'Watchmen' Finale: Damon Lindelof on Series Conclusion - Rolling Stone
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Damon Lindelof Unpacks Mysteries of the ‘Watchmen’ Finale

The series creator discusses how the entire season and that jaw-dropping final episode came together — and whether he’ll continue this story

Hong Chau and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in 'Watchmen'

Hong Chau and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in 'Watchmen.'

Mark Hill/HBO

Damon Lindelof is done with Watchmen after tonight’s finale.

Unless he isn’t.

Lindelof has long been not only one of television’s most audacious writers, but perhaps its most anxious. When Lost became an instant hit right after his co-creator J.J. Abrams left to make movies, Lindelof desperately wanted to quit rather than deal with the pressure of expectations, but (as he once told me), “There was literally no one to quit to.” He admitted he “grew really depressed” working on the first season of his HBO cult classic The Leftovers. And as he began working on his remix of the classic Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic Watchmen, he quickly began to worry that using the story as a vehicle to address racism and white supremacy was “the hugest mistake that I’ve ever made in my life.”

But if Lindelof has spent much of his TV career panicking, he’s also spent much of it triumphing. Lost remained a big hit, and is considered a classic by countless viewers (though some are still mad about the ending). Few watched The Leftovers, but those who did praised it as few shows have been over the last 10 years. (Some knuckleheads even put it atop their best-of-the-decade lists.) And for all of Lindelof’s fear that he was out of his depth taking this approach to this source material, Watchmen has been a critical and commercial smash, one of the year’s most talked-about shows. The series’ interweaving of our country’s very real and ugly history of race relations with this fictional superhero universe has been praised by white and black viewers alike — and by those who know the comic by heart alongside those who’d never heard of Hooded Justice before.

But even as the nine-episode season concludes in thrilling fashion, Lindelof is anxious about how it will be received — particularly because, as he told me in an interview late last week, he used up every idea he and the show’s other writers had for the Watchmen universe. Barring some divine inspiration down the road, he said, he doesn’t see himself returning to it.

We spoke about the triumphs of this season, his concerns over how the ending will be interpreted, how he would feel if HBO were to renew the show without him (which, I’m told, is not what the network intends to do), and more.

watchmen lindelof

Damon Lindelof and Regina King on the set of ‘Watchmen.’ Photo credit: Mark Hill/HBO

Mark Hill/HBO

Why are you worried about the reaction to the finale?
I think it probably has more to do with the culture than it has to do with my feelings about the episode personally. Putting aside anything that relates to my own work, the Lost finale, or The Leftovers finale, I feel like we’ve moved into this space of, the only part of the game that matters is the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. It doesn’t matter if you had an undefeated season. If you lose in the Super Bowl on a missed field goal, that’s all anyone cares about. I don’t think this is paranoid delusion on my part. I’ve seen multiple pieces, people I really respect who have embraced Watchmen, have said things like, “If they stick the landing…” or “I’m not sure they can stick the landing.” For someone who has experienced a fair amount of finale trauma, I think I would be insane to approach this final episode of Watchmen with anything other than a high degree of trepidation and anxiety, just on general principal. Secondary to that, I wanted to design the season of Watchmen to feel like it had a beginning, a middle, and end, just like the original 12 issues did. Although when I finished issue 12 as a 14-year-old, I certainly wanted more. But I also was feeling like the story was complete, and all the things that I cared most about were resolved. I feel that way about this final episode of Watchmen, but I don’t know if anyone else is going to feel that way. About a month ago, I had a meal with Tim Blake Nelson, who I love and adore as an actor, but also as a human and as a writer. He said to me, “If you think that people aren’t going to believe that last scene is a cliffhanger, you’re fucking crazy.” I was like, “Oh, really? It didn’t feel like a cliffhanger to me.” But the fact that he felt that way suddenly filled me with profound terror.

If you didn’t intend for it to be a cliffhanger, what did you intend it to be?
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.

So is it fair to say that you are done telling a Watchmen story?
I don’t think that’s fair. 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.

