Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Watchmen, the new HBO series based on the comic book limited series of the same name, is one of the latest additions in the superhero pantheon of entertainment. The premiere episode "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice" is directed by Nicole Kassell. Kassell does some incredibly strong work as a director here as the plot and introduction to the world in this episode is no easy balancing act.
The show transitions from 1921 period piece to modern-day sci-fi/superhero with a jolt but it never feels disjointed. Which is saying something considering what we’re shown in the beginning, without giving too much away, doesn’t come into play until the very end of the premiere episode. Until then, we’re given the rundown on who’s who and what’s what in the Watchmen universe. The viewer is introduced to a police force that conceals their identities with masks in order to allow vigilantes to join their ranks. The force has found themselves at odds with the white supremacist group the Seventh Kavalry over their progress in racial justice.
We are introduced to a few of these members of the force fighting the Seventh Kalvary, but the clear standout here, of course, the amazing Regina King who portrays Detective Angela Abar aka Sister Night. Fresh off her Oscar win, King commands every scene she’s in and over the course of the episode she makes this her show. But just what role exactly she’s playing in all this remains unclear at the intriguing cliffhanger of an ending to the premiere episode. The show raises various questions without providing answers to many of them which has become the standard for television which now favors long-form storytelling. Gone are the days of self-contained bottle episodes which, in my opinion, is a change for the best. For as much as I love film, one undeniable advantage that television will always have is its ability to develop story over the course of weeks often spanning years.
This television series also gives the creatives a chance to correct some of the mistakes made in the 2009 film based on the same source material. The film (directed by Zack Snyder) faced criticism from critics and audiences alike arguing that the narrative was too complex and difficult to follow. In viewing just the first episode of the new series, I could already understand how a film based on this limited series might buckle under the weight of its source material. The world and its rules have to explain and develop a lot. It’s a story that I don’t believe quite fits within the confines of film. However, the format of television will likely allow for a more in-depth and rich exploration of the Watchmen universe. If the first episode is any indication, Watchmen promises to be one to watch in large part thanks to a stellar take off by director Nicole Kassell.