Photo courtesy of Netflix.
Netflix’s new supernatural horror thriller, “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” is a psychological roller-coaster mixed with action and romance. Its abrupt plot twists, elaborate film work, and disturbing imagery make for a wildly entertaining ride. I can definitely say that it left me on the edge of my seat… until the last couple of episodes.
While browsing Twitter and chatting with friends, I noticed that this series would come up in conversation regularly. The consensus was that its ending was especially depressing, and I was interested in finding out why. The keyword “Haunting” also piqued my interest due to my curiosity in the paranormal and all things unexplained. I sat down to watch it with a friend (over Zoom) to see what all the hype was about. What we were expecting was an eventful LGBTQ show with ghosts, murder, and mystery. That was pretty much what we knew coming into it, and it was ultimately what we got out of it.
In the beginning, we are greeted with an older woman telling a ghost story to a bride and her friends during a wedding event. It then cuts to a young blonde woman, Dani, the protagonist, who is applying for a nannying job for a rather suspicious employer (why is he suspicious?). Despite some reservations, Dani takes the job and is dropped off in the British suburb of Bly, where she meets the children and the other house staff. Instantly, the children come off as terribly unsettling and seem like they are up to no good. As Dani explores Bly Manor, she finds the house holds a strong spiritual presence, affecting her personally, as well as the other workers and children. Eventually, Dani finds herself in love with the gardener, Jamie, which becomes more important as the show comes to a close. Following previous mysterious deaths, Dani learns of the haunted history of the manor as the tension climbs and the stakes rise.
Although fascinating, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” follows season one of “American Horror Story (Murder House)” a little too closely. Both series share similar components of a mysterious house where owners die and come back to haunt the living, as well as time-manipulation aspects that mess with our heads.
The series is enduringly charming and entertaining, but the quality of writing is seriously lacking. The opening episodes feel strong and intensely plot-driven, yet the show’s eventual over-dependence upon narrative, unfortunately, becomes its downfall. Around episode six, the plotline diverges from the actual haunting aspect of the house to the creepy employer’s back story, which I find thoroughly uninteresting. We are abruptly diverted from the intrigue of the haunted Bly Manor experience where, in the previous episode, a consistent stream of information about the Manor is given in a momentous time-lapse sequence, and we are placed in this other world which is far less riveting. Yet the show does play with our minds, almost making us feel insane ourselves, just as the show’s characters experiencing the time hallucinations are.
Where the show most noticeably begins to deteriorate is in the final two episodes. In yet another odd change of plot and tone, the second to last episode focuses entirely on the historical backstory of the manor and how it came to be haunted. It is shot in black and white, which pulls us out of the modern-day setting, severing us from the familiar characters. In the final episode, there is a conclusion to the haunting of the Manor specifically, but not with our main heroine, Dani. As she and Jamie live out their lives happily for a few years, the ghosts of Bly Manor still haunt Dani, causing her to go back to the manor to end the curse, trapping her spirit there and leaving Jamie without her lover. The whole ending seems more of a cheesy romantic drama and less of a shocking horror show.
Additionally, the dizzying number of plot lines that have been swirling around one another all coincide into a tumultuous clash at the end, which feels far too forced, as the series tries to wrap them all up in a short amount of time. Despite this, “The Haunting of Bly Manor“ is an entertaining show that I still highly recommend to horror and drama genre fans.