'Watchmen' Trailer Breakdown: "Nothing Ever Ends. It's Only Just Begun."

The first full-length trailer for HBO's Watchmen premiered during Comic-Con and we've been exploring every frame, looking for Easter eggs and hints about what the show's mysterious plot might entail. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' twelve-issue Watchmen series is arguably the greatest comic book story ever told. The collected edition is the only graphic novel that made it onto Time magazine's list of the 100 best novels since 1923. Since Zack Snyder's film adaptation hit theaters ten years ago, DC Comics has begun revisiting the world of Watchmen: first with the Before Watchmen line of titles, and more recently with the Doomsday Clock miniseries.

Like Doomsday Clock, showrunner Damon Lindelof's Watchmen is venturing into "After Watchmen" territory. The show takes place in the same world some years after the original storyline, and judging from the trailer, it will include a fair number of connections and callbacks to the comics. Below, we'll dive into all of those and more with our Watchmen trailer breakdown.

Watchmen Trailer - Robber

The trailer opens with an armed robber at a supermarket declaring, "This is a stickup!" His period garb and the old-fashioned decor — with signs advertising baby food specials for thirty-nine cents — suggest we're not too far removed from the 1930s when the Golden Age of Comic Books began.

Watchmen Trailer - Hooded Justice Window

Sure enough, a costumed figure comes crashing through the window, rising up in a low-angle shot to reveal himself as Hooded Justice.

Watchmen Trailer - Hooded Justice Low-Angle

In the Watchmen comics backstory, Hooded Justice was the first superhero, a member of the Minutemen. What we're witnessing, the supermarket robbery in the trailer, is his second public appearance in 1938. His secret identity was never known but Hollis Mason, the original Nite-Owl, suspected that the man under the hood was a renowned circus strongman. This aligns him with Superman's origins as a hero who first leaped into action in a circus strongman's tights in 1938.

At the supermarket, the clerk behind the counter asks a simple question that superheroes have been fielding onscreen for at least thirty years: "Who are you?"

Watchmen Trailer - Hooded Justice

Rather than give a pithy reply like Batman, however, Hooded Justice unfurls the long answer of, "Who am I? If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn't be wearing a mask."

It's a wry nod to how complex and soul-searching the superhero genre has become with movies like Logan. In the span of about twelve seconds, the trailer has already given subtle nods to Superman and Batman, the genre's two biggest pioneers.

Watchmen Trailer - Looking Glass TV

As Hooded Justice is giving his answer, we cut to the living room of Looking Glass, the masked cop played by Tim Blake Nelson. Here there's a direct visual callback to the Watchmen comic, as Looking Glass sits with his mask rolled up over his nose, spooning food (presumably beans) from a can into his mouth.

He's framed very similar to how artist Dave Gibbons drew Rorschach in the comic panels. It turns out Looking Glass is watching Hooded Justice foil the re-enacted robbery on TV.

Watchmen Trailer - Looking Glass Beans

The HBO logo appears in yellow with the famous Watchmen smiley face in the middle of the "O." We soon see blimps and taxicabs advertising, "American Hero Story – Minutemen." One ad appears to show half of the Comedian's eye-masked face juxtaposed with that of another Minuteman above the tagline, "Comedy begets tragedy."

"American Hero Story – Minutemen" sounds like a parody of American Horror Story, but this show-within-a-show could be much more than that. It's possible we'll see the Comedian return in re-enactments and that the show-within-a-show could be the HBO equivalent of Tales of the Black Freighter, the comic-within-a-comic that served as a running commentary on the main Watchmen narrative.

Watchmen Trailer - American Hero Story

The voice of Regina King's character guides us further into the world of HBO's Watchmen:

"There are people who believe that this world is fair and good. It's all lollipops and rainbows. We don't do lollipops and rainbows. We know those are pretty colors that just hide what the world really is: black and white."

Watchmen Trailer - Veidt Death Headline

As she's espousing this Manichaean philosophy, we see her walking the streets and a succession of images provides more links to the characters from the Watchmen comic. A front-page Tulsa Sun headline (note that we're in Oklahoma) reads, "Veidt Officially Declared Dead." This is a reference to Adrien Veidt, AKA Ozymandias, the former superhero whose genocidal conspiracy to unite the world under the fear of alien invasion was revealed in Watchmen's climax.

Watchmen Trailer - Dr. Manhattan Decoration

There are also glimpses of blue Dr. Manhattan masks and festival decorations. Unless this is "American Hero Story" footage, it would seem to heavily imply that the show is not set in the same timeline as Snyder's movie, which altered Moore's ending: leaving Dr. Manhattan scapegoated for the destruction of New York and other cities and the deaths of millions of people. Later in the trailer, we'll see more clues tying the show to the comics ending over that of Snyder's film.