How would you feel about HBO bringing in a new showrunner to continue this version of Watchmen, with Angela taking that step into the pool, with Laurie taking Veidt back to Washington, and everything else you left there at the end?
I’d be thrilled! Just hearing you say that, that excites me. I don’t know necessarily that that’s where that individual would need to do a second season of Watchmen. The territory of Watchmen goes back a century, so you could do a story in the Fifties or Sixties or Eighties or Nineties, or you could jump ahead five years, and you could feature characters that were not Angela Abar, or the continuing adventures of Veidt and Laurie. Again, the terrain and the possibilities are much greater than anyone with a limited imagination to continue this story. That said, if they want to play with these characters that were created for this iteration of Watchmen, I say have at it! Wouldn’t it be a bit hypocritical of me to say, “You can’t play with these action figures,” after basically having made a career on it?

Did the ending change in any way from your original plans?
The original ending had two elements. Element number one was that Lady Trieu was trying to capture and destroy and become Dr. Manhattan. That was always in play, probably not from the super-early days, but I think by the time we wrote the pilot. We certainly knew Cal was Dr. Manhattan, and that the Millennium Clock’s entire purpose was to be a gigantic quantum centrifuge that would spin his energy and transfer it into Lady Trieu. This was also potentially the Kavalry’s plan, but that was more nebulous. In original incarnations of the series, the Kavalry had a plan that was involving mind control and masks. There was a mind control device woven into the fabric of the yellow masks and the Seventh Kavalry Rorschach masks, so an entire army of cops and Kavalry members alike could be controlled by whoever was in charge of that, and Will Reeves was going to hijack that remote from Keene’s hands. It was finally the revelation of “Can the Kavalry also be making a play for Dr. Manhattan, and Lady Trieu is piggy backing on their plan,” and we abandoned this ridiculous idea of mind control, that’s when everything slipped into place.

Jovan Adepo as Hooded Justice

Jovan Adepo in as Hooded Justice in ‘Watchmen.’ Photo credit: Mark Hill/HBO

Mark Hill/HBO

When and how did that idea of Hooded Justice being black — which you’ve said is the big idea behind this take on the series — come to you?
It happened around Christmastime of 2016. I think the way that the idea developed was, for 30 years, I had been wondering who Hooded Justice was. That was one of the original questions of the original Watchmen: who was Hooded Justice? He loomed so large in the first three or four issues of Watchmen, and he had a bone to pick with the Comedian, so he was set up as a potential suspect for the Comedian’s murder. But he was just a red herring. I never believed that Rolf Muller’s body washing up in the Boston Harbor and having the same basic build was a legitimate justification for him having been Hooded Justice. More importantly, I was really obsessed with the idea that all the Minutemen were on a first-name basis with each other. Even Sally referred to the others by their first names, but nobody even knew Hooded Justice’s first name, or suggested they had seen his face, with the exception of the implication that Metropolis had, because they were in a sexual relationship. So that led me to the question of why would this guy never show his face? What was he hiding? For a while, in my twenties and thirties, I imagined he was horribly disfigured. That’s why he wore the hood. That problem-solving was happening in my brain at the same time I read “The Case for Reparations” and first learned about Black Wall Street, and that started to feel like, in comic-book origin-story canon, like Krypton. But then I was like, “Whose origin story? It would have to be a young black child that grows up to be a superhero. Oh, that’s Hooded Justice! That explains everything. That explains his costume, that explains why he hid his face.” And more importantly, I’ve already acknowledged that I’m telling a story whose meta theme is appropriation, because I’m appropriating the original Watchmen. What if superhero-ing is an idea that was first hatched by a person of color for reasons of true justice, and then white people appropriated it for their own masquerade adventures? That felt completely and totally right to me.

