Q Into the Storm

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Q Into the Storm
Directed byCullen Hoback
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes6
Executive producers
  • Adam McKay
  • Todd Schulman
  • Nancy Abraham
  • Lisa Heller
  • Cullen Hoback
  • Tom Patterson
  • David Tillman
  • Codey Tevis
  • Evan Wise, ACE
  • Cullen Hoback
  • Alicia Ellis
Running time57–60 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseMarch 21 (2021-03-21) –
April 4, 2021 (2021-04-04)

Q: Into the Storm is an American documentary television miniseries directed and produced by Cullen Hoback. It explores the QAnon conspiracy theory and the people involved with it. It consisted of six episodes and premiered on HBO on March 21, 2021. The series received mixed reviews, with some critics praising its insight into the conspiracy theory, and others finding it to be overlong and lacking in analysis of the impacts of QAnon. Some reviewers have criticized the series for not following best practices outlined by extremism researchers for reporting on extremism and conspiracy theories.


Ronald Watkins pictured from the shoulders up, wearing a gray t-shirt and glasses. He is holding and looking at a cell phone in a black folding case.
Ron Watkins, conspiracy theorist and former 8chan administrator

The series explores the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and the people involved with it. The documentary features several people associated with 8chan, the imageboard website that is home to QAnon, including the site's owner Jim Watkins, former administrator Ron Watkins, and original creator Fredrick Brennan. Others interviewed include pro-QAnon video creators (known as Qtubers) and other QAnon believers; others on the right wing including OAN's Jack Posobiec; QAnon researchers; and journalists who have reported on the theory.[1][2]

The series prominently describes the dynamics of the Watkinses and Brennan, including their split in 2018 and Brennan's later repudiation of the family and 8chan. The series also focuses on 8chan and the various movements that have found a home there, including Gamergate, Pizzagate, and QAnon. In the final episode, Hoback accompanies Jim Watkins to the January 6, 2021 storming of the United States Capitol.[2]

In the last episode of the series, Hoback shows his final conversation with Ron Watkins, who states on camera, "I've spent the past ... almost ten years, every day, doing this kind of research anonymously. Now I'm doing it publicly, that's the only difference.... It was basically ... three years of intelligence training teaching normies how to do intelligence work. It was basically what I was doing anonymously before, but never as Q". Watkins then corrects himself, saying "Never as Q. I promise. Because I am not Q, and I never was".[3][4][5] Hoback viewed this as an inadvertent admission from Watkins, and concludes from this interview and his other research that Ron Watkins is Q.[2][5]


No.TitleDirected byOriginal air date [6]U.S. viewers
1"Calm Before the Storm"Cullen HobackMarch 21, 2021 (2021-03-21)0.356[7]
2"Do You Believe In Coincidences?"Cullen HobackMarch 21, 2021 (2021-03-21)0.224[7]
3"Disinformation Is Real"Cullen HobackMarch 28, 2021 (2021-03-28)0.277[8]
4"Panic in D.C."Cullen HobackMarch 28, 2021 (2021-03-28)0.231[8]
5"Game Over"Cullen HobackApril 4, 2021 (2021-04-04)0.199[9]
6"The Storm"Cullen HobackApril 4, 2021 (2021-04-04)0.212[9]


Portrait of Jim Watkins from the shoulders up
Jim Watkins, operator of 8chan
Fredrick Brennan, holding a piece of paper with the handwritten text: "9/5/2019 08:00 UTC+8 Hispachan ñ ¡Pregúntame lo que quieras!"
Fredrick Brennan, creator of 8chan

QAnon is a debunked American far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against former U.S. president Donald Trump while he was in office,[10][11][12][13] and is often described as being a cult.[14][15][16] The conspiracy theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymous imageboard 4chan by "Q" (or "QAnon"), who was presumably an American individual.[17] Q claimed to be a high-level government official with Q clearance, who has access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States.[18] The imageboard website 8chan, rebranded to 8kun in 2019, later became QAnon's online home, as it is the only place Q posts messages.[13][19][20][21]

