H BO's new Watchmen series will make a lot of people very angry. The whole thing is full of red flags: it's an adaptation of a beloved comic book, the creator of the comic is known to be against any adaptation of his work and the series will have some unforgivable liberties with the text. This alone should ensure that it is greeted on television with more angry, pathetic fanboy annoyances than anything else.
But that's not all. The biggest red flag is different: The HBO Watchmen series is written by Damon Lindelof.
Lindelof is the man responsible for Lost, and thus the man who lost the finale, ruining the TV forever. He wrote Prometheus, so he ruined aliens. He also wrote Star Trek: Into Darkness, so there is an argument that he is also indirectly responsible for ruining the entire 1
However, to present an opposite view, I will watch Watchmen. And I'll watch Guardians only because of Lindelof. I do not think there is a single person on the face of the planet who would do a better job with it.
The people have struggled to adapt guards before. In the 90s Terry Gilliam could not produce a Watchmen movie. Darren Aronofsky stagnated as well as Paul Greengrass. And when Zack Snyder's Watchmen movie hit the screens in 2009, it was a mess. The key was that it was a mess because it was afraid to deviate from the source material. By keeping as close as possible to the comic, the film ended up overly and strangely. a mish-mash of sounds that worked on the page but fell apart on the screen.
But Lindelof makes no direct adaptation. He uses Watchmen as a launchpad for his own thing. This will be a "remix" of the comic, just as Noah Hawley remixed the Coen brothers for the Fargo series. It will be in the same world, but with new characters and storylines. And while this will surely get all sorts of wounded howls from wounded Watchmen fans, I think this will be Watch Watchmen's truest repeat on screen.
Lindelof rises as his adaptations go beyond the canon. Take, for example, the leftovers. In the beginning, it was a relatively faithful adaptation of Tom Perrotte's post-entrainment novel from 2011. It was alright, but so oppressively bleak that you could tell you could never really get upset. But after Lindelof freed himself from the shackles of the lyrics in Series Two and Three, The Leftovers became his masterpiece. Perritta's figures were still there, and the core emotion of his book remained, but in Lindelof's hands it flourished into something much richer and more sinister.
It was still a meditation on sadness, but one that opened enough to recognize the moments of absurdity that comes with loss. On paper, some of the fantasies that Lindelof took – the penis scanner, for example, or the lion orgy – sound too far-fetched for work. But for the moment they were even closer to the book than direct adaptation. Lindelof scribbled on the edge, but in a way that honored the source. I'm sure he'll do that with Watchmen too.
Of course there are a few things in the way. Perrotta worked as a writer on The Leftovers, so he was always there to get Lindelof back on the ground when he threatened to cross the finish, but that will not happen to Watchmen. Moore's presence will be felt, but only as an invisible, disapproving force. He does not want to go in the direction of the series, which means that Lindelof has to rely on his own instincts to anchor the spirit of the book.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Lindelof struggles with the brazen attitude of Watchmen fans. He got out of it a bit earlier – already in May, before the series went green, he wrote a long essay about his story with Watchmen, partly to prove his credentials and partly to throw himself down in front of the fans – but he just needs to anger the poorest the Watchmen superfans to turn his life into a misery. Nobody knows why anyone would risk going through it.
But I believe in Lindelof, and I believe his Watchmen series will be funnier, sadder, stranger, and scary than the book. And if not? I'll only see the Lost Final ten times in a row, because you're wrong too.