*This article contains spoilers for Netflix’s “The Watcher.”
This October, Ryan Murphy released a new mystery thriller “The Watcher” on Netflix. Let’s just say this series knows how to keep its viewers on the edge. The seven-episode mini-series follows married couple Dean (Bobby Cannavale) and Nora (Naomi Watts) Brannock.
At the start of the show, the couple uses their savings to move into their dream home in the suburbs of New Jersey with their two kids Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter (Luke Blumm). Days after moving in, they start receiving weird letters from someone called “The Watcher.” The family doesn’t think much of the letters until they receive one that reads “I am pleased to know your names and the names of the young blood you have brought to me — you certainly say their names often”.
Fearing for his family’s safety, Dean contacts the police. Detective Rourke (Christopher McDonald) investigates but finds nothing so Dean hires security guard Dakota (Henry Hall) to watch and install cameras around the house. He also hires private investigator Theodora (Noma Dumezweni) to attempt to discover who is sending the letters.
Dean initially suspects his neighbor due to similar word choices and an obsession with watching the Brannocks’ home renovations. A couple, Maureen (Margo Martindale) and Mitch (Richard Kind) also argue with Dean and in a heated moment, Maureen shouts “I’m watching you”— which was said in the letters. Later, Dean discovers their neighbor Jasper Winslow (Terry Kinney) in their dumbwaiter.
Furious that he was inside the home, Dean confronts Jasper’s sister Pearl Winslow (Mia Farrow). “My apologies, the last owners let him do that,” Pearl tells Dean much to his anger. Pearl threatens “I’m watching you!” which makes Dean suspicious of her too. Dean feels one of the neighbors could be “The Watcher” until Theodora discovers urban legends of the house’s past history of haunting its owners.
She tells Dean how a local teacher, Roger Kaplan (Michael Nouri), assigned his student to send letters to houses they admire, including Dean’s house. Days later, Dean has a conversation with a man named John Graff (Joe Mantello). John tells Dean he is there to inspect the house renovations but tells Dean that Ellie and Dakota were messing around. John warns Dean to watch his daughter. After the weird conversation, Dean meets Theodora. She tells Dean the story of a man who killed his whole family after receiving letters from “The Watcher.” Looking at the photos, Dean notices the man in the photo was John Graff. Dean is distraught after discovering the house holds more secrets than he thought.
After moving out, the family sells the house to their friend Karen (Jennifer Coolidge). Karen settles into the house but leaves abruptly after seeing “The Watcher” in the home. A new family moves into the house while Dean surprisingly watches them from a distance. He walks up and greets the new owner Ben (Greg Balla) but introduces himself as John. And yes you’re thinking what I’m thinking — John as in John Graff? Yes, you’re correct. It is odd that Dean’s not only in the neighborhood, but lying about his name and where he lives. It is also strange that he has returned to the house after the chaos he went through with his family.
After the encounter, Nora calls Dean asking if he was at a job interview he mentioned earlier. Dean lies saying he is and drives off. Right after leaving, Nora follows him. Nora watching Dean implies she’s trying to catch him in a lie or find out his whereabouts. This leaves viewers believing there is more to the Brannocks than we know. Is Dean the new Watcher? Has he fallen down the same path as John Graff? Did he come back to the house to see if the new owner also received a letter? We are left wondering.
“The Watcher” is loosely based on a true story that happened in Westfield, New Jersey. According to an article by Netflix’s Tudum, the characters’ names were changed and so was the number of children they had.
From watching the series, the audience gets a glimpse into the lives of the Brannock family. Director Ryan Murphy captures the horror of the lives of the original family from 2015 to 2019, leaving viewers to wonder who really is the Watcher? Will Dean return as the new John, possibly putting the new family at risk? Just like the original story, we wonder what happens next. Luckily, Netflix has just announced that the series will return for a second season. So, it looks like we will get a chance to find out!
“The Watcher” is available to stream on Netflix.