EDITORIAL: Should HBO’s WATCHMEN Include "Tales Of The Black Freighter"?

Damon Lindelof's upcoming Watchmen series apparently won't be a literal translation of Moore and Gibbons' iconic graphic novel, but should it include one of the book's most interesting elements? Read on...

When HBO announced that a new adaptation of the iconic graphic novel Watchmen was in the works, I had some pretty mixed feelings. Even though Zack Snyder’s 2009 film has plenty of flaws, I felt it was more or less the best we could expect from a Watchmen adaptation. 
 
Watchmen is largely considered to be unfilmable, so the fact that we ended up with a movie that brought the most iconic panels in the book to life while still translating some of the story’s key themes to the big screen should be considered a win. 
 
However, with so much great, unconventional television being produced these days, it would be interesting to see how Watchmen would unfold in the style of a premium cable series. With Damon Lindelof helming the show, many fans are sure to be nervous, but based on how he handled the complex themes of The Leftovers, it could definitely turn out well.
 
With this new adaptation of the story, there is now the potential for us to see some of the things the theatrical version of the 2009 film avoided. While Snyder’s Watchmen was pretty faithful to the source material, there are a few major differences. The biggest is how the story’s climax unfolded, but there is another aspect of the novel that I think would make a great addition to the TV show: Tales Of the Black Freighter
 
Tales Of the Black Freighter is the comic book that is interwoven through the story of Watchmen. The book is read by Bernie, a teenager who hangs out at Bernard’s newsstand. It's a pirate story, but it certainly isn't a swashbuckling Jack Sparrow adventure.



The story is about a marooned sailor who slowly loses his humanity through the horrific acts he commits in order to get back to the woman he loves, and as you might probably expect, it doesn't have a happy ending.

This aspect of Watchmen adds an interesting bit of intertextuality to the story, but as Alan Moore said, Tales Of the Black Freighter serves another purpose. Many readers have noticed the parallel between Adrian Veidt's story and that of The Black Freighter, and while Moore acknowledges this, he says there is something bigger:

"I mean yes, it eventually does end up being the story of Adrian Veidt but there's points during the pirate narrative [where] it relates to Rorschach and his capture; it relates to the self-marooning of Dr Manhattan on Mars; it can be used as a counterpoint to all these different parts of the story and after I'd done that it's kind of manifested in a lot of work since then."

The comic within a comic element of Watchmen serves an important purpose, but incorporating it into the TV show might be difficult. However, one way to do this would be to set aside one episode to tell the story of the Black Freighter, instead of spreading it throughout the season. This idea was suggested on The Weekly Planet podcast, and I think it would work very well.

Having a one-off black freighter episode would probably confuse some viewers, but if executed properly, would garner praise from both critics and fans of the source material. HBO has never shied away from bold storytelling and tricky subject matter, so this should be right in their wheelhouse. After all, it will be difficult to make Watchmen a multi-season TV series without capitalizing on elements like this.

What do you think about incorporating Tales Of the Black Freighter into the show? Comment below!
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