HBO's making it easier to watch Watchmen online in honor of Juneteenth (June 19), the day that slaves in America were told they were freed. You've only got a short window to view the series for free, though.
Yes, for those who don't know, the HBO series that adapted Alan Moore's iconic graphic novel has deep ties to the tragic history of racism in America. Some are saying they only learned about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre known as "The Black Wall Street Massacre" because of its depiction in Watchmen.
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The 2019 adaptation of Watchmen came from Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), who agreed to do the show only after it was agreed he could bring in America's history of race, which he had been thinking a lot about after reading the works of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has written about the idea of reparations, which the series looks at through its own specific filters.
Because the show is so closely linked to the comic story and its characters, you’ll want at least a cursory knowledge of the comic’s plot if you haven’t read it yet (but, like, really, you should) before jumping into the show — so in addition to all the details about how and where you'll watch these Watchmen, we've got a complete guide for how to understand the Watchmen universe. We promise it’s super easy — no superhuman abilities required!
So, here's everything you need to watch Watchmen online — and snap to it, it's just started!
How to watch Watchmen online for free
HBO is making Watchmen free to watch on HBO.com and its on-demand platforms from Friday, June 19 through to Sunday, June 21. That might not seem like a lot of time to watch a series, but as someone who watched the series in a weekend to catch up for the finale, I can tell you it can be done.
How to watch Watchmen online anywhere on Earth with a VPN
If you're an American abroad, but want to watch The Watchmen, you're not out of luck. With the right VPN, you can stream the show from wherever you go.
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Our favorite VPN service, ExpressVPN, really shines thanks to its safety, speed and simplicity-to-use. It's also compatible with loads of devices - from iOS and Android to Roku, Apple TV and PlayStations. You'll even get an extra 3 months free if you sign up for a year, or there's a 30-day money-back guarantee if you just want to give it a try.
How to watch Watchmen online in the US
If you want to stream Watchmen in the states, you have a ton of options. The show is available via HBO Now, HBO’s standalone $14.99 per month streaming service, as well as HBO Go, a similar service that requires you to have a cable subscription. HBO is also available as an add on to most popular live TV streaming services, such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV.
Cautious about how well HBO can adapt the graphic novel? The free 7-day HBO Now trial will last long enough for you to test the waters. Also, that window should be enough for you to binge the amazing drama series Succession and chortle through Danny McBride's latest ribald sitcom, The Righteous Gemstones.
Watchmen HBO trailer
Wondering what you’re getting yourself into? Check out the official Watchmen HBO trailer here:
What is HBO’s Watchmen about?
The Watchmen show is inspired by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1986 graphic novel of the same name and will pick up 34 years after the events of the book. In a lengthy Instagram post about the show, showrunner Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) said, “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. … Some of the characters will be unknown. New faces. New masks to cover them.”
Obligatory spoiler warning for the Watchmen comic, even though it’s been out for more than 30 years and should be required reading for everyone.
The Watchmen comic follows a group of 1980s costumed heroes called (you guessed it) the Watchmen in a slightly altered reality that reimagines how our world would look if heroes existed. Characters called the Comedian (Eddie Blake), Silk Spectre (Laurie Juspeczyk), Nite Owl (Dan Dreiberg), Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt), Rorschach (Walter Kovacs) and Doctor Manhattan (Dr. Jon Osterman) comprise the Watchmen, but due to a newly passed law that outlaws “costumed adventuring” called the Keene Act, many of the Watchmen choose to retire. However, when the Comedian is killed, Rorschach — the only Watchman who continues to act outside of the law by killing those he deems to be evil — believes someone is intentionally killing off costumed heroes.
The killer is eventually revealed to be one of their own: Ozymandias, who has put into action an elaborate plot to convince the world that an alien threat seeks to destroy Earth. He does this in an attempt to unite the world against a common enemy in order to avoid a potential nuclear apocalypse (remember, things weren’t exactly great between Russia and America at this time).
After America signs a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, the remaining Watchmen agree to keep quiet about Ozymandias’ misdeeds, but Rorschach refuses. As a result, Doctor Manhattan — the only Watchman with superhuman abilities — eviscerates him. But Rorschach’s journal, which chronicles everything that has happened, ends up at the office of a newspaper called New Frontiersman, foreshadowing a potential end to the peace the world has seemingly now achieved.
Picking up 34 years later and set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Watchmen show will focus on a white supremacist group called the Seventh Cavalry that seemingly uses Rorschach’s writings to inform their illegal activities. The members of the terrorist group all wear their own versions of Rorschach’s mask, and their increased presence has led local police to also wear masks for protection.
Watchmen HBO reviews: is it worth watching?
Based on this premise and early reviews of the pilot episode of the show, it sounds as if modern issues like police brutality, race wars and domestic terrorism will be explored throughout the series, so if you’re looking for a lighthearted superhero show, this may not be the right thing for you.
Comic characters Silk Spectre (who now goes by the name Laurie Blake), Ozymandias and Doctor Manhattan are confirmed to appear, but the star of the show is a new character named Sister Night, a detective who wears a mask to protect her identity. It’s unclear how she will intersect with the existing Watchmen characters, but we’re very excited to find out.
Also, in her review of the show’s first few episodes on Vox.com, Emily Todd VanDerWerff reveals that “each episode also cuts to what I can only describe as a Looney Tunes short starring Jeremy Irons as the lord of a country manor and featuring plenty of macabre comic violence,” which sounds straight-up awesome.
Watchmen HBO cast: who’s in it?
Academy Award–winning actor Regina King — who starred in Lindelof’s latest show, The Leftovers, also on HBO — will play protagonist Angela Abar, aka Sister Night. Check out the awesome video below of original Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons drawing her character.
Jean Smart and Jeremy Irons will play existing Watchmen characters Laurie Blake (Silk Spectre) and Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias), respectively, while a roster of new characters played by Andrew Howard (Red Scare), Don Johnson (Chief Judd Crawford), Tim Blake Nelson (Looking Glass), Adelaide Clemens (Pirate Jenny) and more rounds out the cast.
Oh, and Robert Redford will play himself as president of the United States, a fun inclusion borrowed from the Alan Moore–unsanctioned Watchmen comic sequel Doomsday Clock written by Geoff Johns.
Watch Dave Gibbons, original Watchmen illustrator, draw his own depiction of #WatchmenHBO’s Sister Night. pic.twitter.com/7tnlY8Z7QTOctober 16, 2019
As previously noted, Damon Lindelof — most known for co-writing Lost and the critically acclaimed The Leftovers — is showrunning and co-writing every episode, but diversity was top of mind for him when it came to his extended writers’ room. “In our writers’ room we created a white male minority,” he told Variety.
“I went into that writers’ room saying, I really need to listen.” Given that Lindelof — a white man — has chosen to explore race as a central theme in the show (and, quite frankly, that ALL writers’ rooms would benefit from more diverse writers), we’re thrilled to see the effect that this choice will have on the show.
What’s next for HBO’s Watchmen?
So, will there be a second season of Watchmen? According to Lindelof, probably not, but only because he and his writers’ room carefully plotted the nine-episode season to tell a cohesive story with a proper beginning, middle and end.
But if a second season were picked up, it wouldn’t be the first time HBO has extended a limited series; after the success of Big Little Lies Season 1, which was advertised as a one-season limited series, the network released Season 2 two years later. If Watchmen proves to be a critical success, HBO could keep it going, even with a new showrunner should Lindelof choose not to extend his story.