The Haunting of Bly Manor binge recap
Following the success of The Haunting of Hill House in 2018, creator Mike Flanagan has returned to Netflix two years later, just in time for spooky season, with The Haunting of Bly Manor: another meticulously styled, and surprisingly human ghost story centered around another doomed house filled to the brim with gorgeous people and ghosts. Read along as we jump, cry, and try to figure out what in the world (or other world) is going on inside the grounds of Bly Manor.
EPISODE 1: "The Great Good Place"
“Her first look at Bly yielded no discomfort, no foreboding. It was exactly as Lord Wingrave had described, a great good place — and it yawned open to welcome her on.”
What is it about plucky American au pairs that makes them utterly incapable of following simple directions? If a child who is as creepy as she is adorable tells you not to come out of your room at night… don’t do it. The children tried to warn you, Dani, but you just had to be as curious and brave as every other American au pair in every other horror story about a British manor, and now a ghost in a leather hood has his eye on you!
The intrepid American au pair in question is Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) who, in 1987, has taken a position in the English countryside as governess for a pair of children who have not only recently lost their parents to an accident, but also their last governess, Miss Jessel, to suicide. Dani comes by her position in a roundabout way, as she and the children’s uncle, Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas), spend her entire interview trying to figure out what the other is hiding, only to later run into each other at a bar and drunkenly tell each other those very secrets. For Dani, it’s that she moved to England because she “couldn’t be home anymore,” and for Uncle Wingrave, it’s the many previously mentioned tragedies of Bly Manor.
Of course, just like Dani, we also come to this story in a roundabout way, one pulled straight from The Haunting of Bly Manor’s source material, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. In James’ horror novella, an unnamed narrator listens to a friend read the manuscript of a now-dead governess who came to believe that the Bly estate where she was employed was haunted.
As an audience, we already knew that Pedettri and Thomas would be returning to Flanagan’s anthology cast this season, as well as a few other Hill House actors still to come — but I believe the reveal of Carla Gugino as Bly Manor’s enigmatic narrator was a complete surprise. And one that came right away, as her voice opens episode 1 reciting the lyrics of the utterly foreboding “O Willow Waly,” taken from another adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, 1961’s The Innocents:
We lay my love and I beneath the weeping willow
But now alone I lie and weep beside the tree
Singing "Oh willow waly" by the tree that weeps with me
Singing "Oh willow waly" till my lover return to me
Soon it’s revealed that Gugino’s narrator character exists in 2007, and is telling the story of Bly Manor’s governess not from a manuscript, but from her own memory, around the fire at a rehearsal dinner for a young couple who she must know well enough to be invited, and yet doesn’t seem particularly welcomed by. “Again, this story isn’t mine,” she tells a small group of guests assembled around the fireplace of a different maybe-haunted mansion. “But, if a child gives the effect, another turn of the screw — what do you say, to two?”
Dani arrives at her new job by way of the charmingly bespectacled cook, Owen (Rahul Kohli), who picks her up in London and drives her to Bly Manor. Once she spots the mansion in the distance, she tells Owen she’ll walk the rest of the way, and soon discovers Flora, who’s humming “O Willow Waly," though she doesn’t seem to realize it.
Flora is delighted to meet Dani — in fact, Flora is delighted by nearly everything, describing every part of Bly Manor as “perfectly splendid!” while she tours Dani around, alongside the manor’s friendly but distant housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller).
Well, Flora finds every part of the manor perfectly splendid except for two: the wing that once belonged to the children’s deceased parents, and the lake where Dani first stumbled upon her. When Flora goes to place a creepy cross-shaped figurine made out of sticks near the water’s edge before they head off to find her brother, she quickly stops Dani from following her, saying it’s “really just a smelly old pond” in a way that feels like a warning.
As for Miles, who’s been mysteriously sent home from boarding school, he is equally as cute as his sister, and perhaps even more concerning. At times he’s welcoming to Dani, offering to show her how to make proper English tea; at other times, he’s almost like a cad, acting far above his 10 years of age, like when Dani catches him peeping through her bedroom door. He then comes inside and offers her a butterfly-shaped hair comb as a token of his appreciation for her being there. She’s later horrified to find out the comb belonged to the former late governess. Though, the horror comes less from the information and more from the fact that the information is relayed via Flora, who seems to be communicating with someone standing behind Dani that Dani can’t see.
Flora continues to crank the uneasiness up to 100 at bedtime when we get a look at her dollhouse, which is a perfect replica of Bly Manor, including dolls that look like all of its residents…
And a number of other dolls who look like a bearded man, a giant baby, a sort of scarecrow, and a woman clad in all black, to name a few. And then there’s the doll sitting under Flora’s dresser who, when Dani tries to move her into the dollhouse, causes Flora to explode, “She stays there!”
Dani puts the doll back, no questions asked, and the next day, she and the children have fun exploring the grounds together. But as they return to the house, Dani spies a man standing outside on the parapet of the forbidden wing. Owen, Mrs. Grose, and the spunky gardener Jamie all tell Dani that she must have just been imagining things. The children exchange looks…
When Dani goes to inspect the wing of the house that she’s explicitly been told not to explore, she doesn’t find a man, but she does find another one of Flora's stick figures, which Mrs. Grose later describes as “a talisman — a tiny game of Flora’s to keep us all safe.” And it really does seem like Flora and Miles are trying to protect Dani in their own mysterious ways…which makes what happens next all the more confounding...
