Watchmen kept us on the edge of our seat for all nine of its first-season episodes. Now writer-showrunner Damon Lindelof talks about how they pulled off that epic finale.
SPOILERS for the Watchmen Season One finale to follow.
Damon Lindelof is no stranger to controversial endings.
People still talk about the finales for both Lost and The Leftovers. Lindelof gets the brunt of the love and hate for each. So when it came time to prepare for the ending of Watchmen, he knew the pressure was on.
Still, the show has gathered quite a following since its debut.
Rabid fans everywhere want to know what happens in the Watchmen finale. and last night, they got to learn.
After weeks of waiting, we finally know the answer to whether or not the chicken or the egg came first, and some omelet stuff, too. And depending on what you believe, we know what it's like to walk on water.
Lucky for us, Lindelof did an interview with Rolling Stone where he talks about how they planned and shot the finale.
If you've watched, then you know the final shot is of Angela's foot hovering over water. (A poetic bookend to how the comic ended, with an image that lingered on a hand before Rorschach's journal was being handed over.)
We're left wondering if she's going to have salmonella or all the power of the universe. According to Lindelof, that's the way he likes it:
"I intended it to be just as much of an ending as the original Watchmen is. There is certainly a story to be told about whether or not Seymour publishes Rorschach’s journal and undoes everything that Veidt just intended to do. But that’s not a story that I think would be particularly interesting. Let’s for a second assume that there are two possible outcomes for what happens when Angela takes a step onto the swimming pool. Outcome number one is that she just sinks to the bottom of it and just misunderstood everything that Cal told her and ate a raw egg and should probably go be treated for salmonella. Outcome number two is that she starts to walk on water and realize that she is imbued with godlike powers. That would certainly explain the promotional poster for Watchmen that we put out there 15 weeks ago; she’s certainly looking a bit blue there. Let’s just say either of those possibilities exist. I think neither one of those stories are going to particularly make for a compelling season of television. Others may disagree. But that’s my feeling."
While the storytelling on display within Watchmen is obviously incredible, we have to give a special shoutout to the production design and shooting of the episode.
It turns out that that entire town center scene was shot using a green screen and rear projection on a sound stage.
Lindelof expanded on this feat, saying,
"...it would have been difficult and challenging to shoot on a practical location for four nights. So they were like, “We’re gonna shoot this indoors.” And I was like, “I’m really concerned about how we’re going to pull this off, because I can always tell when I’m on a virtual set.” The reason that I’m telling you all of this is that, when we saw the dailies, 40 percent of the show is them surrounded by green screen. It was very hard to emotionally engage in any of it, let alone determine whether or not it was going to work, until we got the first few passes through the VFX runs, and I could start to feel like I was actually being transported to the square."
As a writer, he admits that they don't really think about these challenges in the room and rely on supremely talented directors, editors, and VFX people to bring this stuff to life.
The fans truly appreciate this hard work and fearless storytelling.
On any television show, working as a team is key to making this world go round. We learned that the director only had nine days to prep and shoot the finale episode. That means everyone has to be working in a fluid manner.
So what can we expect from the future of this well-oiled machine?
When asked if he's done with Watchmen, Lindelof plays coy, saying:
"I think that it would be foolish to say “never.” And to say “done.” Because every great heist movie is borne on the back of a character who is out of the game. If Clint Eastwood was done, then we never would have gotten Unforgiven. I know that it’s hubris to say, “I’m done with Watchmen,” and I wouldn’t want to wake up two years from now with divine interv— I mean inspiration. Interesting that I almost said “intervention.” If that were to happen, I would probably go for it. But I am comfortable saying, “Every single idea that we had is onscreen and presented in these nine episodes. And there isn’t anything that occurred to us that was like, ‘Oh, that would be a good Season Two. We should save that.'” Everything that we wanted to do, we did. So I feel like the plate is empty. There’s nothing rattling around in my brain right now that feels like a compulsion to do more. That said, I feel like Watchmen is bigger than me. Of course it is. It survived without me and endured as one of the greatest pieces of storytelling for 30 years before I had anything to do with it. So I got my turn at the wheel — just like I had a turn at the helm of Star Trek, and then I stepped back, and now others have taken it. I do have a desire for there to be more Watchmen. Maybe these nine episodes have demonstrated that the playing field is a little bit larger than previously thought. It may inspire someone else to tell a Watchmen story. But right now, I don’t have any more ideas. Whether you call something a limited series or an ongoing series, that’s fodder for awards consideration. I’m not comfortable calling this anything other than nine complete episodes with a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is no promise of a continuation. Although others may disagree."
It sounds like Lindelof has made up his mind to keep telling stories that move him and that push him to do something challenging. Only time will tell if that's more Watchmen or another endeavor.
Since HBO owns the show, it is conceivable that they would get a new showrunner who wants to take a crack at this story. But as of right now, I think it's time we all bask in the ingenuity and worldbuilding that made this story so special.
So sit back, relax, and go back to the first episode.
What's next? Learn about Watchmen's cinematography!
Greg Middleton has been a cinematographer on shows like Game of Thrones, The Killing, and Watchmen. Hear how he brings his expertise to solve complex camera setups.
Click for more.