‘The Watcher’ Review: Perfection Hides Ugliness in This New Ryan Murphy Series
Ryan Murphy is, without a doubt, one of the most prolific producers in the medium of television. Just a couple of weeks ago, his series Dahmer debuted to incredible numbers, and then the series even reached the top two of live-action series on Netflix, only behind Squid Game. Murphy has been riding a wave of his own creation for decades now, and maybe you want this style, or maybe you don’t, but his output is definitely impressive, and he should be respected as a producer all around. His new series keeps within the confines of his style and offers more of what people want.
The Watcher is a series produced by Ryan Murphy and based on an article written by Reeves Wiedeman, titled “The Haunting of a Dream House”. Yes, this means that The Watcher is another true-crime series, a genre that made Murphy famous in the latter half of his career and that has also made great numbers for Netflix. People love watching a fictional retelling of dark crime, and The Watcher follows that same route. It tells the story of a family who moves to their dream house only to find that living in that place is a nightmare.
The series stars Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Luke David Blumm, Isabel Gravitt, Mia Farrow, Margo Martindale, and Jennifer Coolidge. The impressive cast of veterans serves the series very well because our protagonist, the Brannock family, needs to be assailed from everywhere by a very strange collection of individuals. You see, the family seems to buy a house that everyone in the neighborhood reveres as some kind of temple. A weird obsession surrounds the house’s history, so the family is perceived more like invaders than owners.
The Watcher definitely has that sense of comedy and outrageousness that is a signature element of every Murphy production. The secondary characters are all larger than life, and you can feel that there is something off happening. No one in their right mind will buy a house of this size without first checking if the neighborhood is cool and friendly. However, this is a true story, so you might say that there are people with no mind making insane purchases just for the clout.
Murphy writes and directs some episodes, so this series has more in common with something like American Horror Story than with Dahmer. If you like the anthology series that made Murphy a household name in the past two decades, you will probably enjoy this one. The collection of quirky characters sometimes feels too much like cartoons, but this only helps to enhance the strange feeling that any of these people could be responsible for our protagonists’ suffering.
The visual design of the show is very on point. For example, the house itself, while gorgeous, is shot in such a way that it makes the place feel really haunted. We never get to see the house fully from the inside. These sharp corners can be used to hide very dark stuff, so every time a character turns in one of these points, your expectations arise. You must be ready because something bad could be right on the other side. The rest of the neighborhood also offers quite a bit of atmosphere. It all looks very pretty, but also very rotten.
As the story progresses, the characters become more and more paranoid, and with just seven episodes, the series becomes a true beacon of paranoia. You cannot fault the characters for losing their minds at some point during the show; you might lose it too if you think too hard about who is doing this to them. It is all part of the fun, but the mystery part of the show can be a bit frustrating. Creating a mystery where the audience can participate is very hard to do, and the show might have gone too much on the hard side.
Of course, those who pay attention from the first episode will find that the answer was always there, staring us in the face, just like Naomi Watts’ character says so early in the series. For some other members, it will come as a surprise, but it is hard to tell if the ending will land as a satisfying one for the majority of the audience. There could be some people out there that will find it disappointing or even anticlimactic. It will all depend on the audience’s moods at that point in the series more than anything.
Nevertheless, the actors are all doing a great job and effectively sell the situation. Naomi Watts, for example, has become the go-to actress when it comes to putting a normal person into a stressful situation, and some hints of her work with David Lynch can be felt in the character of Maria. Cannavale is an acquired taste. He is good, but sometimes he is too abrasive and comes off as trying too hard to fit the role of a normal dad.
The Watcher isn’t perfect, but it is another entertaining and gripping series from Mr. Ryan Murphy. Many people will love the mystery factor and will entertain themselves, trying to find the answer. The series has only seven episodes, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It is a perfect show for the Halloween season and a perfect binge-watch for the weekend.