The Brannocks make their way through the scenic sight of Westfield at the start of The Watcher episode 1. The city family has decided to move to the suburbs in a bid to get away from the ballyhoo and hustle-bustle. They are about to go for a house viewing. Dean, Nora, Carter, and Ellie make up the members. 657 Boulevard can be their new home if the family likes it. And of course, if they can afford it.
In the open house, a bespectacled man watches the family from the second floor. He will play a pivotal part in things to come. An elderly woman dressed in black and sporting pigtails tries to convince her adult brother, who seems mentally challenged, to move away from the dumbwaiter.
Pearl is in fact the President of the local Preservation Society, which sounds as made up as teenage girls on prom. She calls the dumbwaiter a national treasure. What a weirdo, Dean thinks to himself. And the viewers as well. Nora runs into an old friend, Karen. She is the realtor who is transacting the house and managing its sale. They both were friends in art school. Nora has a giant gallery show lined up. If it sells out, Nora could finally get her big break. Dean meets a man with a bowtie as he peruses the upstairs quarters. Remember his face for he too shall be an important player in the saga about to unfold.
Ellie is still sceptical about the move. But Dean tries to paint a rosy picture. Dean meets with Mo & Mitch, the neighbors who keep watching the house all day long. Dean and Nora like it and make an offer on the house. Now, the problem is the money. Dean meets with Steve, who says that the Brannocks’ previous bankruptcy raises serious questions of credit risk for the bank. His income is okay but not enough to secure a jumbo loan of this size. And then comes the big decision. Dean decides to pull all the savings, stocks, IRA, and bonds to make a down payment and reduce the loan. Steve warns that every place can not be that safe but Dean is smitten with the place.
And then the move begins. As the movers arrive, a mysterious figure watches the house from afar. They get Carter a ferret, Sprinkles, to make the move better. Mitch and Mo complain to each other about the piano the movers wheel in. Nora feels liberated moving to this new place and it seems a nice time for the couple. Ellie puts on the lipstick she finds in the bathroom, drawing Dean’s irk. She is growing up too fast for him and he cannot handle it. This will be a recurring motif in the series. Ellie hears strange music coming in from the attic’s speakers but it stops when they inspect. A silent static lingers after they leave, showing something is in the house. Dean once again finds Jasper in the house to his surprise, as the brings the newspaper in. The family gets a weird letter from someone called “The Watcher” and Ellie reads it out loud.
It is a veiled threat to them not to stay in the house any longer. The house has a special place in the watcher’s heart and has been a part of his family heritage for more than a hundred years. They aren’t happy with the new renovation work about to start in the basement and kitchen. They think the family hasn’t been told some things by the people who sold them. The letter also talks about the kids. And how greed brought them to the house. It wants young blood and when the kids know their name, they will be drawn to the watcher. Nora and Dean go to the police. Dean misses work and that will also be an important detail in the scheme of things.
Detective Chamberland dismisses the threat and says Westfield is one of the safest towns in America. In his experience, such things often fizzle out and are mostly pranks. On Nora’s insistence, they send in the letter for DNA analysis, which will take a month. He thinks Jasper might be doing it but he is harmless. “Digging deep to afford the house” strikes a nerve in Nora, How does he know about that? Dean confronts Mo and Mitchell as they pick out the wild arugula they planted. It has grown on the other side and they have been doing it for almost two decades. Suddenly, they become strangely rude to Dean when he fights back. They leave and say they will be “watching” what they do.
Nora joins the country club where she occasionally plays tennis with Karen. The realtor too is a bit strange. She nudges Nora about the car she drives, and how she should have everything she ever wants. And then, she says that they should probably sell the house if they feel threatened. This too will become a motif ahead. It is these small things that they capitalize on so well to build tension that stands out. Karen is a divorcee and got the house from her ex-husband Rick and a lot of his money. When Carter takes Sprinkles to ride the dumbwaiter, he is shocked to find Jasper in it. Dean assaults him out of the house. He is angered, as he rightly should be. Dean also points out Ellie for her “bra strap sticking out” before the assault.
Pearl is at hand to explain how the previous owners allowed Jasper to use the dumbwaiter. He likes playing with it. But Dean sounds like a warning never for him to come back. To spite her, Dean says they will rip the dumbwaiter out. He also talks about ripping out the trees and Pearl’s tone denigrates into something too weird for any normal person, calling them “yuppies.” “Unneighbourly” she shouts to him as she leaves in anger. She also says she is “watching” them. Dakota, from Vanguard Securities, comes to install cameras and alarms for the house. He meets Elie on his way out, who is taking a swim. They flirt and it could possibly blossom into a love affair. Dean watches from the window. At night, we see someone again watching them from the outside. Sprinkles escapes his cage and is killed by someone in the hallway. Chamberland and the cavalry arrive to review the weird incident.
Neighbors watch from afar. Chamberland dismisses the death of the ferret and increases the frequency of squad cars going into the locality. Mo and Mitch curse when they hear Ellie playing the piano. Dakota installs the cameras and the alarm system. Nora asks about the other bids for the house from Karen, trying to understand the strangeness around her. A second letter soon arrives that sends Dean berserk The letter still talks about the children and is again violent and predatory. Dean runs around looking for vantage points and to see who is watching them.
The Episode Review
Don’t these secluded locations make for the best settings for unusual mysteries? The Watcher has started off with a banger of an episode. Plot pacing has been kept crisp and we have finally gotten to our core conceit: intruders. From episode 1, we can glean that it will likely be a hardcore mind twister. The psychological element of knowing someone is there out in the shadows but not being able to see them hits the hardest. It is the most effective tool to enhance narration and Ryan Murphy has once again hit the mark.
The slew of oddball characters on offer provides a great opportunity to play around various scenarios. A stunning Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale certainly seem to be in for a host of torment and torture. The town is so unwelcoming that you could almost sense the hatred leaking from the screen. It is a dominant start to the limited series and we are in for a treat.