The pilot for Watchmen premiered on HBO tonight and it’s exactly as riveting as you’d expect something from Damon Lindelof to be. The auteur television creator is known for his showrunning work on series like Lost and The Leftovers, where he added a cerebral layer of inquisitiveness to seemingly mundane subjects. He’s always been great at mixing genre with guttural truths, something that was demonstrated most keenly in characters like Jack Shephard on Lost and Kevin Garvey on The Leftovers; two 40-something guys navigating life while grappling with philosophical extremes.
You might expect Watchmen to continue that trend, especially if you noticed Don Johnson on the cast list. While Johnson’s character, Judd Crawford, is a hair older than Jack and Kevin, the pilot makes it clear that he shares some commonalities with those men. He’s embroiled in social conflict, struggles with the past, and is more mysterious than first impressions might suggest.
If you’re a fan of Lost, and have followed behind-the-scenes conversations about that show, then you might have noticed another major thing Judd Crawford shares with Jack Shephard. Something that shows that Lindelof isn’t shortsighted about his storytelling, and will use new opportunities to complete past ideas that didn’t quite work out.
Spoilers for the Watchmen pilot below.
In the final moment of Watchmen‘s pilot episode, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice,” we see that Judd Crawford has been killed, presumably by Louis Gossett Jr.’s character. The episode closes on an image of him hanging from a tree, as the song “Pore Jud Is Daid” from Oklahoma! plays in the background. If you’re familiar with the production history of Lost, then this moment might set off a bell. Indeed, back in the day, Lost creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof actually wanted their leading man Jack to die in the show’s pilot. In fact, they even wanted to cast an actor with the same sort of name recognizability as Don Johnson in the part: Michael Keaton. The working idea was that Jack would die and Evangeline Lilly’s character, Kate, would become the de facto lead–throwing the audience for a major loop before the second episode even came to pass.
ABC made the Lost showrunners change the whole Jack death thing before production began, so we never got to see how that would play out. Instead of Keaton, actor Matthew Fox was cast as Jack, who became the lead protagonist until the finale. So the Watchmen pilot feels sort of like Lindelof paying homage to what he and Abrams had originally planned for Lost. On a cable network like HBO, it all becomes a little easier to pull off.
And before you start doubting whether or not Crawford is actually dead, it’s been confirmed by those involved with the production that he is, indeed, a goner. Watchmen director and executive producer confirmed to Vanity Fair that Johnson’s role was a one-and-done situation. “It’s horrible,” she confirmed. “Even with the casting of it, that had to be the ending.”
With Judd’s death confirmed, it’s nice to see Lindelof’s bold storytelling finally come full circle, and we have to imagine he’s is quite happy with the final results. It’s always satisfying when brave and bold story choices are paid off… even if it took more than a decade to come to fruition.
Featured Image: HBO