The Haunting of Bly Manor: Spoiler Analysis
Mike Flanagan, director of popular horror TV series The Haunting of Hill House, returned to the entertainment industry for the show’s second series, The Haunting of Bly Manor. Based off of the classic novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the only thing the two seasons have in common are a few familiar faces, such as Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino, and Kate Siegel. This series brought an entirely different world of characters, relationships, and horror.
WARNING: THIS ANALYSIS CONTAINS SPOILERS. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
What Mike Flanagan does best with both of these seasons is the feeling of immersion. Typically for horror movies, the disconnect between the movie’s world and our own becomes very apparent with factors such as color-grading, dialogue, decision making, etc. For example, in films such as Insidious, some scenes consist of a green hue, even if the characters reside in the mortal realm (Earth). Although this effectively heightens the viewers senses, it also disconnects them from the world created. Flanagan purposefully uses soft, yellow, realistic lighting in order to add that extra level of fright, the fright that makes the viewers become paranoid of suffering the same fate as the characters.
In addition to this, the character choices and decision making are completely grounded in common sense. There is no checking-the-basement-you-just-heard-a-noise-come-from cliche. All of these characters have a line of reasoning that is realistic, leading the viewer to second guess what they would do if they faced the same problems. Each character in this particular season has a lesson they must learn, in which some had to die in order for it to stick.
The main plot of this season starts with Dani arriving at the manor as the new au pair for the troubled children. She had already experienced some very traumatic events, most notably, the death of her ex-fiance, who died merely seconds after she broke up with him at the hands of an oncoming truck. Dani starts to see a ghostly figure of her ex appearing behind her in her reflection, with his glasses still lighting up in the headlights, representing the guilt she has regarding his death. Later in the season, it is revealed that Dani has an interest in women. Whether or not her interest is exclusively in women, it could have been the reasoning for cutting ties with her fiance. This could potentially mean that Dani associates her sexuality with his death. She did not have the feelings for him like she supposed she should have, leading to her breaking up with him, and him getting out of the car at just the wrong time. Her chains bounding her to the ground, metaphorically of course, break after she comes to terms with her sexuality.
A consistent theme in the show, the conflict between both letting go of the past and embracing it, presents itself through the characters and their relationships. Most notably, the relationship between Dani, the au pair, and her partner, Jaime the gardener. Their dynamic peeks through a lot in their reflections. Dani cannot stand to look at her reflection, partly due to her fiance. However, after the events at the manor, the residence of The Lady of the Lake in Dani presents itself first in the reflection of their flower shop window, then the plate in her hands as she washes it, then the water in a bath she had drawn. Dani constantly deals with the inability to look at herself, first due to guilt, then the remembrance that her time only ticks down before she has to depart from her partner, forcing her to hold on to her past, as much as she wants to let it go. Jaime, on the other hand, finds herself analyzing her reflection, hoping to see Dani in it, long after the au pair found her new home at the bottom of the lake. The habits she goes through on a nightly basis, drawing a bath, leaving a crack in the door, shows that Jaime embraces her past, holding onto it for dear life because she has to live with it, and die with it.
Not only was The Haunting of Bly Manor a show that kept the hands of viewers over their eyes, it also had characters loved enough to peer through the gaps of their fingers. In a very meta way, the show acknowledges that this season holds the better title of a love story, rather than a ghost one. Although it seems nearly impossible to top the first season, this one definitely holds a candle.