As Dani puts the children to bed that night, she stumbles upon Flora’s doll in the middle of the floor instead of under the dresser this time. When she turns back around, Flora is sitting bolt upright in bed, and Miles is coming in to say that he needs the electric fan stored inside Flora’s closet. Dani goes into the walk-in closet to get the fan and — well, you already know what’s coming the moment she walks in. Miles slams the door shut and we hear a key turn. Suddenly, the children are gone, and Dani is left alone inside the closet. Well, alone except for…
The man she keeps seeing in the mirror. All episode, Dani has been covering mirrors with sheets and opening up medicine cabinets in order to avoid looking at her own reflection. Because every time she catches a glimpse of herself, she also sees the image of a man who seems to have a set of headlights as eyes. And there he is in the closet when she accidentally looks into a full-length mirror. At this point, Dani begins screaming her head off, but no one comes. She wakes to the sound of a key, and the children telling her that it was all an accident.
Dani sternly tells them to go to bed, and that they’ll discuss this in the morning. When she leaves their bedrooms, the doll is back under Flora’s dresser, and there are muddy footsteps leading all the way from the children’s bedrooms, out the front door, and onto the grounds.
When Dani looks back up at the house, Flora and Miles are standing in their windows — not not looking like ghosts — staring at her. Yikes.
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- Why did the narrator have the sink and tub full of water at the top of the episode?
- Why don’t we ever see Mrs. Grose eat anything?
- Seriously, what is happening with that doll under the dresser?
EPISODE 2: "The Pupil"
Mrs. Grose doesn’t find the muddy footprints outside the children’s room as alarming as Dani does, saying they go on one of these midnight escapades a few times a year. But that’s not going to stand with Dani, who's busy trying to get some answers about the closet incident. Flora darts her eyes to the doll under the dresser, which Miles then grabs and throws down the laundry shoot.
Miles’ behavior earns him the assignment of mopping the muddy footprints while Dani and Flora go to retrieve the doll from the cellar. On their way down, Flora reveals that the cellar is yet another part of the house that she does not find “perfectly splendid,” describing it as “perfectly dreadful.” So, of course, Dani goes herself, and of course, she finds it unremarkable that the tiny doll she’s gone to retrieve is standing upright on the stone floor. Dani does give the cellar an appraising glance before leaving, but she seems to find the creepy corner full of dolls unremarkable, as well.
I will not repeat what I remarked when one of those dolls suddenly sat upright after Dani turned her back, but a polite way of putting it is: NO THANK YOU.
Flashing back to six months ago, Miles has returned to school after his former governess committed suicide. As you can imagine, the little boy seems a touch burdened, especially once his chaplain, Father Stack, starts reciting the Bible story about Jesus casting demons out a man and into a herd of pigs. Miles asks if the demons needed permission to enter the pigs — and if the demons needed permission to enter the man…
Father Stack tells the class that the ability to make their own choices is one of the most important gifts that God has given them: “A gift that not even the demons in the story could usurp … so yes, they did need [the man’s] permission.” That seems an unfortunate thing for a super haunted little boy like Miles to hear, but Father Stack is much more considerate after class, telling Miles that his classroom is always open for Miles to speak with him about anything, and handing him a letter that’s already arrived from Flora.
We don’t see what the letter says, but we do see how Miles' behavior has been affected following the tragic loss of his governess (that, as a reminder, came only shortly after the loss of his parents).
First, Miles climbs far too high up a tree during recess, and then, witnessed by Father Stack and another boy in the tree, jumps out of it. That night in their dorm room, the other boy sweetly gives Miles the bottom bunk since his arm is broken, and tells him, “If you ever need anything, I’m here for you, mate.”
Which makes it all the more upsetting when the next scene shows Miles putting that boy into a chokehold until he passes out. Later, Father Stack begs Miles to tell him why he did it to save him from expulsion, but Miles stays silent. Father Stack tells him that they all do terrible things sometimes, but it’s the feeling of remorse that distinguishes them in God’s eyes, saying that unborn children and animals are the only innocents.
“Then it was unfair, wasn’t it, what Jesus did to the pigs in the demon story?” Miles suddenly asks. Father Stack says maybe so, but the Lord works in mysterious ways. Miles then tells him that his parents are never coming back: “Why do the bad ones get to come back and not them?” The next thing we see is Father Stack cleaning up in the back of the chapel while a child tiptoes toward the altar. When Father Stack returns to the altar, he finds it: a pet pigeon, splayed out with its neck broken.
Now, it’s here I note that very often, Miles does not seem like a sociopath. But at other times, he breaks pigeons’ necks and chokes his friends and coos to the gardener, “Have a lovely afternoon, Jamie darling,” like a little creep. So I did appreciate the small explanation that perhaps the reason Miles committed so many terrible offenses to get expelled from boarding school was because of the letter he received from Flora on his first day back, reading simply: “COME HOME.”
