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Life on Mars: Breaking Down the SDCC ‘Watchmen’ Trailer

The latest trailer for HBO’s Watchmen has premiered at SDCC, but it offers as many new questions as those it appears to answer.

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It’s that time of year again gang, and with the arrival of San Diego Comic Con comes, of course, a bevy of announcements and trailers. One such trailer was the second for HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series. Helmed by Damon Lindelof, of Lost and The Leftovers, the series is already set to begin with a talented hand on the prow, and with the further pedigree of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal graphic novel to draw from, Watchmen is shaping up to be the must-watch event of the fall.

While the fantastic teaser released earlier this summer already got fans motors revving, the latest trailer reveals even more about the world of Watchmen, and how Lindelof intends to adapt one of the most beloved and iconic comic book stories of all time into a TV series for HBO. As Lindelof has stated explicitly in interviews, he has no interest in retreading the story of the original comic series, calling the original run “sacred”.

Doubling down on this notion, the latest trailer seems to further confirm what many suspected from the first teaser: that this will instead be a sequel series, taking place after the events of the original comic. There were many elements in the initial teaser, from the establishment of the Rorschach group (seemingly in lieu of the original character, who dies in the final issue of the comic) to an older, more esteemed version of Ozymandias, to be played by Jeremy Irons.

Watchmen HBO

A calculated attack by the Rorschach vigilante group seems to be the impetus for the masked police officers on patrol in HBO’s Watchmen adaptation.

While some sources are suggesting that the new series will take place 10 years after the original story, it could extend even as far as modern times. Either way, the new Watchmen trailer answers many questions fans had after the original teaser, including why the police are masked and whether other characters from the comic series would be present on top of the confirmed Ozymandias. For example, we see Night Owl’s Archimedes ship flying through the sky, and taking down a plane later in the trailer, as well as a couple of quick looks at Dr. Manhattan.

While the first bit of Dr. Manhattan shows him living in isolation on Mars, where he spends much of the original comic series, the second snippet of footage appears to show him returning to Earth, something that has huge implications for the story. Dr. Manhattan’s ability to control the molecular structure of himself and others gave him god-like powers in the original run, including the ability to see all of time and space like an open book. His inclusion in the new Watchmen will complicate things extensively, not just for those who oppose him, but for the writers of this story. There’s a reason, after all, that such a powerful character spends much of Moore and Gibbons’ series separated from the conflict on Earth.

On top of these reveals, the SDCC trailer offers elaboration on some of the newcomers to this story, including Regina King’s vigilante character, who appears to be the central protagonist of the series (and who worked with Lindelof on The Leftovers), and a middle-aged FBI agent who seems to be as suspicious of the police as she is of the vigilantes who threaten them. As she states in the trailer: there’s very little difference between a masked vigilante and a masked cop. One of the things that makes the police force work, in so much as it does, is the notion of accountability. If no one knows who the police are anymore, they’ve essentially got carte blanche to operate as they see fit, with little to no repercussions for their actions.

Watchmen Regina King

Regina King’s vigilante character seems to be at the center of the events of this new series.

This will no doubt be one of the key conflicts of the new series, and it feels right at home with Lindelof’s existing body of work. After all, both Lost and The Leftovers dealt extensively with doomsday cults and secret organizations, as well as those who opposed them and their influence. Of course, this conflict ties in even deeper to the story of the original Watchmen run. Fans will remember that Watchmen ended with the revelation that Ozymandias had manufactured the entire conflict, and killed millions, in hopes of averting nuclear catastrophe and saving the world from itself. The remaining characters agree to begrudgingly keep the secret at the end, meaning they are probably still keeping that secret in the current timeline.

This is likely the “vast and insidious conspiracy” that a character describes in the trailer, and if the Watchmen are protecting that secret, could some of their members find themselves added to Ozymandias’ rogue’s gallery as villains of the series? At best they will find themselves morally challenged by this new world, but then the grey nature of right and wrong was one of the key themes of the original work. The Comedian, for example, was certainly as much a villain as he was a hero. Still, with the stakes as high as they seemingly are, the many moral quandaries that the heroes and villains of the series will undoubtedly face will make navigating them all the more perilous.

Finally, we can’t analyze the new material without mentioning that the trailer begins with Hooded Justice foiling an attempted robbery. A deep cut character, Hooded Justice was one of the original Minutemen who operated in the 1950s, along with the original Night Owl, original Silk Spectre and The Comedian. His inclusion suggests that the scope of Watchmen could extend back in time as well as forward, opening up entire new realms of storytelling, ones that might even allow for the return of dead characters like Rorschach and The Comedian in some fashion.

Could this be a quick look at Night Owl’s new costume, or is this a new character entirely?

Either way, with 2-3 months remaining before the series will likely premiere, we’ve got plenty more time to speculate, and possibly enough time for one more trailer or so. What questions do you have about the new series? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

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