Why 'Watchmen' Was 9 Episodes Instead Of 10, According To Damon Lindelof

When Watchmen was first given a series order by HBO in 2017, it was originally intended as a 10-episode series. But as the series finale for executive producer and writer Damon Lindelof's comic book series hit the airwaves last weekend, the final Watchmen episode count came up to only 9 episodes. So, what changed? Lindelof revealed that his team had initially set out to write 10 episodes, but during the writing process, they realized that 9 episodes was all they needed to tell their story.

In an interview with Collider, Lindelof revealed that it was during the writing of the knockout sixth episode, "This Extraordinary Being," in which Angela (Regina King) experiences her grandfather's life after she downs his Nostalgia pills, that he and his writing team were nearing the end of the season-long story, and any more episodes than 9 would be filler:

"The original plan was to do 10. And, then, I think around the time that we had written the scripts for four and five, and understanding what episode six was going to be—and six needed to happen exactly when it happened in the season, in our opinion—that we felt like once six ended, that we were closer to the ending than we were to the beginning. Six didn't feel like a mid point. It felt like, we now know everything that we need to know to move into the endgame. And, every way that we looked at it, it felt like if we were going to do seven, eight, nine and ten, one of those episodes was going to be filler. And I was like, 'We're just not doing the filler episode. We know exactly what we need to do in our endgame. It's time to start doing it. I don't want to stall.'"

I had initially thought that Lindelof and his team wrote only 9 episodes in a nod to the famous nine-panel structure of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' original Watchmen graphic novel. Most of the pages in the novel feature a grid of nine panels, in three rows of three, which Gibbons revealed he chose to give Moore "great control & its restriction challenged me to compose more creatively." But that seems like it was just a case of Lindelof heeding what the story required.

But was it enough to tell the fully fleshed-out story as Lindelof intended? I was riveted by the series but admittedly have one major qualm with Watchmen: its lack of payoff when in tackling America's legacy of imperialism in Vietnam and the fate for the Vietnamese refugees who suffered at the hands of Doctor Manhattan. The show made some gestures at addressing this — especially in Hong Chau's villain Lady Trieu and in the flashbacks to Angela's past in Vietnam — but was more focused on the issues of black racial inequality rather than issues of colonialism. It turns out that Lindelof did regret not being able to give Lady Trieu more of an expanded backstory, and revealed that this extra 10th episode might have been able to do that:

"If there are any regrets, it's that we didn't get to dimensionalize Lady Trieu as much as we did in the writer's room, on the screen. Especially given, in my opinion, the magnitude of Hong's performance. I just thought she was fantastic. It was one of those things where we got into the endgame of the season, and it felt like we were moving back too much, between episode seven and eight. We talked about Lady Trieu's childhood, how she became who she was. But, a lot of her backstory got shorthanded between what Bian is saying to Angela and Lady Trieu is saying to Angela, in episode seven."

It feels like a missed opportunity on Lindelof's part not to delve into Lady Trieu's backstory and motivations — boiling it down to "daddy issues" isn't satisfactory for me. Lady Trieu is named after a real-life famous Vietnamese warrior and was the daughter of a Vietnamese refugee seeking some form of vengeance against Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons). It feels like Watchmen didn't live up to the promise of her character, and by extension, the promise of giving a nuanced depiction of the fallout of war.