“The Watcher” (Series) – When Home Ceases to Be an Asylum [review]

The Watcher series


Title: “The Watcher” (Neflix series)

Release Date: 2022

Cast: Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Mia Farrow, Joe Mantello, Jennifer Coolidge


“The Watcher” is a gripping Netflix miniseries that has gained a lot of popularity, though also a lot of critics. Here we have an interesting story based on facts, a mysterious intrigue and acting by stars of the class, such as Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale and Mia Farrow. The main protagonist of the story, however, is the stately home, which, depending on the perspective taken, appears once as a prestigious mansion elevating the social status of its owners, and at other times as a gloomy place straight out of Edgar Allan Poe’s prose. What secret does the building hide, and do its owners also have no shameful secrets?

“The Watcher” – once upon a time in America

The series “The Watcher” tells the story of an American couple who, along with their two children, move from New York to their dream home in Westfield, New Jersey. Nora Brannock (Naomi Watts) is an artist trying to break through in the community, and her husband Dean (Bobby Cannavale) works in a law firm, where he is to become a partner in the near future. Together they raise their 16-year-old daughter Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter, who is a few years younger than her. When a real estate agent and also a former friend of Nora’s from her student days, Karen (Jennifer Coolidge), shows them a property worth several million dollars, the Brannocks, without hesitating, decide to spend all their savings on the house and take out a loan. Nevertheless, it soon turns out that the idyll will not last long.

The family receives a mysterious letter from someone signing himself as “Watcher” which contains veiled threats against them. The voyeur seems to have considerable knowledge of the Brannocks and their daily habits, so the couple decides to take the matter seriously and report the incident to the police. Meanwhile, more facts about the history of the mansion come to light, and the Brannocks’ neighborhood turns out to be a real gallery of curiosities… Is one of them the mysterious Watcher?

The Watcher Netflix review

“The Watcher” – house and family secrets

“The Watcher” is a series created by Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy based on true events. Namely, the basis of the script was Reeves Wiedeman’s article “The Cut”, published in 2018 in “New York” magazine. The production loosely reconstructs the events, offering viewers a great thriller with psychological flavors. Personally, I followed the meanders of the plot intently, spinning various conjectures about not only the titular Observer, but also the characters at the center of events. After all, I couldn’t help feeling that the house here is not just a physical space, but metaphorizes the family and the relationships within it.

It is not without reason that the sense of danger refers in the series not only to the building, but also includes the permanence of the marital bond. So not only is a mysterious voyeur watching the house, but also the characters begin to look at each other. The whole story has a palimpsest character: the detective hired by the Brannocks, Theodora (Noma Dumezweni), uncovers from the couple and the viewers the successive layers of the house’s fate. At the same time, she brings up issues from the past of its current owners, and this excursion turns out to be as fractious as the mystery behind the building’s genesis. Every family has its secrets, and even the most pristine image taken under the magnifying glass has cracks – this is how I read the peculiar keynote of the Netflix production.

The series “The Watcher” – on the borderline of genres.

The pleasure of watching this series comes not only from the mixing of successive clues of the mystery, but also from the mixing of various film genres. Here we can find non-fiction cinema, thriller, elements of a casual film and romance. Nevertheless, the mysterious aura of the whole production is introduced mainly by reaching for horror conventions. I personally constantly thought of frenetic literature, especially the prose of Edgar Allan Poe, and not only because of the sheer poetics of the series, but also because of its interestingly guided theme. The peculiar neighbors of the Brannocks are characters almost straight out of a horror novel, and the house itself (although not at all destructive) reminded me of the famous “The Fall of the House of Usher.” In this sense, every detail of the building can have additional meanings, such as the leitmotiv of the basement, underground tunnels or windows referring to psychoanalytic symbols.

The Watcher 2022 analysis

The relationship between the big city and the province also appears interestingly in “The Watcher”. Paradoxically, the characters, escaping from the crime associated with the metropolis, instead of finding a safe asylum in the periphery, it is there that they fall into the most dangerous trap. Life in a small, gated community is only seemingly trouble-free, while it can really be very difficult, especially for someone who is used to big-city anonymity. Therefore, being an object of constant observation has another interesting facet in the series: it refers to the peculiarities of existence in small communities, consisting in the necessity of sharing a certain part of one’s privacy with others.

However, the production leaves a certain unsatisfactoriness, which I will not reveal. It can be taken as an additional element of surprise, or as an opening of the way to filming the next season, which probably recently appeared in the plans of the creators of “The Watcher.” Furthermore, I think this seven-episode production is worth seeing, as it stands out among Netflix’s wide range of series.