By Ani Bundel
“And now a very expensive piece of fan fiction.” Those were the words Damon Lindelof used to introduce the pilot episode of his newest series, Watchmen, which screened for a packed room at New York Comic Con during Friday’s Watchmen panel. The series, which is set 30 years after the comics from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, attempts to do what the legendary team did back in the 1980s: ask what would happen if superheroes were real, and then imagine how the world would change because of it.
Moore apparently requested his name not be used in conjunction with the show. But Lindelof couldn’t hold to it, especially once Gibbons took the stage for Friday’s Watchmen panel. Gibbons gave the show his blessing, which is as close as the show will get to a creator’s seal of approval. In his words, Lindelof got one of the most critical aspects of the series right. Gibbons said he knew they had something “when I stopped thinking of it as a superhero comic and more like a science fiction/alternate reality story.” And HBO’s version has the same flavor. Sure there are superheroes, but it’s not about them as much as it is what their existence did to the world.
Speaking of superheroes, Regina King is thrilled to be playing Sister Night. She told the audience her favorite hero has always been Hulk because “he’s such an unlikely superhero.” Sister Night doesn’t seem unlikely on the surface, but as the show goes on, the complexities of the character will come through.
The show does not attempt to reboot the story in any way. Some of the original characters will carry over, including Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) and …well, we won’t talk about Jeremy Irons’ role, which is referred to as “Who You Probably Think It Is.” As Lindelof says, he considered the original 12-issue run of the Watchmen comic sacred. But that doesn’t mean he’s not referencing it. His first hit series, Lost, was famous for its Easter Eggs, which Lindelof says was partly inspired by the way the Watchmen comics seeded references only the hardcore nerd would get. So, of course, they had to carefully place references to the comics through the series’ nine episodes. To do otherwise would have been wrong.
Whether or not the show will succeed is not clear yet. Lindelof admitted that the idea of being the same sort of gamechanger the comic was in the 1980s was too daunting a task. He’ll be happy to break through the entertainment landscape noise. Also, currently, there is no second season planned. The original 12 issues had a beginning, middle, and end, and so do the show’s nine episodes. Lindelof will only consider Season 2 if there is a fan outcry to do one.
As for a review of the episode, fans will have to wait, as everything is still under embargo. The Watchmen panel audience did love the episode, and the audience Q&A had fans asking about everything from the directing choices to the soundtrack. For the record, the soundtrack is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the Academy Award-winning duo behind the original score for The Social Network. They were as eager to get aboard Watchmen as Lindelof was to get them to do it. Lindelof boasted that most of the music from the pilot was written by Reznor sight-unseen, because he was so all-in on the project.
But I will say this: Regina King’s character of Sister Night will almost certainly be a cosplay phenomenon by next year. Just you watch.