The first season of HBO’s Watchmen series ended on Sunday, December 15th, with a finale that merged the previously separate storylines, clarifying some key correlations and, as usual, repeating the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, who ran the show inspired. Creator Damon Lindelof has said he has no plans for a second season, but the show’s success makes it hard to believe that HBO won’t push for one.
Watchmen was a mild hit with ratings, but more significant for HBO, who needed a Game of Thrones conversation starter to keep the network in the spotlight in an increasingly competitive streaming era. It was an appointment show at a time when those are rare. It is likely that HBO would urge Lindelof (or other members of his team) to continue the story in any way. But should he take that as a unique story? Fans always tend to ask for more of what they love, and then they are often disappointed if the sequels and pre-series don’t give them the high of the original. So we called a polygon round table to ask: Do we want to see more guards? And should we?
Am i blue Photo: Mark Hill / HBO
Did you like the first season so much that you want more of this show?
Matt patches: The moment Lube Man smeared himself and slid down a storm drain, I wanted 800 more episodes of Watchmen.
Karen Han: It’s the age-old riddle: “I would watch this show forever” vs. “I don’t think there really has to be more of it.”
Susana Polo: I think my rule here is the same when the show was announced. Any adjustment to Watchmen must have something really important to say, if only to justify that one of its creators’ wishes are being violated. But I’m a bit of a comic book fan of the subject.
Austen Goslin: I don’t know if there should be more guards. But I’m sure I would watch every episode otherwise.
Tasha Robinson: I will say straight away that there should probably be no more guards. When something surprising and original pops up and fans ask for more, they’re basically trying to restore the experience they had for the first time, and there’s no way for a second season to get out of the left panel in the same way.
But that means I was on board with the entire show. Basically, I needed everything I loved about The Leftovers and combined it with a lot of what I loved about Alan Moore’s Watchmen, mixed in a considerable number of delightfully crazy phrases, and then came to a fascinating result. Lindelof and his team really did something impressive here. If there were more of it, I would definitely be on board.
A meeting of the spirits. Photo: Mark Hill / HBO
Why did season 1 work? Can it be replicated?
MP: Ahead of Watchmen’s debut, Damon Lindelof hammered home his love of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ comic strip and his refusal to adapt the work for the big screen. Instead, he opted for a “remix” and developed a sequel in which storylines, characters and certain shots reflect the source material. Given the nine episodes behind us, I can’t imagine a bolder and more rewarding format. Each episode contained two highlights: the plot and the question of how Lindelof and his crew would reverse the comic’s quirks. It’s all J.J. Abrams believed he had something to do with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with the added bonus that the series still deals with socio-political issues. Season 1 is Watchmen to the core.
I would say it couldn’t be done again, but when our EIC Chris Plante reminded me after watching the Watchmen finale, Damon Lindelof faithfully adapted Tom Perrotta’s book The Leftovers in season 1 and then found more places and more cans with worms I have no idea how a second season would feel as fulfilling as the first nine episodes, but I trust that Lindelof and his team would do so given the time.
TR: However, it is worth noting that when he went on to season 2 and 3 of The Leftovers, Lindelof himself worked with Perrotta to expand the world of the book. Lindelof doesn’t have Alan Moore in his hand to develop more guards.
KH: I think one of the great things that made Season 1 work is that a lot of it wasn’t entirely thanks to the source material. The series played with it, revealing the true identity of Hooded Justice or making the octopus the cause of Looking Glass’s trauma. But these stories still felt like they could have been written independently and without the Guardians’ connection.
What makes me doubtful about a second season is the feeling that freedom is restricted every time an element from the original graphic novel is introduced. For example, once Cal is exposed as Doctor Manhattan, Manhattan begins to dominate the show. As a result, the finale that Watchmen has to offer compared to the rest of the first season was somewhat weak. But “weak” for Watchmen is still obvious on television, and at this point I would trust Lindelof with my life.
AG: Season 1 feels almost like reverse engineering to me. Lindelof started with the idea of telling a story about the Tulsa racial unrest, and Watchmen filled in the missing parts perfectly. He used the city like a magnet to pull important figures from the past into this other world, until after two episodes we had the feeling that we knew the place.
I don’t think they could do the same thing again. You couldn’t start anywhere without familiar faces and end up with a Dr. Attach the Manhattan blue bow. But for the idea of using this world and its costumed adventurers as a Trojan horse to explore more interesting topics, Watchmen was developed. I don’t understand why it can’t work a second time.
MP: But Lube Man absolutely has to return for season 2.
