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For most of its nearly 35-year life as one of the most celebrated works of superhero storytelling ever, Watchmen stood alone as a singular work. Not so long ago, if you wanted to enter the dark comic book world Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created in 1986, you could only do it by reading the 12 issues they conceived together. That's changed in the last 10 years thanks to the DC Comics prequels collectively titled Before Watchmen and, of course, Zack Snyder's feature film adaptation of Moore and Gibbons' comics. In just a few weeks, the world of Watchmen will expand yet again thanks to the HBO series of the same name, created by Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers) to tell a new story set in the same world Moore and Gibbons brought to life, years after the conclusion of the original comic.
The very presence of a Watchmen TV show — set in an alternate version of 2019 America in which police officers wear masks to protect their identities, Robert Redford is president, and smartphones don't really exist — conjures up the possibility of years of new stories set in that universe. After all, the show is airing on HBO, a network that's developing more than one Game of Thrones prequel series in the immediate aftermath of an eight-season run in that fantasy landscape. Why not keep Watchmen going for five years or more, then perhaps crank out even more spinoffs set in that world if the ratings are there to support them?
Well, the ultimate future of the series is unclear, but in a new interview with Deadline ahead of Watchmen's New York Comic Con premiere, Lindelof insists that the show was always designed, much like the original comic, to be a self-contained, single-season story.
"I’m not being flippant when I say that the answer is one," Lindelof said when asked how many seasons he'd run the show if an HBO renewal was "a given."
"Does that mean that there isn’t going to be anymore Watchmen? Not necessarily," Lindelof continued. "Does that mean that I will be working on subsequent seasons of Watchmen? 'I don’t know' is the answer to that question. 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. Obviously, there is a potential promise for the further exploration of the world but like the seasons of Leftovers that I did as opposed to Lost, which was designed to have cliffhanger finales and a promise of future storytelling."
Lindelof's Watchmen stars Regina King at the top of an all-star cast that also includes Jean Smart, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., and Jeremy Irons (who Lindelof still will not confirm as Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias), and will feature a massive conspiracy unfolding as King's character, a detective named Angela Abar, investigates new movement by the Seventh Kavalry, a terrorist organization known for their emulation of the vigilante known as Rorschach. Much of the show's plot is being kept under very tight wraps, but Lindelof has made it clear that what we will see over the course of the nine-episode first season will form its own complete story.
"When we all sat in the room and talked about what this season of Watchmen was going to be it required a tremendous amount of world building in terms of all the events that we inherited that occurred before November of ’85 when the book ends, or December I guess technically," he said.
"Then we had to create a new sense of history from ’85 to 2019, which we did and then we had to actually write the show.
"We did all of that work but we did not talk about what would happen beyond the resolution of this season’s story. I feel like it was hard enough just to figure out how to do this season. So my hope is that when this season ends that the audience will feel the same thing we did as storytellers, which is a feeling of completeness and resolution."
Watchmen premieres October 20 on HBO. Check back with SYFY WIRE later today for our full coverage of the NYCC premiere screening of the first episode.