8chan is an imageboard website composed of user-created message boards that was created in October 2013 by computer programmer Fredrick Brennan.[22] After a surge in traffic to the site in 2014 due to the migration of Gamergate-related discussion from 4chan, Brennan was faced with financial challenges to keeping the site online.[23][24] He began working with Jim Watkins, a technology businessman and the operator of the 2channel textboard, and moved to the Philippines to live and work with Watkins and his son Ron.[25] In January 2015, Jim Watkins became the official owner and operator of 8chan.[26] Brennan continued to work as the site's administrator until 2016, at which time he relinquished the role and Ron Watkins took the position. Brennan continued to work for Jim Watkins until cutting ties with the family in 2018.[26][27][28][29][30] Brennan has since become an outspoken critic of 8chan, the Watkinses, and QAnon, and has actively battled to try to take 8chan offline.[24][31][32][33]

Numerous journalists and conspiracy theory researchers believe that Jim Watkins or his son, Ron Watkins, are working with Q, know Q's identity, or are themselves Q.[40] Brennan has also supported this theory, and in June 2020 said, "I definitely, definitely, 100 percent believe that Q either knows Jim or Ron Watkins, or was hired by Jim or Ron Watkins."[36] Both Watkinses have denied knowing Q's identity, and Ron Watkins again denied being Q shortly before the series premiered.[41][36] In February 2020, Jim Watkins formed a super PAC called "Disarm the Deep State", which backs political candidates who support the QAnon conspiracy theory.[42] Ron Watkins has played a major role in helping to amplify the QAnon conspiracy theory, and has been described as a de facto QAnon leader.[43][44][45]


Q: Into the Storm is directed by Cullen Hoback. Hoback began following the development of QAnon and working to discover the identity of Q in 2017.[46][47] Adam McKay is executive producer for the series, under his Hyperobject Industries banner.[46][48]


Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 59% based on 22 reviews, with an average rating of 5.48/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Journeying a bit too far down the rabbit hole leaves Q: Into the Storm's message a bit muddled, but it works as a primer on one of the internet's most controversial communities."[49] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 65 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[50]

Stephen Robinson of The A.V. Club gave the series a positive review, writing: "Q: Into The Storm doesn't overly sympathize with Q supporters nor does it simply sneer at the gullible. It's a delicate balance that Hoback successfully maintains throughout the documentary."[51] Dominic Patten of Deadline Hollywood also gave the series a positive review writing: "The docuseries is a must-see for a clearer perspective on the damaged America of 2020 heading into the elections of 2024.".[52] Daniel Fienberg for The Hollywood Reporter stated the series was "absorbing and admirably ambitious, even when the focus falters", although he notes that "the docuseries has a frantic, all-over-the-place quality that may tax the patience of some viewers".[53] Brian Lowry of CNN positively reviewed the series, writing: "Like many multi-episode docuseries, Into the Storm could have completed its journey in less than six hours, but Hoback appears determined not to leave any stones unturned, and given the stakes—with Q adherents having entered the political arena and been elected to Congress—it was worth the effort."[54] Nick Schager of The Daily Beast described the series as "excellent".[55] Charles Bramesco positively reviewed the series in The Guardian, writing that Hoback "gets closer to the truth than anyone who’s come before".

Den of Geek's Alec Bojalad wrote that the series "features an engaging narrative but ultimately fails to examine the phenomenon in a meaningful way".[56] Daniel Zuidijk of Bloomberg News wrote that the series was "a strong primer for people who’ve seen a lot of Q-related headlines but haven’t dug in much deeper", but that it focuses too much on exposing the identity of Q without examining the impact of QAnon.[57] Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the series three out of four stars, praising Hoback's perspective in examining the identity of Q and the impacts of internet communities on international events, but writing that "Hoback struggles with how to bring this project in for a finale. He tumbles a bit himself as he goes down the rabbit hole, losing some of the focus of the best episodes of the series."[58]

