goes by a first name of “Bill” in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. But he’s known as “Pete” in the television mini-series. Both are employees of The Overlook. Like many other mirror images in Kubrick’s vision, they share the same last name but beneath the surface are very much different.
Known as the caretaker when the hotel is open, the novel doesn’t give Watson a first name. An open invitation to interpretation, they’re personalities couldn’t be more different. Bill Watson isn’t dressed like a caretaker and his role at The Overlook is a mystery. Although he is Ullman’s very loyal follower and right hand man, he had nothing to do with choosing Jack Torrance as The Overlook’s winter caretaker. Notice how surprised he was when he first hears the news during Jack’s interview. He says very little. After his introductory question, he is all but cut out of the scene. His attention is detailed and unbroken. He sits in his chair, squarely positioned at the camera, yet draws no attention to himself. Ullman is a witness, an almost legal-like recorder. He observes with judicial attention disclosing nothing.
keeps silent during enthusiastic conversations in The Gold Room. He stakes a curious center position. Study how his eyes tracks his subjects like a camera. When Danny steals attention, he doesn’t steal it from Ullman. He’s already prepared for Ullman’s next words and is the first to look at him. Bill Watson’s exit from the film is suited to his character. Following Jack, Wendy, and Mr. Ullman, he trails them like a careful watchman.
is the television mini-series’s vision of The Overlook’s associate. His portrayal is prominent and is apparent by the opening scene. It is he who is introduced first by leading Jack into the basement. He delivers a world more lines than his reflection, Bill. A humble custodian, he is even honored by giving the Torrance’s a tour of the Hallorann’s kitchen. His bolo tie and cowboy hat couldn’t contrast more than Bill Watson’s jacket, tie, and silent demeanor.
Unlike Bill, Pete is a talker and nobody’s right hand man. What keeps him happy and optimistic is the outside chance Stuart Ullman will die over the winter. He is otherwise jovial, friendly, yet reserves one hint of mystery when asked about the ghosts of The Overlook. With all his dialog, Pete Watson is the series’ narrator, re-telling the same stories Kubrick had and with profound efficiency.
Pete Watson takes us on the tour through the basement with a scene that stirs the haunting hotel backstory. His depiction is more human, more hospitable, giving us a sense of safety before slowly slipping away as the story progresses. His comradeship with Dick Hallorann tempts us to forget the eerie place The Overlook is. On the other hand, Kubrick’s Bill Watson is a harbinger of ulterior motives and a walking secret. He’s more fitting to the narrative, as complicit as Ullman. Watson’s loyalty to Ullman and The Overlook is unflappable. His role in Kubrick’s story is as much a mystery as his silence.
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining
Stephen King’s The Shining TV mini-series