The direct depiction of racism and generational trauma
Something that Watchmen tackled in this sequel-like follow up to the comic is the importance of history and the effects of racism as well as generational trauma. Whether it was the focus on 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, something that is tragically unknown by so many, or spotlighting racism within the police force, there’s always a way to feature the unsettling ignorance rooted within many.
The series showcases lynchings, racial violence and the deeply rooted evil of white supremacists which is obviously a much-needed conversation. With this version of Watchmen, the story is most effectively told through flashbacks of Hooded Justice when experienced by his granddaughter Angela.
In a clever way to change something within the lore of Watchmen, Hooded Justice was the young boy who survived the Tulsa Race Massacre and ended up becoming an officer. Will realizes his fellow officers are Klan members and they attack and lynch him, leaving him on the brink of death. Moments when fueled by a fire within himself, he uses the hood they placed on him to disguise his identity and impressively defeats men involved in a mugging.
This act serves as the inspiration gets him an invitation to join Minutemen, however, he masks himself as a heterosexual white man to gain the public’s trust. This adds a new facet to what we knew about the Minutemen and makes a seemingly confident team aware of the realistic chance of discrimination.
The scenes depicting racism are understandably hard to watch, but that’s part of what makes Watchmen that much more authentic. No matter how graphic or unsettling it can be, this is something that unfortunately still rings true today.
The trauma cycle merely continues in the Abar bloodline with each generation absorbing the pain of their loved ones, even taking on roles to enforce justice despite the fact that each of them has grim memories they associate it with. This creates some similarities to the turmoil Silk Spectre has gone through with her parents, keeping that thread of generational trauma an active role in Watchmen.
Homophobia and shame is also a subject that Watchmen delves into after the revelation of Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis having an affair, and the need to hide one’s sexuality for protection. This origin feels much more intense given the era and continues but it draws parallels to darker themes of the original Watchmen in new, much-needed ways.
It doesn’t go much deeper than the aforementioned flashbacks, but the alteration alone reflects a genuine struggle that continues to resonate. To take a concept so centered on heroism paired with the reality of society’s unfathomable tendencies makes Watchmen essential viewing and a series that transcends our expectations.
Blending boldness with subtlety
Watchmen has always been a highly respected property, with the series having a great deal of pressure to live up to. From the first episode, it’s clear that HBO was prepared to follow the specific vision that Lindelof had. As it progressed it fused subtle nuances and an undeniable boldness that makes this a new ambition-filled sequel to the Watchmen universe.
From the choice of police wearing masks to the Rorschach inspired cult members, the series includes small and massive details to make this feel like it’s grounded in the world of Watchmen. Even brief conversations that you may assume have little relation to ongoing themes are almost easter eggs for longtime Watchmen fans, but still makes it accessible to an entirely new audience which is no easy feat.
The limited series can change the tone and provide an intensity that feels vibrant and outlandish, somehow finding a perfect middle-ground for two very different storytelling techniques. No matter what one’s take on this new Watchmen might be, there’s no denying that it’s unlike anything on television and for that, it’s essential viewing.
Watchmen is available on HBO so check out the groundbreaking series ahead of its final two episodes.