The Haunting of Bly Manor: Season 1
October 11, 2020 8:02 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the chef Owen, groundskeeper Jamie and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. (IMDb)
posted by bcwinters (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't actually finished the season yet but I've been saving that Joanna Robinson piece for when I do. After watching the first four hours it seems like maybe this is a show best discussed as a whole rather than episode by episode—it feels like a pretty slow burn compared to Hill House.
posted by bcwinters at 8:04 PM on October 11, 2020

I haven’t finished, either. But, come on, you can’t keep a fricking estate in immaculate condition with one housekeeper and one gardener! Ghost are more believable than that nonsense.

Anyway. The cast is good enough.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 2:21 PM on October 12, 2020

We finished it last night. I liked it have been mulling it over for the better part of the day.

It's a similar-but-different beast as Hill House. I'd compare it to Season 2 of The Wire if that makes any sense.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:41 PM on October 12, 2020

I enjoyed it. I did like that they got one thing out of the way fairly quickly, during the hide-and-seek game (WTF are you thinking, Dani?), when something started creeping towards Flora in the attic with strong Luke-in-the-cellar vibes from Hill House ... and Flora just tells it to shush.
posted by LionIndex at 4:15 PM on October 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

(warning spoilers ahead)

I really liked some aspects of this show. Creepy English manor house atmosphere; great casting; compelling characters.

But then it fizzled out in the second half. Lots of loose ends didn't get tied together. Why do we need three different kinds of ghosts? The Bly Manor ghosts, glasses guy, Henry's self-ghost? They follow different rules and don't interact, which seems like a missed opportunity. Flora was such a likeable character, central to the story, but then she's sidelined for the last few episodes. They spent so much time setting up that dollhouse, only to forget about it. All of the Bly ghosts other than lake lady were just set pieces. And the narrator-storyteller framing didn't help anything. Way too much exposition in a genre where sometimes it's better to let mysteries lie.

All the right ingredients, but just jumbled together pointlessly.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:58 PM on October 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

I think that's a side effect of it being based 40% on Turn of the Screw and 60% of the rest of James' work.

While I still enjoyed this season, it did seem to miss some of the zazz of the first one. Hill House felt like another cast member and they did a bunch of interesting set design work to keep it central even when characters were not in it. Bly Manor was slumming it, letting others do most of the heavy lifting.

I'm unsure if there will be a 3rd season because it's 2020 and everything is in flux (plus the cast and crew seem to be getting to do bigger things), but if there is, they will encounter the same jumbling problem. There are just not that many good haunted house stories that can carry an entire 10 episodes - Hill House worked because they had two timelines going and that trick is off the table now. What's left? The Haunting of the House of Usher? The Haunting of Belasco House? I'd love to see House of Leaves get a go but suspect it's pretty wrapped up in IP land. A haunted hotel story would be fun, but there's only really one 500 pound spooky gorilla in that genre and ANOTHER adaptation will lack a shine.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:50 AM on October 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this, it wasn’t perfect, but it entertained me and stuck with me for awhile after I finished it. The theme of forgetting in its different forms and being forgotten seemed central to the plot for me. Holding on to things or ideas about ourselves too. I suppose I was in a bit of a mood when I watched it and it fit well with that.
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 7:44 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

But, come on, you can’t keep a fricking estate in immaculate condition with one housekeeper and one gardener! Ghost are more believable than that nonsense.

In the Terry Pratchett novel A Hat Full Of Sky, there's a house haunted by an ondergeist - like a poltergeist except they're obsessed with neatness and will quickly clean up anything messy or disorganised.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:27 AM on October 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I also enjoyed this - not as visceral as HoHH for me (and somewhat uneven), but ...still haunting.

I'm mainly here to comment that I'm giggling over the poster in this Fanfare - "Spuk in Bly Manor". 1 spuk? Some spuk.
posted by popsciolist at 11:20 PM on October 14, 2020

All the Haunting of Bly Manor Hidden Ghost Sightings You May Have Missed by Brian Tallerico for Vulture. I…missed almost all of them?
posted by bcwinters at 8:05 AM on October 15, 2020

After recognizing who was playing Matthew Wingrave, I wanted every mention of doctors or hospitals to be a lead-in to a hard Darkplace crossover.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:28 AM on October 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

“And your self, Henry—your real self—is an evil shit. Grotesque little demon, isn’t he? I pity you, cause you have to live with him. You have to live with yourself, and he’s a shit-grinning fucking monster... and bits of sick.”
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:25 AM on October 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

So, I get that the episodes independently serve as adaptations of various Henry James stories, but having finished the season as a whole it's kind of a mess at the end.