In the end, Seventh Kavalry are revealed to be a secondary threat who are dispatched fairly easily by Lady Trieu as the real threat. Why was that?
I guess that I always saw the Kavalry as fairly inept. They didn’t seem particularly dangerous or scary to me. Maybe a little more scary than the Klan is presented in BlacKkKlansman. The idea of this super-well-oiled terrorist organization like Hydra always felt wrong to me. I think obviously, in the way that the pilot is set up, and the promotional material of the show and the “tick, tock”-ing of it all, there is an intentional focus on the Seventh Kavalry as the big bad. But the real big bad is not the guys and gals who put on Rorschach masks; it’s their philosophy. It’s white supremacy. Just because Lady Trieu vaporized a couple dozen of Cyclops’ senior leadership, that doesn’t mean that there’s any shortage of white people out there who are going to try to bring harm to people of color moving forward. More importantly, when we formulated this list of things that we loved about the original, one of the things on the list was the idea of “starts as gritty crime noir, ends in catastrophically overblown sci-fi resolution.” We were sort of like, “OK, we want to get the same kind of Zagnut energy going as the squid,” while acknowledging — I will say this: Had Lady Trieu’s plan worked, had she absorbed his energy, who knows what she would have done. Me personally speaking, it’s probably not a good thing that she had to kill Manhattan to get what she wanted — that makes her a bad guy — but I think she might have used that power quite responsibly. The fact that Veidt kills her is more driven by his own ego, because it hadn’t occurred to him to absorb Manhattan’s energy himself. But we’ll never know what she would have done.

But if Angela, in fact, ended up with Manhattan’s abilities — and I’m just saying, again, it would be pretty lame if she didn’t — I think that white supremacy is in trouble. And that’s a more important resolution than now watching her use those abilities to fight white supremacy. I’ve long said that what made the original Watchmen appealing to me is, Veidt temporarily stops a nuclear war from happening, but you don’t come away from it thinking that peace is going to hold forever, because it is in our nature to point weapons at one another. So there was never going to be a version of this show where white supremacy was going to be defeated. Therefore, you couldn’t take that on in the finale. You had to kind of sideline the Seventh Kavalry. By the way, I think that the Seventh Kavalry has been marginalized as a threat since the third episode. That’s the last time they did anything threatening.

Well, they do show up at Looking Glass’ house trying to kill him. He just kills them instead.
But that kind of makes my point, right? If Tim Blake Nelson can take out five guys with shotguns, how scared are we supposed to be of those guys? No slight against Tim.

There’s no discussion in the eighth episode of the implications of Dr. Manhattan becoming a black man. Is that something you talked a lot about in the writers room? Did you ever feel it had to be addressed in the script?
Yes, we certainly did talk about the form that Dr. Manhattan was going to take a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. It was a conversation that started in the writers room in the first 12-week period, and continued all the way through editing that episode. Ultimately, at multiple points in that process, there was a lot of explaining and wrestling with it, but what we decided to do is what we did: It felt the most fundamentally important part was that Manhattan did not choose the form; Angela chose the form. So he gave that choice to her, and she chose the body that she was most comfortable with. The question got reframed at that point in terms of, if Angela could be with a white guy or an Asian guy or a black guy, why would she choose that form? And more importantly, why wouldn’t she offer it up in the initial buffet of corpses? It’s almost like, well, he knows what body she’s going to pick, since he can see the future, but she picks that form. I can’t unpack the hundreds of conversations we had in the writers room about this, but I can tell you, if she had chosen a white guy, that would have solved for the issue of Dr. Manhattan, who was born white — and he’s been blue longer than he was white — moving through the world. But a black woman and a white man, or a black woman choosing a white man’s body to be with sexually, that created real issues, too. Once we realized there was no way to get around the fact that it was a complicated decision to make, but we wanted Manhattan to take human form, we proceeded accordingly. In an earlier draft of that script, before he takes Cal’s form, after Angela says, “I’d be comfortable with him,” she looks up at Manhattan and says something like, “It’s going to be harder in this body than it would be in the others,” and Cal says, “I don’t care.” I cut those lines, because it felt very written to me. It didn’t feel like anything that would organically happen in that moment. I may have been wrong. I add lines and cut lines all the time based on gut.

