HBO has a TV show based on Watchmen on the way in 2019, but we're still not quite sure what it's about. Show creator Damon Lindelof wrote a five-page letter about his history with the source material and his intentions for the TV show, but though that clarified that it wouldn't be a direct adaptation, it didn't really explain what it would be - whether it would be adjacent to the story of the graphic novel, a prequel, or a sequel.
Lindelof said that he and the other creatives behind the show intend to "disrupt" and "remix" Watchmen, but that the original comic will still be canon. The TV show will be "set in the world its creators painstakingly built," but will "vibrate with the seismic unpredictability of its own tectonic plates." That certainly sounds ambitious, but it doesn't really clear things up.
Based on what we do know about the TV show, which was recently ordered to series, it does appear to be a sequel... sort of. Set photos clearly point to a modern setting, and the show will feature a new cast of characters, with the original line-up either playing a minor role, or simply not appearing at all. But how exactly will it connect to the original graphic novel?
- This Page: What the Watchmen TV Show Isn't, and What It Is
- Page 2: HBO's Watchmen Isn't a "Sequel," But It Is A Sequel
What The Watchmen TV Show Isn't
One thing that Lindelof has been very adamant about is the fact that his TV show is not a direct adaptation of the comics. "We have no desire to 'adapt' the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago," he wrote. "Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted." So, while we will probably see references to the events of the original graphic novel, don't expect to see actual flashback scenes to iconic moments, and don't expect to see a great deal of the original characters.
What else won't it be? Well, Lindelof wrote in his letter that "we are not making a 'sequel' either" - but the quotes around the word "sequel" indicate that he's using a rather narrow definition of the word. Indeed, he goes on to say that it's not a "sequel" in the sense that it will be an "original" and "contemporary" story (even though sequels are often both of those things). So, if it's not a "sequel," then what is it?
HBO's Watchmen Is Modern Day & Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma
One thing we know for sure about HBO's Watchmen is that it will have a modern-day setting, and therefore won't focus on the immediate aftermath of the calamity at the end of the graphic novel. Set photos show a world that has had time to adapt, with warning signs and references to showers of alien squid - presumably smaller versions of the same monster that Ozymandias unleashed on New York City at the end of the comic. A copy of a newspaper called The Tulsa Sun has a price of $1.75, in line with current newspaper costs, and a copy of the Tulsa World includes a "Never Forget" memorial article for the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. Another set photo shows a new version of the American flag, with the stars arranged differently, and the same photo shows modern cars rather than vintage '80s vehicles. So, not only will the show be set in modern times, it also looks to be set in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
We also know that the TV show will center mostly, if not entirely, on original characters. One of the newspaper headlines in the set photos reads "Veidt Officially Declared Dead," which seems to imply that Adrian Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias went missing at some point. If he had simply died, the headline would read more like "Veidt Passes Away," whereas "Declared Dead" indicates that the authorities have simply given up the search. The other Minutemen appear to be remembered positively, as evidenced by a set photo of a poster for a TV show called American Hero Story: Minutemen (obviously a spin on the American Horror Story and American Crime Story anthology series).
This TV show may be what Lindelof was referring to when he wrote, "We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising, yet familiar set of eyes.... and it is here where we'll be taking our greatest risks." That suggests that at least one character from the original graphic novel will play a role - though whether the past century will be explored through an in-universe TV show, or whether HBO's Watchmen will stick to more traditional flashbacks, remains to be seen.
As for those original characters, the cast so far includes Regina King, Louis Gossett Jr., Tom Mison, Francis Fisher, Tim Blake Nelson and Jeremy Irons. Based on the pilot's character breakdowns, it seems that most of the main characters are cops or related to cops, indicating that the Watchmen TV show may specifically be about police officers trying to do their jobs in the world created by Ozymandias' actions. Lindelof's letter also mentioned that there will be "new faces" and "new masks to cover them," so superheroes definitely aren't out of the picture.