The Watcher TV series ending explained: Who was behind the threatening letters?

Having watched this again last night, it was slow-going.

Ryan Murphy’s latest Netflix original The Watcher has fascinated the millions of people who have tuned in with its real(-ish) story of a couple terrorised by threatening letters after moving into their dream home.

So, where did all the twists and turns – some based on reality, some entirely fabricated – eventually lead?

Here’s a look at what went down in the seventh and final episode of the gripping cross between American Horror Story and Location, Location, Location – and you can read more about the true story behind The Watcher here.

The Watcher ending explained

Was it the PI all along?

The mystery appears to have been solved once and for all when cancer-stricken Theodora (Noma Dumezweni) confesses from her deathbed she was the perpetrator. The private investigator tells an astounded Dean (Bobby Cannavale) she’d previously owned the house but had been forced to give it up to pay for her oncology treatment. On discovering her “parasite” ex-husband had squirrelled away millions of dollars, she planned to buy it back by scaring Dean and his wife Nora (Naomi Watts) into selling.

This not only involved sending creepy typewritten letters but also inventing elaborate backstories for fictional characters (including serial killer prime suspect John Graff) and hiring performance artists (including the pig-tailed woman captured on video climbing into Dean’s bed) to heighten the paranoia.

Theodora also claims the deeply troubled Andrew Pierce (Seth Gabel), the man who talked of blood-drinking cults, was indeed a former occupier but that she’d planted such ideas into his head. “This was never about you Dean, it was about the house,” she concludes. However, when Dean visits neighbour Mo (Margo Martindale) in the wake of her husband Mitch’s (Richard Kind) death, he discovers Theodora never lived next door.

Later at her funeral, the PI’s grieving daughter tells Nora and Dean her mum decided to ‘come clean’ as an act of kindness. Theodora didn’t want the Brannocks to be consumed by the whodunnit once she was no longer there to help solve it and so pretended to be The Watcher to put them out of their misery.

Was it Karen

The finger of suspicion then pointed firmly towards habitual scene-stealer Jennifer Coolidge’s aptly-named Karen. The realtor had been constantly badgering Nora to sell from the moment of the first letter and was also romantically involved with Chamberland (Christopher McDonald), the corrupt detective who seemed entirely uninterested in helping the Brannocks catch the offender.

The evidence stacked up further when Karen bought the house herself (and hilariously refused the neighbours’ home-baked gifts because of her keto diet). Yet her stay proves to be short-lived. Within 48 hours, she’s running away from the house in screams of terror after her beloved dog is killed – just as the Brannocks’ pet ferret was – and we later learn she quickly resold the house at a loss. Could she be the victim of a copycat watcher or was she always entirely innocent?

What happened to the neighbour

The Westfield Preservation Society, aka odd spinster Pearl (Mia Farrow) her emotionally-disturbed sibling Jasper (Terry Kinney) and Will/John, the man who may or may not have slaughtered his entire family 20 years earlier (Joe Mantello), get two new members to bitch about next-door’s kitchen tops with.Mo, who’s been one of many thorns in the Brannocks’ sides, gleefully accepts an invitation to the nosey club – likewise, Roger (Michael Nouri), the retired teacher whose ‘Ode to a House’ poems formed part of the hate mail puzzle. But could there be tensions within the expanded group already? Roger recognises Will immediately and despite the latter’s insistence that’s because of his public library job, this is clearly not the case. Could the familiarity stem from the fact that Will really is John Graff?

Who are the house’s new occupants?

We learn little about the family that have bought the house from Karen at a bargain price (and presumably without knowing its chequered past). Judging by the number of people shown peering at their property, though, it seems likely they too will be subjected to at least some form of stalking. Not only are the usual suspects (Mo, Pearl, Jasper) watching but so are Andrew and, most shockingly of all, Dean and Nora.

What happened to the Brannocks?

The Brannocks initially appear to be recovering well from their ordeal after returning to the city. As Dean reveals in his therapy session, his and Nora’s marriage is back on track, while rebellious daughter Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) now has ambitions to go to an Ivy League college. However, as the session goes on, it’s clear the house still haunts him.

We later see Dean admiring the property – whose mailbox is storing a brand-new typewritten letter – and telling the new man of the house his name is John. Does the building have some kind of possessive qualities as in The Amityville Horror? The fact that Nora then rolls up just seconds after Dean has driven away proves it’s still under both of the Brannocks’ skin.

So, who is the Watcher?

Much to some viewers’ frustration, The Watcher doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat bow. Although it takes countless liberties with the New York magazine article it’s based on, it does stay truthful to its resolution, or lack thereof.

As a cue card reveals, the identity (or identities) of the letter-writer remains unsolved in the real world. And so, Murphy also leaves audiences to guess whether it was one of the oddball neighbours, an unknown or the Brannocks themselves – or possibly even a combination – who masterminded the reign of terror.

The Watcher is available to stream now on Netflix.

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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