HBO's Watchmen show is not a direct adaptation of the classic graphic novel, as it instead tells a story in the present day of Watchmen's alternate reality. There's a whole new generation of costumed crime fighters, but not all the old ones have disappeared; two major characters from Alan Moore's original comic made their grand debuts in Episode 3. Laurie Blake, who fought crime as the Silk Spectre and dated both Doctor Manhattan and Nite Owl, is now an FBI agent who works to put vigilantes behind bars. And, while Adrian Veidt appeared in the first two episodes, Sunday's episode finally confirmed his true identity — and showed just how far Ozymandias has fallen.
Jean Smart and Jeremy Irons, who play Laurie and Adrian, respectively, are very aware of how the decades have changed their characters from the versions comic readers remember.
"Her complete rejection of her past makes her a more interesting person," Smart told SYFY WIRE at a press event before the series premiere, hinting that later episodes in the season will more fully explore her transformation from vigilante hero to FBI agent.
Supplemental material on HBO's website — a collection of in-universe memos and documents collected by Agent Dale Petey — offer a little more background on what Laurie has been up to since the end of the graphic novel. Laurie continued to violate the Keene Act and fight crime alongside Nite Owl, although she adopted a new superhero identity. Laurie was now The Comedienne, a nod to her father Edward Blake, who fought crime as The Comedian. Laurie would even change her last name from Juspeczyk to Blake.
"Apple don't fall too far from the tree," Smart said, adding that Laurie really is a lot like her father, even if she "probably wouldn't like to hear that." But the evolution makes sense for the character, and you can see shades of who Laurie is in the show in the pages of the original comic.
"Even when she was young and she was kinda tough-talking and chain-smoking, I mean, she was, she was not a reticent flower whatsoever," Smart said. "She's only become more of that as she's gotten older."
Perhaps the biggest change for Laurie is that she's alone. Petey's documents reveal that she and Nite Owl were arrested for vigilantism in 1995, and Dan remains in jail because he was unwilling to compromise with the authorities. As evidenced by her pet owl and interest in getting Dan pardoned, Laurie misses him — and she misses someone else too.
"Of course, she's been without Doctor Manhattan for 30 years," Smart said. "I keep forgetting that she was so young when she met Doctor Manhattan. She was a teenager, so she's never gotten over that schoolgirl crush, you know?"
"His personality was kind of eh," Smart continued, but the message is clear. Laurie has some understandable baggage from her relationship with the most powerful being in the universe. Even if he didn't have a sense of humor, normalcy is going to feel like quite a come-down.
Adrian Veidt might have it even worse, though. He appears to be trapped in some sort of extra-planar, estate-like prison, the exact nature of which is still a mystery. He's restless, lashes out at his cloned help, and the rest of the world thinks he's dead.
"It's so diminished from what he had that he's probably quite bored and frustrated," Irons told SYFY WIRE.
Petey's memos and clippings reveal that things did not go as Veidt planned after the events of the graphic novel. Although Rorschach's published journal implicated him in the squid attack on New York, the general public dismissed the claims as a hoax. Even so, Veidt had other problems. Because he tricked people into thinking that Doctor Manhattan's abilities caused cancer, there was a panicked recall of all the synthetic lithium batteries Manhattan had helped Veidt make, which torpedoed his electric car industry. The squid's arrival was also blamed on technology, and the resulting decades-long Luddite period further hurt Veidt's enterprises. He became a recluse, gradually, and eventually his company was bought.
Clearly, this is not how Veidt thought things were going to go after he saved the world.
"I think what he's lived with ... is probably is a sense of guilt," Irons said. "He's bright enough to question what he did and lives with that, and he's probably not too happy."
Irons noted that, due to his imprisonment, Veidt is cut off from the rest of the world, so he likely doesn't have any idea how things are going. Even so, Irons thinks Veidt still believes, in the end, that he did the right thing by dropping the squid on New York and killing 3 million people in order to stop the Cold War.
"He thinks it was the right thing and carries necessary guilt," Irons said. "Probably like Tony Blair, who thought that going into Iraq was the right thing, but you know, probably carries some guilt."
Irons said he doesn't see Veidt as a villain at all, but admitted that the character is getting a little more erratic and volatile compared to his clean-cut former self from the graphic novel. Part of that is due to character development and the passage of time, but the medium plays a part too.
"I think there's a difference between a comic character [and a TV character]. I think you can play more colors and play different things," Irons said. "I mean, in the graphic novel, he seems to me to be a little bit wooden."
Both Irons and Smart implied that viewers will get more information about what has happened to the two characters — and that there are more developments to come.
"At the point of our story, I think, uh, Adrian is not doing too well," Irons said. "But we'll see what happens ..."