The Haunting Of Bly Manor is loosely based on the book The Turn Of The Screw. This psychological supernatural horror has been the basis for a lot of ghost stories such as The Innocents, The Haunting, The Others and even The Turning which was released earlier this year. This post will be breaking down the series to explain what happened. Heavy spoilers are ahead so click away now if you haven’t seen it.
Unlike the other adaptations though, Bly Manor isn’t so much a ghost story as it is a love story.
The show carries the central theme of memory as well as the past, and the series showcases how several characters are haunted by theirs.
There’s a real dichotomy here with us seeing how some characters try to escape their past whilst others won’t let go of it.
If you’ve seen Flanagan’s other work Doctor Sleep you may remember in that there was a line that stated memories are the real ghosts, and though we do get our fair share of the supernatural here, it definitely feels like it dabbles in this motif.
We pick up at a wedding dinner rehearsal and are introduced to Jamie, a woman who recounts the story of her deceased lover Dani, an au pair that worked at Bly Manor in the 80s.
Dani is haunted by the ghost of her ex-fiance, who tragically died several years prior. Dani moves out to the UK to get away from this memory. Throughout the series, it’s revealed that Dani is actually gay and when she came out to her partner he ended up getting knocked down by a car ad dying.
His ghost has followed her since this moment and she is desperate to escape him and her past. Ultimately when one is trying to flee from something they often are unable to because the thing that they are trying to run away from will inevitably become their driving force and her inability to let go ends up making her constantly live in fear.
Meet The Characters
This is reflected in several of the characters that we meet throughout the season including Henry Wingrave. A lot of the character arcs in the show actually stem from Henry and he oversees his brother’s estate who sadly died before the events of the show. It’s revealed that Henry had an affair with his sister-in-law and that he is actually the father of Flora, one of the children that lives at the manor.
Because of his guilt over this, Henry has mentally manifested a darker version of himself that he has to live with. Instead of facing up to the fact that he should take responsibility for both Flora and her brother Miles, he stays in his office, ringing the manor in the hopes that one day he will have the guts, to tell the truth.
Peter & Rebecca
There’s also Peter Quint, what one could call the villain of the show and in the prior adaptations, he was certainly portrayed this way. However, Bly Manor paints him out in a much more complicated light and we realise that he is not only trying to escape the abuse that he suffered as a child but he also refuses to let go of the one good thing in his life. That is Rebecca, the prior Au Pair at the Manor who ends up falling in love with Peter.
After Peter is killed by one of the ghosts, known as the lady of the lake, he manipulates Rebecca into dying too because he refuses to let go of her. Peter even takes Rebecca to some of their happier moments to make it seem like they will live like that forever when in reality his inability to let go of the past leads to them being trapped in a living hell on the grounds.
It’s said that Peter doesn’t understand the difference between love and Possession and this becomes literal when he and Rebecca try and take over the children’s bodies to escape the grounds.
Rebecca doesn’t go through with this, and she becomes one of the first characters to truly break the cycle that so many of the characters end up becoming victims to.
Next is Hannah, an almost Doctor Manhattan-esque character who can’t accept her death because of the repercussions it would have on her mentally. She lives moments of her life almost simultaneously, jumping about from the past to the future, living completely out of sync and due to her inability to accept the past in which she is truly unable to hold on to any of the moments that she experiences.
The Lady of the Lake
Now it’s revealed that the spirits within the house are all sucked into a gravity well of despair caused by the Lady of the lake.
We learn the lady of the lake was the prior owner of Bly Manor and that she was killed by her own sister who smothered her on her death bed.
The lady known as Viola wished to see her daughter more than anything and this memory tortured her ghost for decades ultimately becoming her driving force in the end. Viola would lay at the bed of the one located at Bly Manor and every night she would wander into the house, mercilessly murdering all that crossed her path in search of her daughter.
I love how this was first set up in what became purgatory for her and after waking up dead she awakens, walks the room, returns to her bed and then rinse and repeat.
This is also the reason why the children tell Dani that she mustn’t go about the house at night as, like clockwork, Viola roams the halls.
This idea of holding onto the past drives her mad and the never-ending search for her daughter causes a lot of misery.
The Lady never finds her but she carries out this routine in the hopes of one day coming across her so that the two can be reunited. After all the memories of her life fade away and the lives of those she loved had vanished she still instinctively carried this out even though she didn’t know why.
Finally, this is mirrored in Jamie who runs a bath for Dani every night and leaves the door unlocked in the hopes that one day the two will meet again.
Those are the key players that we kinda have to discuss to fully process the ending and the events that happen in it. I don’t wanna do a full season recap as chances are you’ve already watched it but just to add some context the basic plot follows Dani as she unearths the truth of the house including the truth about Peter and Rebecca’s death.
As we mentioned Peter ends up possessing Miles and Rebecca lets Flora go which allows Dani to escape with her. However, things hit the fan when The Lady Of The Lake arrives and she attempts to kill Dani and pull her into her own well.
However, Flora poses as her daughter and due to her existing purely on instinct she attempts to take her back to the lake. Dani gives herself up to the ghost uttering the phrase, it’s you, it’s me, it’s us. Something that had existed in the house for centuries; passed on by the inhabitants and ghosts to the living who then passed it on to the following occupiers.
