What was wrong with Netflix’s The Watcher?
Fresh off their controversial series on Netflix DahmerRyan Murphy and Ian Brennan released another miniseries, The Observer, which rubbed many audiences the wrong way. Based on a true story, the series follows the Brannock family, who begin receiving threatening letters from a sender known only as “The Watcher” after moving into a new home in Westfield, New Jersey. The Brannocks also find themselves tormented by their neighbors. who refuse to respect their privacy, leading them to believe that one, if not all of them, is the Observer.
Although currently ranked as Netflix’s #1 show, The Observer premiered to mixed reviews, earning 50% reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average Audience Score of 36%. The series has some redeeming qualities, including an intriguing premise, stellar performances, and chilling scares. But as the story progresses, the foundation begins to crumble under the weight of its own ambition. The result is a convoluted, wacky mystery with a lackluster conclusion that no one really likes.
Warning: The following article contains numerous plot spoilers for The Watcher.
What happened to the Brannock family
In order to break down the things that went wrong with this popular miniseries, one must first understand everything the Brannocks uncover throughout the series. After receiving several letters from the Watcher, Nora and Dean Brannock find leads that imply that their neighbors are part of a blood cult that wants to sacrifice their children, Ellie and Carter. They also learn that one of the house’s former owners, John Graff, who received letters from the “Watcher” and disappeared after murdering his family, may be the new Watcher and a member of the supposed blood cult. (possibly masquerading as a historic preservation company). They also suspect Nora’s real estate agent friend, Karen, of trying to get them to sell her the house by scaring them away with these mysterious letters.
The family discovers a girl with pigtails who resembles Graff’s dead daughter stepping into Dean’s bed while he sleeps, as well as a series of underground tunnels connected to their basement. These findings mean that either the house is haunted by Graff’s deceased family, or someone has snuck dressed like her through the underground tunnel. Finally, Nora and Dean suspect that the Observer is Roger Kaplan, an English teacher with a passion for architecture who has created a popular assignment for his students to write letters to homes they love. Although the pair confront Kaplan about it, they find no evidence that he is the culprit, and the Brannocks are forced to return to the city.
There are too many subplots
The Observer presents many, many, many subplots with a plethora of possible answers for what is happening at the Brannock house. But that turns out to be the show’s downfall, as it seems to jump from storyline to storyline without presenting a cohesive narrative. For example, 16-year-old Ellie from Dean starts dating 19-year-old Dakota. When Dean bans it out of suspicion that Dakota is the watcher, Ellie retaliates by going online and falsely saying he called the cops on Dakota for being a black man. The audience is led to believe that this act will ruin the family’s lives, but the Brannocks all recover relatively quickly, and Dean and Nora almost immediately forgive Ellie, even though what she did was absolutely not OKAY.
Nora also thought Dean was having an affair and she states that she is filing for divorce as a result. In the next episode, she even learns that Dean wrote one of Watcher’s letters in order to help her case, which should have been grounds for divorce since he lied to his family and intentionally scared them even more. Instead, Nora forgives him while leaving a possibility of a divorce after resolving the case, but this is never brought up again at the end.
The show sweeps many of its twists under the rug as quickly as they appear so it can continue to explore the mystery of the Observer, making them feel like they were only meant for a mere shock value, with little bearing on the overall story. They also called the Brannock family more unsympathetic and unrealistic, making it harder for audiences to become invested in them as the series continues. What begins as an intriguing web of lies and secrets ends up looking more like a tangle of abandoned stories and red herrings that are more frustrating than entertaining.
This moan of an end
In the finale, Dean and Nora’s private investigator Theodora claims that she was the Watcher and orchestrated everything to claim her dream home. But soon after, the couple learns that she lied so they can finally have peace of mind knowing who the Watcher is. Of course, the audience knew that was a lie, as his story didn’t explain why Grsff entered through the house’s underground tunnel, which left this fake twist not having as much power as it would have. must have had.
Thus, the series ends with the Brannocks never finding out who the Watcher is, but Dean cannot go on with his life without knowing the truth. Dean is last seen watching Westfield’s house, waiting to see if the new owners get a letter from the Watcher. Lying to his wife about his whereabouts, Dean continues to search for the truth, only for the show to reveal that Nora is watching him too. So now a watcher is watching another watcher watching the watcher. Yes, that’s a lot.
In real life, Watcher’s identity is still unknown (yes, this series is actually based on a real-life case), and the series creators naturally wanted the series to end the same way. The conclusion fits the series’ message about the dangers of being obsessed with an unsolved mystery, as Dean’s preoccupation with uncovering the truth continues to haunt him, as does the Watcher. However, after this series builds its own fiction involving a creepy historical preservation society, brutal murders, a possible haunting, and a probable blood cult, what more fiction is there if it has a happy ending?
That’s weird The ObserverMurphy, who isn’t exactly known for his subtlety or sticking to the truth in his shows or feature films, would find altering the ending to be too much. He was a man, after all, who made real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez an immortal demon in American Horror Story: 1984 and thought James Corden would be a likeable lead in the terrible musical Prom.
How The Watcher Should Have Ended
Surely there was another way for this show to end so its creators and audience could have their cake and eat it too. Kind of like an episode of The twilight zonethe series could have ended by providing a more concrete answer that could be based on reality without actually saying it’s okay by revealing the Observer’s identity to the audience, but not to the Brannocks.
The most likely truth behind the Watcher on the show seemed to be that Graff was trying to get Dean to continue his violent legacy at the the brilliant pushing him to kill his family and offering their blood to the preservation society. In the show’s twisted mythology, that would make sense, even if it’s outrageous and barely believable.
Instead, the show ends with no answers and too many unanswered questions. Who was the girl sleeping in Dean’s bed? Who was the Watcher who sent letters to Graff? Who was the watcher who kicked Karen out of the house?
The show’s ending might have worked if it had set up a second season, as it would have left more room for some questions to be answered in the future. However, this season of The Observer seems like a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and its conclusion remains too ambiguous to satisfy a mass audience, which always craves closure at the end of a mystery series. Remember that controversial Season 1 finale of The slaughter, which has not solved its central mystery? Murphy seems to have forgotten that, and the painful lesson that show creator Veena Sud learned in the face of viewer backlash.
The end result is a show that had a promising start, a messy middle, and an unresolved ending that no one is truly happy with. It’s a shame because like most of Murphy’s shows, there was potential for The Observer be truly watchable and memorable. Instead, he joins Hollywood, Pawland Halston like another Ryan Murphy production that left a bad taste in the mouths of viewers.
The Observer is currently streaming on Netflix. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
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