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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 24, 2020



‘WATCHMEN’, the HBO superhero TV series, won a total of 11 Emmy awards in the Limited Series category, including best series, best lead actress for Regina King (her fourth Emmy), best supporting actor for Yahya Abdul Mateen, best cinematography, best costume, best music, etc. We’re not surprised because its theme of racial tensions is very socially relevant in the USA today. 

There was a “Watchmen” movie in 2009 but it bored us. The TV series is definitely far away from that. The first episode opens with the Tulsa race massacre in 1921 where black people were ruthlessly killed by white supremacists. 

Negroes in Tulsa, Oklahoma became so successful in business then that they have their own counterpart of New York’s Wall Street, so envious white people had to put them down.  

In the melee, a black boy becomes orphaned when both his parents get killed and he chances upon a baby girl who he takes care of. The story then jumps to 2019 or 98 years later. The president of the USA is now Robert Redford (yes, the actor) and a racist group called the Seventh Kavalry is killing blacks and white police officers who help them. 

The police chief, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), orders his men to hunt down the shooter of one of his cops. A former female cop, Angela Abar, who has a secret persona as a vigilante super hero known as Sister Night, hunts down a suspect in a ranch where they kill all the Kavalry members who were there. 

Later, Angela gets a call asking her to go to a certain location and she sees her police chief dead, hanging from a tree. An old black man (Louis Gosett Jr.) in a wheelchair claims he’s the one who killed the police chief, but Angela won’t believe him as he’s more than 100 years old. 

This old man would later on turn out to be the little boy who survived the Tulsa Massacre and he is the grandfather of Angela. This is just one of the so many twists and astonishing surprises in the show’s very convoluted storytelling that jumps back and forth through time and space.

Angela turns out to be lead character and most of the show revolves around her. She is married to a black guy named Cal and how they meet in Vietnam where Angela grew up is the most endearing among the so many back stories of various characters told in the course of the serie’s nine episodes. How we wish we could share them with you but that would surely be a spoiler, so you just have to find out for yourself as it’s definitely worth it.

One of the most enigmatic characters is Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), formerly a vigilante known Ozymandias, who created an octopus-like alien that attacked New York in 1985, killing millions of people. 

You see him working with various clones in what you think is an English manor but it turns out he is in a moon of Jupiter called Europa. How he got there and how he gets back to Earth is a truly engrossing subplot. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? 

This show has many other memorable characters and most of the time, it’s not clear if they’re good or bad and things seem to be very messy and bewildering that there are times you’d ask: “WTF is going on?” But you just have to hold on and be patient in watching the entire thing as it eventually pays off quite satisfyingly. 

There’s Jon Osterman, also known as Dr. Manhattan (we can’t mention the name of the actor who plays as it will be a big spoiler), as the super powerful blue god believed to have teleported himself to Mars but is actually back on earth disguising himself as a human.

Then there’s Laurie Blake (wonderfully played by one of the best actresses working in Hollywood TV today, Jean Smart), formerly known as Silk Spectre and a love interest of Adrian, but now an FBI agent who becomes police chief of Tulsa. 

The complicated show’s thematic center ultimately exposes the world of militant racists who’d resort to anything including extreme violence and genocide to perpetuate oppression and racial inequality. 

Technical aspects are all superlative, from the authentic period and amazing futuristic production design to its gorgeous cinematography combining color and black and white and capturing the beautifully composed choreography and intricate blocking of so many key sequences. 

The music is also faultless, using so many vintage songs and music from Doris Day’s “Tunnel of Love” and The Platters’ “My Prayer” to songs from Frank Sinatra to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, Strauss’ “Blue Danube” and songs from the Broadway musical “Oklahoma”.

And you cannot fault the top-tier ensemble performances of the whole cast. Everyone is just splendid, but some of them really just stand out. Jeremy Irons (who’s nominated as best actor) obviously had a good time hamming it up in his role as the mysterious and eccentric Veidt. 

Tim Blake Nelson has few lines that he delivers with a drawl as the reticent Wade aka Looking Glass, obsessed with conspiracy theories. His own back story when a sexy girl runs away with all his clothes in a carnival and how it affected him forever is both touching and hilarious.

Chinese American actress Hong Chau (best known for “Downsizing”) is so persuasive as the scheming Lady Trieu who turns out to be the daughter of another major character and has her own evil designs. 

Oscar-winner Lou Gossett Jr. is also memorable as Will Reeves, Angela’s 100 year old grandpa who turns out to be the first masked hero known as Hooded Justice.

But of course, Regina King has the meatiest role as the ass-kicking Angela, requiring her to do demanding action choreography as well as steamy love scenes and poignant dramatic scenes with her husband Cal. 

She has terrific rapport with Yahya Abdul Mateen as her hubby who springs a surprise of his own. Mateen is also excellent and it’s not surprising he won as Emmy best supporting actor. 

This is one of the most well written series we’ve seen lately and credit goes to chief writer and executive producer Damon Lindelof, who also created such highly acclaimed shows as “Lost” and “The Leftovers”. 

The show maybe fictional but the inclusion of the historical Tulsa Massacre shows how their past filled with racial prejudice and centuries of American racism continue to haunt their present. It is undeniably a mirror version of reality. 

A word of warning, though. This maybe a show about superheroes but it’s not really for kids as it contains scenes that are surely for adults only. There’s full frontal nudity and, in one scene, a male superhero is seen sodoziming another male superhero. But the latter is all in keeping about the show’s theme of discrimination.