The Watcher follows a married couple moving into their dream suburban home with their two young children. However, the dream life soon comes crashing down when they start receiving threatening letters from an anonymous figure calling themselves “The Watcher”.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Dean and Nora Brannock are a happily married couple who, along with their two teenage kids, are looking to move into their new dream home in a New Jersey suburb.
657 Boulevard is up for sale and the Brannocks are there for the tour with their whole family.
Everyone looks around the grand and beautiful property; Nora stumbles upon the realtor, Karen, who just so happens to be her friend from school.
Even with the rather off-putting bidders and creepy neighbours, the house is just too great to pass on. The Brannocks want to move their kids from the perils of city life in New York to somewhere safe.
657 Boulevard seems to be the safe haven of their dreams, and the couple does end up buying it. However, $3.3 million ain’t easy to just splurge willy-nilly.
That’s why Dean pours in all assets and money they have into taking a loan hefty enough so they can buy their dream home. He’s also counting on recovering from the financial tight spot when he eventually becomes a partner at his company.
The family moves in and all seems merry and chirpy at first, minus the off-kilter vibes that the neighbours keep emanating. Then the big shakeup happens.
The Brannocks receive a letter that details the writer’s affection for the house and how they have been keeping a watch over the property for years after their father had been doing so for decades prior to that.
The letter writer signs themselves as “The Watcher”. This understandably throws the couple off and the two rush off to the police station.
The Detective dismisses it as just a prank and when Dean and Nora press on, he agrees to run a DNA check on the letter (upon Nora’s suggestion).
Meanwhile, their prime suspects are the old siblings that live together in their neighbourhood. Pearl and Jasper are their names and the two are rather odd people, to say the least.
Jasper doesn’t speak at all and seems to exhibit neuroatypical behaviour. Pearl is also odd and very insistent on preserving the property and not altering any of it in the slightest.
Jasper keeps on breaking into Dean and Nora’s home and sneaking into the dumbwaiter that’s been on the property for ages. Pearl says that he’s been playing in the dumbwaiter for quite some time and the previous owners let him play around.
Dean isn’t keen on that at all and warns the siblings to stay outside his home and business. Pearl doesn’t take it fondly, expressing her anger at Dean’s claims that he’ll get the dumbwaiter removed.
While Jasper’s weird and Pearl can’t stop going off about her Westfield Preservation Society, the other elderly neighbours — Mitch and Maurice — are another can of worms altogether.
From the moment the family moved into 657, Mitch and Mo kept surveilling them in the open, from the comfort of their lawn that faces 657 and with binoculars always in hand. They also give Dean trouble for his daughter Ellie playing the piano.
The letter arrives again, this time The Watcher knows even the names of the family members and what they do. The typeface is the same and the language too, but the tone is worse, more threatening.
The couple turns to a private detective when the police are of little help. Theodora Birch is extremely fond of mysteries and is suffering from late-stage cancer.
She introduces Dean to the previous owner of 657, Andrew Price. He’s extremely paranoid and looks disturbed. He claims that Mitch and Mo are behind it all and also that they’re part of a child-blood-drinking cult.
Meanwhile, Dean and Nora enlist a young man’s service to get cameras installed all over. The 19-year-old Dakota takes a liking to Ellie who, in defiance of her increasingly protective father, rebels and makes out with him.
Later on, a building inspector meets Dean while the family has started to live in a nearby motel (due to The Watcher). The inspector, John Graff, as it turns out, was not actually an inspector.
Theodora finds crucial records of the former owner of 657 John Graff, the man who killed all his family and disappeared before wiping all evidence of his identity.
While Dean insists that he met the real John Graff, Nora and Theodora don’t agree. Theodora claims that Dakota is The Watcher since his gamer ID goes by the same title.
Dean grounds Ellie and gets Dakota booked for questioning. But that doesn’t go anywhere and Dakota is relieved of his charges. In fact, Dean’s problems become worse.
She uploads a video on social media claiming his father is a racist against Dakota. Furthermore, Nora and Dean’s boss receive a package with footage from inside his bedroom.
In the footage, a girl in pigtails and the same gown as John Graff’s dead daughter from the photos sleeps beside Dean. His relationship with Nora sours and he loses his job as well.
Meanwhile, Nora also finds out that he poured all her money into buying the house and wrote the third letter they received himself.
She later becomes convinced that Dean is The Watcher and did all this as a way out of his financial problems. Dean denies but a rift has been created between them.
Later on, however, Nora spots Karen and Detective Chamberland at a restaurant and surmises that they’re the ones behind it all.
It makes sense too since all Karen has been doing ever since they moved in is trying to convince Nora to sell the house, at a lower price.
Meanwhile, Mitch and Mo are shot dead at their home but later on, it turns out they were alive. Their mentally unstable son killed two people of his parents’ age and staged it to look like a suicide — all in an attempt to collect the insurance.
