Critiquing HBO's "Watchmen"

Anyone watching Watchmen?

On its face it's about a group of white supremacists who are committing terrorist acts and the fascist police (this is the part that seems to get lost most places) that are attempting to stop them.

It's only on it's third episode so everything is of course in flux.

I will say I really loved EP 1 and 2 and EP 3 was absolutely 10/10 television, but maybe 9/10 if you don't have some Watchmen background.

Back to the culture war: white supremacists in America isn't something to get in a tither about. They exist in incredibly small numbers and are basically a Boogeyman for various peoples to point to and screech about to to further their own agenda. Personally, I hate WS's on account of the obvious and being from Poland they are actually a bit too close to Nazi's for comfort. But also because I believe in immigration control and too often this is touted by the aforementioned people as something akin to WS's, so it makes an agenda I would like to pursue harder.

So when I heard the show runner say things like:

"What, in 2019, is the equivalent of the nuclear standoff between between Russia and the United States?" Lindelof wondered. "It just felt like it was undeniably race and policing in America. So, that idea started to draft itself in the Watchmen universe."

I went oh no!

To me, thinking race relations in America is anything close to the cold war is the height of lunacy. I think race relations aren't great. I think they're getting slightly worse, not better.

But the show is beautifully done. It's almost like watching a love letter depicted as a television show.

Anyway, white supremacists are bad and evil and cops are fascists who hide their faces (they seem to be a lot of black cops) and do what they want, so far mostly to the white supremacists.

Also one of the cops is a communist called the Red Scare.

Thoughts on the show and it's culture war depictions?

I haven't watched last night's episode, but I'll chime in anyway. I strongly disagree with basically your entire assessment of the program

I outright reject that HBO's Watchmen can be considered a "love letter" to the source material. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it feels like a completely different show that tacked on the Watchmen name for brand recognition, capitalizing off of and cannibalizing a beloved IP to get a pet project greenlit. The returning characters all seem like outright caricatures at best, out of sync with their original portrayals - Manhattan is ostensibly(!) still tinkering on Mars for decades despite the ending having him leaving the galaxy to create new life; Ozymandias is a cruel and mad puppet-master pulling the strings of his hapless, expendable lessers not for any utilitarian end but for his own deranged amusement; Rorschach's legacy is inexplicably KKK white supremacy simply for the sake of provocation; per the previews, despite settling down with Dan incognito as Sandra Hollis, Laurie is back as some hackneyed FBI hardass named 'Laurie Blake' - the whole thing is a mess that freely discards elements of the property it finds inconvenient and hamfistedly bolts on elements the writers are more interested in without concern for continuity or coherency

An example of this is when the Rorschach-inspired white supremacists release their Osama style terroristic threat vids to the cops - featuring the physical cringe-inducing warping of the iconic original narration with "the streets of Tulsa will turn into extended gutters overflowing with liberal tears" - and they open with "Cop carcass on the highway last night" as an in-universe homage to Rorschach's journal. Except that they're quoting the wrong journal. Rorschach had two - a rough draft that begins "Dog carcass in alley this morning", which was confiscated by police and either entirely illegible or written in an elaborate cipher, and the final, published draft which begins "Dead dog in alley this morning". Obviously they should be cribbing from the latter, and HBO's own supplemental material confirms the former was never decoded or released. Now sure, this is petty, but it's also illustrative - a sloppy inconsistency wherein the showrunners contradict the source material in a blind rush to appropriate / bastardize the original's iconography in service of a lame political jab crammed into a shoddily written, only tangentially-related story

This is a bit of a theme with this show. It's inexplicably raining squids 34 years and 1,500 miles from the squid incursion seemingly only because that's a recognizable element of the property. Small town cops in rural Oklahoma are flying around in an Archimedes-class owlship complete with a flamethrower in what is the most shameless example of inane "AT-ST!"-tier nostalgia baiting I've seen in years. The original minutemen are depicted in a popular docuseries entitled 'American Hero Story' as an overly self-aware gag, in a world where vigilantes were not only not seen as heroes but legislatively outlawed after public sentiment swung wildly against them. The series mislabels some sort of futuristic rapid Implicit Association Test hokum as a "Rorschach" test as another shallow reference. It's both tiring and artless

As to the subject matter, I think this is the series' greater flaw. If Damon wants to posit that race is our current zeitgeist's equivalent to the Cold War, fine, but his conceptions of race relations are bafflingly outdated. Give or take a Jussie Smollet, the notion that lynching and KKK-style anti-black terrorism are relevant at the moment is ridiculous; current white identitarians are concerned primarily with the demographic displacements caused by immigration and birthrates. If you look at who white supremacists target with both their violence and their rhetoric, it tends to be latino illegal immigrants, muslims, and jews thought to be facilitating an influx of the former two. The black share of the US population is projected to scarcely budge over the next 40 years and all of the focus is on the races actually driving demographic and cultural change

Further, the sort of counter-factual presentation of a largely pro-black police force under assault by white gangs is so dissonant as to struggle to generate any resonance. The first episode starts with a white identitarian executing a cop with the institutional backing of a movement founded on white racial grievance - the whole thing is like a bizarre parody of Micah Xavier Johnson without much commentary, substance, bite, or anything other than naked shock value. There's also strangely out-of-sync gun control messaging messily tossed in there wherein the cops need authorization to unholster their 9mm pistols as the violent Seventh Calvary casually unveil much heavier weaponry, from a silenced uzi that fires absolutely nothing like an uzi to a full on .50 cal machine gun that is overtaken when our intrepid 5'3" heroine runs up with her sidearm and melees several large violent men into submission

Beyond that, there's some very over the top race commentary that's trying far too hard to be edgy without actually making any salient insights. Rage Against the Machine howled 28 years ago that "some of those who work forces / are the same who burn crosses", yet this show beams at its own cleverness for having the apparently friendly and nice white police captain revealed to have a literal KKK shrine in his closet. Really eye-rolling stuff. The series starts with an extended sequence set during the Tulsa race riot, but it's just portrayed as whites riding in burning and looting, without any attempt to even pay lip service to the inciting causes (young white girl accuses a black man of assault, leading to an armed racial altercation that killed 10 whites and 2 blacks). Background details show Nixon on Mount Rushmore, but then in-story the cops speak of him with complete contempt and he's merely the idol of the violent racists

All in all, I find the program wholly unimpressive and aside from looking pretty it doesn't seem to have much brains or anything substantive to offer. The best bits of it are actually not even televised, its just the world-building ARG stuff on HBO's website which at least seems to have a bit of thought put into it and less contempt for the original property. As a big fan of the source material, I'm sorely disappointed, and the girl I'm watching with is bored as a newcomer to the property, so I don't really know who this is targeted at aside from Tomatometer bloggers who eat up the woke pandering; I certainly plan on dropping it from my watchlist. Knowing that Lindelof - who failed so epically to resolve LOST satisfactorily that they had to film and release a sort of DLC epilogue that ran through the myriad unaddressed mysteries and innumerable dropped plot points like a checklist with the laziest of handwaves; whose other credits include Cowboys & Aliens, Prometheus, and the cancelled The Hunt movie that got pulled from release after Universal decided a flick depicting murdering 'deplorables' for sport was in bad taste - is at the helm and that they don't even have any sort of plan for continuing the series beyond this season (but would like to!) makes me feel pretty comfortable that I won't be missing much