Back in the present day, Dani has the children doing more chores to make up for their misbehavior the night before. Flora even cleans Dani’s room of her own accord, and while doing so, finds a pair of cracked round spectacles (much in the shape of Mr. Headlight Eyes). When Dani finds Flora holding the glasses, she quickly slips outside to have a panic attack behind a bush, where Jamie discovers her and helps calm her down. Dani later returns the favor, calming Jamie down when she flies into a rage over Miles wreaking havoc on the rose garden…
Havoc he wreaked to pick a bouquet and apologize to Dani for locking her in a closet. So sweet, right?
During said apology, Miles asks Dani to lean in for a secret, telling her that Flora’s just been missing Miss Jessel lately. “It’s such a draining thing, dealing with children,” he coos while tucking Dani’s hair behind her ear like a creep well beyond his years.
Yet, somehow, Dani still concludes this has been a good day and offers for the children to choose any game they want to play before bedtime. Naturally, they pick hide and seek, naturally Dani sets no hiding limits within this mansion, and naturally heads straight to the forbidden wing when she can’t find the children. There, Dani finds a toppled over music box playing —what else — “O Willow Waly.” Flora is also humming the song from her own hiding spot in the attic, and an other-worldly creature is writhing around on the ground, humming it too. Fun! Flora is nonplussed though, just turning around and sternly shushing the blurry-faced creature when she gets too loud.
So the real question is: are cooperative ghosts scarier than potentially possessed children? I think not. While Dani stares at a polaroid inside the spilled music box that appears to be a photo of Miss Jessep and the man that Dani previously saw standing on the parapet, Miles jumps on Dani’s back and announces victoriously that he’s found her. And then Miles grips his arm tighter and tighter around her neck until it looks like Dani is going to pass out just like his schoolmate did. He lets go just before she does, and runs off counting for another round of hide and seek.
Dani runs after him, desperately looking for the children, but instead, she finds the image of the same man from the parapet, smirking in the window. She runs outside, saying she’s going to call the police, but when she looks back through the window where she was standing just moments ago, she finds Miles saying he doesn’t feel well, and then slumping down to the ground, unconscious.
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- Is there a pattern to Miles sometimes calling Dani “Miss Clayton” and sometimes calling her by her first name, which he’s been told explicitly not to do?
- If Mrs. Grose is Grose, then who is Mr. Grose, and why is it not Owen, who seems like he’s maybe in love with her?
- What’s going on with all these hang-up calls?
EPISODE 3: "The Two Faces, Part One"
“Miss Jessel found herself, as she walked the grounds of Bly for the first time, wishing that she might never leave. And as it turns out — she never would.”
Where The Haunting of Hill House was about the love you’re born into — the love of family — it seems that The Haunting of Bly Manor is about the love you find: romantic love. And for better or for worse, Bly Manor seems to breed it.
Episode 3 flashes back and forth between Miss Jessel’s first week at Bly Manor and what is now Dani’s first week as her replacement. And while the structure of their arrivals is quite similar, their initial experiences differ. For example, instead of getting locked inside a closet by potentially haunted children, Miss Jessel gets locked inside a toxic relationship by a run-of-the-mill controlling narcissist.
The episode opens with the mysterious man Dani keeps spotting at Bly Manor, who turns out to be Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). In a flashback, we see Quint flit about London to the tune of “Tainted Love,” picking up pinstriped shirts and fine liquor. But all of the finery turns out to be for his boss, Mr. Wingrave, who has to put on a new shirt and down a tumbler of whiskey to be able to take his first morning appointment: Miss Jessel’s interview for the au pair position.
Peter Quint is taken with Rebecca Jessel right away, and when he drives her to Bly Manor, he observes her immediate affection for Flora and Miles. When he shows up next, he brings in a bouquet of roses (oh yes, just like the ones Miles gave Dani!) and gives them to Flora. When Miles asks him why, Quint says that people are like locked rooms: “They’ve all got different locks and you’ve got to find the shape of their key.”
And for a brief moment, that bit of romantic manipulation seems like it could be innocent enough. Peter stays the evening and has a deep conversation with Miss Jessel where she tells him about wanting to become a barrister. And perhaps our first warning sign should have been when Quint mansplained Miss Jessel’s own plan about earning Mr. Wingrave as a mentor to her. She’s got it, dude — it’s her plan. But they flirt and stare into each other’s eyes, and Quint heads back to London before anything happens…
However, when he comes back to work on a project for Mr. Wingrave, things escalate quickly. After a day spent by the lake where Flora reveals the doll she’s made of Miss Jessel’s likeness — oh yes, the very one we always see hanging out in Flora's room in her dollhouse — Miss Jessel is completely taken with Quint, yanking him into her room for some nighttime activities. The next morning, he begs her to stay in bed longer, going so far as to grab her by the arm, but she demurs.
Later in the afternoon, Quint treats the manor as his own personal shopping mall, dragging Miss Jessel into the forbidden wing, pouring her expensive wine and offering her a fur coat, swearing up and down that it’s all been approved “from upstairs.” He coaxes Miss Jessel into trying on the coat naked, and by the time Mrs. Grose arrives to say that the children are wandering around on the lawn alone and that this wing is off-limits, things were getting heated.
