REVIEW: The Watch, S1 Ep1 – A Near Vimes Experience

The Watch series

The Watch season premiere introduces the city of Ankh-Morpork, full of magic and mayhem, and the band of misfits tasked to somehow uphold the rule of law.

Right off the bat, The Watch establishes itself as a fantasy show loosely based on the Discworld novels. The very title card even mentions that the characters are “inspired” by those created by Sir Terry Pratchett, indicating that the show will be taking many liberties with the source material. Fans of the Discworld books will be disappointed with the very different tone and characterization in the series which has cyberpunk aesthetic, frenetic pacing, and some very strange comedic beats. With the central group of misfits who reluctantly get dragged into saving the city, The Watch does feel a bit like a fantasy version of Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Watch seriesBut once you accept that this is not going to be a faithful Discworld adaptation, The Watch can be quite fun. The first episode opens with an amusing framing device featuring Death conversing with Captain Sam Vimes (played by Game of Thrones veteran Richard Dormer) and then concisely providing exposition through flashbacks to the young Vimes and his complicated past with the gang member Carcer Dun. The episode likewise introduces the newest member of the City Watch, Constable Carrot, a tall human adopted by dwarves and sent to the big city to make his way in the world. He is given an orientation for the job by the jaded Corporal Angua, whose fascinating background is revealed by the end of the episode. The other members of the team include the genderfluid forensic expert Constable Cheery and the troll Constable Detritus.

Ankh-Morpork has a unique arrangement when it comes to regulating crime because the city’s leader Lord Vetinari decided to establish guilds for each criminal activity, effectively “legitimizing” certain unsavory acts such as theft and murder as long as the perpetrators are members of the guild and only commit their acts within a quota. This form of regulated corruption doesn’t sit well with certain characters notably the idealistic Carrot and then, more interestingly, with the headstrong and capable Lady Sybil Ramkin, an eccentric revolutionary determined to challenge the system.

The Watch seriesVimes meets Lady Sybil after he decides to follow a lead about Carcer Dun, whom he had believed to be dead for twenty years, but who miraculously survived and does not even seem to have aged a day. Vimes and Ramkin reluctantly join forces to figure out what Dun is up to and why it involves stockpiling large amounts of the local drug called “Slab.” The rest of the group also start investigating other mysterious “un-licensed” crimes that have started to plague the city and may be connected to the theft of a seemingly innocuous red scale-bound library book from the Unseen University.

The Watch is set in a grungy, gritty fantasy world that does not quite have the same charm as the source material but is an entertaining ride nonetheless. The characters on the show are also different from their book counterparts but the performances by the cast render them a likable bunch, despite the show’s faults in tone and pacing. There’s enough in the first episode to keep one intrigued about the case and though it ends with Vimes still chatting with Death, it’s clear that there is still more to his story than meets the eye.