“The Watcher” - Netflix show review

Story posted October 23, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Luca Miceli.

The greatest fears slowly eat away at a person’s fortitude until there is nothing but paranoia and a blanket of paralyzing terror. It is the unknown cause of the creak in the floorboards that makes a person jump. It is the knowledge that someone is watching, plotting and acting but never telling where, why or when that shakes and breaks an individual.

“The Watcher” is a new mystery thriller co-created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan based on a true story that partially explores that fear. The show follows Dean (Bobby Cannavale) and Nora Brannock (Naomi Watts) as they buy their ideal suburban dream home. Their tenure proves to be far worse than anticipated upon receiving eerily threatening letters from a stalker known as “The Watcher,” but this never proves to be as harrowing as it could be.

One of the shows simultaneously best and worst attributes is the mystery it presents. The central mystery of who “The Watcher” is keeps the viewer guessing and suspicious New twists and turns unfold, but so many are discovered that unraveling all the knots becomes more annoying than exhilarating.

On the other hand, the acting from everyone keeps the trudge to the end from becoming a slog. Cannavale owns the character of Dean through stunning displays of anger, borderline insanity and even heartfelt love for his family.

Likewise, Watts is Nora Brannock in much the same way with nuance in her affection for Dean and her drive to protect her kids from the mysterious entity.

While the protagonists take up most of the screen time, Noma Dumezweni steals every scene she is in as private investigator Theodora Birch. Her lines are delivered with a calm that sells experience and an air of mystery that makes the audience suspicious despite their inclination towards her.

Flipping again, the tone of “The Watcher” shifts almost as much as its episode count. Some episodes play like a comedy with neighbors so overtly strange it guts the tension, while others feature shots of paranormal silhouettes at the edge of the frame with mysterious piano playing to boot. Unfortunately, the muddled tonal episodes eclipse the few scary ones.

Adding to the odd tonal contrasts, some of the score, particularly in the opening episode, transform an anxiety-rich scene of Dean scouring the area for his tormentor into a parody that invites the audience to laugh at his fear.

The characters in the show are about as consistent as the tone with some like Dumezwini’s Theodora consistently intriguing the viewer, to others like Brannock's son, Carter (Luke David Blumm), who occasionally gives a line to remind the audience he still exists. In between characters like Dakota (H. Hunter Hall) drives the plot early on and brings a necessary cool head to contrast Dean, but once he fulfills his part, he is diminished to a background character without satisfying resolution.

Netflix’s big October release fails to capitalize on the limitless scaring potential of borderline ethereal Watcher. Horror fans will be disappointed, but may find some enjoyment in the ride to uncover the identity of the watcher. Emphasis on “may” because viewers going in expecting a strong mystery will find many of their predictions only half-right in what feels like Murphy and Brennan’s lacking attempt to create a high IQ “one step ahead of the viewer” at all times mystery.

Those familiar with the story “The Watcher” is based on will see some interesting connections and deviations from the original story. Despite some shoddy writing and inconsistent character real estate, there are certainly worse ways to spend a day perusing Netflix. But again, superior options exist in the vast sea of bingeable content.

Rating: 2/5

Luca Miceli is a first year student majoring in telecommunications. To contact him please email

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Luca Miceli