-The melancholy spooks and tragic relationships build up until the last third, when we get a full episode of ghosts standing around bickering with people and each other for minutes on end while explaining the ghost rules. Kind of a vibe deflation there...

-We find out through a time jumpy memory episode that Hannah just hit her head hard enough to not only forget she was a ghost, but that everyone else forgets she was a ghost too! And she can hang out and cuddle with people, and change clothes, and make tea for everyone, and all the other stuff that other ghosts can't do without tons of practice. It had to be very baffling for the police when her body was recovered, considering the only officer we ever saw on the show had a rather protracted and snippy conversation with her some weeks after her body was decaying in the rain..

-The penultimate episode is a massive derail and exposition dump on the origin of the wet ghost lady. Previously, none of the characters have showed the slightest interest in figuring out what's up with her *at all* aside from being all 'what's up with these adult sized muddy footprints constantly appearing through the house in the middle of the night? ah well dang messy kids' and never caring to investigate further. After the derail when we get back to the cliffhanger at hand, there's *still* no real tie in to her history, she's just a wet strangler who gets defused by a magic spell. The backstory might have well been about seventeenth century Dutch Tulip Mania for all the relevance it had to the current characters.

-Then we spent a whole episode learning about the ancient history as related by the original storyteller in the framing device wedding party... info that Jamie the narrator would have absolutely no way of knowing. She was never in contact with *any* of the spirits aside from seeing them briefly at the climax, the other house ghosts don't even know what she is, and even Dani who ate the ghost has zero context aside from feelings of quiet rage because the whole point of melty ghost face syndrome is that the ghosts had completely lost their memories and identities.

-The damn plague doctor ghost who's been lurking in the background of every other dark scene does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, no one even notices him, there was no point other than going all 'hey remember last season when there were sneaky background ghosts? again, again!'

blegh, what a total letdown at the end. If the goal was to adapt a bunch of independent stories, just do that. Don't spend 2/3 of a season trying to tie them all together and then reach the climax and go 'eh whatever' and drop every single piece on the floor.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:50 AM on October 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

The Innocents is one of the creepiest films I've ever seen, so I had high hopes for this show, but man, it was a disappointment. I totally agree with everything you said, FatherDagon. I never even noticed the Plague Doctor until the history episode. There were so many loose ends and so much repetition of scenes - particularly with the lake lady in the middle of the night, and, well, just too much nonsense. Didn't Jamie even notice that her girlfriend's left eye had changed colour? And how did she end up knowing everything that had happened when her involvement was so peripheral? The whole thing was really very silly and not a patch on The Haunting of Hill House. I only kept watching because of Hannah and Owen, who were both marvellous.
posted by essexjan at 2:18 PM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Has anyone else noticed that Peter Quint is ALMOST EXACTLY the character of John Constantine? His looks, charm, and intelligence. His Tragic past. His hatred of Brittish class systems. His horrific entanglement with the world of ghosts and magic centered around horrible things happening to children.

I'm not saying, oh this might be on purpose. I'm saying this is absolutely the best onscreen portrayal of the character and I don't think they have the rights. Lawsuit brewing?
posted by es_de_bah at 6:33 AM on October 19, 2020

So when I finished watching it last week I was kind of let down. Many of the objections y'all have raised, plus some others - like, I get the gimmick of the framing story, but the wedding happens at most seven years after the most recent events Jamie is describing (given same-sex civil unions were legalised in Vermont in 2000). Seven years is enough that they had to get different actors to play Jamie and Owen? I don't buy it. And it's not like it was a secret that the narrator was Jamie and the guy making a toast at the practice wedding was Owen, I had that figured out almost immediately. And the older Owen actor looked nothing like the younger Owen actor and was shorter to boot. Anyway. There are plenty of other things that annoyed me, but that was the most annoying.

However! It has really stuck with me despite my quibbles, and I think it's because what it was doing underneath is actually quite profound and horrific on a much more subtle level. There's the horror that is loss of memory - people forgetting what happened to them (like Mrs Grose, Flora, Miles and Henry, with varying effects) or who they are (like Owen's poor mum and Viola). Combined with other people forgetting about you after you have died - or even while you are still alive - that's the real horror, the real fear that I think underlies the series. To be alone and abandoned, unremembered and unloved. To be condemned to repeat the same things over and over again, with no understanding, because you can't remember who you are or what happened to you. And there is no one who loved you enough to remember for you.

