Based on a true story, Netflix’s newest miniseries, The Watcher, is a seven episode mystery crime thriller that is sure to give you the creeps. Having watched the trailer prior to its release, I was intrigued by the premise and the fact that this seemingly fictional thriller was actually something that happened in real life. Talk about scary. I ended up binging the entire series in one night (probably should’ve watched it in daylight) and was left feeling uncomfortably spooked but overall satisfied with the execution of the show. Starring big names like Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Mia Farrow, Jennifer Coolidge, Noma Dumezweni, and Margo Martindale, the cast put on gripping performances that really heightened the stressful atmosphere of the series and brought it to a new level.

[This review contains spoilers; please read at your own discretion]

It really is amazing how one little line like “based on a true event” can significantly change your perspective or feelings toward a certain movie or show. For The Watcher, knowing that this unsolved real crime mystery is somehow something that happened to a real life couple really takes the freaky level up a notch. While it’s true that a lot of what you see in The Watcher is probably fiction, I find it’s oftentimes that blend between truth and imagination that gets us truly frightened – while it’s mostly unbelievable, it’s that 1% possibility that takes a hold of us. What I loved about this show in particular is that it bases it’s creepy atmosphere in things that are completely real. It’s not about scaring you with jump scares, violence, or scary visuals, it’s entirely about feeding into your fear of the unknown. Who is the Watcher? What do they want? How are they even doing it? You’ll find yourself sharing the same fear and confusion as the Braddock family which really lets you feel for what they’re going through.

So here’s a quick warning before you start the show: there’s very little levity in the plot. It’s just straight back to back heavy drama from the very start of episode one to the very end of episode seven. While I sometimes find that to be a bit suffocating, it actually worked really well for The Watcher and it helped to build the suspense and mysterious tone of the show.

One thing I found that The Watcher struggled with though was that there were some pacing issues with the show. While A LOT happens right away in the beginning (they really do throw everything at you right at episode one), the plot started to slow down halfway through the show. There’s a lot of back and forth guessing going on so sometimes it feels like you’re going in circles without much progression in the story. I did find that there’s always some sort of new theory or revelation revealed in each episode though so it does keep you interested in what’s going on. But what really kept me going was the solid performances by all the actors involved.

I have to take a moment to commend the actors in this show because I genuinely don’t think The Watcher would’ve succeeded had the cast not put on such fantastic performances. And by fantastic I mean, for a majority of the cast, they did incredibly well at being suspicious and shady. Seriously, everyone looks like they might be the culprit. Honestly, if it were me, that combination of disturbing neighbours and the threatening letters would’ve been enough for me to move out of there right away. But anyway, I was mainly wowed by Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts who played the lead couple, Dean and Nora Brannock. Their acting was so expressive and I could feel every ounce of fear, anger, and confusion that they were feeling. Out of all the characters, I personally found the daughter, Ellie (played by Isabel Gravitt), to be extremely annoying though. Irrational and dramatic, I found her to be the cause of some of the more unlikable moments of the show.

What I found to be the most compelling aspect of The Watcher though was watching Dean’s mental deterioration and descent into madness. The show is rather quick in showing the audience the negative effects the Watcher has on the Brannock family, but it’s most noticeably seen to be affecting Dean. Essentially going crazy, it’s really pitiful (yet understandable) how Dean becomes completely consumed by his desire to solve the mystery and unmask whoever the Watcher is. It was really interesting seeing how while his initial motivation was keeping his family safe, it becomes evident that it becomes a matter of pride and selfish gain for him. As he begins to disregard everything in his life including his work and his own family he was desperately trying to protect, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. While it’s definitely a scary show, The Watcher really excelled in creating an emotionally investing story too.

And with this mystery being an unsolved crime in real life, the ending of The Watcher is ambiguous and unsatisfying too. I don’t mean that it’s a bad ending, but you don’t really get much closure or answers. You probably created a bunch of theories and guesses while watching, but unfortunately you’re never going to know if you’re right or not. But I guess it’s reflective of what happened in real life which, in thinking back to the show, is honestly quite terrifying.

I can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting myself to enjoy this series and I definitely didn’t expect to finish it all in one go, but The Watcher is seriously such a thrilling experience that deserved to be binged. While some of the pacing and character development did feel a bit flimsy, the slow but dramatic building of the tense atmosphere was so enthralling that I couldn’t stop watching. I just had to know what was going to happen next! Despite this being a very unsettling watch, I really enjoyed how gripping the story was so I’ve decided to give The Watcher an 8/10. Thanks to Cannavale and Watt’s performances, this miniseries is one that will really play with your emotions and leave you feeling anxious for what’s about to happen next to the Brannock family. Although its not without its faults and flaws, I genuinely think the suspenseful storytelling is strong enough to make you forget some of its other minor issues.