on his typewriter in the nude) that it’s hard to say whether the world knows about his actions or not. We’re sure to learn more about the hero formerly known as Ozymandias in later episodes but for now, he remains shrouded in mystery.
8 What Happened To Nite Owl?
While the Owlship (or an airship modeled after it) makes an unexpected and explosive appearance, the man who piloted it is totally absent from Watchmen’s first episode. We know that Daniel Dreiberg aka Nite Owl II survives the events of the original Watchmen story, but there’s no mention of what happened to him. A companion site has been set up for HBO’s Watchmen, with supplemental material that fills in the gap between 1985 and 2019.
According to the site, Dreiberg was arrested in 1995 alongside Laurie Blake aka Silk Spectre for violating the superhero-outlawing Keene Act. We know Laurie shows up in future episodes (played by Jean Smart), so we should learn more soon about what happened to her and Dan.
7 What’s American Hero Story?
The series premiere includes multiple in-universe advertisements for a TV series called "American Hero Story: The Minutemen". As the title implies, the show focuses on the Minutemen, a superhero group that predated the Watchmen. The group counted The Comedian, the original Silk Spectre, and several other heroes among its ranks.
It feels like Lindelof may be pulling a “Tales of the Black Freighter” here, framing American Hero Story as a story within the story. However, it remains to be seen whether American Hero Story is a one-off reference or will operate in the background over the course of the season.
6 Why Is There Squid Rain?
One of the most shocking (and disgusting) scenes in the premiere involves a sudden downpour of squids falling from the sky. Judging by the “Anatomy of a Squid” posters we see plastered around and the fact there are city trucks dedicated to squid clean-up, this is a regular event in the show’s universe.
The most likely explanation is the squid rain is an unexpected byproduct of Adrian Veidt’s giant squid master plan from 1985, but it’s unclear how serious or widespread it is. However, the squid rain could be intentional on Veidt or some other power’s part; a constant reminder to Earth’s inhabitants that Earth could be “attacked” by giant squids again.
5 What's The Plan With The Watch Batteries?
Watchmen wastes no time in setting up at least one of its major antagonists - a far-right terrorist group known as the Seventh Kavalry. The members of the Seventh Kavalry have adopted the worst parts of Rorschach’s beliefs (as laid out in his famous diary) and wear masks modeled after the deceased vigilante’s.
The Seventh Kavalry seem to hate cops just as much as they do non-whites and the premiere makes it clear they are plotting something big. However, all we really know so far is that they’re obsessed with collecting old watch batteries. What’s that about? It’s too early to say for sure, but it’s not like Watchmen has ever shied away from extensive watch imagery in past incarnations.
4 Who’s The Man In The Wheelchair?
In keeping with the structure of the original comics, HBO’s Watchmen begins with a murder mystery. Regina King’s Angela Abar discovers Don Johnson’s Chief Judd Crawford hanging from tree. While this is shocking enough, the real twist is who’s sitting under the tree: the wheelchair-bound old man (Louis Gossett Jr.) Angela briefly spoke to earlier in the episode. Who is he?
The note he’s holding is a major clue, as it’s the same one we saw the young boy holding in the episodes opening scene set in 1921. It’s possible the boy and man are one and the same, but that would put him well over 100 years old. Whoever this man is, we have a feeling this murder mystery is only going to get stranger from here.
3 Will We See More Of Judd?
Killing off a main character played by the legendary Don Johnson is a bold move for a series premiere. However, much like with The Comedian’s death in the original comics’ opening pages, we have a feeling Tulsa Police Chief Judd Crawford will be hanging around this story for some time to come.
There’s always a chance Johnson’s screen time will be limited to a single episode, but the show has set him up in such a way as to betray his importance to the story showrunner Damon Lindelof is telling. Judd and Angela clearly have history, so at the very least there will probably be some flashbacks to help fill in gaps in their relationship. Besides, Johnson is too good an actor to only appear in one episode!
2 Why Is Watchmen Set In Tulsa, Oklahoma?
No one could have predicted Damon Lindelof was going to tell a superhero story set in Oklahoma. Then again, maybe we should have expected this. Lindelof’s previous series, The Leftovers, was primarily set in small towns in New York and Texas. Lindelof tends to favor tackling big ideas at the micro level, which is how you get a series about millions of people suddenly disappearing that centered most of its story around a few families.
However, the fact that Watchmen opens with an extended look back at the 1921 Tulsa race riot is significant, as that one event seems to be informing everything Lindelof is trying to do with Watchmen. At any rate, it’s refreshing to see a major TV series set itself in an American city that isn’t New York or Los Angeles for a change.
1 What's Damon Lindelof"s Plan For Watchmen?
It was always a sure bet that Lindelof’s vision of a modern day continuation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ landmark graphic novel would be a complex affair. However, those hoping for a continued deconstruction of the superhero genre may be surprised to find the new Watchmen seems much more interested in the intersection of race and power in America.
That’s certainly an important issue to tackle and one that feels especially prescient in 2019. But what is it about the Watchmen universe in particular that makes Lindelof want to tell this story? The answer is sure to become clearer as the season goes on but judging by Lindelof’s past works, it may not be an answer that ties things together neatly.