“The Watcher,” a Netflix original television show released on Oct. 13, has taken the internet by storm because of its mysterious, based-on-a-true-story and frustrating plot line. The story starts out with a family looking into a beautiful home in the suburbs of New Jersey. The price of the house is steep, but husband and father Dean Brannock, played by Bobby Cannavale, did everything in his power to purchase the house. Six weeks go by and they are happier than ever in their new home, until they get a suspicious letter in the mail from someone named The Watcher.
In this letter, they inform the Brannocks that they are watching them, and to enjoy the house they bought from greed. These letters continue as the Brannock family do everything they can to find out who the letters are coming from. Shows like these are hard; they need to keep the audience interested just enough to keep them watching (no pun intended). Unfortunately, while the short clips they show on Netflix when you’re hovering over the title image reeled myself and many others in, the show fell short for me. The only reason why I continued watching was because it was based on a true story.
On the bright side, the actors and actresses fit their parts well. Their family was believable, with the exception of the son Carter Brannock, played by Luke David Blumm, since he wasn’t a big part of the story. Either way, they acted seamlessly together and moved well throughout the scenes.
The suspense was always high, no matter what was going on in the scene. The neighbors were the main reason for this, since their behavior was creepy and territorial of their homes and neighborhood. The music and score were also well done and kept the tension high.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the show does not stretch much farther than that. I enjoyed the concept of the show far more than the execution.
First of all, the acting was all over the place. Some scenes were believable while others made me think I was watching their audition videos rather than the finished scene. One actor that bothered me the most was the daughter, Ellie Brannock, played by Isabel Gravitt. She was a very important character to the story, especially when getting to know who her parents were, yet the acting seemed fake when it came down to the most important scenes. In one scene, she made a video claiming untrue events and things about her family, which resulted in fighting between her parents and herself. This is where it seemed like the directors wanted to add more “drama” to the show, yet these dramatic outbursts were unnecessary and the reactions that followed were even more so.
There were also scenes that made me uncomfortable. It is rated TV-MA, but I still couldn’t get past the intimate scenes between the husband and wife. In the first twenty minutes, we see them in the bed together while their children are downstairs. The visual aspect was not needed in a show like this. I’m not one to normally complain about scenes such as this, but it immediately threw me off guard. The scenes were gratuitous, rather than something to move the plot forward. In shows like “Orange Is the New Black,” for example, scenes such as these ones are part of the story line. In “The Watcher,” it was distracting to what was actually at hand.
The amount of mature language used was also absurd. Again, that’s not something that would normally bother me, but it was used in the majority of scenes and in almost every sentence. When a word that is used for emphasis is used too many times, it loses the factor of making people listen. For this type of genre, it would have been better off without as much profanity.
What bothered me the most, though, was the fact that there was no true suspect. Normally in suspenseful mystery shows where a crime was committed, there are suspects. The writers craft the story in a way where you have an idea of who it could be. In “The Watcher”, there is no way I could have even guessed who it was. They left too many hints of way too many characters.
In just one episode they would make you believe it was Mo and Mitch (played by Margo Martindale and Richard Kind), Pearl and Jasper (played by Mia Farrow and Terry Kinney), and Karen, the real estate agent (played by Jennifer Coolidge). It made it extremely hard to have my own guess since they already blamed everyone else in the show. They didn't even insinuate it was someone else, they literally blamed every single person in the show, including themselves.
There were also plot holes all throughout. The most frustrating part was when they found a secret tunnel in their basement in episode six, “The Gloaming.” I was excited because it was the beginning of something new, except the end came 45 minutes later when the episode ended. When they went down the tunnel, they found someone in a black cape running away. It cuts to a different scene, now showing the front of this man who was running away, and he says “they’re onto us” to the neighbor Pearl. This was truly the first time I had a suspect in mind. It fell short soon after, though, because they never dug deeper into who the man was, they never inspected the room that was far down the tunnel, and they never followed it further to see where else it led.
To make matters even worse, they never reveal who the Watcher is. Understandably, this show is based on true events, so in real life, they never learned who it was. I wish they would have made up who it was and let viewers know that it was not historically accurate. They accuse everyone, make the audience believe they are getting close, and end the season when Dean Brannock is still obsessing over who it could have been. It ruined the entire show for me, since it ended on a cliffhanger. They can’t make a season two, either, since it is an ongoing investigation.
I know that this television show is supposedly based on a true story, but I struggled with the beginning, middle and end. Like I said before, the story itself is interesting. The way they played it out, though, was the worst possible way. The only reason why I finished it was because I wanted to know who it was. They did just enough to keep the audience interested, such as the suspenseful music, plot twists, new characters and the occasional “scary” aspects that they added, yet when it really mattered, they failed at making a successful mystery television show. If you’re looking for a show that hits all the right parts of mystery, I suggest watching “Dead to Me” instead. You won’t be disappointed.