What The Watcher is all about without spoiling the show
This scripted series is the story of a family that moves into a new home in Westfield, New Jersey only to soon receive threatening letters in the mail from someone who calls themselves The Watcher. The neighbors and other people the family interact with are all suspects. So is the family. Who is writing these increasingly nasty letters to the family urging them to move out? Over the course of seven episodes, Ryan Murphy never tells us. That’s because the real life story of what The Watcher is based on remains unsolved.
Were you familiar with The Watcher story before watching?
This is one of my favorite true crime stories where no one dies. It’s similar to the Circleville Letters in Ohio except not quite as good. The Circleville Letter episode of Unsolved Mysteries stuck with me as a kid. There’s so much intrigue. Is someone dangerous writing these or is a big hoax?
I knew more about the story in The Watcher from listening to the True Crime All the Time podcast episode covering the story. Because it took place in home state only a few years ago, I even recall seeing articles about it.
Will The Watcher make people feel uncomfortable?
This scripted series does have some uncomfortable moments. It’s not as harsh as Murphy’s other show released around the same, Dahmer. The Watcher will, instead, rely on giving you the creeps. Anyone can get a threatening letter in the mail. Usually it’s about a late payment. This family wishes that’s all it was.
You won’t be grossed out at all by any scenes in The Watcher. It’s not that kind of show. It’s more of a psychological thriller. Unless you really don’t like Stiffler’s mom, because she plays a big role in the show, you should be fine until you think you hear someone in the next room.
What was good about The Watcher?
They managed to take a pretty well-known and unique story and develop it into something much more. The real life story of the Westfield Watcher doesn’t have too much content. Even without being an expert on the topic, I knew in the first episode a lot of what we were seeing was completely fabricated.
Looking at this strictly from a viewpoint of entertainment, it was acceptable. I love a good mystery. The Watcher has plenty of intrigue and colorful characters along the way.
The slight tie-in with John List was interesting, however, I would have done it differently.
What could have made The Watcher better?
Honestly, they should have stuck more to what happened in real life. Calling this “based on a true story” is like saying you almost kissed someone just because your lips were in the same room. It was a bit disappointing to see so much of this scripted series be made up. I don’t know exactly all of the details that were fictionalized, but I would guess a good portion of it never happened simply from what I knew of the story previously.
The Watcher might have been a much more boring show if not for the fiction. Maybe a movie could have worked better. Many of the characters were made up with a few inspired by real people.
A better approach may have been to have each episode from the perspective of a different character or suspect. Let it unfold in a way where we start to believe the family might just be in on a hoax to get out of paying for their new home.
In real life, there’s a very good suspect who lived nearby whose online gaming name happened to be The Watcher. They create a character to represent him. I think a more real-to-life portrayal and even fictionalization of this person could have been much better than a teenage love interest of the daughter.
Is The Watcher worth watching?
It pains me to say this because I was very excited when this series was announced and then released. It is not worth watching. This series was something completely different from what I wanted. Having watched Dahmer prior, I was hoping for a more honest portrayal of the Westfield Watcher story. Instead, we got something loosely based on truth. Maybe with a conclusive ending I would have felt more satisfied. At least in a film like From Hell about Jack the Ripper we find out who is terrorizing the streets of London.
Overall Score: 4 out of 10
The Watcher isn’t a bad series. It’s funny at times, entertaining, and holds your attention. What’s lacking is the story. It’s a lot of nonsense that takes away from what is actually a pretty fascinating true crime tale.
Interested in watching The Watcher or learning more about the case? Below you will find affiliate links to the series as well as other information about this case. By using this links, I may receive a small commission of any purchase you may make.
The Watcher: The Disturing True Story Inspired by the New TV Series by Heather Thornson
Westfield NJ 657 Boulevard Pillow
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