Watchmen Episode 5, “Little Fear of Lightning” was full of Idiot Ball moments that finally lost me. I’d been expecting an episode like this to come along. Somehow, many TV shows often ends up doing this to make things easier for the writers and audience to understand the Evil Plot of the Bad Guys.
In case you were wondering, “Idiot Ball” is the term that TV writers use to describe moments where characters act like complete idiots in order for Plot to happen. TV writers are not dumb. They know when they’re writing something dumb. The pressures of deadlines often drive a writer’s room to do this in order to have a script so the show can be shot on time.
Anatomy of An Idiot Ball Episode
To wit: Why didn’t the hyper-paranoid Looking Glass, aka Wade Tillman, anticipate he was being set up? Why would Senator Keane actually be in the same hideout as the racist Seventh Kavalry members that directly implicates his villainy? Why does he need to personally recruit a lowly cop like Tillman when he can easily have any of the Seventh Kavalry peons do it? (Well, so that the audience can see he’s the bad guy once and for all, but it’s lazy writing.)
And the biggest idiot ball of all: WHY THE HELL WOULD ADRIAN VEIDT RECORD A VIDEO CONFESSION TELLING THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES THAT HE WAS BEHIND THE SQUID HOAX THAT MURDERED THREE MILLION PEOPLE?!
Veidt did not need to do that. He could have easily just told President Redford that he got him elected and they should work closely together without confessing to the squid at all. To confess to a war crime is utterly pointless and stupid. And Veidt is supposed to be the smartest man alive.
This is all dumb comic book villain monologuing that’s unnecessary.
The Comic’s Veidt Would Not Do This
This is not the Veidt of the comics, but I never thought he was. This is Lindelof and Irons’ Veidt. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Adrian Veidt was an extremely cautious man who covered all his tracks. He murdered nearly everyone who could have testified or exposed him or the hoax. He only confessed to Dan Dreiberg, Laurie Juspeczyk, Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan because they were his friends and peers. They found him and he felt they had a right to know after coming this far. He also successfully gambled that they would keep the secret to maintain world peace. He confessed because he also desperately wanted absolution from the people he felt would understand most of all, including Dr. Manhattan. He didn’t get it and was left to live with his guilt and uncertainty.
The Veidt of the comic is deeply ambivalent, even as he ruthlessly carries out his plan. As the smartest man in the world, he knows that the squid plot needs to be kept secret and as few people knowing as possible. He would never record a confession after murdering all the people mostly likely to expose him. He would never leave a video confession to be seen by the President and his entire administration, and several Senate committees. If there’s one thing governments suck at, it’s keeping big secrets. They always leak.
The Funny, Hammy Silliness of The TV Show’s Veidt
The show’s Veidt is all ego and supervillain silliness. Jeremy Irons plays the character like a Bond Villian written by Noel Coward. He’s frequently hilarious in his stir-craziness at being a prisoner and callous disregard for the lives of the clone servants who are also his jailers.
But this is not the Veidt that Moore and Gibbons made. Gibbons often drew Veidt with an expression of pained detachment because he’s always thinking and feeling guilty. I consider the TV version Damon Lindelof and Jeremy Irons’ Veidt. He’s fun to watch, but a different interpretation of the character. He’s gleefully smug and arrogant, unlike the comic’s version who maintains a façade of self-effacing humility to mask his ruthlessness. Irons plays Veidt as a full-on ego-driven monster who wears his insanity as a badge of honour. His scenes reference The Ruling Class, a classic satire of the decadent insanity of the English upper class. If you haven’t seen that movie, you should check it out. It’s in the Criterion Collection.
You could say the show’s Veidt is an older Veidt who’s been imprisoned and has zero cares left, finally embracing his insanity and egomania. But the younger Veidt in the video confession is gleeful and arrogant in ways the comic version never was.
But that’s the difference between Alan Moore’s writing and Damon Lindelof’s. One is the original. The other is unauthorized fanfic.
