The Haunting of Bly Manor is a 2020 Netflix series.
5 out of 10 stars. Unfortunately this isn’t very scary and it’s full of plot holes and bad dialogue.
The series begins at a wedding wherein a guest recounts a ghost story featuring the attendees of the wedding.
Her ghost story begins with an awkward American woman (Dani) applying for the job of au pair to a British barrister (Henry Wingate). The kids are his niece and nephew (Flora and Miles), the children of his dead brother (Dominic) and his wife (Charlotte). The kids live in the country in the family house, Bly Manor, along with a housekeeper (Hannah), a chef (Owen), and a gardener (Jamie). The previous au pair, Rebecca Jessel, committed suicide by drowning in the pond near the manor. Flora found her.
From the very beginning, Dani sees two male ghosts. One is a handsome stranger. The other a terrifying shadow with blazing eyeglasses. No one else seems to see either of these ghosts, but it’s obvious the children are speaking to someone Dani can’t see. Dani is also told by Uncle Henry at the time of her hiring that Miles has been expelled from his prep school for violence.
The first episode is spent getting to know Dani, Uncle Henry, and the creepiness of the house as well as the very odd and terrifying behavior of the children. It quickly becomes obvious that the kids are being possessed by evil spirits. They lock Dani in the closet at night and they lure her to places where she is in danger.
The second episode is devoted to Miles. After his parents’ death in India, his grades begin failing at prep school. Then he gets a visit from Uncle Henry’s new partner, Peter Quint, and his behavior becomes very odd. He jumps from a tree, breaking his arm, and he kills the pastor’s dove. As he’s leaving the prep school, he holds a note that Flora wrote to him that reads, COME HOME, implying that’s why he did what he did. (It’s not.)
The third episode is devoted to Peter Quint, Uncle Henry’s partner who robbed him, made the au pair Rebecca fall in love with him, then deserted her until she eventually committed suicide. As told through Peter’s eyes, he was happy as a partner to Uncle Henry and he fell in love for the first and last time when he met Rebecca. The problem was that his mother was released from a mental sanitarium and needed money. Apparently he hadn’t saved any and chose to steal it instead. He made frequent visits to Bly Manor and stole the dead Charlotte’s jewels and furs, unknown to Henry. Then he made plans to disappear to America with Rebecca. Sadly the actors chosen to play Peter and Rebecca had no chemistry. It was like watching two people pose naked with strangers and all the awkwardness that comes with it.
The fourth episode is devoted to Dani and her engagement to Edmund, her childhood sweetheart and the love of her life. With only a few days to go until their wedding, she tells him she’s a lesbian. He swears at her and jumps from the car getting run over by a speeding truck. After that, he haunts her.
The fifth episode is devoted to Hannah Grose the housekeeper. Her husband runs off with a younger woman and she comes to live in Bly Manor while Dominic and Charlotte are alive. She becomes good friends with Owen, Jamie, and Rebecca. Then suddenly she’s experiencing memories, lapses in time, and blackouts. She sees Peter killed by the lady of the lake, the ghost that haunts Bly Manor. Then she sees herself killed by Miles who is only 9 years old, pushed down a well and her body left there to rot. She imagines that this is all a dream, but it’s not. Peter’s spirit slips into Miles’ body and he kills her.
The sixth episode is devoted to the affair between Uncle Henry and Charlotte which begins rather quickly after Dominic and Charlotte’s marriage. Dominic is the older brother and Henry is the younger brother, so Dominic is often sent out of the country to deal with trade agreements (they are both barristers and partners). Charlotte gets lonely after Miles’ birth and begins sleeping with Henry. It continues for 8 years and in fact Flora is his biological child. Then shortly before their trip to India, Dominic figures out that Flora is not his after he catches an awkward glance between his brother and his wife. He dissolves the partnership and banishes Henry from Bly Manor never to see Charlotte, Miles, or Flora ever again. Then they are killed on their trip to India and Henry is put in charge of Bly Manor and the children.
The seventh episode is devoted to Peter and Rebecca’s love affair and their possession of the children. When Peter disappears, Rebecca believes he’s left her. He soon discovers a way for her to see him and he visits her. Quite by accident he figures out how to enter her body and possess it. So, in order for the two of them to be together forever, he possesses her body and commits suicide. When she realizes he’s killed her, she’s inconsolable. Until he tells her his plan to possess the children’s bodies and be together forever. It also shows that Peter was in Miles’ body when he killed Hannah.
The eighth episode is a creepy fairytale of sorts. It’s the story of two sisters, Viola and Perdita, who are orphaned and left the huge Willoughby estate. Viola is conniving, intelligent, and obsessed with expensive clothing and jewels. Perdita is sweetness personified. Being women in the nineteenth century, they can’t possess property, so they call their cousin Arthur Lloyd to come visit. He falls for Perdita until Viola eventually makes her entrance then he falls for Viola and they marry. They have a daughter Isabel and all four of them are happy until Viola gets tuberculosis and dies an agonizingly slow death that takes six years. At this point Viola takes all of her silks, expensive clothing, and fine jewels, and puts them in a locked trunk. Less than a year later, Perdita would finally kill her to put her out of her misery. Arthur would go on to marry Perdita and Isabel would grow older. Then Perdita decided to open the trunk and sell the fine clothes and jewels to save their estate. And it turns out the dead Viola’s spirit was locked in the trunk with her things. That spirit kills Perdita and, fearful that the trunk is cursed, Arthur tosses it in the ocean.
Somehow the trunk is taken to Bly Manor and Viola learns to create her own gravity, preventing her from floating away, so she can walk the halls of Bly Manor. She kills anyone she encounters including a boy asleep in the manor. And then these victims are tied to her gravity and also haunt the grounds. As the episode ends, Viola has Dani in her grasp and is killing her.
The ninth episode is the wrap-up of all the different subplots. While Dani was attempting to save Miles from Peter, Viola takes her and is about to kill her. Hannah attempts to stop her and fails. Flora tries and stops her, but then Viola takes Flora. And as Viola is trying to kill Flora, Henry shows up and tries stopping her. Viola kills Uncle Henry. As Viola is killing Flora, Dani somehow takes her place (yeah, it made no sense at all). Owen breathes life back into Henry and before Henry comes back from the dead, Hannah gives him a message for Owen. Peter leaves MIles’ body. And as the narrator explains, Viola is now in Dani’s body.
The following day Owen finds Hannah’s body and she is buried. Uncle Henry and the kids pack up and leave Bly Manor. Jamie and Dani leave together as a couple.
Years go by. Dani and Jamie are still together and wear wedding rings to signify their relationship. Owen opens his own restaurant and Dani and Jamie come to celebrate with him. They drink to Hannah. But Dani is seeing Viola’s reflection when she looks in the mirror. Owen tells them he talks to the kids and Henry. The kids don’t remember anything.
More years go by until Dani is no longer herself and in danger of Viola killing Jamie, so she leaves her. Jamie rushes back to Bly Manor and jumps in the pond, but Dani is already dead beneath it. And when we return to the narrator, we discover she is Jamie decades later and the wedding is Flora’s.
5 out of 10 stars. Parts of the series are beautifully written. Others are seriously awful and unwatchable. The plot is full of holes and several of the actors are really dreadful (Dani, Peter, and Rebecca .especially). We’ve come far enough now to be able to craft clever ghost stories. This wasn’t clever at all. Some scenes were so awful they were cringeworthy.