After The Haunting of Bly Manor premiered, one opinion started circulating on the web: It’s less scary than Hill House. And there is some truth to it. The second chapter surely lacks the jump scares that its precursor possessed. That, however, doesn’t make Bly Manor less scary. I would even risk saying that the second season is more alarming, especially if we consider the real-life horrors presented in the series.
Spoilers ahead for The Haunting of Bly Manor.
In The Haunting of Bly Manor, the Storyteller (Carla Gugino) narrates the story of an au pair, Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti), hired to care for two orphaned kids, Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith). After her arrival, Dani meets the chef, Owen (Rahul Kohli); the gardener, Jamie (Amelia Eve); and the groundskeeper, Hannah (T’Nia Miller). Soon after, Dani discovers that the children’s very strange behavior may be connected to the late Miss Jessel (Tahirah Sharif), their former nanny, and Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), their uncle Henry Wingrave’s (Henry Thomas) past employee.
It turns out that Dani has quite few skeletons in her closet. We soon discover that moments after she broke off her engagement with her fiancé Edmund, he died in a severe car crash. Dani’s deeply suppressed sexuality is the reason for their breakup. She therefore holds a lot of guilt for what happened, and she keeps seeing Eddie’s ghost. But all that changes after the au pair falls in love with Jamie at Bly Manor and learns to truly be herself.
In a very emotional final episode titled The Beast in the Jungle, Dani is attacked by the Lady of the Lake—the previous owner of the manor who was murdered by her sister back in the 17th century. When Flora saves her, it’s now Dani’s turn. As the ghostly Viola carries the little girl to the lake to drown her, the nanny does the most selfless thing. “It’s you, it’s me, it’s us,” she repeats, a sentence that unites the ghost and the person into one. In one swift moment, Viola enters Dani’s body. The love and care for Flora forces Dani to sacrifice her future and, later, herself after Lady of the Lake calls for her. Dani symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice, the selfless act only committed by someone who truly cares for their loved ones.
Bly Manor also touches upon the subject of one’s passing and fading away as the world moves on. Said issue is most evident in Viola and Hannah. We first find out about Viola’s story in episode eight, The Romance of Certain Old Clothes. According to the Storyteller:
“All things fade. All things. Flesh, stone, even stars themselves. Time takes all things. It is the way of the world. The past recedes, memories fade, and so, true, does the spirit. Wake, walk, forget even more.”
In the outcome, Viola completely forgets her past life, including her daughter. She walks the same path every so often, taking the ones who disrupt her route to the bottom of the lake.
That’s why Hannah keeps reminding herself of who she was before she died. “You are Hannah Grose. The year is 1987. You are at Bly. Miles is ten. Flora is eight,” she repeats. She’s not done with Bly yet, nor is she ready to fade away—only to be held in the memory of the living. As we come to the heart-wrenching finale, we realize that Owen and Jamie symbolize immense grief. Owen loses his mother. Then he discovers Hannah, the love of his life, is gone, too. He opens up a restaurant, The Batter Place, to honor Hannah’s memory forever.
The finale provides the audience with the biggest plot twist of the series. The Storyteller is really the older Jamie, who tells Dani’s story so she’s never forgotten. As the last scene plays on the screen, we see that Jamie is still grieving, even after all this time. “For the rest of her days, the gardener would gaze into reflections, hoping to see her face. Her own Lady in the Lake. She’d leave a door open at night, just a crack, should she ever come back. Waiting for her lover to return.”
The Haunting of Bly Manor leaves us with many afterthoughts, especially on the passing and leaving a mark on the world, so we’re not forgotten. Mike Flanagan takes the aforementioned real-life horrors—the subject of one’s fading after death, tragic love, ultimate sacrifice, death, and mourning—and he makes sure that we the audience really feel them. This procedure makes us think about those issues long after we finish watching the second season. That’s why I believe that Bly Manor is equally as scary as Hill House.
Featured Image: Netflix