I’m not really a fan of musicals. I know, I’m a Neanderthal. I love music, I feel I should add; I just don’t like it when characters in a story break into song. It jolts me out of the story, out of the fictive dream.
It’s why I’m not a huge fan of the movies The Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, even though as a child I loved the books both were based upon. I was okay with This is . . . Spinal Tap, because the characters sang only when performing as musicians. It’s complicated. But, I digress . . .
I’ve never watched the musical Oklahoma! This is why I didn’t realize the title to the premiere episode of the series Watchmen was a reference to a song from that musical. Don’t worry: The series isn’t a musical, even though Oklahoma! makes a cameo and is referenced several times. I suppose I could have looked up the song title on Google. Then, I would have known where it came from, and if I then read what the song was in reference to, the final scene of the premiere may have been ruined for me. I’m attempting to write a spoiler-free review here, so I encourage you not to ruin it for yourself either.
Having just watched this premiere, I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic about the series. I’m not entirely certain I understand everything that’s happening on the show. Series creator Damon Lindelof was one of the showrunners on Lost. That series kept my interest due in large part to the fact that I was never entirely certain I understood what was going on. I’m counting on Lindelof to pull off the same trick again. Without the sub-par series finale.
What I am learning, from this premiere, is that this new show seems to be a new story set in the same universe as Alan Moore’s celebrated graphic novel Watchmen, three decades or so after the events of that story. First, though, we get a flashback to the 1920s, where the KKK is attacking African Americans. Right off the bat, we get clues that this series will address the subject of racism. When the scene dissolves into present-day Tulsa, Oklahoma (well, the in-universe version of Tulsa, at any rate), this is reinforced after a black police officer is shot down by a pickup truck-driving character, and then we’re introduced to Chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) as he and his wife are watching an all black production of the aforementioned Oklahoma!
We realize early on that this isn’t our universe here. The police officers all wear masks to disguise their identities so that they can’t be targeted outside the job. In essence, their roles as peacekeepers make them superheroes. They have to protect their secret identities by pretending to do other things. For instance, Angela (Regina King) is pretending to be a baker, who has been working towards opening her own bakery for a couple of months, when in reality she is a badass gun-toting ninja-cop who drives an equally badass black muscle car with darkly-tinted windows. Angela is also a close friend of Chief Judd’s.
The shooter of the cop is a member of a white supremist group calling itself the 7th Cavalry. This group all wear the white-and-black Rorschach masks we all saw in the series trailers. Rorschach had definite rightwing fascist tendencies, so this makes some in-show sense. Chief Judd authorizes lethal force in the war against the 7th Cavalry, which has been dormant for three years as the season begins. The superhero police seem to be characterized as the good-guys so far, although I suspect that may change, or at least become more complicated.
Throughout the episode, we are teased with promotions for a television show-within-the-show called American Hero Story, which is about the Minutemen, the superhero team featured in the comic book. Perhaps we’ll get vignettes of this show the same way the pirate comic book was featured in Moore’s graphic novel. That could be interesting.
We also get a scene featuring actor Jeremy Irons as an as-yet-unnamed character who reminds me a lot of Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias. This may be misdirection, though. Louis Gossett Jr. also appears as a wheelchair bound character who may or may not be the elderly version of the young boy introduced in the KKK flashback. Archie, the Nite Owl’s ship from the comic, also makes a brief appearance. Meanwhile, the current President of the US seems to be someone named Redford (is it too much to ask for Robert?) and occasionally squid rain down from the skies as some sort of pan-dimensional incursion. Sure, I understand the reference to the original squid-vagina monster from the comic, but the effect on me is a lot like a polar bear suddenly appearing on a tropical island.
If any of this seems incoherent, rambling and a bit on the surreal side, then you understand the effect this first episode had on me. I’m confused. And, I like it.
I still don’t like musicals, though. I hope that doesn’t become a recurring motif on the show.
Firewater’s Living-On-Alternate-Tulsa-Time Series Premiere Report Card: A
This first episode may lay it on a bit too thick for some, but . . . I like it.