They said it was a horror, but it was more of a drama. A drama with some spooky themes, but a drama nonetheless. That being said, the show was at its best when it was just being a drama. (Some of) The characters were legitimately interesting and I was genuinely invested in them and their lives. When they tried to make it about ghosts is when I lost all interest.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is the second series in The Haunting anthology, following up from 2018’s, The Haunting of Hill House. Moving forward, we shall just refer to them as Bly and Hill House. This isn’t a year 12 essay and I’m not trying to get my word count up. So, Bly is the second series and was made direct for Netflix. A lot of the same cast and crew from Hill House returned to work on Bly. For better or worse, it looks like this will be the next American Horror Story.
Let’s talk about the plot. There are 9 episodes in all, ranging between 45 minutes to over an hour for some. I’ll try and do this briefly, but no promises. Bly tells the story of Dani, the nanny. I really wish that they ran with that, but they didn’t. They insisted on calling her an “au pair”, a term in which they had no shame in constantly shoving down your throat. If you don’t know what an “au pair” is, it’s basically a nanny, just from a foreign country. So essentially, she is Dani the nanny.
Dani gets the nanny job at Bly Manor and works alongside the cook (Owen), the gardener (Jamie) and the housekeeper (Hannah). Dani’s main job is the care and education of the two children of the Manor, Miles (10) and Flora (8). Miles is a punk brat who needs a good beating and Flora is so proper and uptight it makes me want to puke. How perfectly splendid.
Anyway, we come to learn the Bly is haunted by many, many ghosts. The main ones concerning us are Peter and Jessica. No, it’s Rebecca. Rebecca Jessel. It doesn’t matter how many times I say or write that, I keep calling her Jessica. Anytime you see the name Rebecca, I want you to know that I initially typed Jessica and then corrected myself. You didn’t need to know any of that. Moving on.
Peter was the former driver? Right hand man? I either don’t know or can’t recall what his job was, but Peter died in the house. Rebecca was the former nanny, or au pair, if you insist. Was she even foreign though? I swear she was British. The actress definitely was. Great, now they are shoving the term down our throats and it isn’t even accurate. Anyway, Peter and Rebecca are in love. Peter is a right twat but has a very sexy accent. I can see the appeal. Peter steals a quarter million from Miles’ college fund (or somewhere from Miles) and then is murdered by a ghost in the house. Then he manages to convince Rebecca that drowning herself in the lake is a good idea.
They are both dead, but cannot move on into the afterlife. Turns out that anyone who dies at Bly Manor, stays at Bly Manor. Eventually, they forget who they are and why they are there. This leads to their faces falling off, but they remain to haunt the Manor. How come nobody can die properly at Bly? Well, you have to go back in time, which we got to, courtesy of an awfully boring flashback episode. Literally an entire TV episode, I don’t mean a character had a mini episode.
The flashback episode is called “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes” and I’m almost 100% convinced that whoever came up with that title was kicked out of Panic! At The Disco. Now I’m just being snarky. In the episode, we learn the story of two sisters, Viola and Perdita. I didn’t look that up, so I’m sorry if it’s incorrect. Viola is terminally ill, but is literally refusing to die. After 6 or so years, Perdita kills her, because she wants to marry her husband. There is a whole lot of backstory in this episode, none of which (I think) is necessary or relevant. All we need to know is Viola refused to die. It hurt Death’s feelings and he stopped coming to Bly Manor. Literally. She upset Death. Stood him up on a date and now he is scorned. Hell hath no fury, right? So, anytime someone dies at Bly Manor, they are trapped there, because Death will not come to that place. That’s real petty, man. Be a professional.
Anyway, now we know why the Manor is so haunted. Nobody seems to notice too much. Or if they do, they are happy to ignore it. Dani starts seeing the ghost of Peter hanging around and they call the police, because nobody knows he is dead. Moving forward to the end, Peter is trying to possess Miles’ body so he can escape from Bly. He convinces Rebecca to try and do the same with Flora. Peter is no stranger to possessing Miles and this is why he acts like a brat sometimes. He is literally not himself. Rebecca gets cold feet and tries to help Flora escape. Dani gets the brilliant (?) idea of letting the spirit of Viola possess her and this somehow lets all the spirits move on. Dani eventually returns to Bly Manor and dies in the lake. The haunting is over.
Obviously, I left a lot of stuff out, but that’s the general gist of it. I loved the first 3 episodes of this show, but it was all (mostly) downhill after that. I barely liked any of the content about the hauntings. I think this show was at its best when it was just about the characters. I think my snarky synopsis covered enough of my criticisms, so let’s talk about what I did like.
Owen was incredibly likeable and dropped so many dad jokes he made me proud. Jamie was a delight and her sarcasm was second to none. Hannah was just a genuinely lovely individual. I would have gladly watched a 9 episode season about those 3 and their lives. I was interested in Owen’s backstory and his life as a chef. I loved Jamie and just wanted to know more and more about her. And that accent! Mmm. Hannah was such a nice lady, it was hard not to start to like her.
Dani had an incredibly interesting back story but it felt like it wasn’t utilised properly. In the first episode, you see the reflection of a ghost haunting her. She is terrified of it and has a habit of covering any mirrors or reflective surfaces around her to avoid it. We later learn that this is the ghost of her fiancé, who died in a tragic accident, literally seconds after she told him she didn’t want to marry him. As we learn this, his ghost just leaves and we never hear anymore about it. Really disappointing!
Matthew Holness played the role of Dominic Wingrave, the father of Miles and Flora. Or at least Miles. Flora was actually his brother’s kid! His wife was unfaithful, with his brother. No offense to my sister-in-law, but if I was going to have an affair, she would be fairly low on the list. The story of Dominic and his brother, Henry was also really interesting. That isn’t why I brought this up though.
I just wanted to give a shout out to Matthew Holness. I love that guy and it was awesome to see him in this. He is a legend of the game, if you don’t know him, go and check out some of his work. I don’t want to typecast him at all, but when he was talking about Glasgow and Demons, I was having flashbacks to Garth Marenghi. Good times.
Fun Fact! Anyone who has seen ‘The Room’ may of noticed Greg Sestero in the first and last episode of the show. He is character had barely any role in the series, but it was cool that he was there.
I’ve harped on for long enough, so it’s time to wrap this up. I will say this show is solid and worth a watch. If I had to do the numbers thing, I’d give it a 6 out of 10. I want to give it more because of the first few episodes, but I also want to give it less because of the last few episodes.
The horror aspect of this show was cheesy and lame. It was borderline non sensical and just felt tacked on. It did have some cool horror themes and moments, but mostly it was lame.
The true strength of the show lied within its characters. Jamie, Hannah, Owen, Dani, the Wingrave Brothers, Peter….all of these guys had genuinely interesting backstories and I was most engaged in this show when they were around. I was happy to watch them and learn about them.
If you are interested in the story line, it turns out it was loosely based on a novella. “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. As well as this series, that novella has also spawned 4 movies, the most recent of which is from this year, ‘The Turning”. I’ve not read the novella or seen any of the movies. If you really loved this show though, it gives you some extra stuff to look in to. I probably won’t, but I might catch the recent flick.
What did you think of The Haunting of Bly Manor? Are you also obsessed with Matthew Holness? Let me know in the comments!