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Watchmen Is a Solid Hit for HBO, But Will It Return for a Second Season?

Hong Chau and Jeremy Irons in Watchmen.
Hong Chau and Jeremy Irons in Watchmen. Photo: HBO

HBO’s Watchmen wrapped its first season Sunday night with its largest same-day audience yet. Per Nielsen and HBO ratings data, the Damon Lindelof–created adaptation of the iconic graphic novel drew 1.6 million viewers across HBO’s linear and digital platforms, including 935,000 for the show’s 9 p.m. linear telecast.

The show’s linear audience for the finale grew 14 percent versus last week’s episode (822,000) and 17 percent compared to the October 20 series premiere (799,000), while HBO says digital viewership leapt 31 percent between premiere and finale. More impressively, HBO estimates Watchmen’s cumulative audience currently stands at more than 7 million viewers per episode, including replays and delayed digital viewing. That’s the best first season of a fall HBO series since Westworld’s freshman cycle three years ago, and the most-watched first season of any HBO original since Big Little Lies bowed in February 2017.

The big question now: Will Watchmen return for another season? HBO isn’t saying anything about future cycles of the show, with a network rep declining to comment on the series’ fate. Based on the ratings, however, there’s little doubt the network would love to bring it back. Though the show’s same-day linear numbers don’t qualify it as any sort of blockbuster, they’re solid enough for a new premium cable drama in 2019. The show’s ratings growth in-season and strong word-of-mouth, combined with impressive digital viewership, are all reasons to think HBO brass is eager to do more. (What’s more, HBO owners AT&T would no doubt love to have a buzzy critical darling such as Watchmen as part of the company’s upcoming HBO Max streaming service.)

What could be complicating things, or at least delaying an announcement, is Lindelof’s lack of clarity about whether he wants to do another season of the show. Echoing comments he’s made since before the show premiered, the writer/producer told Vulture that he worked on this season as if it was a self-contained entity, one not requiring a follow-up — at least not from him. “Every idea that we had, as it related to Watchmen, we either dismissed as being a crappy idea or we put it into the season,” he said.

Still, in other interviews, Lindelof hasn’t completely slammed the door on a return, hinting he might be willing to do so if he came up exactly the right idea. However, he seems at peace with the notion that someone else might take the storytelling reigns, perhaps with new seasons existing as chapters in an anthology, similar to HBO’s True Detective or FX’s Fargo. “I would love to see someone who is not a white dude taking a shot at Watchmen — a woman or a person of color or both,” he said. “It would be pretty wonderful to have someone at the helm that was not the traditional person at the helm of a comic-book movie or TV show.”

Watchmen Is a Solid Hit for HBO, But Will Season Two Happen?