I’m usually not a fan of trippy flashback episodes, but HBO‘s ‘Watchmen’ was able to pull it off and exceed all expectations in this week’s episode “This Extraordinary Being.” Now, showrunner Damon Lindelof is sharing how it came to be.
In the previous episode, Regina King’s Angela had downed all of her grandfather’s “Nostalgia,” which is a drug that lets you relive another person’s memories. In this instance, it showed Angela the truth about her grandfather, who he was, and how his childhood shaped his entire life.
One thing you can note about the episode is that director Stephen Williams shot each of the stories as long black and white one-shots. Throughout, we saw pops of color as essential pieces of the story were showcased as well as when we saw Angela swapped into seeing the events play out through the eyes of a young Will Reeves.
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When initially pitching the idea, the black and white concept was one that HBO was hesitant about. According to Lindelof:
“It wasn’t written in the script as being black and white, but then we told HBO that was our intention and that there would be bursts of color to evoke memories that Will was having from Tulsa ’21, because that memory, that trauma, was so vivid and it was bleeding into all his other memories. And HBO was like, ‘Let us have a think on that,’ and then they came back to us and said, ‘If it’s just for this one episode, we’re cool with it as a stylistic choice.'”
As to deciding to make the piece look like an extended one-shot, Lindelof shares that it was the director who came up with the concept:
“That’s the way that Stephen Williams wanted to shoot it, because these were subjective memories and we were going to be doing these swaps between Jovan and Regina, so that we could continue to remind the audience that Angela is actually having the subjective experience of walking in her grandfather’s literal shoes. He said the best way to do that would be with no cuts. I was like, ‘Whoa, ok.’ He said, ‘It’s not going to be an uninterrupted shot like Birdman, but each one of these vignettes I think I can do as one-ers. And as proof of concept, I’m going to go out with the DP, and we’re essentially going to block out on my iPhone each scene with stand-ins, and I’ll show you what I’m going to do.’ And he did just that. And when I saw his blocking, I was like, ‘Alright, vaya con dios, this feels like it’s going to work.'”
The episode was visually stunning and an excellent piece of storytelling. Lindelof and Williams crafted what will likely go down as one of the best television episodes of the year, and I’m sure most fans will agree with me that HBO should be praised for allowing them to film it exactly how they did.
Were you as much of a fan of “This Extraordinary Being” as I was? Share your thoughts in the comments below!