Miss Jessel is mortified and runs off to do her job, but Quint just stares down Mrs. Grose, who informs him she isn’t scared of him.
It’s a stare-down that continues onto dinner, as Owen playfully offers cake batter from a mixing spoon to everyone in the kitchen, including Miss Jessel. Later, when Miss Jessel slips into her bedroom expecting to pick up where she left off with Quint, he’s packed to leave. “It’s good to know that when a man asks you to put something in your mouth, he doesn’t have to ask twice,” he spits at Miss Jessel, leaving her hurt and confused.
Throughout the rest of the episode, the present acts as a mirror to the past. After seeing Quint in the window, Dani and Mrs. Grose think that he’s returned to Bly Manor, so Owen and Jamie come to stay overnight. Two things quickly become clear: Owen is in love with Mrs. Grose and probably has been for years, and something is brewing between Dani and Jamie. “Who the hell knew?” Jamie says when she leaves the grounds the next day, after Dani briefly took her hand. All smiles, Dani turns back toward the house…
Only to be confronted with Mr. Headlight Eyes staring her in the face. It’s dreadfully difficult to enjoy a sweet moment in a haunted manor.
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- What’s going on with these cracks Mrs. Grose keeps seeing in the walls?
- There’s no way that Peter Quint is alive, right? Because Miles is, like…frequently possessed by him, as when he performs an impassioned monologue about puppets who forgot they had strings???
EPISODE 4: "The Way it Came"
“The au pair was tired. She’d been tired for so long. Yet without even realizing it … she’d chosen someone to keep close that she could be tired around."
It’s always a surprise to get teary-eyed during what is ostensibly a horror series, but such is the power of creator Mike Flanagan’s deep understanding of humanity. You have to appreciate a ghost story that actually considers its dead — and of course, the living they leave behind.
Episode 4 focuses on grief and mourning, and there’s plenty to go around at Bly Manor. Owen has finally lost his mother to dementia, but Dani can’t bring herself to attend the funeral, which finally brings us to an explanation of her near omnipresent headlight-eyed ghost. It seems that back wherever Dani and her accent are from, she got engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Edmund.
Edmund’s family provided a second home for her growing up, which makes it all the more difficult for Dani to deal with the fact that while she does love Edmund, she is attracted to women, and there’s no amount of trying that’s going to make that go away. Sensing her stress, Edmund takes Dani out to dinner, where she impulsively admits that she doesn’t want to marry him. He’s understandably upset, and wanting to get away from Dani, Edmund exits their car just as a semi-truck is speeding toward him. His glasses catching the headlights is the last thing Dani sees before Edmund is struck dead by the truck.
Dani is clearly cracking under the pressure of her inability to move beyond the guilt of Edmund’s death. A glimpse of his headlight eyes in the mirror prompts Dani to march outside with a fire poker, thinking she spies Peter Quint, but instead nearly poking Owen, who’s just arrived back from his mother’s funeral.
Mrs. Grose makes Owen’s favorite meal, and Flora innocently tells him at dinner, “You’re not dying, you know.” Flora explains that she thought she was dying after her parents died, or maybe that she had already died, but for some reason, people could still see and hear her. But then she realized that feeling was exactly what meant she was alive, and that she wasn’t dying, she was “just really, really sad.”
Little Amelie Bea Smith delivers all of this with such earnestness that it actually sounds like the kind of eerily profound things children sometimes say…
Which is, of course, followed by Miles being a terror, screaming about needing “an actual bloody drink.” Dani banishes him from the dinner table, but when she goes to speak to him later — after Flora briefly has another telepathic conversation with something just over Dani’s shoulder — Dani is all empathy. She tells Miles how she had to grow up too fast like him: “But kids like us, we’re special … we really get to choose the grown-ups that we keep in our life.”
And then she walks downstairs to find Jamie waiting to take her outside to a bonfire with Owen and Mrs. Grose — all of Miles’ chosen adults, and now hers too. They guzzle wine out of the bottle and give speeches for the ones they’ve lost, and I must say all of these actors are just knocking it out of the park. Dani declines to give a fireside toast to her lost loved one, but later she tells Jamie about Edmund when they’re alone; about how he died, and how she still sees him. But he’s not there now. So, Dani kisses Jamie…and then suddenly, Edmund is there, glasses blazing. Dani jumps, and Jamie leaves, knowing that Dani still isn’t ready for what’s happening between them.
Frustrated and quite drunk, Dani heads inside and grabs Edmund’s broken glasses from her room to finally rid herself of them. As soon as Dani leaves her room, we see Flora’s eyes fly open in her bed. She scans her dollhouse's many occupants, finding two things that cause her to panic: Dani’s doll is not in her bed, and the blurry-faced dresser doll is…active. (Yes, the same doll whose appearance in the middle of the floor last got Dani locked in a closet.)
The next thing we know, both children are standing in front of Dani, putting on a show about how Flora had a bad dream. Dani is drunk enough that she doesn’t notice the way Miles is monitoring the situation over her shoulder, watching as the blurry-faced lady — who is also apparently responsible for the frequent muddy footprints — moves across the foyer and out of whatever the children consider the danger zone.
