When Watchmen was first ordered to series at HBO, the plan was to create a 10-episode first season. But the finale that aired on Sunday night was only the ninth episode of the show. So, what gives? Where did that extra episode go? Well, as the series was being written, showrunner Damon Lindelof reveals their plans changed, and nine episodes seemed more appropriate to the story being told.
During an interview with Collider’s own Steve Weintraub, Lindelof said it wasn’t until they were breaking the outstanding Episode 6—the one in which Angela (Regina King) takes her grandfather’s Nostalgia pills—that he and his writing team realized there was no going back from that episode, and 10 episodes probably wouldn’t do:
“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.’”
Lindelof says given that Watchmen is such an “odd” show it felt fitting that it should be only nine episodes in length, as opposed to the even length of seasons of shows like Fleabag, Game of Thrones, or Lindelof’s The Leftovers.
But what was planned for that extra episode? What story did we miss out on? Lindelof didn’t say exactly, but elsewhere in the interview he did express regret that they never got to explore the bountiful backstory they plotted out for Hong Chau’s Lady Trieu:
“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.”
Lindelof says there’s “a lot more” to Lady Trieu’s origin story beyond what we saw in the finale. But indeed, Episode 6 is the Hooded Justice flashback, then Episode 7 has a significant flashback to Angela’s childhood in Vietnam, and Episode 8 is an extensive origin story flashback that shows how Angela and Doctor Manhattan (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) first got together. So then if an additional episode in there had been devoted to Lady Trieu’s origin story, that would be four out of the final five episodes that were filling out backstory as opposed to moving the story forward, and since Angela is the show’s protagonist, Lady Trieu’s episode is the obvious one to get cut.
To be clear, Lindelof didn’t say an entire episode was devoted to Lady Trieu’s backstory, but if the original order was for 10 episodes and if Lindelof and the writing staff heavily fleshed out Lady Trieu’s backstory, it stands to reason that additional episode would have been at least partially devoted to the character. And while it’s a bummer we didn’t get to see that, the pacing and structure of the nine-episode season is pretty perfect as-is, so I think Lindelof made the right call.