Ryan Murphy’s latest Netflix project, the confoundingly titled Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, has polarized audiences and critics, but proved a big enough hit that the streaming service announced they will be moving ahead with two more seasons. The upcoming seasons will focus on the lives and crimes of other serial killers, effectively turning Monster into its own anthology series similar to American Crime Story. And in the same announcement, Netflix also declared that they would make a second season to Ryan Murphy’s even more divisive series, The Watcher.
The Jeffrey Dahmer Story became a much-needed hit for Netflix at a time of major upheaval in the streaming industry. According to Variety, it became the streamer’s second most-watched English-speaking series of all time, trailing only the fourth season of Stranger Things.
Though Niecy Nash and Evan Peters’ performances were praised, the overall Dahmer series received mixed reviews, scoring only a 46 on Metacritic. The Hollywood Reporter called it “an infuriating hodgepodge,” criticizing the repetitive first half of the season, while British GQ called the series “the nadir of Netflix’s true crime shamelessness.” There was also strong reaction from viewers, including a controversy centered around the show being tagged on Netflix as an LGBTQ program, since Dahmer and many of his victims were queer. Netflix removed the tag, much to Murphy’s disappointment.
“There was a moment on Netflix where they removed the L.G.B.T.Q. tag from ‘Dahmer,’ and I didn’t like it and I asked why they did that and they said because people were upset because it was an upsetting story. I was, like, ‘Well, yeah.’ But it was a story of a gay man and more importantly, his gay victims,” Murphy told The New York Times.
One of the intentions of Monster was to focus on the stories of the victims instead of just the killer, and the societal failings that allowed Dahmer to get away with these killings for so long. Presumably, the following seasons will strive for a similar balance, particularly in a climate where true crime is being more openly criticized for sensationalism and insensitivity to victims and their families.
Netflix paired the Monster renewal news with the announcement that The Watcher, would also be returning for a second season. Inspired by a 2018 New York magazine article, the series stars Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale as a couple who are harassed by an unknown assailant shortly after moving into a luxurious New Jersey home. The Watcher received only slightly better reviews (a 54 on Metacritic), and many viewer were upset about the show’s inconclusive ending.
In 2018, Murphy, coming off the success of Glee, American Horror Story and American Crime Story (particularly the OJ season), signed a tremendous overall deal worth $300 million with Netflix. But his first handful of projects, including the ambitious 1940s showbiz drama Hollywood and the eerie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest origin story Ratched, left viewers and critics cold. The success—in viewers, if not critics—of Monster and The Watcher was sorely needed in a year where Netflix is actively downsizing and many of their streaming competitors are struggling to stay afloat.