Dani tucks Flora back in, and heads outside, tossing Edmund’s glasses into the still-burning fire. She looks up as they begin to burn to find his reflective eyes still staring back at her. Because grief, guilt — and definitely ghosts — are simply not that easy
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- Did we see Mrs. Grose finally consume a food or beverage this episode or was she fake drinking that wine?
- And where does Grose go when she drifts?
EPISODE 5: "The Altar of the Dead"
“We can’t count on the past … We think we have it trapped in our memories, but memories fade and they’re wrong. Any of us could die at any moment, or we could forget our entire lives, which is kind of like dying."
From the very beginning of Bly Manor, there’s been something strange about Hannah Grose. She doesn’t seem to eat or drink, she sees cracks in the walls that aren’t there, and other characters often encounter her lost inside her own thoughts…
Indeed, that last one proves to be fairly literal. Episode 5 exists in a nonlinear loop, artfully zigzagging through different scenes in Hannah’s memory (and, at times, in Bly Manor’s memory) until it slowly unravels to us a reality that the Hannah we’ve come to know has been denying. It’s a bold and stunning episode of television, but it’s also confounding right until it isn’t. So the best way to review what we find out during Hannah’s jumps through time and memory might be to reconstruct what really happened, and in what order:
We briefly meet Lord and Lady Wingrave when they arrive for a summer at Bly Manor, as well as Uncle Henry and his new valet Peter Quint, whom Hannah immediately has her eye on. She has much to distract her though; as she later admits to Charlotte Wingrave, her husband Sam has recently left her, but she feels certain he’ll come back. Unfortunately, it seems denial has long been a dominant trait of Hannah Grose’s.
It’s shortly after this visit that the Wingraves die and Owen arrives at Bly Manor to interview with Hannah. The first time we see Owen meet Mrs. Grose, it seems to be his real interview; the many times after that, however, it seems to be Hannah using Owen — perhaps because he’s the person she trusts most — as a sort of warning system. Her mind is trying to trigger a consciousness that exists somewhere in her memory: “Something is wrong with Miles.”
As most have likely suspected, poor little Miles is, from time to time, being possessed by the ghost of Peter Quint — and it’s through Mrs. Grose that we learn why as she drifts through memories that don’t belong to her, but to others stuck inside the grounds of Bly Manor.
Hannah watches as Quint gets out of bed late one night, telling Miss Jessel to pack her bags because he’s come up with a plan for them to disappear to America where their status as “the help” won’t matter.
After Quint departs, Miss Jessel suddenly notices Hannah standing there and says she better not follow him: “I think this is when it happened — I can never bring myself to watch.” But Hannah follows Quint into the hall anyway, where he encounters the children, who say something odd is happening with Flora’s dollhouse. The next thing Hannah sees is the blurry-faced woman who the children protected Dani from in episode 4, grab Peter Quint by the neck and drag him into the forbidden wing. But almost immediately, he comes back into the hall and asks the children why they’re making such horrified faces…
Because Peter Quint is now a ghost of Bly. Horrified, Quint turns to see the blurry-faced lady — who the children call the Lady of the Lake — drag his dead body from the forbidden wing and out to the lake. Ghost Peter screams at her to stop, at one point putting his hand on Miles’ shoulder, who then begins screaming as Quint.
We see a number of other memories signaling that Miles is being regularly possessed by Peter Quint: Miles smoking, Miles shaking Jamie’s ladder, Miles being generally dick-ish. But the meaning of those observances comes too late for Hannah. In a scene by the well that we know will soon turn into Dani’s arrival at Bly Manor, we see Hannah spot Miles in conversation with Peter Quint. She runs over to get between them, but Quint slips into Miles’ little body and pushes her into the well. The last thing Hannah sees before she dies is a crack in the well’s wall just like the one she spots all over Bly Manor.
Because, of course, Hannah is a ghost now; trapped on the grounds of Bly Manor just like the rest. Hannah gets lost in her own mind because her mind is busy — busy trying to work through the denial that plagued her life and do the one thing she’s always cherished most: protect the children and protect Bly Manor.
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- Hannah always lights four remembrance candles: two for the Wingraves, one for Miss Jessel, and is the fourth for Sam… or is it for Hannah herself?
- In another episode, we heard Miles say he dreamed that he did something terrible to Mrs. Grose. How aware are Miles and Flora that he’s being possessed by Quint?
- Who is the Lady of the Lake and why do “the others” tell the children to stay away from her?
EPISODE 6: "The Jolly Corner"
"Humans are organic. It’s a fact that we’re meant to die, it’s natural, beautiful. And it all breaks back down and rises back up … and we leave more life behind us to take our place."
The mind is quite an expansive thing for the residents (and former residents) of Bly Manor. For the ghost of Hannah Grose, the mind is a labyrinth, trying and failing to turn up an answer that it should already know; as we saw with Miles in the last episode, and Flora this episode, the mind can expand to take someone else inside of it — whether it’s entirely welcome or not. And for Henry Wingrave — admittedly, the least engaging character in the series — the mind can even expand to allow two of...well, you.
In episode 5, we learn that when Dominique and Charlotte Wingrave died, they were on a trip to India meant to save their marriage; Dominique had just discovered not only that his wife was having an affair, and not only had that affair been going on for six years, but also that the affair was being had with his little brother: Henry Wingrave.
