The Watcher season 1, episode 1 recap – “Welcome, Friends”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 13, 2022 (Last updated: February 17, 2024)
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The Watcher season 1, episode 1 recap - "Welcome, Friends"


Ryan Murphy’s latest delivers a ton of weirdness in its opening episode, dotting a true story with all the usual hallmarks. Where it’ll go remains anyone’s guess.

This recap of The Watcher season 1, episode 1, “Welcome, Friends”, contains spoilers.

It always begins with the house, doesn’t it?

Now that I think about it, almost nobody that has ever viewed a lovely house in a film or TV show has ever had a nice time there. Either it’s haunted, or there are bodies in the walls, or masked killers break in to steal all the belongings and stab everyone to death. Nobody picks up on the signs, either. They focus on the pool and the nearby lake and the big bedrooms and bizarrely overlook the creepy girl standing ominously in the garden, the neighborhood rumors about all the terrible things that have happened there, or the old-fashioned dumbwaiter that’ll definitely be used for a scare or a plot point down the line.

The Watcher season 1, episode 1 recap

The Watcher, even though it’s based on a true story, is very much a Ryan Murphy production. The style and tone are recognizable; the grim sense of humor, the off-kilter weirdness, and the sense of awful things about to happen. The Brannock family — parents Nora (Naomi Watts) and Dean (Bobby Cannavale) and kids Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter (Luke David Blumm) — are eager to buy and move into the new house because of its size and location (“People don’t even lock their doors,” says Dean, when trying to justify the expense). Dean’s willing to place all of his eggs in that basket, financially speaking, and after a brief visit with a real estate agent played by Jennifer Coolidge — her character has a name, Karen, but it’s really just Jennifer Coolidge doing an open house — and a “seven weeks later” transition, they’re in.

But the neighbors! One side is sibling duo Pearl (Mia Farrow) and Jasper (Terry Kinney) Winslow, the latter being the local eccentric who seemingly has no compunction about strolling into someone else’s home like it’s his own. On the other side are Mo (Margo Martindale) and Mitch (Richard Kind), who aggressively harvest arugula on whichever side of the fence they feel like. And then there’s the letter.

The letter arrives on the first morning and is signed by “The Watcher”. The episode’s title, “Welcome, Friends”, is taken from it, but the letter isn’t particularly friendly; it implies the house at 657 Boulevard has an eerie past, that there’s something in the walls, that it has been watched for generations and will continue to be watched, and that “young blood” should accumulate in it. The implication is pretty clear — the kids are in danger, though the local police don’t seem especially concerned. Westview is, after all, totally devoid of violent crime, and indeed almost all crime, except for a couple of unexplained disappearances — and who cares about those?

Things quickly worsen for the Brannocks. Jasper is found hiding in the dumbwaiter, Carter’s ferret is found in the upstairs hallway with its skull crushed, the neighbors all seem to think the Brannocks are being rude about it (like the last “yuppie” couple that moved into the house, and tore out a couple of trees), and the police, again, don’t seem to care. At a loss, Dean spends even more money — a steep $7000 — for a young man named Dakota (Henry Hunter Hall), who runs a security company called Vanguard Security Solutions, to install surveillance and alarms all over the property.

Will it do any good? Almost certainly not! But that’s the fun, isn’t it? As literally everyone begins to look deeply suspicious, another letter from the Watcher arrives, this one more detailed and threatening than the first. They claim that the house has been their obsession for decades and that the previous occupants — all drawn there by greed — were compelled to move. The young blood that the Brannocks have delivered, though, apparently make them especially compelling. Welcome to the neighborhood!

You can stream The Watcher season 1, episode 1, “Welcome, Friends”, exclusively on Netflix.

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