It’s too bad “The X-Files” used the catchphrase “trust no one” first.
It'd be perfect for the new HBO edition of “Watchmen.”
Existing in a different world than that graphic novel and film, this edition (created by “Lost’s” Damon Lindelof) focuses on 2019 Tulsa, Oklahoma, where white supremacy is a threat and cops are forced to wear yellow masks so they’re not targets.
The first episode suggests some of the events that led up to the new story, but this is one of those series that’s probably best encountered without any research. About the only thing you can say that links the previous editions and this one is a typeface.
The Seventh Kavalry – who wear white masks with inkblots that tip a hat to Watchmen’s Rorschach—lurk everywhere and aren’t afraid to trap law enforcement officials. This proves problematic, especially for the Tulsa police chief (slyly played by Don Johnson) and a former officer, Angela Abar (Regina King), who moonlights as Sister Night, a crimefighter who wears a flowing jacket and a black mask and isn’t afraid to confront anyone.
She doesn’t enter the picture until we get a lay of the land and a bit of backstory that sets the scene of the crime – a re-staging of the Greenwood Massacre.
Directed by Nicole Kassell, this “Watchmen” throws so much information at the viewer it’s hard to process immediate emotions. Luckily, HBO isn’t presenting this in streaming form. Like “Game of Thrones,” it offers a week’s time between episodes – enough to absorb what happened and sort out what’s about to come.
But don’t jump to conclusions about anyone.
Lindelof has created such a bizarre world (with squid storms and a naked Jeremy Irons) it’s never a good idea to get too comfortable with anything that happens.
King – who’s always good – ups her game as a budding baker (note the name of her business) who keeps a secret hideaway in her back room. She gets plenty of opportunity to play a fully formed superhero, too, and isn’t afraid to confront the enemy head on.
Tim Blake Nelson wears a silver mask and uses a host of tactics to interrogate attackers.
This “Watchmen” is so stuffed with concepts it’s like a comic book version of “Man in the High Castle.”
Robert Redford is president (and has been for decades), King stashes a gun in her bedroom headboard and Louis Gossett Jr. appears as a mysterious man in a wheelchair.
Fans of the 1980s comic book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons will delight in the way it has been adapted.
There are Easter eggs everywhere and a visual sense that will awe anyone captivated by the superhero world.
As the series wears on (it’s just nine episodes), Jean Smart gets to sass things up as another familiar character and King gets to reinforce why she’s at the top of everyone’s must-cast list.
Best of all, this “Watchmen” doesn’t demand a degree from Marvel University or an insane knowledge of superpowers.
It gut checks you with its premise, then explains how others address issues that are shocking us today.
“Watchmen” doesn’t need millions of dollars of special effects. It soars on great writing and performances.
"Watchmen"begins Oct. 20 on HBO.