Once Dominique figures it out, the Wingraves decide to try and work through the betrayal, and plan their ultimately fatal trip to India. Dominique arrives at Henry’s office and informs him that he’s banished from his house, from his wife, and from his children. “You don’t have a brother anymore, or a niece, or a nephew,” Dominique tells Henry. “Nobody, just yourself. And yourself, Henry … he’s a s--- grinning f---ing monster.”
Henry’s psyche took all of that quite literally, developing a “s--- grinning” alter-ego who visits him in his office alone at night to remind him how awful he is, and how he can never see the children again. Even when Dani calls repeatedly to say that something odd is happening with Flora. Finally, though, Henry defies his alter-ego and leaves for Bly when he calls the house (it turns out Henry is the hang-up caller, calling with the pitiful hope of hearing Flora’s voice) and discovers the phone’s been disconnected.
And it’s not a moment too soon, because the children of Bly Manor — well, they are really turning that screw.
Like Hannah in the last episode, Flora keeps slipping away into her own memories: of her mother, of her uncle, and of the little boy she discovered in her room with a blurry-face (whom she then gave the face of a porcelain doll, which actually made him 10 times scarier to all the non-haunted viewers at home).
Unlike Hannah, however, Flora seems to understand what’s happening inside her mind, even if she’s not happy about it. It seems Miss Jessel is possessing Flora the same way that we’ve seen Peter Quint possessing Miles. And every time Miss Jessel’s ghost enters Flora’s body, Flora’s mind “tucks away” inside itself, living in her memories while Miss Jessel does…well, we’re not really sure what Miss Jessel does when she possesses Flora. Because every time Flora wakes up from being tucked away, she can’t remember what her body has been up to.
It seems that Flora has agreed to “this game” in the past, but she’s being tucked away more frequently now, and she’s tired of forgetting things and acting strangely. She tells Miss Jessel’s ghost as much after waking up from yet another memory, and Miss Jessel seems surprised, like it’s not her intention to upset Flora or Miles. Unfortunately, it’s at that moment that Dani walks in to see what the yelling is about and discovers Flora sitting in bed with the ghost of her former au pair. Terrified, Dani takes Flora’s hand and they run out in the hall…
Where they discover the ghost of Peter Quint. “Well, this is awkward,” he smirks. A douche, through and through!
We see Miss Jessel touch Flora’s shoulder to enter her once more, and Flora runs off to the attic. Dani runs after her, but when she catches up, Flora says sadly, “I’m sorry,” just as Miles sneaks up behind Dani and knocks her out with a candlestick.
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- The episode takes its title from another of Henry James’ short stories, but it makes me wonder — if Uncle Henry also had a soldier “friend” growing up in Bly Manor, does he also understand that it’s, like, super haunted?
- Is it the blurry-faced boy who’s moving Flora’s dolls around with such accuracy, or are the dolls just run-of-the-mill haunted?
- Not a question, just a moment to say what a lovely job Amelia Eve does with that lengthy moonflower monologue that all boils down to one theme: Jamie and Dani loooove each other.
EPISODE 7: "The Two Faces, Part Two"
"It's you. It's me. It's us."
Buckle in for episode 7 because we’re about to learn some Bly Manor ghost logistics. Trying to make sense of how the ghosts of Bly Manor move through time and memory is about as challenging for us as it is for the ghosts themselves, but Peter Quint, ever the narcissist, thinks he’s got it all figured out.
Episode 7 of the most empathetic ghost story ever told works hard to humanize Peter, showing him as a person with good intentions and valid reasons for being the way he is. But those intentions and reasons don’t make him any less…the way he is. In life and in death, Peter Quint is selfish and manipulative of those who love him, right until the very end.
The episode picks back up with Dani regaining consciousness in the attic, bound up and being stared at by two ghosts and two children. But moreover, we’re taken back inside the tragic love story of Rebecca Jessel and Peter Quint — but this time, we’re getting it firsthand.
The ghosts of Bly whose minds we’ve gotten to explore thus far all seem to have a sort of anchor-memory that pulls them out of and pushes them back into reality. For Hannah, it’s the interview with Owen, and for Peter Quint, it’s a terrible memory of his mother, blackmailing him for money, while he’s forced to recall a childhood full of abuse. At one point when he’s pulled into the memory, Quint asks his mother why all the others get to hop around to warm moments from their lives, but he always ends up back in this hellish memory…
“Well, where else would you go?” she coos back. Oof.
And so, Peter Quint is looking for any way out of eternal damnation, and he’s willing to sacrifice every living soul inside Bly Manor to do so…even the woman he allegedly loves.
We watch Miss Jessel in her last living days, trying to make sense of why Peter Quint disappeared with the Wingraves’ money when the last thing he told her was to pack her bags. After weeks of grieving, Quint appears to Rebecca as a ghost, which offers a very tricky kind of relief: he didn’t leave her behind on purpose, but he’s also not alive. They can see each other, but they can’t feel each other; they can be together, but only inside the confines of Bly Manor.