So yeah, in a way I think I liked it better than Hill House, even though I think Hill House was probably stronger in its creepiness and its storytelling. It just fell apart so completely at the end, whereas Bly Manor started defusing the creepiness much earlier on and turning it into much more of a love story. Because yes, I think grown-up Flora was right: it was more a love story than a ghost story. And what is more horrifying and more irresistible than love?
posted by Athanassiel at 11:41 PM on October 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

More later, but am I the only one ugly crying at this last episode?
posted by joycehealy at 1:24 PM on October 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

joycehealy, I was right there with you. If you read some of the reviews on imdb, so did many others.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:32 PM on October 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Spoilers ahoy.

So I unabashedly loved this, messiness and all (which seems to put me in the minority, which is fine. :) ) To be fair, I think I was poised to love it. I wasn't expecting a big queer love story in the middle of the ghost story. (Y'all, when Dani was all "I know we can't really get married, but we'll wear the rings and it'll be good enough" and Jamie got to "our union is civil, and we'll get married again when we can" - I'm still crying. I didn't expect the show to deal with the issue that frankly, and at the same time, show a queer couple who just loved each other and it was fine (well, except for Dani hanging out in the closet for a long time. Poor Peter. Poor all of us). I am so so grateful that I get to be married.

I was so mad that Hannah and Owen didn't get their happily ever after. I mean, their love kept her -there- and solid and anchored for some time after her death - really, could any of us want any more? But I'm grateful that the kids ended up okay, that Dani and Jamie got their happily ever after for awhile, that Henry got his stuff together.

Flora was right, this was a love story with some ghosts in it (and all love stories are ghost stories, as Jamie said - all the twists and turns that take us to our people. In our wedding vows, we said We acknowledge that we are giving up other futures for this; love stories are ghost stories.) It was about memory and love and loss (Owen's face when he saw Hannah at the bottom of that well, y'all). It was about being terrified and doing something anyway (Dani wading into that lake at the end). It was about knowing something may hurt, but taking that with the good (I may well outlive my wife, and when Flora asked "How do you do it when you know that one of you will go first and then you'll have life without them?", more crying! :) )

And the setting was beautiful and the costumes were amazing and it was a well filmed and I just really enjoyed it and it's making me think a lot, even if it made me cry.
posted by joycehealy at 3:10 PM on October 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

Why do we need three different kinds of ghosts? The Bly Manor ghosts, glasses guy, Henry's self-ghost?

Here’s the thing about Mike Flanagan movies/shows: in them, the differences between ghosts, memories, hallucinations, and dreams are almost indistinguishable. It’s true for Bly Manor, Hill House, Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game, Before I Wake, Oculus, the Ouija movie he did, and even his first movie, Absentia. (I guess it doesn’t apply to Hush but that one is very different from the rest.) And that’s why I think his ghost stories remain so fresh in our current jaded age.
posted by ejs at 3:04 PM on October 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Cried so hard in the last episode.

Why do we need three different kinds of ghosts? The Bly Manor ghosts, glasses guy, Henry's self-ghost?
Here’s the thing about Mike Flanagan movies/shows: in them, the differences between ghosts, memories, hallucinations, and dreams are almost indistinguishable.

this is what I loved. Was Dani actually possessed and waiting for the ghost to take over? Or is she just dealing with trauma? Does it matter? Either way, she ended up at the bottom of the lake. Real to her is real enough
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:38 AM on October 27, 2020

Oh and also, the Hannah/Owen subplot is the only straight romance I've cared about in years. Hannah's episode was beautiful and tragic. Really felt these characters, the whole way through
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:39 AM on October 27, 2020

blegh, what a total letdown at the end. If the goal was to adapt a bunch of independent stories, just do that. Don't spend 2/3 of a season trying to tie them all together and then reach the climax and go 'eh whatever' and drop every single piece on the floor.

mostly agree, except I'd say they did a remarkably solid of job of it up to (and definitely including) episodes five and six wherein the time-jumping-dream-interfusing stuff really takes off. I genuinely felt the disorientation, was disturbed by it, and loved how earlier clues had taken root, were now playing out. Absolutely top notch stuff.

