What story could an Overwatch animated series cover?
We don’t know when it will happen or where it will air, but an Overwatch animated series may be coming in the future. Leaving aside the discussion of if it’s happening or not, the concept of such a show is an exciting prospect in itself. There are a lot of plot threads in Overwatch that would benefit from the kind of binge-friendly series we’ve seen come out of streaming services lately… but what story would an Overwatch series follow?
Before we dive into discussion, let’s get two points out of the way:
- Yes, a series that plays it straight with Overwatch foiling the plots of Talon, Null Sector, the Deadlock Gang, the Shimada Clan, and having misadventures in Junkertown is a solid basis for a weekly show. Blizzard certainly could do that, but it leaves a lot of the potential for longer narratives on the table.
- You’ll notice I lean in to comparisons with films rather than series; principally this is because films work as better shorthand in this context, but also because I really spend a lot more time playing video games rather then binge-ing shows.
Now let’s look at some of the different possibilities of what a season-long narrative for Overwatch could be like.
Sombra vs. the Puppetmasters
One of the largest dangling plot threads in the franchise so far is also one of the oldest, dating back to Sombra’s origin trailer. She was on the cusp of discovering something momentous, confident that she couldn’t be caught — and then she learned she was playing in someone else’s pool. Everything she’s done since then, from getting upgrades to joining Talon to “making friends,” has been in the name of getting her closer to the force she believes is pulling the strings of the world. And while Sombra’s exact goal might be a bit ambiguous, it’s clear she doesn’t want to take down the Puppetmasters for revenge or for justice — she wants to replace them. “I’ll be the one pulling the strings.”
It would be part espionage film, part heist flick, part satire on the oversaturation of information in our daily lives and everything that can be warped when it’s directed by a malevolent force. It’s Mr. Robot mixed with Ghost in the Shell meets The Avengers. Because a plot that pulls both Winston’s Overwatch and Sombra’s supposed allies in Talon into a shadow war over who gets to control information would be incredibly compelling. And it potentially gets us closer to some of the other mysteries of the franchise, like what (or who) started the Omnic Crisis.
It also leans into Sombra becoming an unaligned hero/anti-hero/Big Bad Evil Girl, and all of the narrative potential of that is very interesting to me.
The fall of Anubis
Something often referred to as one of the key failures of Overwatch in the post-Crisis world was the Cairo operation. The Anubis AI was integrated into the infrastructure of the city, playing a key role in providing resources for Cairo’s dense population. However, at some point it became necessary for Overwatch to come in, resulting in the imprisonment of Anubis, which turned into a humanitarian crisis for Cairo. We still don’t know the details of what caused Anubis to go rampant or why the AI was contained within the Temple of Anubis rather than shut down completely. And the notion that there’s something special about Anubis that differentiates it from other omnic entities is also an open question.
Whether we’re talking about a series that shows the Cairo situation in detail or deals with a present-day resurgence (recall that Talon has an interest in unleashing Anubis and it’s not unreasonable for Null Sector to consider the temple a target) there’s a ton of possibilities here. It’s The Mummy crossed with District 9, with a dash of Westworld. Either way, this is a story about Overwatch being faced with the choice of ruining the economic future of Cairo or allowing Anubis to… do whatever it was intending to do. Ultimately, the organization chooses the less-bad option and has to own the consequences of that, in the face of a populace that can’t comprehend or simply doesn’t appreciate that the alternative is far, far worse.
We’ve been told that Anubis is a “God AI” but also that it is an omnic that’s just on a different scale from other omnics. As yet, we haven’t gotten any characterization from Anubis directly, and the potential of that is interesting. Was Anubis one of the first omnics to attain self-awareness? What role did Anubis play in the Crisis, if any? Does Anubis want to destroy humanity (which is why it’s imprisoned) or does its imprisonment serve a different, otherwise-unknown purpose? There are a lot of layers that can be explored here, and a series that uncovers a few secrets as a time is a great way to accomplish that.
The Petras Act
The Overwatch organization was shut down when the United Nations came to the conclusion that it could no longer support an international peacekeeping force that acted with impunity and without enough oversight. The Petras Act is the name of the UN’s resolution to not only dissolve the organization, but also ban former agents from taking up peacekeeping operations in the future. This was key in the original Overwatch narrative as an explanation for why everyone was scattered to the four winds, and why Winston wanted to do the Recall in the first place. However, Overwatch 2 moves the story into a phase where it’s not “Winston gets the band back together” but instead “the world reacts to Winston getting the band back together.” And that means the Petras Act, which is likely still the law of the land, would come into play.
Does the UN set up an investigation into the new Overwatch? Who’s running it? Are Winston and the gang on the run from the government and Talon and Null Sector, all while trying to fight injustice? It’s the A-Team meets Captain America: Civil War, or any of the later Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movies. Or Fast Five because you know the Rock is a good guy even while he’s going after the good guys.
What I like about this possibility (and which can broadly be applied to anything they do with an Overwatch series, naturally) is the idea that a character could be introduced in the show who later transitions to becoming a playable hero in the game. It calls to mind the creation of Ashe, which originated in the production of McCree’s Reunion short but led to Story & Franchise Development — which, you’ll remember, is a separate internal team from the Overwatch dev team — semi-pitching her as a new hero for the game. So I very much like the idea that Blizzard could use the series to introduce the actual authorities of the world, who are in the dubious position of having to treat Winston and his new Overwatch as criminals, and then make some avatar of those authorities playable.
Remember that this series isn’t a sure thing… yet
Now all of this may be putting the cart before the horse, because even if an Overwatch animated series has been sold, it hasn’t been announced. Recall the cautionary tale of the Overwatch: First Strike graphic novel: even if it’s announced, there’s no guarantee it ever gets released. Nothing is real until it’s real. For now, however, it’s fun to imagine the kind of stories we could see told, and the effects they could have on the game and the story that exists around the game.
Either way, when we know something certain about the show, you’ll know it soon after.
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