Cover art by @_elledee on Instagram
With spooky season coming to an end, infamous horror show and movie creator Mike Flanagan (Hush, Gerald’s Game) has brought to Netflix the perfect show: “The Haunting of Bly Manor”. I loved “The Haunting of Hill House” and was constantly on the edge of my seat so I couldn’t wait to get into Flanagan’s second series in “The Haunting” universe.
The drama series is about a woman (Victoria Pedretti) named Danielle (or Dani) who goes to work as a live-in nanny for two children named Miles and Flora at their parents’ mansion in the countryside. There, Dani learns of the ghosts that live in the manor as well as dealing with the one that constantly follows her.
The story is told as a scary story the night before a couple’s wedding day. A woman, possibly a family friend, gathers everyone around a campfire as she tells this story, which I thought was a unique take on the classic ‘telling scary stories by the campfire’ pastime. Within the first episode, I was immediately terrified of the ghost that Dani saw in the mirror. I was curious about him for the rest of the episode but he wasn’t brought up until the last few episodes of the season. As for the first half, it went relatively slow for me- Dani gets the nanny job, meets everyone that works at Bly Manor, and deals with the children’s increasingly concerning antics.
It wasn’t until the latter half of the show when things started to… make sense? Certain mysteries did get resolved which I appreciated, but the answer to those mysteries complicated the plot even more- so much more that I had to do some independent research as to what the plot involving Peter Quint and Miss Jessel was about. I’ll sum it up for you as simply as possible: Peter, the right hand man of Henry (Dani’s interviewer and uncle of the two children), robbed Henry of a quarter million pounds. After the death of Peter’s lover and the children’s former governor Rebecca Jessel, Peter disappears without an explanation. He then eventually figures out how to possess humans and occasionally possesses Miles and makes Miles murder a staff member in cold blood.
There’s a whole episode then dedicated to the history of the house and the faceless ghosts which I thought contributed to the overall horrific mood of the show but could be taken out and the show could’ve been a lot simpler. We could’ve assumed the faceless ghost was Rebecca and not Viola. However, the historic tragedy that is the origin story of Bly Manor did contribute to the overarching theme of family and keeping your loved ones close to you.
My favorite episodes, albeit the most confusing ones, were the ones told from Hannah’s perspective as she dream-hopped (which was a supernatural aspect that had potential to be developed upon) as well as Flora dream-hopping. Dream hopping was one of the most confusing and unexplained aspects of the show but it was still one of the most entertaining aspects. It was as if Hannah and Flora could shift realities. My favorite character backstory, however, is definitely Dani’s. We get to see a literal ghost from her past haunt her in her present while she deals with her sexuality at Bly Manor. Her relationship with Jamie isn’t forced and flowed naturally within the plot of the story which was a great step towards representation of minority groups.
The last episode was perfectly splendid. It had an exhilarating blend of adventure, chaos, and pure emotion all riled into one hour. Every loose end was tied up beautifully and the storyteller and couple are revealed at the end in such a lighthearted way that beautifully juxtaposed the entire show.
Overall, the costume design and acting were absolutely thrilling to watch. The writing was a bit slow at times but quickly picks up pace when needed. The psychological journey that the writers take us on as we delve into the minds of the most ambiguous characters truly demonstrates what love in many forms can do to our psyches. “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is a perfectly splendid show.
If you’re curious about who all the ghosts and what their backstories are, click here for a comprehensive breakdown of all of the ghosts that appear throughout the show.