How conscious were you of trying to keep coming back either to things from the original story, like the squid, or things from earlier in this one, like the movie theater?Superconscious. I do believe in this thing called story gravity. We are wired, both as storytellers and as story listeners, to gravitate towards the familiar. Endings, really satisfying ones, often loop back to beginnings. There’s a reason for that. It’s probably neurological or biochemical. But we also understand that stories we like follow this path. So when you’re doing a new version of anything, whether you’re doing The Force Awakens, and it’s a new Star Wars movie, or doing a new iteration of Watchmen, you’re constantly having a conversation of, “How can I justify this thing’s existence and make it surprising? But at the same time, I’m calling it Watchmen. What are the elements of the story that allow me to call it Watchmen? Is it the characters, or also some of the story beats? And when is it going to feel derivative, and when is it going to feel like, ‘Well, if you hadn’t done that, then you don’t get to call it Watchmen‘?” Circling back to this meta idea of appropriation, I love that moment — and when I say I love something, it means it wasn’t my idea — when Lady Trieu says to Veidt, “It’s a rerun.” He just had the same idea with the baby squids. Stepping outside of the show, I was like, “When she says that, she’s talking to me, too! Well, fuck you, Lady Trieu!” But she was absolutely right. When we were litigating the original material — by which I mean, we loved it, but we all wanted to challenge it — one of the criticisms that we raised was, “Why did Veidt never go to Dr. Manhattan and go, ‘Hey, Jon, you have godlike powers? Can you make all the nuclear devices on the planet disappear?'” It’s not like he even tried it and failed. And he also viewed Manhattan as an adversary rather than an ally. So all of these things went into the calculation. And then it was like, anyone who truly wanted to change the world, the easiest way to do that is to just steal Dr. Manhattan’s power from him, and that’s the way they should proceed, and everything started to click into place from there. Once we came up with that idea, it’s like, “How do we echo the original? Can we get an overhead shot looking down on the Tulsa square that is reminiscent of the giant squid?” And then the Chekhov’s Squid idea suddenly clicked into place. “Oh, yeah, you can weaponize those baby squids.” And we had already set it up in the pilot, so that’s going to be our endgame.

Since we’re talking about Chekhov, how did Veidt know that he’d eventually need Chekhov’s Horseshoe, and when he’s going to need it?
[Sighs.] I think we’re getting a little bit under the hood now [in a way] that’s going to demystify process. I’ll just leave it at this: Our intention, in the pilot, when he says he’s writing a tragedy in five acts called The Watchmaker’s Son, he is in fact referring to the play we see performed in the second episode. But it was also our intention that he has, in fact, written, most of this — that all the Crookshanks and Philipses are part of a construct that Veidt has designed to prevent himself from going insane. That doesn’t mean that everything they say is scripted, although some of it is. Crookshanks’ closing argument, for example, is written by Veidt. that’s why she winks at him at the end, and we wrote it in his voice for her to perform. But there are other things happening on Europa that are improv. The game warden is tasked to “do anything you can to stop me from escaping this place. And don’t tell me how you’re going to do it.” And he has told a Philips, “You have to give me a horseshoe when I need to escape,” but they’re so dumb and so programmed to please him, that they’re constantly trying to give him a horseshoe. It becomes a nuisance, and eventually becomes something that gives him fits of rage. When they finally bake it in the cake, he knows, “Oh, I’m going to spend the next year of my life digging my way out.”

You were extremely worried about how people were going to respond to the material about race, and whether this was your story to tell. How do you feel the show has been received so far, and how does that feel to you?
I still feel very much like this wasn’t my story to tell. For two reasons. Reason number one is Alan Moore didn’t want me to tell it. That’s no small thing. The other reason is because it was a story about black trauma and a pain that I don’t know and never will know on any emotional basis. I do understand it in the way I understand what pain feels like, but I can’t ever understand that pain. Fortunately, there were many people in the creative process, starting in the writers room and then onto the set, with the actors and the people behind the camera, that did understand that pain. So when I watched the show and got some distance from it, I started to feel like, “OK, our intention in demonstrating it and showing it and not exploiting it, showing that this is a real thing, and even though it is packed inside a piece of sci-fi superhero genre fiction, this feels real,” that seems to have connected.

Because I can acknowledge that that connection has occurred, that doesn’t make me go, “Huh. Maybe it was my story to tell!” I think because I knew the entire time that it wasn’t my story, I used my influence at the head of my table to help others tell it. That’s the only reason that it was successful — if in fact it was. I’m sure there are some people who feel that it wasn’t. But I’m glad that the story was told in this way because of that collaboration. The more that I use pronouns like “I” or possessive articles like “mine,” the yuckier I feel. When you say “we,” you really need to feel “we.” And that was a process. And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. There was a willingness to listen, but it was really hard to do that. Once I started actually doing it, versus saying that I wanted to, that was the transformative moment when everything started to click into place.

