What the ‘Watchmen’ TV Series Needs to Do To Improve on the Film

Kim Taylor-Foster

There’s a Watchmen TV series from Damon Lindelof in the works, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The last time the seminal comic book from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons hit screens was in 2009. Zack Snyder’s film attempted to bring what many called the “unfilmable” graphic novel to the big screen. But its shortcomings meant audiences weren’t entirely happy with his achievements.

The Warner Bros. Television/HBO project hasn’t been confirmed as yet but we’re excited because TV is the perfect arena for Watchmen. Here are 6 things the TV series should do to make sure it’s a success.

1. Get the Casting Right

Silk Spectre_Watchmen
Was Malin Akerman the best choice for Silk Spectre?

Zack Snyder’s Watchmen starred Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Billy Crudup as Dr Manhattan, Matthew Goode as Ozymandias, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Comedian, Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl, and Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre and Silk Spectre II respectively.

The film came in for a fair bit of criticism for its performances – with Malin Akerman taking the brunt of the venom. Although you might well say some of these actors were miscast, some of the blame could be levelled at the way the characters were written.

Billy Crudup’s Dr Manhattan is condescending and spiteful, while Ozymandias is more two-dimensional than he appears in the comic book, with a pure evil streak.

Nite Owl, meanwhile, is more of a traditional hero figure in the film. In the comics, his character has more edges: we see more of his weaknesses. For example, Rorschach frightens him and he’s also intimidated by Dr Manhattan. Akerman’s Silk Spectre is another character who suffers from having her complexity stripped out – she not only lacks depth but she’s also reduced to annoying stereotype.

2. Increase the Scale

A large-scale TV production will also increase the scope

As an HBO production, Watchmen is in good hands. The company has previous here – most notably the juggernaut that is Game of Thrones, a TV series in which every episode is like a movie in its own right. And with that coming to an end, maybe a Watchmen TV series can take the crown in spectacular fashion.

The novel in its entirety is complex and it’s difficult to do it justice in a standalone film. TV is a freer medium too, bound by looser rules, and the episodic structure could ensure it includes every little detail that makes the comic iconic.

3. Change the Ending

While we get that it made sense for a movie with a 3-hour running time to condense the plot of the comic book and make it cinema-friendly, it caused problems for the film’s ending. The film blames Dr Manhattan for what unfolds, making the conclusion a real issue. The comic has a giant squid blowing up New York at the hands of Ozymandias, who has created the beast in a lab with the help of others.

One of these others is the author of the Tales of the Black Freighter comics. This is a narrative strand that is entirely missing from the film – in the comic book, Black Freighter is a comic within the comic. And while it’s seemingly unrelated to the main plot for the most part, it has a significant impact on the comic’s ending, and not just in the creation of the giant squid.

It also serves as a parallel for what Ozymandias has gone through, with the story’s big bad acknowledging at the end that he has regrets about what he’s done and “feels” every death he’s been responsible for. There’s none of this, which means Ozymandias is never the complex character we see in the comics. It also makes the Dr Manhattan blaming thing very difficult to buy, and the whole ending comes off looking a bit silly. Like a giant squid wouldn’t, of course…

4. Get the Pacing Right

A comic series like Watchmen is perhaps better served by a TV series adaptation rather than a one-off film

Some levelled criticism at the film for being too close to the comics, making a big screen spectacle that should have concentrated on blockbuster credentials a bit of a trudge at times, at three hours long. Others felt it left so much detail out of the comic book that it just didn’t do it justice.

It’s bound to be much easier to get the pacing right in an episodic TV series that can follow the pacing of the comics, in the process pleasing everyone. A one-off movie is just too limiting for a title like this.

5. All in the Details

Delving deeper into The Minutemen backstory is possible in a TV series

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created a dense work that had a depth of detail it’s just not possible to recreate on the big screen. Yeah, we know we’ve iterated this over and over but Snyder was inhibited not only by the 3-hour screen time but also the pressures that come with making a blockbuster.

Aside from the Black Freighter narrative strand, the TV series would be at liberty to include all of the other stuff the film overlooked, including the Minutemen backstory, the fate of original Nite Owl Hollis Mason and the reunion with Mothman. It could also feature a deeper dive into the story of the first Silk Spectre and give us more about Hooded Justice.

6. Work on that sex scene

Yeah, the less said about that sex scene between Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl and Akerman’s Silk Spectre, the better. Let’s not have a repeat of that.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.