I absolutely loved The Haunting of Hill House when it was released on Netflix last year. I wanted a second season, but knew it was not possible since the story had a very satisfying ending. But I got to take my cake and eat it too, like The Haunting was later announced as an anthology series, with The Haunting of Bly Manor as the second season. Bly Manor was released last week and I̵
First of all, this is not your “typical” fear (if anything even existed in the first place). It’s subtle horror, with what’s going on in the background, often far more frightening than what’s right in front of you. It’s my favorite kind of horror (well, almost), as it feels more realistic than many scary-for-the-guilt-for-scary horror flickers.
Bly Manor is also versatile horror because it is almost a horror story inside a horror story inside a horror story. Inside a haunted house. There’s a lot going on here, and you really have to be careful about everything that happens. Once I figured out many of the main plot points, I actually wanted to see it again to capture the little things I missed the first time.
It starts slowly, but hits a high note around episode 4
The story begins with a rehearsal dinner for a wedding. It is unclear who will get married (at least to start), but it is obvious that there is some history between a few characters in the wedding party. It starts with a speech, then it turns into drinks and stories among people, when a woman speaks and says that she “has a story”, but quickly notices that it is not her history.
The special piece cannot be overlooked because it sets the tone Bly Manor straight out of the gate. From this point on, this woman is the narrator of the story, and there are a few moments every episode or two to remind you of that with a little voiceover. Save for a story-driven episode, the story tells itself.
There are only nine episodes in the season, and you will use the first few to get a feel for the characters in Bly Manor. It is Bly’s inherited owner, Henry Wingrave; housekeeper, Hannah Grose; cooks, Owen; gardener, Jamie; Henrik’s niece and nephew, Miles and Flora; and the American au pair that the story is about, Dani Clayton. Dani is the main character of the show. Although they are the main characters, backstory characters such as Peter Quint and Rebecca Jessel are equally important to the overall story.
Each character is nuanced and complex, so you also need to figure out what is really continue with each of them. It was early determined that Dani is running from something, but you have to watch several episodes to find out what that thing is. It is also clear from the start that something is wrong at the manor, but it is unclear what it really is. If you watched Hill Househowever, check your expectations at the door – this is a completely different type of haunt.
The first handful of episodes set the precedent for the show, and then take a turn around episode four where you start to get some history. Various backstories continue through the next handful of episodes – including the expected backstory of The Lady of the Lake in episode eight – before it all comes to a conclusion in episode nine. The weaving of the current story with background history can at times be a little difficult to follow (watching you, episode five), but it becomes clearer as you approach the finale.
It’s a story about fear, but it’s also about love
One of the biggest complaints I’ve ever heard of Bly Manor upon release was that it is not as scary as Hill House. It’s true to a point, especially when you get closer to the finale – it becomes less of a story about ghosts and hauntings and more of a story about people, relationships, emotions and even love.
But that’s a big part of what it does Bly Manor special. Each character has a brokenness about them, which becomes a bond between them (even if they do not understand it). They are all very different people with very different stories, but the common thread that binds them all is pain. They are in pain due to loss in one form or another, but they find comfort in each other.
And the story of pain is not only true for the living characters in the story, but also the dead. I’m not one to offer spoilers, so I do not want to go into detail there, but the storytelling all the time is heartfelt and real in a way that you do not often find in most horror.
It is worth looking at, but is not without its own problems
I really liked The Haunting of Bly Manor, But as with most shows or movies, if you think about it long enough, you will find little quirks through it that do not add up.
As you get lost in each episode, you will almost forget that it is a story that is told in a collection, apart from the occasional speech of the storyteller. But there are certain elements in the story that you have to wonder how the storyteller knew in the first place – things that were apparently only known by one or two characters. There are also other details throughout that do not quite add up, but I will not mention these to avoid spoilers.
This type of moment creates small gaps in the overall story being told, but hey – nothing is perfect. I did not find them jarring enough to break the overall flow of the story being told or the beauty that was kept within the haunted walls of Lead Manor.
Nuanced or not, Bly Manor is an excellent watch that I wholeheartedly recommend not only to horror fans, but anyone who loves a good story and can handle just a little horror.