Skip to main content

The Watcher–Don’t Bother

The Watcher (a seven-episode Netflix mini-series by Ryan Murphy, creator of Stranger Things and American Horror Story) was released on October 13 of this year and is currently rated #1 on that platform. Loosely based on a true story, a creative middle-aged couple   Nora (Naomi Watts) and Dean Brannock (Bobby Cannavale), buy a mansion in a wealthy insular country-club enclave: Westfield, in upstate New Jersey.  

Soon they are  haunted by a stalker, and besieged with financial problems from purchasing a home they couldn’t really afford.   Their teenage daughter is, at first, irritated by the move from New York City and then enchanted with her new nineteen-year-old admirer. Their pre-teen son is adrift with a comfort animal–his pet ferret– and witnesses the dissolution of his family.  No one is happy, or even mildly content.  The difficulty and ambivalence of family life are front and center in the first three episodes.  The Brannocks’ dream home turns into a family nightmare.

 “The Watcher”, the self-named anonymous stalker, leaves  sinister letters almost daily in the Brannocks’  mailbox.   Additionally,   neighbors are rumored to be involved in a menacing blood cult (Big Mo–played in a camp flourish by Margo Martindale) or just demented like the septagenarian  Pearl (Mia Farrow).  All become suspects and the viewer has  no idea  who is  terrorizing this family.  Until The Watcher brings them all on stage in a cinematic “perp walk”.   None are beyond suspicion and all clues are only vaguely delineated.

There are more red herrings than at a deli.  Each character at times is a suspect and none–not even the superb private detective, Theodora Birch (Noma Dumezweni),–gets full development of character, motive or means.  The real estate agent who sold them the house, Karen (the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge), preens around suspiciously but also is an alter-ego for Nora Brannock and her need to be a good mother and wife while keeping her creative profession alive and well..

The Watcher is a narrative mess with absurd, contrived characters whose behavior stretches one’s tolerance for deviance, removes all shreds of sympathy, and  stretches the bounds of credible human responses to their environment.

Why did I watch, you might ask?  Because the first episode hooked me in:  a family wanting to have a dream home to raise their children who would soon be leaving them as empty-nesters.  The Brannocks seemed well-intentioned, willing to reach out to be neighborly, and asking for help from law enforcement with no support.  They should be the heroes of The Watcher, instead of  a farrago inside a snowglobe.

Availability: Netflix streaming

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to my Newsletter

* indicates required
Jul0 Posts
Aug0 Posts
Sep0 Posts
Oct0 Posts
Nov0 Posts
Dec0 Posts
Jan0 Posts
Feb0 Posts
Mar0 Posts
Apr0 Posts
May0 Posts
Jun0 Posts
Jul0 Posts
Aug0 Posts
Sep0 Posts
Oct0 Posts