Watchmen Trailer - Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons)

Jeremy Irons is playing the older version of Veidt, and no sooner do we see news of his death than we see him blowing out a candle on a cake. Will he really die in the show or will circumstances force him to fake his death and go into hiding? The aforementioned Doomsday Clock comic, a Watchmen sequel that has published ten of twelve issues so far, began with a manhunt for Veidt after Rorschach's journal helped expose the conspiracy enacted by the world's smartest man.

Watchmen Trailer - Regina King

When we finally get a good look at King's character, who is reportedly named Angela Abraham, we see that she's talking to a little girl. A framed photo on the dresser in the background shows the girl with what looks like her parents—and neither one of them is Abraham.

At first, I thought Abraham might be a teacher or a child psychologist making a house call. We'll see her in a classroom setting later, but there are other clear indications that she is a policewoman.

Watchmen Trailer - Rorschach Mask

When Abraham lands on the phrase "black and white" in her voiceover, we cut to a man in a homemade Rorschach mask. He stares out of the eyeholes at the camera and says, "Soon they will shout, 'Save us,' and we will whisper, 'No.'"

This is a modified version of a line from Rorschach's journal. The man is delivering it in a video message; we see it playing on an overhead monitor in a room full of policemen.

Watchmen Trailer - Police Assembly

In the video, there are other men in Rorschach masks. The police, too, are wearing yellow masks, and some of them, like Looking Glass, have apparently fashioned their own unique costumes.

Watchmen Trailer - Don Johnson

The words "HBO Presents" appear onscreen, with the second word ticking forward like a clock hand. From here, the trailer introduces us to Don Johnson's police chief, Judd Crawford, who helps walk us through what's happening in this world. Vigilantes have come out of hibernation, with a gun-toting militia in Rorschach masks staging "coordinated, simultaneous attacks at the homes of Tulsa PD."

Watchmen - Rorschach Militia

In a show that is sure to be meta, the Rorschachs could well serve as a parallel to toxic fandom, with its tendency to latch onto pop culture symbols and distort them to its own ends. Their reign of terror, we see, extends to the happy home of Abraham and her husband, played by Aquaman's Yahya Abdul-Maheen II.

Watchmen Trailer - Regina King

It's Christmastime and the lights of the Abrahams' tree reflect against a clock in their living room as it ticks toward midnight.

Watchmen Trailer - Clock

Abraham fights off her own home invaders like someone with training, but another important person dies in the attack that night, as we next see a police funeral where officers wrap an American flag with a circular star pattern over a coffin.

Watchmen Trailer - Flag CoffinWatchmen Trailer - Masked Cops

Another voice explains that after the attack, "the cops hide their faces, and now the bad guys don't know where they live." We see Looking Glass retrieving his costume from a storage shed, and its reflective surface appears all the more like a modern analog to Rorschach's mask.

Watchmen Trailer - Looking Glass MaskWatchmen Trailer - Looking Glass Storage Shed

Instead of shifting ink blots, it's a mirror that can reflect criminals own selves back at them. It's worth noting here that the character description for Looking Glass pegs him as "a top interrogator and behavioral scientist."

We also see Abraham suiting up in a hooded black costume, and from the way it's edited, it looks similar to this official Instagram post, where she's hooking a police badge on her belt. Will she, as a cop, take on the guise of the new Hooded Justice?

Watchmen Trailer - Egg Smiley

Brief flashes of Abraham fighting in costume are intercut with a classroom scene, where a plainclothes Abraham wows kids by making a smiley face of egg yolks, complete with a spot of blood in the eye—once again harkening back to the iconic Watchmen smiley face. The teacher doesn't approve, but what's more interesting than her reaction is the poster of "Four Important Presidents" behind her.

Watchmen Trailer - President Redford

Above George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, next to Richard Nixon, is a picture of Robert Redford. Readers may remember that the end of the Watchmen comic teased an '88 presidential run for Redford. This happened on the very last page, right before an assistant at the New Frontiersman magazine office reached for Rorschach's journal in the crank file.

Cut to a soldier in uniform telling another little girl that "people who wear masks are dangerous ... because they're hiding something." We see policemen in masks, unloading suspects in a garage as Jean Smart from FX's Legion looks on.

A costumed Abraham storms into a trailer and punches a man in the face. Back at the funeral, Smart strolls up to Abraham and her husband and introduces herself as "Laurie Blake, F.B.I." She appears to be an older version of Laurie Juspeczyk, a.k.a. Silk Spectre. Laurie was the daughter of Sally Jupiter and Edward Blake, AKA the Comedian. She had a relationship with Dr. Manhattan and later fell in love with Dan Dreiberg, the second Nite-Owl.

