[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Watcher.]
With Ryan Murphy’s limited series The Watcher, the Glee creator delves into a real-life stalker case that has yet to be solved. The Netflix thriller focuses on the well-off Nora and Dean Brannocks, played by Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale, who relocate with their children to a suburban house at 657 Boulevard, only to become the recipients of alarming, invasive, and anonymous letters being sent to their new home.
In the concluding episode of the suspenseful series, the Brannocks eventually flee the house (and titular Watcher) and are seen in New York, settling into a newer, safe home. But even moving away from 657 Boulevard isn’t enough to escape the damage caused by the Watcher, as Dean is shown still attempting to solve who the mysterious figure is, turning his home office into an obsessive memorial to the case.
When private investigator Theodora Birch (Noma Dumezeni)’s battle with cancer lands her in the hospital, Nora and Dean pay her a visit — but days later, Theodora tells Dean that she was the Watcher, noting that the house was supposed to be hers, but she had to make the choice of selling it in order to finance her cancer treatments. However, the Brannocks soon find out that Theodora’s confession was nothing more than a lie, told to put the couple at ease.
657 Boulevard doesn’t remain up for sale for long, as Karen (Jennifer Coolidge) purchases it — however, she then follows suit with the Brannocks, moving out after dealing with the Watcher herself. No parties involved seem able to break out of the Watcher’s mental grasp, as evidenced by a haunted Dean, who’s powerless to forget.
Dean’s descent into darkness goes one step further, as another family steps into the position of the Brannocks as the owner of 657 Boulevard. Dean is shown stalking the residency with a fixated stare at the mailbox. His own period of serving as the Watcher is interrupted by a phone call from Nora, who asks about a job interview Dean had. Lying to Nora, Dean tells her he’s heading back home. But upon leaving, Dean’s car is replaced with another — Nora’s.
The finale of The Watcher doesn’t give viewers any real closure on the case, much like the story it’s based on. While we’re shown a figure that alludes to someone committing these acts, no one character throughout the series necessarily fits the bill for the titular villain. The show’s aim of crafting an ominous tone reigns supreme through this ending, as a sense of opaqueness forces viewers to draw their own conclusions from what they’ve seen.
What makes The Watcher’s ending a cryptic and perplexing effort is that it doesn’t answer any questions, but rather raises more — because the unknown is the most horrifying fear of them all.
The Watcher is streaming now on Netflix.