Daniel D'Addario of Variety gave the series a negative review, describing the series as "overlong" and saying that "it is most successful in its early going at thoughtlessly disseminating the Q message, and by its end has become a muddle with genuine bits of intriguing reporting studded amid so much dross".[47] Adi Robertson of The Verge also gave the series a negative review writing "it tediously and obsessively charts an alleged inner circle of the movement, while glossing over the myriad reasons that Q's messages appeal to people, as well as QAnon's effect on believers and the people around them".[59] Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic gave a negative review, writing that the series is "less a measured interrogation of a phenomenon that has upended contemporary politics, devastated countless families, and helped provoke a fatal attack on the U.S. Capitol than a jaunty promenade down gonzo lines of inquiry".[60] Sam Thielman of NBC News negatively reviewed the series as a "tedious, frustrating slog, punctuated by moments of frankly inexcusable prurience", and criticized Hoback for "lengthily indulging the conspiracists" and "recall[ing the conspiracists' grasping at straws in his] own efforts in the film to identify Q".[61] E.J. Dickson of Rolling Stone negatively reviewed the series: "while thorough, [the series] goes off on so many tangents that it becomes impossible to follow a coherent narrative thread, failing to adequately address what is obviously the most important issue at stake here: What, exactly, is drawing so many people to this bizarre conspiracy theory?"


Following the release of the series' teaser trailer, anti-disinformation researchers and journalists expressed concerns that the series might become a recruiting tool for QAnon. Joan Donovan of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy said that its portrayal of Q as "edgy and exciting" could attract new followers.[62]

Variety's D'Addario wrote that the series "raises certain existential questions about how, and perhaps whether, to cover misinformation campaigns". He observed that the documentary gave significant airtime to the Watkinses and others promulgating the QAnon conspiracy theory, and prominently displayed usernames and messages from QAnon personalities.[47]

Robertson wrote in The Verge that the series "breaks several best practices for reporting on extremism", and that it "embodies all the ways that idealistic journalistic values — a devotion to humanizing subjects, a goal of exposing powerful wrongdoers, and a belief that exposing truth will set people free — fail in the face of extremist movements".[63] Gilbert wrote for The Atlantic that "there are best practices for reporting on conspiracy theories in general, and QAnon in particular. Into the Storm flouts all of them."[60] Bojalad wrote for Den of Geek that "Q: Into the Storm takes for granted that its viewing audience has a solid grip on reality, ignoring years of recent evidence to the contrary".[56] Dickson of Rolling Stone wrote that Hoback avoided "many of the cardinal sins outlined by anti-extremism researchers in covering conspiracy theories... but it also devotes tremendous, and largely unquestioning, space and attention to two men who have unapologetically provided a platform for far-right extremists to spread their poisonous ideas, sometimes to demonstrably violent effect."[64][unreliable source?]

Hoback responded to the criticism by declaring that the extensive airtime given to followers of QAnon was necessary in order to show the forces behind it.[65]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work Result Ref.
2021 73rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program Tom Patterson, David Tillman, Cullen Hoback, Ted Woerner, Evan Wise Nominated [66][67]