Watchmen Trailer - Jean Smart

The Watchmen comic ended with Laurie and Dan changing their appearance and assuming new names. Given her demeanor and the fact that she's taken her father's last name in the show, it looks like this Laurie has aged into some of her father's cynicism. She even plays the deadpan Comedian for a second, giving what sounds like the setup to a joke: "You know how you can tell the difference between a masked cop and a vigilante? Me, neither."

Watchmen Trailer - Little Girl

During this exchange, the girl we first saw Abraham talking to is standing right next to her and her husband. They're with her at the funeral, so I'm guessing that the girl might be the orphaned daughter of Abraham's partner. If it's her partner who dies in the coordinated home invasions, this would give her a more personal stake in the war between the police and the Rorschachs.

As the David Bowie song "Life on Mars" kicks in, Louis Gossett Jr.'s unnamed old man shines a light in Abraham's face, telling her, "There's a vast and insidious conspiracy at play. If I told you about it, your head would explode."

Watchmen Trailer - Looking Glass Mask

We get a series of quick cuts, with Looking Glass pulling on his mask and Veidt riding on horseback past a pirate flag (a straight visual reminder of Tales of the Black Freighter).

Watchmen Trailer - Pirate Flag

Some business/place names glimpsed in this trailer include Worthmore Jewelers, Tartarus Acres, and the Iberian Pig. I don't recognize any of these from the comic, but then again, Tulsa is a new setting that didn't figure into the comic. There's also a fairgrounds or carnival littered with bodies, which recalls the streets of New York after Veidt teleported his alien onto the scene.

Watchmen Trailer - Carnival Carnage

A man stands over another man's body (on the hill of a farm?) and we see his light-blinded POV with people's silhouettes leaning in over it. As this is happening, Abraham echoes the "Who are you?" line from the start of the trailer and the old man replies, "Maybe I'm Dr. Manhattan."

Watchmen Trailer - Louis Gossett, Jr.

Then we see a meteorite falling to Earth behind a barn. Is this Dr. Manhattan landing on the farm? People on a front porch look to the heavens as if they're watching it.

Watchmen Trailer - Looking SkywardWatchmen Trailer - Dr. Manhattan Mars

News footage shows Dr. Manhattan on Mars destroying his life-size castle of sand on the planet's surface. There's a fast montage of guns being cocked and another flash of light behind a big tree with cows in front of it.

Watchmen Trailer - Cow Pasture Flash

Nite-Owl's Owlship, Archie, takes to the night skies. You can spot a cowboy-hatted Chief Crawford in the cockpit, hovering behind another person in the pilot's seat.

Watchmen Trailer - Owl Ship

The Owlship incinerates a small plane or drone in the sky in front of it and this earns an approving howl from Abraham, who looks up from the ground, hoodless, her eyes blacked out with grease.

Watchmen Trailer - Courtroom

A quick glimpse of a courtroom with an exact sketch of the alien squid monster from the comics would seem to solidify this show as taking place in that universe. Is this Veidt's trial? The courtroom appears to be in England, as the barrister, who points an accusing finger at someone, is wearing a white wig, or peruke, of the kind still in use there.

Watchmen Trailer - Nixon Trailer Park

We get a glimpse of a trailer park with a Nixon statue in front of it. The Owlship goes topsy-turvy and crash-lands on the farm in a ball of flames and we see Veidt pushing down a detonator plunger, causing a building to explode.

The general impression I get from this trailer is that Nite-Owl might be dead but that his ship might see a resurgence under different pilots a la the Millennium Falcon. There's always the possibility that Crawford is an older version of Dreiberg who has changed his name and identity, but that might be grasping at straws.

Watchmen Trailer -Jean Smart as Laurie

Toward the end, before we see a rain of squid falling from the skies, there's a glimpse of Laurie holding a gun in what could be a bank. She looks a little younger and it looks like she's facing off with a guy in a black costume (who is also aiming a gun), but then he jumps out the window and there's an abstract image of piglets scampering across the floor. I'm not sure what to make of that but I wonder if it's a flashback from her time after Watchmen but before the show?

Watchmen Trailer - Jeremy Irons as Veidt

Veidt's face in close-up says, "Nothing ever ends." This is a callback to Dr. Manhattan's last words to him in the comic, which seem somewhat prophetic of Watchmen itself now, given that the universe of this story — which, for so long, had a definitive ending — has opened back up in recent years. Veidt adds, "It's only just begun," and we see the series title in yellow, but that's not all.

Watchmen Trailer - Dr. Manhattan

The camera follows the legs of a man in a black suit down the street. He stops next to a Dr. Manhattan mask that is littering the ground and then he reaches down and picks it up with one bare blue hand. HBO. October.

Can Watchmen and Westworld, season 3 together fill the monolithic, watercooler-TV gap that Game of Thrones has left on the network? Who watches the Watchmen? Will it be you?