If you missed HBO’s Watchmen last year, arguably one of the best TV series of 2019, you have a chance this weekend to tune in even without an subscription. HBO will offer all nine episodes of the Atlanta-filmed series for free this weekend on its website. Watchmen will also air on the network in its entirety beginning at 1 p.m. today and air Free On Demand.
While HBO’s Watchmen takes place in the same universe of the late-80s graphic novel of the same name, it is radically different story with new characters and a story line set more than 30 years after the events of the comic. And with themes of racism and racial inequity, white supremacy, police brutality, and mask-wearing, the series is perhaps more timely than ever. Star Regina King plays a Black police detective in Tulsa who investigates and fights a white supremacist group, the Seventh Kavalry. The story takes place in an alternate history version of 2019—the U.S. won the Vietnam War and Nixon never resigned, for example—but the real-life 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when the wealthiest Black community in the U.S. was destroyed by white mobs and rioters, is the centerpiece of the story and opens the first episode.
While fans of the comic book will appreciate the appearance of certain characters and Easter eggs, a knowledge of the source material is not required to fully enjoy the HBO series, which earned strong critical praise for the way it handled its discussion of systemic racism. Atlantans will also likely get a kick out of how much the Decatur Square appears in the show, finding a perfect sci-fi role for those blue light towers.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, series creator Damon Lindelof discussed the importance of having a diverse writers’ room and why the themes of Watchmen are even more relevant in this current moment. “This idea of basically saying good cops, bad cops, that’s not the conversation that I wanted to have—the conversation that I want to have is, the system of policing is infected by white supremacy. It’s an infection,” Lindelof said. “A week ago, I had not heard the phrase “Defund the police”; now, I’m pushing out that phrase, I understand what it means. It’s not as frightening to me as it first was. [So,] the first thing that we have to do, and it’s going to sound so Pollyanna-ish and stupid and preachy, is educate ourselves. Like, the moral of the story of Watchmen was, I had not heard of the Tulsa massacre. I educated myself. And now it’s our collective jobs to understand the history of policing in this country, and then hopefully that will inform our storytelling.”
Watchmen is just one of several series that HBO is offering for free this weekend, as part of an effort to amplify and celebrate Black voices. Several documentaries, including Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, Baltimore Rising, King in the Wilderness, and 4 Little Girls are available to stream, as well as the pilot episodes of I May Destroy You and Issa Rae’s Insecure.