Now though we don’t get this confirmed, I do believe that it Rebecca possessed her in some manner in order to make her aware of the words and thus she was able to invite Viola’s ghost into herself.
With the Lady’s gravity of despair now within Dani, the spirits of the house are released. The family and Dani and Jamie move to the US and the latter pair try and build a life together, aware that one day Viola will take over.
Though gay marriage wasn’t legal at the time the two decide to wear rings as a sign of their commitment and they spend years with each other.
However, Viola starts to appear in reflections, much like how Dani’s ex-fiance did. This time it’s much worse though as the ghost is in place of her and thus the PTSD from her prior haunting starts to make her doubt whether she can remain in control of the situation.
One night Dani finds herself almost strangling Jamie and she realises that they can’t risk the danger that Viola poses. Thus she heads back to the manor and drowns herself in the lake. The routine of Viola overpowers her but Viola holds herself at the bottom of the lake, waiting until the lady fades as all memories do.
Jamie spends years waiting for her lover to return and we realise that she has in fact been narrating the events of Bly to Flora and the guests of her wedding.
We learn that both Miles and Flora slowly forgot the events of the manor and their memories faded as they grew up. Because they were able to let go of the past, primarily because of their age, they were able to move on and build lives for themselves. Memories work twofold and though they can give you purpose, which we saw demonstrated in some of the ghosts, they can also hold you back.
Now the show has a very bittersweet ending with us seeing that the characters have grown older and moved on from the events of the show, all except for Jamie who still holds out for the return of Dani.
Not gonna lie…that song at the end had me a bit…well there was some dust in the room but you know.
The series ends with Jamie sitting in her chair with the door open and we see Dani’s hand touch her chair. She’s still wearing the wedding ring that the pair bought as a symbol of their love and finally, she’s returned after escaping the lake.
Now how was this possible?
Well, the main thing that was keeping the ghosts on the grounds was Viola and her gravity well that pulled all the spirits to the location. This is how they were unable to leave and they remained on the property living so long that they forgot their lives, identities and even what they looked like.
I believe that the same thing happened with Viola and with Dani holding her in place for decades she slowly started to forget everything until there was a point in which she would finally forget about her hold over Dani and let go of her.
As Dani was much younger than she was and hadn’t spent the centuries prior on the lakebed she still had memories of her life and the fact that she would be able to one day return to Jamie if she held Viola in place gave her purpose.
Jamie’s memories of their life together are what gave her purpose and though the show wrestles back and forth with letting go of the past and holding onto it, I think when it’s a positive memory it very much carries the message that one should hold onto it.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the opening episode in which Owen practices his wedding speech.
He states that the worth of loving someone is also worth the pain of losing them and though we are all destined to leave behind the ones that we love at some point, the memories that we have of them are what we will truly hold onto.
It’s very bittersweet and just as Flora has a life ahead of her in which she will lose the person she loves eventually, she’s likely going to create a lot of amazing memories with her.
That’s the central theme of the show to me at least and in the end, Jamie is reunited with the one that she loves much like how Owen and Hannah will be, Peter and Rebecca and Henry and his daughter are as they dance at the latter’s wedding.
It brings everything full circle and closes out the season on a high note.
The Haunting Of Hill House is actually my favourite Netflix show ever. I found that it perfectly handled the themes of family, and the horror elements while telling the heartwarming story of Hill House perfectly.
Naturally, I was very hyped for this season but I think that may have led to me being slightly disappointed in it. Though it has some brilliant moments, on the whole, I felt that it slightly paled in comparison to the prior entry. To me the characters just weren’t as interesting as The Cranes and whereas that had an episode that really gave light to each character and got you swept up in their lives…here I found it difficult to really find anything engaging.
I feel like there are so many elements remixed here that don’t quite capture the imagination of the original. For example, the twist with Hannah is very similar to the bent neck lady one, they go through the adult’s lives and then the kids have a character that’s haunted by his own vision of someone close to him.
Even the background ghosts this time around feel like they’re just trying to recapture the original series and play on its motifs without truly pushing the boat out.
Now it certainly isn’t bad but the pacing is slightly off and at 9 hours I do feel like several elements could’ve been cut here to provide a much brisker storyline. There are only so many times Dani can wander around the house before it becomes repetitive and though the background ghosts were fun to spot, at points it felt as empty as the halls of the house itself.
Now saying that it is brilliantly directed and acted too. Everyone here handles the material really well and each character is memorable however, the pacing just leaves things feeling a bit off at times especially when this is a story that has been adapted so many times before. I think when we hit Viola’s backstory things slow to a crawl and by the time we return to the characters for the finale it feels a bit disjointed. We then spend a lot of time out the house for the last hour and I dunno, kinda return of the kinged it a bit for me.
I still love you Flanagan I’m still hyped to see what the director does next but for now, I dunno how I feel about this.
If I was gonna score the season I think I’d give it a 6/10 but who knows whether that will improve or increase after a revisit.
Now obviously I’d love to hear your thoughts on the season so make sure you comment below and let me know.