Flash back with me, if you will, to December 2011.
The first season of FX’s American Horror Story had just aired its 12th and final episode and it was a shockingly conclusive one. The following day, creator Ryan Murphy hopped on the phone with the press to reveal that the story presented in the first season of the show (retroactively dubbed American Horror Story: Murder House) was definitively over and future seasons of the show would feature new characters, new locations, and new plot lines. In short, American Horror Story was a surprise anthology series, something that Murphy and fellow co-creator Brad Falchuk had planned from the start.
Some 11 years later, the decision to turn American Horror Story into an anthology does not seem that radical. In the streaming era, many shows opt to continue on as anthologies after wrapping up a story to their satisfaction in season 1. Some recent examples include The Terror, The Sinner, Fargo, The White Lotus, and more. Additionally, it’s not like the concept of an anthology was that foreign to television. While season-centric anthologies were historically non-existent, episode-centric anthologies date all the way back to the Golden Age of television and eventually included medium mainstays like The Twilight Zone.
Still, it’s hard to oversell just how surprising it was back in 2011 to have a season-long anthology concept suddenly sprung on you. Going into a series imagining its longterm future as one thing and then being delivered another thing entirely was fairly unmooring. And it’s a sensation I couldn’t help but recall upon hearing the news that Netflix had renewed another Ryan Murphy series, The Watcher, for a second season.
On Nov. 7, Netflix announced that it was renewing both The Watcher and Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (another Ryan Murphy joint) for additional seasons, with The Watcher getting a second season and Monster getting at least two more. Since Dahmer is one of Netflix’s biggest hits ever, it understandably received most of the attention in the streamer’s announcement while details on The Watcher‘s renewal were scarce. All Netflix had to say about the latter was:
“Additionally, Netflix has ordered a second season of the Murphy, Brennan and Eric Newman real-estate thriller, The Watcher. Executive producers of season one also include: Alexis Martin Woodall, Eric Kovtun, Bryan Unkeless, Paris Barclay, Naomi Watts, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost and Scoop Wasserstein.”
The lack of answers about The Watcher season 2 is interesting, given that its mere existence raises questions. Folks who have seen all seven episodes of The Watcher season 1 will know that its ending feels deliberately open-ending, rather than “needs another season open-ended.” Kind of like American Horror Story before it.
In fact, The Watcher is based on a real life case that currently has no conclusion. In real life, we still have no idea who “the watcher” was or why they sent increasingly deranged letters to the inhabitants of 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey. The Watcher‘s first season went out of its way to beef its relatively sparse story up, delving deeper into the identities of several suspects and, in one instance, even introducing an unrelated ’50s murderer into the mix.
By the end of The Watcher, it feels clear that the story is over…frustratingly so, but over all the same. Just like the real life case. Why then, would Murphy and Netflix continue on with a second season (aside from the obviou$$$ answer, of course)? Is it possible that we could have another…surprise anthology on our hands?
If The Watcher season 2 does go the anthology route it would a surprise akin to that initial American Horror Story announcement because Netflix opted not to reveal it in the original announcement. And they had every opportunity to as the streamer went out of its way to note that Dahmer – Monster was an anthology now, with new monstrous real life figures being presented in each season. What if Netflix never clarifies The Watcher season 2’s status and one day it just pops up on its servers, presenting an entirely new dramatized instance of another real life stalker?
Though none of the cases in question have the creepy house-centric fixation of The Watcher, there are many notable stalkers throughout history up to including Mark David Chapman (who stalked and murdered John Lennon) and John Hinckley Jr. (who shot Ronald Reagan to impress Jodie Foster…he’s out of prison and making music now by the way). Netflix’s algorithm appears to be fixated by all manner of stalkers right now as well, with the docuseries I Am A Stalker premiering on Nov. 8, a little under a month after The Watcher.
Admittedly, that’s where our trail of evidence for The Watcher season 2 as a surprise anthology ends. Odds are probably better that Netflix and Murphy intend to keep the story of 657 Boulevard limping along with new inhabitants of the horror house. But if there ever were a time and opportunity to recapture the early season American Horror Story anthological magic it’s right now and with The Watcher season 2.