My Initial Thoughts | The Haunting of Bly Manor.

Thursday 15 October 2020

A young girl going into a lake turns around with the title The Haunting of Bly Manor above her

After the success of The Haunting of Hill House I was ecstatic to find out that a new show was in the works under the name The Haunting of Bly Manor, I've rewatched Hill House 5 more times in the two year wait for Bly Manor and I don't regret it one bit, each time I rewatch it I notice something else which I'm hoping will be the case for when I rewatch Bly Manor. I've seen a lot of talk about how fans hope Bly Manor will be the same as Hill House but my feelings differ on this subject, as much as I love the original series I wanted to see a different story with different experience which is exactly what we have been given. Both shows tackle death and hauntings in their own unique ways, the house is obviously a big focus but it's also about more than the house it's about those who once lived and died there and how their deaths had an impact on those currently living there. This post isn't about comparing the two shows though, it's about my initial thoughts on whether or not I felt Bly Manor worked and the portrayal of characters/who stood out to me, I believe that the actors are what make a show work even if the storyline is weak.

The Haunting of Bly Manor is set in the 80's (my fav era) and focuses around two young children called Flora and Miles, they have been through a lot of trauma with the death of the parents and most recently their au pair Rebecca, their behaviour is very peculiar at times and Miles made me feel very uneasy early on in the first few episodes. You could tell the children cared for one another as Miles got himself kicked out of boarding school in order to come home when he received a letter from Flora, the actors who portrayed the kids did such a convincing job showcasing their roles, yes Flora is irritating in the start with her favourite quote "perfectly splendid" but the further in you get the more you realise why she is saying this. When the children's parents died their uncle Henry became their guardian, he wouldn't step foot in Bly Manor so instead stayed in his office taking calls on their progress, he battles his own demon but still tries to do what's best for the children.

As well as the children being the main focus we meet 3 main members of staff who have been there before the children got the au pair Rebecca, unfortunately at times they felt more like they were in the background than the forefront of the story until we get towards the end of the series than their importance is shown. There is a gardener called Jamie, she seems very easy going tends to stay out of the way and get on with her job, she is passionate about flowers and get understandably upset when the children ruin her hard work, she has a charm about her and I couldn't help but like her. The children have their own Chef, Owen who chose to apply for a job at Bly Manor to stay close to his sick mum, he grew up not far from Bly Manor so needed a job that was a short distance from his mum. He is a very caring, fun and kind man who comes across as understanding towards al those who live in Bly Manor, he holds no judgement against them but was particularly caring towards Hannah the housekeeper.

Hannah comes across as very closed off but the way she looks at Owen signals she cares deeply for him, we see this pretty early on and I found myself egging her on, she had a odd demeanor at times and was very happy go lucky yet felt approachable, I loved her story yet it felt rushed and her story was cut short in order to fit in Bly Manors tale, it's a shame because her and Owen had a very compelling love story that broke my heart. The au pairs were a bigger focus than Jamie, Owen and Hannah for a good reason, Rebecca was clearly loved and her death still affects not only the children but also the staff, Rebecca drown and the staff blamed a man called Peter who "abandons" her after embellishing money out of Henry. He promised he would come back for Rebecca once things were in place but never did, when Rebecca found out Peter stole money and must have abandoned her the staff thought she was so traumatized she killed herself but this was far from the truth.

The children still needed an au pair and this is where Danielle comes into the picture, she is a very sad and conflicted girl who is running away from her past trying to find some kind of normality and happiness. When she moved from America to England she kept seeing the advertisement for the job at Bly Manor and begged to be given a chance, finally Henry gives in. This proves to be the best and worst choice of Danielle's life, she soon becomes a huge focus in the story and gets entwined in the haunting and it consumes her life, because of this Owen and Hannah start to become less and less important and they just become one victims. It felt odd to me that the writers never explored what staff saw first hand in Bly Manor such as strange happenings around the house they just brushed off or seeing things that they convinced themselves was just their imagination. 

Miles and Flora play the biggest roles throughout the series, they say children are very sensitive and can see spirits which is why they seem to communicate with the ghosts the most, they both accept that the spirits are there to stay but the spirit that does scare them is The Lady in the Lake who is the spirit that has plagued Bly Manor since the 17th century. Flora is able to track her movements and where she is in the house with the help of her doll house that's a replica of Bly Manor Henry had made for her, she made dolls which move based on where people are in the house, if they're near the Lady in the Lake she will get up as will Miles and try to move them out of her path, this doesn't always work and she ends up claiming victims that are in her path which has been happening since her untimely death all them years ago.

The Lady in the Lake is in purgatory along with any victims that have died in Bly Manor or on the grounds, we don't end up seeing all the ghost stories but we learn that the ghosts that plague Bly Manor were mostly killed by The Lady in the Lake, there faces faded because they have become forgotten, it's sad really because they had loved ones but they never knew what happened to them, there are 11 ghosts to spot throughout the show just like they had in Hill House, these are less scary and more just faded into the background. The feeling I get from Bly Manor comes from watching The Others and The Sixth Sense, they're very similar and could easily go hand in hand with both movies from how the story unrolls, but then I found out that this show is actually based on the book The Turn of the Screw by Henry James much like Shirley Jackson's book The Haunting of Hill House which had been adapted a few times.

It wasn't until episode 8 that things started to pick up, the run up was slow and there were unnecessary bits included in episodes 1-6, we do eventually get to discover the back story as to why Bly Manor was haunted and learned that it was a tale of betrayal and revenge, I felt we could have known more about it earlier on. Don't get me wrong, I loved the show and the characters but it still fell flat and I felt deflated in parts, I cared more for those who looked after the children and the house than why Bly Manor was haunted. The cast did a wonderful job portraying their roles, I love Rahul Kohli who plays Owen, he was in iZombie which was a favourite show of mine that was cancelled by Netflix but he fits the role of Owen perfectly, it would have been nice to see how he felt towards Hannah more and rare moments between them both, their story was cut so short and quickly I was annoyed but alas it wasn't about them was it! 

Flora is played by the girl who voices Peppa Pig (Amelie Bea Smith) she took over from Hayley Bird a little while ago and the more you listen to her the more you think how could I have not noticed, her and Benjamin (Miles) played their roles perfectly, it's always hit and miss when it comes to child actors they can either annoy you because the acting feels awkward and forced or make you forget they're actually acting. Reusing some of the cast from Hill House was the best move they could have made as they're all very good at portraying that raw scared emotion we saw in Hill House, they made this new role stand out which made me ecstatic as I didn't want them to have the same kind of vibe as in Hill House. I didn't want to give away too many spoilers as people are still watching the show but I needed to get my thoughts down in a post, the show isn't as scary as I hoped but the more you watch it the more you realise it's a love story.

Why not see what I thought of The Haunting of Hill House HERE.


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