In the first season of HBO’s Watchmen, creator Damon Lindelof honored the legacy of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original comic by turning characters on their heads and using superhero masks as mirrors for society in peril. Now that the series’ incredible first season has come to a close, fans are already eagerly anticipating season 2.
Unfortunately, we still don’t even know for sure if Watchmen is even getting a second season. But reporters have asked Lindelof whether he’ll return to the Watchmen universe in nearly every interview he’s done about the series. Based on his answers, we can at least glean a little info about whether a season 2 is coming, and what it might look like.
[Ed. note: this post contains spoilers for the entire first season of HBO’s Watchmen, including the finale.]
Before HBO aired a single episode of Watchmen, Lindelof was already talking about follow-up seasons and how they fit into his plan. His message was that they didn’t fit into his plan at all. During a panel at New York Comic Con in early October, Lindelof said he wanted this season to tell its own self-contained story.
He later explained, in an interview with Paste Magazine after the first episode aired, that he wanted this season of Watchmen to tell a complete story. Not half a story with cliffhangers (we’ll come back to this) like a regular TV show, but a full narrative encapsulated in just one season.
“I felt that if these nine episodes end without feeling like we completed a story,” Lindelof said, “in the same way that we feel that at the end of a season of Fargo or True Detective, you know, then it’s not really Watchmen. It’s just another continuing show where you have to come up with a cool cliffhanger for the finale.”
Lindelof has said something similar in other interviews about the show. When Deadline asked how many seasons he wanted for his version of the show, Lindelof said, “I’m not being flippant when I say that the answer is one.” He continued, “we designed these nine episodes to be as self-contained as the original 12 issues. We wanted to feel like there was a sense of completeness, to resolve the essential mystery at hand.”
And for the most part, it seems the finale accomplished that goal. As of episode 8, we learned the real nature of this story we’re watching: It’s basically the second origin story of Dr. Manhattan, the life he shared with Angela Abar, and how he finally died. Other characters may keep going, but the book is closed on the superhuman. Of course, in what some might call a cliffhanger, the end of episode 9 finds Angela taking her first step onto the family pool, wondering whether she gained Jon’s powers. Even if this season does stand on its own as a complete story, Angela’s post-Tulsa story could be a compelling set-up for a future season.
“If there is a season two, then I don’t care where we’re shooting — I would love nothing more than to be a part of it,” King told Digital Spy in October. “I would be a part of anything that Damon [Lindelof] does — because I know that he’s going to dive in, honestly, with every fiber of his being […] I don’t know that Damon even has started yet — or where he would enter. We’re all seeing where this goes, and how it’s received. And we’ll go from there.”
Lindelof has left his return open as a possibility. In more than a few interviews, he’s mentioned that it’s possible he could return to the series, but he made it clear that he’d need the right idea to make it work.
“More importantly, I haven’t had any ideas of what subsequent series of Watchmen would be,” Lindelof told Metro UK. “Until those ideas come, I’m content with just letting this one sit out there for a while.”
As it turns out, what Lindelof means by “idea” is actually pretty specific. On a recent episode of The Ringer’s podcast, The Watch, Lindelof explained a little bit about how this season of Watchmen actually came to be. For him, it started after reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic. In that story, Coates mentions the race riots that happened on Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The mention of this event, which was unfamiliar to Lindelof when he read Coates’ article, prompted him to dive into researching the topic.
During his research, Lindelof starting thinking about how best to introduce people to horrific events that have largely become a historical footnote. Around this same time, HBO approached Lindelof about Watchmen, telling him he could do whatever he wanted with the property. And so he made the Tulsa race riots the center point of Watchmen’s entire universe. Out of this incredible specificity, and a life-long love of the Watchmen comics, Lindelof’s HBO series was born. But if that’s the kind of idea Lindelof is looking for to hang another season on, we may not see it anytime soon.
Lindelof does see one other potential future for Watchmen, however. It’s a future without him in it. Lindelof told Paper Magazine that he felt Watchmen wasn’t really his story anyway. In some ways, it’s the story that Alan Moore wrote, Dave Gibbons drew, and John Higgins colored in the original 12 issues. In other ways, Watchmen is just a new version of the Charlton Comics characters it was originally based on. So Lindelof could see a possibility of simply handing the property over to someone else.
“The idea that someone else could come along and do another season of Watchmen, that’s really exciting to me, too,” Lindelof said in the interview. “I would watch the fuck out of that.”
For now, the future of Watchmen remains a mystery. Beyond the decisions of people like Damon Lindelof, the business side of Watchmen is in question as well. The series appears to be a modest hit for HBO, but the company remains in a state of transition after the AT&T-Time Warner merger. (Time Warner is the parent company of HBO.) While HBO has long been in the business of generating conversations more than ratings, that stance could change with the introduction of HBO Max, the WarnerMedia streaming service. Watchmen began development before the merger. Its future in a post-merger and pro-streaming world could be a little less certain.