The Road to HBO’s “Watchmen”
Bleeding Cool didn’t exactly pull any punches when praising just how powerful the Nicole Kassell (Castle Rock)-directed series premiere “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice” was (check out our review here). The Kassell-helmed, Lindelof/Nick Cuse-written “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” keept the momentum going by deepening the conspiracies at play (review here).
Jean Smart‘s Agent Laurie Blake took center stage in “She Was Killed by Space Junk”, elevating the tension while serving as “devil’s advocate” for the viewer (review here). “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own” (review here), introduced us to trillionaire Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), saw Angela (Regina King) look to Wade aka Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) for help when Laurie’s investigation started hitting a little too close to home, and revealed how Adrian (Jeremy Irons) “trains” new servants – as he attempts to escape wherever he is …
Which brought us to last episode “Little Fear of Lightning” (our review here), where we learned Looking Glass’ “origin story” – and possibly his final days.
From Damon Lindelof and set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own. The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, and James Wolk.
In the following featurette, Lindelof explains how the original comic book series influenced him to take the core themes of the series and find a way to apply them to a modern society. King offers more details on both the terrorist group at play during the season as well as the personal conflicts that arise when one dons a mask in the name of the law:
In the following clip, King takes us behind the scenes on production with a set visit to show us anything and everything Watchmen – or at least what Lindelof will allow:
HBO’s Watchmen stars Regina King as Angela Abar, Don Johnson as Chief Judd Crawford, Tim Blake Nelson as Det. Wade Tillman aka Looking Glass, Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves, Adelaide Clemens as Pirate Jenny, Andrew Howard as Red Scare, Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias, Frances Fisher as Jane Crawford, Jacob Ming-Trent as Panda, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Cal Abar, Adelynn Spoon as Emma Abar, and Jean Smart as Agent Laurie Blake – as well as Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips, Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks, Dylan Schombing, James Wolk as Senator Keene, Hong Chau as Lady Trieu, Dustin Ingram as Agent Dale Petey, and Lily Rose Smith.
Watchmen is produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television; executive producer-writer Lindelof; executive producer/director Kassell; executive producer Tom Spezialy; executive producer-director Stephen Williams; and executive producer Joseph Iberti.
Based on the iconic graphic novel co-created and illustrated by Gibbons and published by DC.
Nine Inch Nails duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are on board to compose music for the series.
In May 2018, Lindelof shared a series of Instagram posts to update fans on progress on the project (with a pilot directed by Kassell) and to emphasize that his vision was not a direct adaptation of the original graphic novel, but rather a “remix” that utilizes important elements from the original story while telling its own narrative. Here are some excerpts from those posts:
“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted.
They will however be remixed, Because the bass lines in those familiar tracks are just too good and we’d be fools not to sample them. Those original twelve issues are our Old Testament. When the New Testament came along it did not erase what came before it. Creation. The Garden of Eden. Abraham and Isaac. The Flood. It all happened. And so it will be with ‘Watchmen.’ The Comedian died. Dan and Laurie fell in love. Ozymandias saved the world and Dr. Manhattan left it just after blowing Rorschach to pieces in the bitter cold of Antarctica.”
“This story will be set in the world its creators painstakingly built…but in the tradition of the work that inspired it, this new story must be original. It has to vibrate with the seismic unpredictability of its own tectonic plates. It must ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens. Most importantly, it must be contemporary. The Old Testament was specific to the Eighties of Reagan and Thatcher and Gorbachev. Ours needs to resonate with the frequency of Trump and May and Putin and the horse that he rides around on, shirtless. And speaking of Horsemen, The End of the World is off the table…which means the heroes and villains–as if the two are distinguishable–are playing for different stakes entirely.”
“Some of the characters will be unknown. New faces. New masks to cover them. We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising yet familiar set of eyes…and it is here we will be taking our greatest risks…”