Season 2 would have a captive audience. Photo: Mark Hill / HBO
Do you still have any questions?
TR: The big question is whether Angela Abar now has Doctor Manhattan’s powers, but I don’t want that question really answered. I am happier with the end of Lady or the Tiger than with something specific, and it will be difficult for a second season to leave this question open. And after watching the finale, my only other important question was, “Who the hell is Lube Man and what does he have?” But this question seems to have been answered off the screen.
In a second season it would also have to be clarified how the criminal charges against Adrian Veidt are going, and we have already made this much sharper and wilder with the trial against him in Europe. Pigs and costumes would probably not be used in a boring experiment on the old earth. It’s also a question of how Angela avoids judicial obstruction, manipulation of evidence, and collusion with the well-known cop-killer she just invited into her house, but somehow I doubt that a second season will do much with these details has to do.
SP: And what about the elephant ???
TR: Um, elephants never forget, and nostalgia is a memory drug and something – something scientific something. I don’t know what else you need.
SP: I’m just saying that you can’t put an elephant on such a show without explanation. But I digress. Watchmen has always been a story characterized by the lack of a specific ending, and I’m pleased that the television adaptation was also characterized by a certain degree of uncertainty.
KH: Is Looking Glass still single?
TR: Do you suspect something about him and Laurie or are you trying to pick him up?
KH: Unfortunately, it is I who try to get this Reflectatine.
Yes, I definitely have the one-year blues. Photo: Mark Hill / HBO
So what do we want from a second season?
TR: I wouldn’t mind a second season that largely deviates from the characters established in season 1 and instead focuses on what happened to Dan Dreiberg, a.k.a. Nite Owl II, the only surviving Watchmen character that’s hardly mentioned in the series, is going on. In season 1, Tulsa also appears to be in a very specific social crisis, triggered by its story and Joe Keene’s manipulations. There are not many signs that the rest of America is dealing with the same specific problems. So there is plenty of room to immerse yourself in a different city and culture, just as Lindelof’s The Leftovers focused on different areas of the country and different communities with unique themes from season to season.
SP: It was fairly bold for the HBO guards to imply that Adrian Veidt, Doctor Manhattan, and Lady Trieu, as guardians of great power, all did a bad job, and then Angela almost gave omnipotence and left. I think a second season should deal with the question of whether there is a way to exert such power without losing humanity or doing more harm than good – perhaps the basic escape of the fantasy of the superhero genre. It’s easier to say, “Nobody should have so much power!” Than to invent a satisfying story in which someone already has it.
MP: For these reasons, the final shot of the finale, Angela’s is-she / is-not-she-pool-moment, is the first time I’m worried about a possible second season to get something significant. Like you, Tasha, I prefer not to see the question answered. That would mean addressing the implications, addressing the ethical and moral issues that arise when a God walks among people, and continuing the story of the first season on a macro-economic level. In my perfect world, the second season of Watchmen appears in another corner of the universe to interrogate another aspect of everyday life that we take for granted as the doomsday clock continues to tick toward the apocalypse.
KH: I would also like to see what Nite Owl is up to in prison. Maybe some kind of mindhunter or silence of the lambs? I would like to see what Will has done in the decades we haven’t seen him.
I think the difficulty – possibly both a blessing and a curse – of a second season is that fewer of the larger Watchmen tent poles could work on it since everyone except Dan was taken into account.
I’m also slightly suspicious of The Terror, but I don’t know it would be feasible to continue the story as I move away from the unresolved plots of season one. There is so much to do – the resumption of the Ozymandias case, impeachment against Robert Redford and Angela – that it looks like the spectrum has widened too much for a show that won’t last for more than five seasons ,
AG: I totally agree. I think what I would want from a second season is something completely different.
Lindelof and his team put an incredible amount of work into building the fringes of the world, but they left holes big enough to fit everything in. At my highest level of TV anarchy, I like the idea of luring another talented creator into this world every few years. But I think whether it works depends on who tells the story.
Lindelof has more experience than anyone else in making shows obsessed with bigger ideas. He also had enough respect for the original comic to try to understand the spirit behind it without just reshaping it. Maybe that will only work if Lindelof remains with every new version as a leading producer?
TR: Or when HBO just lets go. As with all companies, television is ultimately just about making money and they want to do the best for their bottom line. But that often causes terrible television, as the shows drag on years after the premises are exhausted. This could be the perfect time for America to turn to the one-story, one-year model that so many other countries have perfected. Maybe we should just be grateful to the guards and turn to something new. It’s not like we don’t watch great TV shows anymore.