Freeform’s “The Watchful Eye” Spies a Nonbinary Babe and Queer Fave Amy Acker

There are a handful of actors on this planet that I will watch anything they’re in on the sole basis that they’re in it, and one such actor is Amy Acker. From Angel to Dollhouse to Person of Interest and even The Gifted; whether or not she’s playing queer, if she’s in it, I’ll watch it, no questions asked. And so, when I found out Amy Acker was in The Watchful Eye, that’s exactly what I did. I watched it, no questions asked. I didn’t know what genre it was, who else was in it, anything at all about the themes or plot. I knew Amy Acker was in it, and that was enough for me.

If I had asked those questions, though, I would have learned other things that would please me: the genre is a generous helping of mystery, with a dash of con artistry, a pinch of nosing around in almost-definitely-corrupt rich people’s business, and a bit of supernatural sprinkled on top. Which, mixed together, makes one of my favorite kinds of TV dishes.

Also, just as a fun fact that I learned while researching this show for this review, created by Julie Durk, the showrunner is Emily Fox and of the six episodes listed on Wikipedia, five of them are written by women. Among those writers is Emmylou Diaz, who has written on queer faves such as the Charmed reboot and Station 19.

The Watchful Eye is about a woman named Elena who is hired to work as a nanny for a man, Matthew, and his son, Jasper, six months after Matthew’s wife died. Amy Acker plays the late wife’s sister, Tory, who is uptight and controlling, and generally distrustful of Elena. Which is equal parts rude and also fair, because it turns out Elena has more to her story than meets the eye.

The Watchful Eye: Amy Acker's Tory sits on a couch with and shoots a side-eye at Elena.

Amy Acker can play quirky scientist, goofy assassin, nervous mom, or uptight socialite with equal ease.

The family lives on the Upper East Side of New York City, and the building is full of extraordinarily rich people, almost all of whom seem to have one connection or another to the building’s…founder? Greybourne, the guy the building is named after. I’m not rich enough, nor have I ever been rich enough, to know what the first person to own a building is called, okay? Anyway, Mr. Greybourne’s descendents include Tory and her dead sister, and also Emily Gilmore Mrs. Ivy, played by the illustrious Kelly Bishop.

Also in the building are sisters Bennet and Darcy (someone’s mother was a Pride & Prejudice fan), their drunk sleazy dad (Tory’s husband), a helpful high teen named Elliot, and Elena’s new nanny friend Ginny. It is wild to me how many people know each other in this building, even the ones who don’t seem to be related to one another; I’ve lived in my apartment building for a decade and the only people I even recognize are the man across the hall who yells at me if I leave a package in the hallway for more than 24 hours, and the woman downstairs for reasons that are simply too long to put in a TV review. But everyone in the Greybourne seems to know everyone else; lifestyles of the rich and famous, I guess.

The Watchful Eye: Bennet and Darcy greet Elena in the lobby

Two things: 1) I love that they aren’t always on their phones but they do always have them visible (in hand, sticking out of a pocket, etc) – feels more authentic than their noses being in them at all times. 2) I’m still not 100% sure which one is Bennet and which one is Darcy but my money is on Blazer here being the queer sister.

Elena also meets two other nannies in the park, Kim and Alex, who both introduce themselves with their pronouns; Kim is she/her, and Alex is she/they, though they admit they only keep the ‘she’ there for their mother and her “Gen X Facebook friends.” To her credit, Elena introduces herself with her pronouns right back, and doesn’t do it in that weird dramatic way some straight people do, as if they’ve never had to say the words “she” and “her” before in their lives.

The Watchful Eye: Kim looks lovingly at Alex as they sit on a park bench holding onto strollers

They are apparently not dating each other (at least not monogomously) but can you blame me for thinking they were at first?

As Elena learns more about the residents of this building, along with pursuing her own ulterior motive for being there, she starts to uncover more than she bargains for. Weird noises in the building, weird visits from people no one else notices come in, a dead body.

There have only been two episodes so far (the third episode airs on Freeform tonight) but I am hooked. There are so many mysteries to uncover, so many lies unraveling, so many secrets to be revealed. It’s that perfect level of supernatural where you’re not even actually sure if it’s supernatural or not, if she actually saw a ghost or if someone was messing with her while she was high, ways to rationalize away every bump in the night but also reasons to suspect there’s more to this building than meets the eye. It’s almost a weird mix of Archive 81 and Only Murders in the Building. Somewhere in the middle, less serious than Archive 81 and more serious than Only Murders. (Hopefully it’s clear but in case your tastes differ from mine: this is a compliment.)

I’m not sure how gay it will get, overall. Nonbinary babe Alex is queer, obviously, but they seem interested in a manny even though I thought they were dating Kim at first, so maybe Kim ISN’T also queer and she’s just a good ally introducing herself with her pronouns so it’s not just Alex who has to? But maybe she is! I’m sure at least one of the Gen Z sisters must be queer, just statistically, and honestly they both could be with epically gay names like Bennet and Darcy. But to be honest I’m not in this for the romances, I’m here for the mystery, and as someone who has been known to watch bad TV for a scrap of queerness that doesn’t end up being worth the time I invested, it’s nice to be watching good TV and knowing that any queerness we do get will be a cherry on top of an already delicious treat.

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 550 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. I agree word for word with the first paragraph, Root will always be one of the best characters ever, period! So I’ll watch anything Amy Acker appears in, I even tried to like The Gifted, I couldn’t but I really tried.

    As for this show, I watched the first two episodes over the weekend and I dont really share the article’s enthousiasm, the main character is a “Meredith” which means she’s annoying, really annoying, the dad is annoying, the kid is annoying, the sisters and even the other nannies are annoying and I found the plot to be very weak, I also fastforwarded a lot (life is short).

    Now for the good part, there are three things I liked, first, Emily Gilmore is awesome, I loved the twist and it’s always great when you see a woman not playing another cliche character. Second, for a milisecond I thought Root was going to have the hots for Elena but it was quickly shut down in the most boring way (I was VERY disapointed), nonetheless, the aunt is still the most interesting character, she feels layered, unlike the others, yes she a B but she’s surrounded by idiots and I feel like throughougt the show we’ll see that she’s not the villain. And third, Elena has very nice eyes.

    I’ll keep watching, for Root, but I doubt I’ll stop fastfowarding it.

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