Tim Blake Nelson in 'Watchmen'

Tim Blake Nelson in ‘Watchmen.’ Photo credit: Mark Hill/HBO

Mark Hill/HBO

But after all that soul-searching and worry, how did it feel to have people of color watching that Greenwood sequence from the first episode and saying how glad they were to see it dramatized in that way?
I don’t even know that there’s a word for how I felt. I definitely felt relief. I think that’s the closest. I wouldn’t say that I felt good, because how can anyone feel good about that kind of a thing. But on an overly simplified basis, the objective was to just show this thing — to say that massacre happened, to make people aware of it. To create curiosity over learning more about it, rather than shame or embarrassment for not knowing about it. Because I felt shame and embarrassment when I first read about it. And that was privately. That catalyzed a desire to interrogate those feelings, but on the heels of the shame and embarrassment was curiosity. And that, to me, was the most exciting thing that happened. People of color saw it and were like, “Yeah, I know about Black Wall Street, and I’m glad someone is shining a light on it.” But white people watched it and were like, “I feel shame and embarrassment, and now I’m curious. I want to know more about this. This was real? What went down there?” To me, that Watchmen was not trending when the pilot aired, but Black Wall Street was? That is kind of amazing. That created a lot of positive feelings amongst everybody involved in the show.

How challenging was it to write a character like Dr. Manhattan, who not only experiences all of time at once, but whose actions seem incredibly limited, where he only does things because he has always done them?
It made us insane. Because Doc is a passive character. His dad told him to be a watchmaker, he was a watchmaker. His dad told him to be a physicist, he was a physicist. Nixon told him to win Vietnam, he won Vietnam. So we tried to find precedent for people telling him what to do. The Lord and Lady told him to make something beautiful, he made something beautiful.  His passivity really got in the way of giving him a plan — but once we realized he loved Angela and saw the inevitability of his own demise, that plan became the same thing the entire season was about — to preserve and pass down his legacy. But like I said… It made us insane.

Am I correct in assuming you have not heard from Alan Moore since the show debuted?
That is correct. I did hear that he is voting Labour. But that is the extent of my Alan Moore-related intelligence.

Will is over 100 years old, and he is fairly spry. Is he just in really good health for a man his age?
I’m not going to speak to that one. I will say that I have seen certain theories that he may have ingested a bit of Dr. Manhattan’s abilities himself. I wouldn’t say that that was our intention or that it wasn’t our intention. It’s just interesting. But I would say on the more mundane front, he is a guy who worshipped and modeled and named himself after Bass Reeves. And Bass Reeves, in addition to wearing a number of disguises, liked to present himself as more infirm than he was, who had a cane or was physically frail. Is it possible that Will Reeves was employing the same techniques? How did he get the handcuff off and go across the street to get eggs in a wheelchair, from a facility that had no wheelchair-accessible ramps? I am not in a position to answer that, but I think that the theorizing in that case is pretty fun.

Since at the moment you have no more plans for this, I guess we’re never going to find out what you intended for Lube Man, are we?
Well, there is one piece of IP that you have yet to see, and that is the final Peteypedia entry, which will drop on Sunday night. I’m not saying it’s going to definitively answer your question, but it will certainly add lube to the fire.

You said you hoped the show would wind up being confounding both to people who knew the comic and those that didn’t. Anecdotally, is that your experience?
It does feel like that thing is happening. I’ve become friendly with Patton Oswalt. We went out to dinner with him and his wife Meredith [Salenger]. They watch Watchmen together, and she has no idea about Watchmen, and he knows it better than I do. And she will ask questions during it, and he will pause it and explain everything that’s going on, and she will go, “Fine, fine, fine, let’s keep watching.” My wife Heidi has never read the graphic novel, and she just watched the show completely and totally cold. She is the most honest person I’ve met in my life, and she is able to follow the show. She acknowledges that there are insider things that she doesn’t necessarily get, but the fundamental math of the show and what you’re supposed to care about played for her. I never want to prescribe how people should watch my television. If you want to binge it now that all nine episodes are available, go for it. If you watched it one at a time over these nine weeks as they originally aired, that’s cool, because we all got to watch it together, and the theorizing, and that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that happens when a show is first on. But for me, the dream scenario would be for a person with no previous Watchmen knowledge to watch the nine episodes, then read the graphic novel, then watch it again. I would be really stoked to talk to that person. Just what that process was like for them and as they were reading the graphic novel, what things occurred to them about the show they had seen, and then when they saw the show again, now having read the 12 issues, how did that enhance or detract from the experience. Ultimately, if these nine episodes were a delivery system to those 12 issues — because I really think anyone who liked these nine episodes that hasn’t read those 12 issues, they would really love those 12 issues, so they should go check them out.