  1. ^ "HBO's Q: INTO THE STORM, a Six-Part Documentary Series Exploring the Origins of QAnon Debuts March 21". WarnerMedia. March 10, 2021. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Schager, Nick (March 16, 2021). "HBO's QAnon Doc: We Have Discovered Q's Identity". The Daily Beast. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  3. ^ Hoback, Cullen (April 6, 2021). "Filmmaker says he potentially uncovered man behind QAnon". CNN (Video). Interviewed by Anderson Cooper.
  4. ^ Gonzalez, Oscar. "Who is Q? HBO QAnon documentary Q: Into the Storm has an answer". CNET. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Harwell, Drew; Timberg, Craig (April 5, 2021). "A QAnon revelation suggests the truth of Q's identity was right there all along". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  6. ^ "Q: Into the Storm". The Futon Critic. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (March 23, 2021). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 3.21.2021". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on March 23, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (March 30, 2021). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 3.28.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on March 30, 2021. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (April 6, 2021). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 4.4.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on April 6, 2021. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  10. ^ Colby Itkowitz, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa and Rachael Bade (August 20, 2020). Trump praises baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, says he appreciates support of its followers. The Washington Post.
  11. ^ Associated Press (February 9, 2020). QAnon supporters sharing 'deep state' satanic sex trafficking ring/cannibalism theories at Trump rallies. Fox.
  12. ^ Vox Staff. QAnon: The conspiracy theory embraced by Trump, several politicians, and some American moms. Vox.
  13. ^ a b Roose, Kevin (August 28, 2020). "What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory?". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  14. ^ Polantz, Katelyn (January 15, 2021). "US takes back its assertion that Capitol rioters wanted to 'capture and assassinate' officials". CNN. Retrieved January 16, 2021. Prosecutors accuse Chansley of being a flight risk who can quickly raise money through non-traditional means as 'one of the leaders and mascots of QAnon, a group commonly referred to as a cult (which preaches debunked and fictitious anti-government conspiracy theory)'.
  15. ^ "Without Their 'Messiah,' QAnon Believers Confront A Post-Trump World". Fresh Air. NPR. January 28, 2021. Washington Post national technology reporter Craig Timberg ... tells Fresh Air[,] 'Some researchers think it's a cult ...'"
  16. ^ Gregory Stanton (September 9, 2020). "QAnon is a Nazi Cult, Rebranded". Just Security.
  17. ^ Martineau, Paris (December 19, 2017). "The Storm Is the New Pizzagate – Only Worse". New York. ISSN 0028-7369. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  18. ^ Griffin, Andrew (August 24, 2020). "What is Qanon? The Origins of the Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Spreading Online". The Independent. London. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  19. ^ Weill, Kelly (November 12, 2020). "QAnon's Home 8kun Is Imploding—and Q Has Gone Silent". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  20. ^ Thomas, Elise (February 17, 2020). "Qanon Deploys 'Information Warfare' to Influence the 2020 Election". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  21. ^ a b Gilbert, David (March 2, 2020). "QAnon Now Has Its Very Own Super PAC". Vice. Archived from the original on August 15, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  22. ^ Brennan, Fredrick (March 17, 2015). "Full transcript: Ars interviews 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan". Ars Technica (Interview). Interviewed by Sam Machkovech. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  23. ^ Brennan, Fredrick (March 17, 2015). "Full transcript: Ars interviews 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan". Ars Technica (Interview). Interviewed by Sam Machkovech. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Harwell, Drew; McLaughlin, Timothy (September 12, 2019). "From helicopter repairman to leader of the Internet's 'darkest reaches': The life and times of 8chan owner Jim Watkins". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on September 12, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  25. ^ a b Farley, Donovan (Spring 2020). "Free Speech, Hate Speech and the King of the Trolls". Playboy. Archived from the original on June 19, 2020. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  26. ^ a b McLaughlin, Timothy (August 6, 2019). "The Weird, Dark History of 8Chan". Wired. Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  27. ^ Vogt, PJ (September 18, 2020). "Country of Liars". Reply All (Podcast). Gimlet Media. Event occurs at 7:15. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  28. ^ Ling, Justin (October 6, 2020). "QAnon's Creator Made the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on October 6, 2020. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  29. ^ Begley, Patrick (March 22, 2019). "Racist meme subcultures under fresh scrutiny after the Christchurch terror attack". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on March 23, 2019. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  30. ^ Reeve, Elle (September 5, 2019). "How 8chan Was Born — and Became the Worst Place on the Internet". Vice News. Archived from the original on November 2, 2019. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  31. ^ Gilbert, Ben (August 5, 2019). "The bizarre life of 8chan owner Jim Watkins, the middle-age veteran who decamped to the Philippines and runs a pig farm". Business Insider. Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  32. ^ Gilbert, David (February 27, 2020). "The Philippines Wants to Arrest 8chan Founder Fredrick Brennan: 'It's Basically a Death Sentence'". Vice. Archived from the original on June 6, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  33. ^ Robertson, Adi (February 27, 2020). "8chan's founder is facing arrest for 'cyberlibel' in the Philippines". The Verge. Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  34. ^ Roose, Kevin (November 10, 2020). "Shocked by Trump's Loss, QAnon Struggles to Keep the Faith". The New York Times. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  35. ^ Rothschild, Mike (August 28, 2020). "Did an IP address accidentally reveal QAnon's identity?". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  36. ^ a b c LaFrance, Adrienne (June 2020). "The Prophecies of Q". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  37. ^ Francescani, Chris (September 22, 2020). "The men behind QAnon". ABC News. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  38. ^ Harwell, Drew; Timberg, Craig (January 20, 2021). "QAnon believers grapple with doubt, spin new theories as Trump era ends". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  39. ^ Roose, Kevin (January 20, 2021). "QAnon believers struggle with inauguration". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  40. ^ [34][21][35][25][36][37][38][39]
  41. ^ "Ron Watkins denies he is QAnon leader ahead of "Into the Storm" HBO show". Newsweek. March 19, 2021. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  42. ^ Kaplan, Alex (April 2, 2020). "Owner of 8chan/8kun helps create QAnon super PAC and is running paid ads for it on his site". Media Matters for America. Archived from the original on May 21, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  43. ^ McKay, Tom (November 19, 2020). "Great, We're at the '8kun's Admin Is an Election Security Expert' Stage of This Bullshit". Gizmodo. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  44. ^ Amore, Samson (January 20, 2021). "QAnon in Meltdown After Biden Inauguration: 'We Need to Go Back to Our Lives'". TheWrap. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  45. ^ Hatmaker, Taylor (January 8, 2021). "Twitter bans former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and other QAnon figures". TechCrunch. Retrieved January 20, 2021.[permanent dead link]
  46. ^ a b Grober, Matt (March 10, 2021). "'Q: Into The Storm' Trailer: HBO Docuseries Aims To "Unmask And Demystify" QAnon". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  47. ^ a b c D'Addario, Daniel (March 15, 2021). "QAnon Documentary 'Q: Into the Storm' Investigates Conspiracy-Theory Movement: TV Review". Variety. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  48. ^ "Q: Into The Storm". HBO. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  49. ^ "Q: Into the Storm". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  50. ^ "Q: Into the Storm". Metacritic. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  51. ^ Robinson, Stephen (March 19, 2021). "Q: Into The Storm exposes the sinister banality at the root of QAnon movement". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  52. ^ Patten, Dominic (March 18, 2021). "The Show To Watch This Week: 'Falcon & The Winter Soldier,' 'Q: Into The Storm,' 'Genius: Aretha' & 'The Gloaming' Reviewed". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  53. ^ Fienberg, Daniel (March 16, 2021). "'Q: Into the Storm': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  54. ^ Lowry, Brian (March 19, 2021). "'Q: Into the Storm' seeks to pull back the curtain on QAnon's origins". CNN. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  55. ^ Schager, Nick (March 16, 2021). "HBO's QAnon Doc: We Have Discovered Q's Identity". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  56. ^ a b Bojalad, Alec (March 16, 2021). "Q: Into the Storm Review - HBO Doc Unpacks QAnon". Den of Geek. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  57. ^ Zuidijk, Daniel (April 16, 2021). "HBO's Unmasking of QAnon Reaches the Wrong Conclusion". Bloomberg News. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  58. ^ Tallerico, Brian (March 19, 2021). "Q: Into the Storm movie review (2021)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  59. ^ Robertson, Adi (March 15, 2021). "HBO's QAnon documentary is a megaphone for extremists — and it's unbelievably boring". The Verge. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  60. ^ a b Gilbert, Sophie (March 21, 2021). "The New QAnon Docuseries Is a Gamified Mess". The Atlantic. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  61. ^ Thielman, Sam (March 21, 2021). "HBO's QAnon documentary searches for Q's origins but misses the point". NBC News. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  62. ^ Lyons, Kim (February 28, 2021). "Disinformation experts aren't happy about the trailer for HBO's QAnon series". The Verge. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  63. ^ Robertson, Adi (March 15, 2021). "HBO's QAnon documentary is a megaphone for extremists — and it's unbelievably boring". The Verge. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  64. ^ Dickson, E. J. (March 18, 2021). "'Q: Into the Storm' Asks Who Q Is, But Is That Really the Point?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  65. ^ Hoback, Cullen; Savage, Luke (April 19, 2021). "Making Sense of QAnon With Q: Into the Storm's Cullen Hoback". Jacobin. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  66. ^ "Q: Into The Storm". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. July 15, 2021. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  67. ^ "2021 Creative Arts Emmys: See the full list of winners". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 13, 2021.

External links