Tim Blake Nelson (middle) as Wade / Looking Glass and Regina King (right) as Det. Angela Abar / Sister Night in Watchmen.

What you need to know before you watch Watchmen

People are calling Watchmen the next Game of Thrones, but what is it? Here’s the essential background before you start streaming it on NEON.

Okay, so tell me what Watchmen is.

Watchmen is a new HBO show based on a comic book series (or graphic novel if you’re fancy). It takes place in an alternative, contemporary 2019-era America where Robert Redford has been serving as President of the United States for nearly two decades. Masked vigilantes have been outlawed because they’re violent, while white supremacists calling themselves ‘The Seventh Cavalry’ have been attacking the police. To combat this, the police start wearing masks. Things, as you might expect, go awry.

The question is, as the saying goes, who watches the Watchmen?

So who’s making it?

The creator of the show is Damon Lindelof, who you’ll remember from Lost and The Leftovers. The latter of these is probably the biggest signpost to what he’ll be doing with Watchmen. If you haven’t watched The Leftovers, I couldn’t recommend it any higher. It’s one of the biggest picture shows of the past decade – every performance, every episode, every frame builds up a thesis of complicated intersections between mortality, existence, faith and hope in a truly profound, and immediate way. “Devastating” is a word I’d happily associate with this show, is what I’m saying.

Watchmen has similarly big themes – tackling race and violence, and the role the police play in both of those things. Lindelof has proven himself more than capable of tackling big themes and making must-see, groundbreaking television along the way.

The show will have a similar structure and take to The Leftovers in that it’ll have a large ensemble of characters, with each episode following a certain character and their view on what’s going on. It’s an effective way to structure a show – getting more complex and fascinating the longer it goes on, which is exactly why you should probably get in from the ground floor so you’re not stuck catching up on everybody’s conversations.

Regina King as Det. Angela Abar.

Okay I’m intrigued, so who’s in it?

The protagonist is Detective Angela Abar, played by Regina King…

Holy shit. I love Regina King!

Yes, you do! Well done. Regina King is one of our finest actresses, and anything she’s in is a must-watch (psst, she’s also in The Leftovers for a significant chunk, and kills it).

Detective Angela Abar is a cop-turned vigilante, operating under the name ‘Sister Night’ (she’s the one in all the imagery). She’s conflicted, she’s funny and she gives no shits.

Other than her, the main people we’re looking at are Tim Blake Nelson as Abar’s partner and vigilante-in-arms Wade, Don Johnson as Chief Judd Crawford (yes, the guy from Miami Vice, and yes that character is named after someone in Oklahoma!), Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias and Jean Smart as Silk Spectre. 

Probably the most famous and exciting name other than King though is Robert Redford playing himself as the President. If you don’t know who that is, ask your Mum. She might ask for your NEON log-in, though, so beware.

What else do I need to know before going into it?

It’s going to be an intense time. I say this in the best way: HBO has primed this as their next Game of Thrones, and with this level of pedigree in front of and behind the camera, there’s no reason to doubt them. Lindelof has never pulled punches with anything, and if his interviews about the show are anything to go by, then this is going to be an absolute round-the-watercooler kind of a show, week-by-week.

A cop walks the street in Watchmen.

Wait, go back, you said comic books.

I did, but don’t freak out. While Watchmen is inspired by the graphic novel of the same thing written by Alan Moore, David Gibbons and John Higgins back in the 80s, the TV show is totally it’s own thing. The creators have been very clear that while it might use some of the same characters and be set in the same world, it’s very much its own thing in almost every way. 

Think of it like the Law and Order universe. While they live in the same world, you don’t need to have seen Law and Order to understand Special Victims Unit. They’re very much their own unique, separate thing.

What about the movie?

Oh, honey. Think about that even less. That doesn’t exist, especially where this show is concerned.

Okay, phew. But what if I’m actually super into the comic books?

Then you’re already amped up for this! Good on you. Hell, you’re probably already refreshing NEON seeing if it’s up yet.

On that note, how do I watch it?

The first episode is out now on NEON and new episodes will be dropping weekly every Monday. There are nine episodes in total running through to the middle of December.

Okay, I’m in.

So I guess the answer to, “who watches the Watchmen?” is “you watch the Watchmen!”

Don’t say that.

I’ll stop, sorry.

Watchmen drops weekly on Mondays only on NEON. Watch now.

This content was created in paid partnership with NEON. Learn more about our partnerships here


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