Then came Episode 7 which wasn't bad so much as not as good, not as deliriously disorienting as what had preceded it. And then the badly dropped ball of Episode 8, the overlong, tediously over-explanatory origin episode that basically let the proverbial air out of the tires, crashed the car into a muddy ditch. My inner screenwriter tells me that it all could have been done much better in ten or fifteen minutes. This left the final episode floundering in a muddiness of lost momentum. It never had a chance.

All this said, I really did like those first episodes, and LOVED five and six. Ideally, episode seven would've been the conclusion with exactly enough story and drama to keep things humming right up to what should have been a disturbingly uncanny final shot. I would've given it to young Miles, a closeup. Everything seems fine and happily ever after, a cherubic smile that slips inside itself at the last moment, hisses unresolved malevolence -- the ghost of Peter Quint undying.
posted by philip-random at 8:43 AM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

the overlong, tediously over-explanatory origin episode that basically let the proverbial air out of the tires

Exactly! Episode 8 is another manifestation of the same irritating tic evidenced in the Poppy chapter in Hill House. We do not need some latecomer to barge in and start droning on explaining everything right when everything is the pleasingly freakiest! Everything was great 'til Poppy had to show up and take over and turn it into a clunky dopey sideshow. This time it was LakeLady's tedious backstory drooling all over and ruining all the beautifully carefully built terrifying sugarcastles with her unasked for unnecessary tedious wetblanket whogivesashit exposition of some unconnected uninteresting story about people who are not our people and so who cares. Why can't Mike Flanagan resist doing this kind of thing?

Something maybe of interest seems to be trying to be said about bad raising of children. Parental malfeasance, neglect, and abandonment of children (Peter Quint, Flora, Miles, Dani, Owen, presumably Jamie, since she turns to crime in childhood). Parents are forever leaving the raising to nonparental entities, be they mad uncles, jealous sisters, boyfriends' mothers, American au pairs, or random staffers and haints who just happen to share the house.

I don't remember The Turn of the Screw well enough to say definitively, but I think I recall being highly irritated that the governess was supposed to and willingly and gladly did sacrifice endlessly for these elaborately troubled children so their rich relative could be spared the hassle.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:51 PM on October 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

All the Haunting of Bly Manor Hidden Ghost Sightings You May Have Missed by Brian Tallerico for Vulture. I…missed almost all of them?

Likewise. It took me a while to notice that there were inexplicable figures out of focus in a mirror or behind a partially closed door. It did the same trick I so admired in The Descent, where the underground creatures appear at the edges of frames or way off in the distance or whatnot well before we actually meet them, as it were. In the first episode here I only consciously remarked on the plague doctor when toward the end of the first episode Dani descends to the main floor and then leaves the kitchen to investigate something in the next room. The shot of her doing so is occluded by his mask’s long curved nose. I thought idly, “Kind of like a plague doctor mask,” but I shriveled a bit a few seconds later when it turned to look after here retreating form.

Imagine my dismay at learning that this is like the ninth time we saw him onscreen.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:49 PM on November 1, 2020

Can you imagine being one of the wedding guests having to sit silently on a couch politely listening while some batty stranger tells the world’s longest and most digressive party anecdote? By hour three I would have been praying for a faceless ghost lady to come and drag my ass out into a lake.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:10 AM on November 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

I agree about episode 8, but episode 9 totally made up for it and wrecked me, because Jaime and Dani's story is the story of any couple when one of them gets a death sentence. Maybe you know how long it is ("I give you six months" said the doctor) and maybe you don't, but you have to figure out how to live with that and still live, and then one of you has to keep on living.
posted by Mogur at 4:07 PM on December 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mike Flanagan is announcing the cast of his next Netflix horror series and it includes HEATHER LANGENKAMP!!! Horror nerds rejoice! One of our dearest scream queens reigns again!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:26 AM on February 1, 2021

It's weird, I actually enjoyed both Poppy in Hill House and Viola in Bly Manor. Up until that point the stories were ok maybe a bit creepy but kind of unfocused, but I like having a clear character as an antagonist, I guess, and not just general dysfunction and family drama?

I mean, of Hill House, Bly Manor, House of Usher, I was onboard with House of Usher a lot faster, Hill House and Bly Manor both took like 4 episodes for me to get particularly engaged - enough backstory, enough hints and clues, enough shoes to drop, etc etc etc? I was content with all of them by the end, don't get me wrong, but I was enthusiastic for where the House of Usher was going after like the second episode, when the form of the series had established, while both Hill and Bly were just creepy and weird but ... eh until much much later in the series.
posted by Kyol at 10:14 AM on January 22

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