Nora and Dean come together again and the relationships in the family start to heal a bit. Dean reconciles with Dakota as well and with his help, the couple, later on, finds out that the house has a tunnel in the basement.
They probe inside to find a person running off, eventually managing to evade the couple.
Meanwhile, Theodora locks in on another suspect, the old and retired English teacher at Ellie’s school, Roger Kaplan. He hailed from a poor background and had an obsession with old houses.
He would later go on to create a literary club with his students who would all send letters of appreciation to different houses, romanticising the architecture and all, along with Kaplan himself.
A lady had previously suspected him to be The Watcher but this doesn’t lead Nora and Dean anywhere too.
They keep trying to nail the mystery man as their lives become completely tattered, with Nora’s art gallery career being the only good thing left.
However, amid all the chaos, Dean and Nora decide to sell the house and move to their previous apartment in New York, leaving The Watcher mystery behind.
However, Dean can’t let it all go and the question eats away at him. Theodora confesses to him on her deathbed that she’s The Watcher.
The couple believes her too, but later learn that she lied to comfort them and ease their minds.
Dean and Nora live in New York now and everything seems to be alright on the surface, but deep within, Dean still passes by the house and looks for the person that destroyed his life.
The Watcher ending explained in detail:
Who wrote all the letters?
At first, the letters that Dean and Nora received were from the titular mystery person. However, as the story proceeds, that changes.
By the end of the series, Dean has spiralled so much into the abyss of frustration and anger that he starts writing letters himself.
The first time Dean replicates a letter is when the third letter arrives in their mail. He wrote the letter — the only one article, as he claims — to change Nora’s perception of the house and sell it.
It’s after they’ve moved into their previous apartment in NY when Nora reads a Page Six article.
The article includes a report on a new development with the Brannocks’ case. Apparently, new threatening letters from the so-called Watcher were sent to neighbours each of whom was once considered a suspect.
Nora asks Dean if he sent them those letters and he answers yes. He sent letters similar to the ones they received because he wanted to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Who is Roger Kaplan and why did he write the letters?
Roger Kaplan is the last suspect Theodora theorizes to be The Watcher. He is a retired English teacher at Ellie’s new school.
Theodora informs Dean and Nora that Kaplan hails from a poor background and during his childhood, he had friends from rich neighbourhoods, all with big mansions they lived in.
Over the years, he developed an obsession with the old gigantic homes, dreaming of one day owning one house like those himself.
When he grew up, he searched for homes and one of them happened to have been listed. He made a bid but it was the lowest out of the three made for that house.
So on the advice of the realtor, he wrote an emotional letter to the owners, explaining to them for how long he’d wanted that home, asking them to sell it to him because he’ll care for it way better than anyone.
However, the owners didn’t take him up on that offer and the resentment start to brew up inside Kaplan. Later on, he starts a tradition when he first gives his students an assignment called “Ode to the House”.
The students are supposed to write a letter appreciating a house of their liking in their neighbourhoods and put it in the mailboxes. Kaplan does the same to the houses he grew up obsessing over.
The tradition goes on for a long time and eventually the students make a Facebook group about it, leading to Ellie and her parents discovering the “Ode to the House” letter.
It’s revealed that Kaplan kept writing odes to the house he liked for years and years and ended up on the last letter that was hostile and threatening.
The owner of the house who received those letters every year was taken aback by the abrupt change in tone and a week after that, she would receive more letters with the threats, this time signed as “The Watcher”.
Who is The Watcher?
The big question at hand, at the centre of it all — Who is the Watcher? Who watches the 657 Boulevard of Westfield, New Jersey?
The answer to that question ruins a family in the Netflix miniseries, and the answer remains unclear till the end.
This omnipresent ambiguity lingers on for the entire run of the miniseries because that’s how the real story it’s based on ends as well.
To this day, The Watcher of the real-life events related to the Broaddus family remains anonymous.
The Netflix series does change many things from the real story but keeps its essence intact, holding back any substantial answer to the big mystery.
There are many suspects that Dean and Nora lock in on as the ones behind their plight. However, all efforts to pull the curtains fail and they end up moving back to their previous house.
Mitch and Mo
Mitch and Mo (Maurice) come off as hostile neighbours right off the bat, instantly raising their suspect status to the sky. Mo even warns Dean that she’ll be watching him.
The two then die at their house, shot with a gun. However, that later on changes and the two are inexplicably still alive. This only raises the suspicion levels even higher.
However, after Mitch’s death and her son getting admitted into the mental asylum, she’s out of the suspicion circle.
She also doesn’t know who William Webster is, as he says he came to the neighbourhood in 1995. It’s revealed early on in the series by Theodora that Mitch and Mo came to Westfield in 1996, so that checks out.