They both want more, and Peter tells Rebecca he’s come up with a solution: if she allows him to fully possess her body then they can be together forever. Rebecca allows Peter to enter her body, thinking this is what will bind them together forever…
And then Peter kills her. He walks her body out to the lake and drowns her because that was his true plan all along. Peter manipulates Rebecca in death as he did in life, killing her so that they can truly be together forever, but his plan doesn’t end there. When Dani regains consciousness in the attic, it’s to the ghost of Peter Quint convincing Miles and Flora that they’re going to have to expedite the “game” they’ve been planning: Miles and Flora need to tuck away to the “forever home” of their memories where they can have their loving parents back, and Peter and Miss Jessel will make a forever home inside their bodies.
When Miles and Flora hesitate to agree, worrying about the fate of Dani, Quint yanks the humming ghost from episode 2 up off the attic floor and thrusts her blurry face at them: “Miles, Flora, you don’t want this to happen to Miss Jessel and me?”
Miss Jessel seems hesitant about all of this, but she says nothing while Quint manipulates two little kids with blurry-faced ghosts and the promise of “no more pain, no more sadness.” And when it’s time, Flora and Miles allow the ghosts to take over their bodies forever.
Downstairs, Hannah is calling for the children, so Miles-Quint tells Flora-Rebecca to “finish” Dani, and he walks Hannah out to the well, weaving an extended analogy about Wile E. Coyote and forcing her to look at her own dead body, proving once and for all that he really is a s---.
Then we’re treated to perhaps the greatest one-two punch of a series full of punches. We come back to Flora untying Dani and revealing that the last scene was a ruse. Miss Jessel instructed Flora to pretend she’d been possessed so that they could at least save one of the children. Miss Jessel tells Dani to get Flora out of Bly as fast as she can, which she attempts to do…
Before being neck-snatched by the Lady of the Lake, and dragged off toward eternal Bly Manor doom.
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- Would Miles and Flora’s bodies continue to grow older once they’re eternally possessed?
- Did Quint fully think through the plan of he and his adult lover taking over two child siblings? My hope is that he…did not.
- Can Miles now leave Bly Manor, or was the understanding that the children would stay there forever?
- Answering some ghost-logistics questions seems to only present more ghost-logistics questions…
EPISODE 8: "The Romance of Certain Old Clothes"
“She would sleep. She would wake. She would walk."
In episode 8, The Haunting of Bly Manor takes us inside a turducken of terror: a traditional gothic horror story wrapped inside a more modern ghost story, being told from the future perspective of an anonymous narrator. Try your best to keep up, folks, because we’re dipping back into the 17th century, and almost the entire hour is in black-and-white.
Our narrator earns the bulk of her paycheck in episode 8, telling us the story-within-a-story of two former ladies of Bly: sisters, Viola and Perdita. After their father died in the early 17th century, enterprising eldest daughter Viola (Kate Siegel, another welcomed cast repeat from Hill House) took it upon herself to keep Bly Manor in the family. She and her younger sister Perdita (Katie Parker, another welcome return) invited a distant cousin to Bly, and Viola soon married him. During Viola and Arthur’s wedding vows, Viola declines to say the “obey” bit of “to love, cherish, and obey.” This surprises the vicar, but Perdita says it won’t be a surprise to God: “He made her that way, after all.”
The sisters of Bly are close, and sweet-natured Perdita loves Viola’s defiance. When Viola comes down with a lung infection that gives her only months to live, a vicar arrives to state her last rites for soul salvation purposes, etc.
Viola only has to refuse giving in to death once before Perdita steps in: “God should know better — she is as He made her. If she says she will not go, she will not!” And of course, we know: Viola doesn’t go, nor any lost Bly soul who follows her.
Yet, there are things that come between the sisters. Viola avoids death for six years via her indomitable will, but in that time, Perdita takes over many of the duties as the lady of the house: taking care of Viola’s beloved daughter Isabel who she had just before she fell ill, as well as occasionally making eyes with Arthur. When deathly looking Viola happens upon Arthur and Perdita dancing, she vomits in a vase and then slaps the absolute s--- out of Perdita.
Attempting to slap her sister becomes a frequent habit of Viola’s as she grows sicker and more resentful. And so, when Arthur leaves Bly Manor for business, Perdita finds it all too easy to slip her hand over Viola’s mouth while she lays coughing in bed. Perdita tells herself that it’s mercy, but the narrator tells us that’s a lie. It was not mercy, but simply, “enough.”
Just before her murder, Viola finally accepted that her death was imminent, and arranged for her bountiful collection of silks, jewels, and linens to be shrouded in a chest that Isabel would inherit. She made Arthur promise to keep the chest locked until Isabel came of age, and he swore to do so...
Arthur did then marry her sister Perdita almost immediately following her death, but the chest promise he kept. He never opened the chest, even when money trouble arrived and Perdita pushed for them to sell Viola’s fineries.
This was wise on Arthur’s part because, as we already know, Viola declared her refusal to leave Bly Manor a long time ago, and it seems that some part of her has become trapped in a dream-version of Isabel’s chest. Surrounded by her dresses and jewels, Viola sleeps, and walks, and waits for the day that Isabel will open the chest.
