RTF Review: “WATCHMEN, S1 E1- ‘It’s Summer And We’re Running Out of Ice'”
HBO has been home to some of the most provocative, boundary-pushing television of the last 30 years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the network’s take on Alan Moore’s Watchmen is off to a shockingly arresting start.
While not an adaptation of the actual book, series creator Damon Lindelof has crafted a premiere here that takes on its central question in explosive ways. And that question is: “Who watches the watchmen?“
Who monitors those who monitor us? Can we trust the people in charge, when we don’t really know who (or what) is in charge of them?
It’s a vantage point that can be seen as a form of paranoia to some, or a way of life to others. As such, Lindelof- who also wrote the premiere- and director Nicole Kassell have started their story here with an episode that plays like a Rorschach test.
They lay out the plot, characters, and action in a way that’ll force your allegiance to shift a few times in the span of the episode. As an introduction to the world this series inhabits, everything about the first episode seems to want to keep you off-balance as you try to make sense of what’s unfolding. Several scenes begin with a sense of “Oh, so this person is a villain and that person is a hero” and conclude with those roles flipped, or- at the very least- skewed.
It’s as if the show’s creative forces want you to see what you want to see first, before revealing where they are going. It’s a wickedly smart approach when you’re adapting a property that wants you to question everything.
Something that’s crystal clear from the beginning, though, is that the series aims to be a hard-hitting look at the actual world we live in. It opens with a glimpse of one of the darker days in American history, with the literal burning down of a successful African-American community in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 (if you’re interested in the tragic true story CLICK HERE) and then flashes us forward into a fictional future.
Yet, the imaginary “present day” of HBO’s Watchmen isn’t altogether unrecognizable. It just makes the black and white nature of our society far harder to identify, while planting the seeds for a long-form exploration of who the real villains and heroes are in a morally compromised world- a world built on the shoulders of atrocities that are often too hard to fathom.
And, along the way, it wants you to ask yourself if there are things you’ve accepted as “normal” that are anything but. It depicts a world where many bizarre happenings, like a sudden torrential downpour of squid from the heavens, is treated like a minor annoyance and not an alarming call to action. It makes you wonder: Is there any limit to what we’re willing to normalize?
What’s exciting about this anarchic point of view is that it looks like the fictional America of Watchmen is finally going to have to confront its brutal nature. Because, as the episode’s title implies (“It’s Summer And We’re Running Out of Ice.”), the heat is rising and the people are about to lose their cool.
What happens next? I can’t wait to find out.
Editor-In-Chief and Co-Founder of Revenge of The Fans. Previously, he's written for Latino-Review, IGN, Moviehole, and The Splash Report. He's also the host of the top-rated show The Fanboy Podcast and the co-host of The Revengers Podcast. E-Mail: MFR@RevengeOfTheFans.com | Twitter: @I_AM_MFR