Sister Night's soul can't seem to rest as long as the white power organisation the '7th Cavalry' is terrorising Tulsa. Not much has changed since the Tulsa massacre in the 1920s and to make sure one isn't a victim of violence, masking oneself has become a necessity. She soon realises that kicking racist ass isn't enough to save the world, however. She has to take a good long look in the mirror and realise who she is beneath the edgy nun getup to get further in her calling. The saga brings an unexpected but welcome introduction for the sequel to Alan Moore's cult classic comic series from the 1980s. It feels different, yet fresh. Strange, but somehow familiar.
It's clear that Lindelof has learned a whole lot about the pros of absurdity from The Leftovers since Watchmen constantly switches its frequency from humour to severity in the same way as The Leftovers did, and it does so without stumbling over itself. The pacing does feel a bit choppy occasionally, but thankfully this is trumped by the series' strangest chapter that tackles Ozymandias' exile in the English mansion. Jeremy Irons is phenomenal as an older Adrian Veidt, a character who portrays the smartest man on the planet in a more pathetic, disillusioned light, comparable maybe to the somewhat odd Agent Cooper as we saw him in the latest season of Twin Peaks - you don't know what the character will do next, and you love every minute of the woeful escapades of the egomaniacal Veidt.
The extraordinary episode 'This Extraordinary Being' is a masterpiece in itself and in it, we get to follow one of the Minutemen heroes through a wild, tragic and intimate life journey that shakes the comic book mythology that Moore built up to its core in a captivating way. The same can be said about the phenomenal episode 'Little Fear of Lightning', which puts its focus on the spiritual Rorschach-like Looking Glass and his haunting trauma. Together with Ozymandias' adventures, these two are the core of a razor-sharp, carefully crafted narrative that's not afraid to tackle Moore's provocative characters, while at the same time staying true to the source material. The introduction to 'Little Fear of Lightning' in particular is one we won't soon forget.
Towards the end of the season, the facade starts to crack a bit, however. Without sharing too much, a character from the novel returns to liven up the intrigue, but this character's presence becomes the show's biggest flaw. The story quickly starts feeling uninspired and rushed and the last act feels more like a sub-par Marvel movie that's focusing on all the wrong things. The grey area withers away and you're left with a somewhat anticlimactic epilogue that makes one think that the megalomaniacal manuscript writers wrote themselves into a claustrophobic corner with this one.
We also wish that they had focused more on pulling everything together with the heavy thematics that were so strongly established at the beginning of the season. Overall, the series is politically loaded and filled to the brim with subjects such as trauma, police brutality, institutional racism, vulnerability, hatred, power structures and injustice, but at the same time, not one of those themes is explored to its fullest. It's a bit obvious at times and the presentation a bit too shallow. Maybe the series just wants to reflect the categorised climate of today. Maybe it's mirroring our passive and nonchalant world that would rather look for shortcuts than solve the big issues at hand. One thing's for certain - the last episode jams in too much and yet somehow too little all at the same time, which creates a vacuum of missed potential.
On the other hand, the philosophy surrounding the meaning of the mask works, and we'd say that the atmosphere is phenomenal from the very beginning until the last chilling moments (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, The Social Network and Gone Girl fame, surely lent a helping hand on that front with a superb soundtrack). Despite the fact that the story didn't really head off in the direction that we had hoped, we still can't get this TV gem out of our thoughts. As the episodes were still on a weekly release schedule, we waited eagerly for the Monday to roll around so we could find out what would happen in Lindelof's Tulsa. We were making up theories about its characters and fantasised about a world terrified by masked individuals. Now that the first season has been released in its entirety, life feels a little emptier. We want more, nay, we need more. More intrigue in Robert Redford's America. More psychological portraits of vengeful souls. More masked police drama. There's still so much more material to dig deeper into if Lindelof decides to take another trip into the world of gritty comic story arcs, which we would hardly say no to at this point. To summarise - Watchmen is a phenomenal, well-made, thought-provoking and innovative superhero series that sadly isn't the thermodynamic miracle that we had hoped for it to be.