Created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, ‘The Watcher’ is the Netflix true-crime series. It is inspired by author Reeves Weideman’s article published in New York Magazine’s The Cut and tells the true story of a family that receives a series of disturbing letters after moving into their dream home in Westfield, New Jersey. Dean (Bobby Cannavale) and Nora Brannock (Naomi Watts) have spent most of their lives in the city. In search of a quieter and less tumultuous life, Dean spends almost all their savings to buy 657 Boulevard, a beautiful house built in the early part of the 20th century. However, soon after, they start receiving these unsettling letters from a person identifying themselves as the Watcher. Here is everything you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Who is the Watcher?
The most prevalent question of the show is the identity of the Watcher. In every episode, one or more characters are placed under a microscope, and the probability of them being the culprit is considered against sparse and often conflicting evidence. However, by the end of the season, we are far from getting the answer. ‘The Watcher’ — as mentioned above — is based on a true story, though considerable artistic liberty is taken. Perhaps this is the reason why Murphy and his team didn’t use the real names of the family that was stalked by the actual Watcher. Derek and Maria Broaddus have become Dean and Nora Brannock in the Netflix series. However, certain aspects of the show are quite similar to reality, and arguably the most important thing among them is the identity of the Watcher remains a mystery in the real world as well.
Although it ends without providing a definitive answer to the most important question it poses, the show does provide quite a few suspects. For instance, two sets of immediate neighbors of the Brannocks. Mo and Mitch are a couple whose property shares a border with 657 Boulevard. In episode 2, they apparently die in a case of murder-suicide, but they return to Westfield later, and it is revealed that their son, Christopher, killed two older people with the same body types as his parents to get the insurance money while Mo and Mitch were on vacation in Florida. There are also Pearl and her brother Jasper. It is pretty evident that they are hiding a massive secret, but only a small bit of it is revealed by the end of the season.
At one point, Nora suspects Dean is the one who has been sending the letters, and Theodora, the private investigator they hired, supports this, though the theories are ultimately proven somewhat wrong. Dean doesn’t send the first two letters but is behind the third one. He really needs the house to be sold so he can avoid a second bankruptcy. Karen Calhoun, the realtor, is yet another suspect, and she has actual reasons for wanting the Brannocks out of the house. While Karen does want the house and goes to extreme lengths to acquire it, she isn’t the Watcher. On her first night at 657 Boulevard, her pet dog is killed, and she watches someone emerging from the trap door on the stairs. She flees from the house immediately and puts it up for sale.
According to Theodora, of all the suspects, Roger Kaplan, the local architecture aficionado and English teacher, has the best chance of being the Watcher. But he ultimately seems like a victim of conjectures. And then, there is Theodora herself. A terminal cancer patient, she accepts being the Watcher on her deathbed. But it is later revealed to be a lie, told to prevent Dean’s march toward self-destruction because of his obsession with the unsolved mystery.
That leaves John Graff, the man who lived at 657 Boulevard until 1995 with his family. According to Theodora, John also received letters and later killed his entire family before vanishing. John Graff and the person who introduced himself as William Webster are the same. It is heavily implied that he is who lives in the tunnels that the renovators at 657 Boulevard find. Pearl and Jasper know about him and have been hiding him in the tunnels for all these years. He is most likely the person Karen sees in her house and sends most of the letters to the Watcher allies. He is not the original Watcher. Someone else sent him those letters. But like many people the property he has become obsessed with it.
A key component of the narrative that supports this theory is Dean’s behavior toward the end. Despite getting his own happy ending, he hasn’t been able to give up on the house and the mysteries surrounding it. We see him introducing himself to the new owners as John, just as John Graff did when they first met. Like Dean after him, John probably hasn’t been able to give up and tried to torment the Brannock family the same way he had been, perhaps even hoping for a similar outcome.