The thing that lands on the Clark farm at the start of the fourth episode is Veidt’s rocket from Europa?
Correct.

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Jean Smart in as Agent Blake. Photo credit: Mark Hill/HBO

Mark Hill/HBO

That climactic sequence that bounced between the mall, the town square, and Antarctica really had me on the edge of my seat. What are the logistical challenges to assembling something like that, both as you film it and as you put the pieces together later?
That’s a testament to our entire production unit writ large, and I’m going to give shoutouts in particular to Fred Toye, who directed the episode, and also Kristian Milsted, our production designer. Literally, everything that takes place in downtown Greenwood in the finale was shot on a stage, inside. We put the church façade and the set-up the Cyclopian leadership is sitting in, and Cal’s cage that we transported from the JC Penney location, which was a practical location. Because we didn’t want people to see Yahya in his makeup in the Decatur [Georgia] town square, and 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.

Fred — who directed an episode of Lost back in the day, was an Alias editor, has done a number of great Westworlds — he came in after the crew had done Episode Eight, which took the wind out of their sails from how immensely difficult it was to shoot. He prepped the finale in nine days, and figured out logistically how to do it all. It was kind of a miracle. His approach to the material is what brought you to the edge of your seat. He and David Eisenberg, who is one of the greatest editors I have the pleasure of working with. With a lot of the finale, David did the heavy lifting, particularly as to how those complicated pieces fit together. And because we were still in green screen, so many of those things had to exist in his head. For example, when Keene comes pouring out of the pod, that’s all visual effects. It’s not there when you first see it; Yahya is just leaning down and touching the ground. So David had to figure out in his mind, “How long should this shot be as the puddle expands to the cage?” And lo and behold, when the FX came in, it was all perfectly synced-up. It felt like the perfect heist movie had been executed behind my back. The ambition of the writing and the storytelling is a credit to everything we were doing in the writers room. But that feeling you’re describing, I certainly felt it too. And it goes without being said, Trent [Reznor] and Atticus [Ross]’s music throughout that entire sequence is just amazing, in the waves that it’s riding. Certain characters are giving big, monologue-y speeches, and then there will be an action things that happens, and then moments of comedy interplaying with moments of real terror, and then you’re off to Karnak, and Veidt is walking around flipping switches, and he’s monologuing! There were so many spinning plates in the air. It was so kinetic. When we were talking about the finale originally, we wanted to echo the feeling of the comic’s final issue, where there was no kinesis whatsoever, just monologuing, like the story’s already over. We realized that was never going to work in a more visual medium. We had to do a more traditionally straight-up climax with stakes and people getting hurt. It got a little bit out of control once the Gatling gun from the sky gets introduced. But it’s a triumph of all these departments coming together, and achieving the impossible.

Finally, another showrunner told me he’s always amazed by how you seem to know exactly how long to keep the audience in the dark before you have to give them some context. How do you do that?
I’ll let you know when I figure it out. I’m being honest. There’s a tremendous amount of trial and error. I used to err on the side of, “Hide it longer than my gut is telling me to, because you don’t want to give it up too soon, and if what’s inside the present is good enough, people will forgive you for it later.” And then I swung to, “Better to reveal it too soon, because once you cross the rubicon of waiting too long, then people start to get angry, and once they’re angry, it’s hard to make them un-angry.” So, you just bounce between one of those two poles, and it’s hard to settle too long at any one of them. That’s as much of a recipe as there is.

In This Article: Damon Lindelof, Watchmen

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