Although their case is not spotless, Mitch and Mo can be ruled out as the suspects for The Watcher. As far as the claims of Andrew Price go, they can be chalked up to the pitiable ramblings of a disturbed man.
Pearl and Jasper & Westfield Preservation Society
Nearly all characters perform or say highly suspicious things, and so does Pearl.
She and Jasper are two of the likeliest suspects in the show. Even if they’re not solely behind the whole Watcher scare, they’re major contributors.
Both siblings are old; in age, in aesthetics, and in spirit. They want to preserve the Westfield society and even the contents of all other properties as they have been for ages.
From the beginning, they keep going off on about some Westfield Preservation Society and how making any changes to the architecture and layout of the houses would constitute a violation.
Later on, it’s revealed that this society is made up of only herself, her brother, and William Webster. They do end up adding Roger Kaplan and Maurice to their “society” by the end of the show.
The original three members of this society seem to be the most likely suspects and the ones responsible for the entire spiel.
Jasper and Pearl are almost clinically averse to any alterations made to the antiquities inside the houses of their neighbourhoods.
Jasper doesn’t believe in privacy and with his neuro-divergence excuse, frequently breaches it when it comes to the Brannocks.
Later on, it’s revealed that there’s a tunnel in their basement that leads to other houses. It’s almost 100% certain that Pearl and Jasper’s home is connected to the same tunnel.
They use this tunnel to break into other houses and scare the owners from making any changes to the architecture or vintage furnishings.
Is Wiliam Webster aka Bill actually John Graff?
Then comes Wiliam Webster, or Bill, as he introduces himself to the new expanded Westfield Preservation Society. He says he came to the neighbourhood in 1995.
Maurice expresses a slight surprise at that bit of information. Meanwhile, Roger Kaplan expresses doubt when he asks if his name is Bill, also adding that he recognises him from somewhere.
Pearl and Bill both intervene by hastily suggesting that he probably recognises him from a public library because he works at one. While that suggestion in itself gives a whole lot away, Kaplan doesn’t exactly know him from a library.
No, he knows him from somewhere else, eventually remembering where he recognises him from but never saying it out loud.
He does exchange a cryptic look with Bill, conveying a sense of familiarity, until finally, he asks him how his family is doing. Bill is visibly nervous and stays quiet.
This is probably the most damning bit of evidence pointing to Bill being The Watcher (or at least being one of the members behind the figure, working in tandem with Pearl and Jasper).
From the moment Bill met Dean and introduced himself as John Graff, Dean takes him to be truthful and remains intent that it was him, the previous 657 owner who killed his family, as Theodora revealed.
Theodora also told Dean that Mitch and Mo wouldn’t know or recognise John Graff as they came to Westfield in 1996, one year after he disappeared.
The last episode of The Watcher supports it when Mo is unable to recognise him and expresses surprise that he’s been in the neighbourhood since 1995.
However, Kaplan, who’s been living there for far longer does recognise him, most probably as the family murdering John Graff who went missing, hence his question about his family at the end.
So it’s very likely that Will, or John Graff, didn’t go anywhere else after murdering his family but remained there, building a tunnel and a room for him to live under everyone’s sight.
He obviously achieved this by working in cahoots with Pearl and Jasper, who knew about his murders before anyone else and share similar zealously conservative views about society.
Is Dean The Watcher all along?
There’s a clear supernatural element to the series, which isn’t strange considering showrunner Ryan Murphy’s proclivities for the genre he’s dabbled in before.
Keeping Andrew’s blood-drinking-cult claims about Mitch and Mo aside, there’s subtler supernatural energy to 657 Boulevard itself, and the people that have lived there.
It is especially true for the men who have lived there. John Graff went absolutely berserk and killed his family due to the anxiety stemming from the Watcher and his regressive mindset.
One thing to note here is that the men who’ve lived at 657 are all in some way or another perpetuators of patriarchal values, coming off as sexist and kind of creepy.
John Graff saw his daughter as a whore long before he found her dancing with the teacher (which could’ve been a skewed account or false interpretation of what he viewed their relationship as).
He was also unable to provide for his wife’s sexual needs and all these pent-up frustrations were most likely what gave rise to this boogeyman of The Watcher, eventually driving him mad enough to kill his family.
The last episode is called ‘Haunting’, and Dean by the end of the series looks unhinged, similar to how John Graff/Bill behaved.
The two men shared many familial, financial, and behavioural issues, almost making the two mirror reflections of each other.
Maybe the house is haunted not by the ghost of a person but by the crushing failure of a patriarchal man to “provide for his family” and “protect” his daughter that doesn’t need saving.
In that way, Dean took on the legacy of The Watcher right from the beginning, with the only caveat being that he didn’t spiral to the point of killing his family.