So, as you can imagine, she is none too happy when it’s Perdita’s face that she sees open the chest instead. Viola’s arms shoot through the sleeves of one of her old dresses, choking the life from her sister, just as her sister once stifled the life from her. Arthur finds Perdita dead in the attic, a look of horror frozen on her face, and knowing it had something to do with the chest, tosses it away before leaving Bly Manor for good. This is depicted, heartbreakingly, with Viola sitting in her chest room, thinking she’s being taken away from Bly with her family, only to discover herself sinking to the bottom of the lake.
Thus, the Lady of the Lake came to walk her muddy path back to the manor, searching for her daughter and destroying anything that came into her way, trapping them for all eternity in her gravitational force of will. As the features of her face fade with the memory of her life, we see Viola return to the lake with the plague doctor, a vicar, a little boy she mistook for Isabel, Peter Quint, and now…
A few questions before the “NEXT EPISODE” button takes you away:
- Did the Wingraves never notice a ghost standing at the foot of their bed looking for her daughter?
- Bly Manor romances really are utterly, truly doomed. Shall we hold out any hope for Dani and Jamie?
- I guess now we understand why the blurry-faced ghost in the attic seems so downtrodden all the time…
Episode 9: The Beast in the Jungle
“You said it was a ghost story…it isn’t. It’s a love story.”
“Same thing, really.”
Throughout The Haunting of Bly Manor, we’ve learned the story of Dani Clayton’s life: her dealings with guilt, mourning, and yes, love. And so goes her ghost story, too — the one that a mysterious narrator has been telling a crowd on the eve of a young couple’s wedding. By story’s end, however, the bride wonders if it’s not more of a love story than a ghost story. The Haunting of Bly Manor asks us to consider if it can be both…
It’s almost difficult to remember by the end of this finale that it began in the more traditional sense of horror. Dani was being dragged through Bly Manor by the Lady of the Lake, who we now know to be the ghost of Viola. And the only thing that gets Viola to stop is sweet Flora hopping onto the bed in her path, causing Viola to believe that she’s her daughter Isabel. She drops Dani in favor of returning to the lake with Flora in tow for all eternity.
Along the way, many try to stop her. Henry finally arrives from London and runs out to get in front of Viola, who chokes him to half-death in no time. In the period where Henry is between life and death, he encounters Hannah, who asks him to explain to Owen that she’s sorry and she loves him. Miss Jessel can’t stop Viola, but she gives a valiant effort to make things easier on Flora, telling her to tuck away one more time and she’ll handle this part. But before Flora can enter an endless loop of dream-hopping like all the other ghosts of Bly Manor, Dani goes stumbling through the grounds, arriving at the lake’s edge just in time to say the words that will stop Viola: “It’s you. It’s me. It’s us.”
They’re the same words that Viola whispered to her infant daughter over 300 years ago, and the same words that have bounced around Bly Manor ever since, promising its trapped tenants some way out of their purgatory. Dani barely knows why she says them at the time, but she knows that to save Flora, she has to invite Viola into her life — she has to give her a way out. Viola enters Dani, and in doing so, breaks her hold over Bly Manor, freeing all who have gotten stuck there over the last three centuries.
How do you unhaunt a house? Well, you can’t exactly. But you can change the story — you can change the ghost.
What follows is a love story, but it’s a haunted one still. Owen lays Hannah to rest, and opens his restaurant in France; Flora and Miles leave Bly with their uncle, after which we’re told they remember very little of the horrors from their summer home. And Dani goes with Jamie, whom she loves, all the while knowing that when she leaves Bly, Viola comes with her. Perhaps because there was so little of Viola left, she doesn’t take up much space…but Dani knows Viola isn’t at peace, and in time she’ll grow stronger.
Jamie tells her they’ll take it “one day at a time,” and we watch them do so until days become months and months become years. Jamie and Dani get an apartment together, open a flower shop, propose with a plant (of course), and love deeply. But over time, Dani begins to see Viola’s blurry face in her own reflection and senses that her time is growing short. At the point which Dani wakes from an underwater dream to find her hand hovering over Jamie’s neck, she knows the time has come to lay Viola to rest forever.
Jamie wakes to see Dani has left, and rushes out to Bly, ultimately finding Dani’s body at the bottom of the lake. Jamie wails underwater, she screams out the words that might make Viola take her too: “It’s you, it’s me, it’s us!”
But, of course, Viola isn’t the Lady of Bly Lake anymore — Dani is. And unlike Viola, and unlike Peter Quint, Dani would never take anyone down there with her. As she once said to Jamie before they even knew what was happening between them: love is really the opposite of possession. Dani didn’t try to keep Jamie forever, she just stayed as long as she could — and that is, indeed, a love story.
A love story that Jamie goes on to tell because, of course, she is our 2007 narrator, and of course, she’s telling Dani Clayton’s story (all names changed for anonymity it seems) to a few people who have already lived parts of it, even if some of them can’t remember.
At the wedding the next evening, older Jamie stares out at the bride dancing with her uncle, and two men watching on, all of whom morph into Flora, Henry, Owen, and Miles. Jamie returns to her hotel room, glancing in every reflection on her way to sleep, hoping to see Dani reflected back at her. She doesn’t — but her own reflection says that the love story was worth it.