The Student
Review
The Haunting of Bly Manor
by Emma Conn, 18/10/20

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The long awaited sequel to Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House has finally been released, and it certainly lives up to the hype. With a new house, a new cast of characters, and a new plot, The Haunting of Bly Manor could have easily been a major disappointment. Instead, it was a bingeable, thrilling, and all around worthy companion to the previous serious.

This time around, we say goodbye to the beloved Crain family and say hello to the residents of Bly Manor, a cluedo-esque crew of staff and residents in 1980s England. We follow the story of the au pair, Danny, played by the incomparable Victoria Pedretti, as she takes on Flora and Miles, two strange children dealing with the loss of their parents and of their former governess.

Many will be excited to see the return of a few members of the Haunting of Hill House cast, even if we don’t see their characters, although there is a somewhat contradictory dynamic at play here. Victoria Pedretti and Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who played Nell and Luke Crain in the previous series, are once again standout characters. Yet Carla Gugino, the original Spy Kids mum herself, was under-utilised, while Timothy Hutton was arguably better in this series than he was in the last. Broadly speaking, the creator’s bold decision to bring back old actors as new characters comes off, even if it is a slightly odd approach.

We also get a few new actors who joined the ensemble. Rahul Kohli, who many of us know from the CW’s iZombie, showed off his incredible acting prowess in the role of the cook, while T’Niah Miller’s role was a successful departure from her famous work on Sex Education. The children this season were incredible, capturing the cliché but vital role of the ominous child, but what more could we expect from the voice actress of Peppa Pig herself. 

Although the acting was incredible, the real draw of The Haunting of Bly Manor, and The Haunting of Hill House before it, has always been the story and by association, the ghosts. 

While the last series dealt specifically with each member of the Crain family’s experience in the house, this series was presented in the form of a story told by Carla Gugino’s character to a group of wedding guests. Family is still at the front and centre, but a major theme in this instalment is the expanded definition of family to not only those you are related to, but those you choose for yourself. Despite belonging to the genre of horror and brimming with suspense, the show eloquently delves into relationships and love in all of its different forms, particularly the kind of love that is painful. 

In lieu of one mid-series plot twist, there were many in quick succession, which individually did not have the emotional gut-punch of the Bent-Neck-Lady reveal, but together built up to an absolutely bone-chilling climax. And if you were looking forwards to another episode made up of 17-minute long takes that director Mike Flanagan has become known for, you will be disappointed, and the entirely black and white penultimate episode will be sure to satiate your need for incredible cinematography. You will also have just as much fun picking out the ghosts in the background of each shot as you did in series one.

Speaking of ghosts, while the ghosts in this season certainly were not as conventionally terrifying as those of last season, they certainly drive home the point that Steven Crain made in series one: “A ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. But, in my experience, most times they’re just what we want to see.” 

So, ghosts are memories. They are guilt. They are grief. They are love. In fact, they are something to relate to, not something to be feared. It is an intelligent inversion of the genre that works brilliantly.

So, if you’re tired of traditional ghosts stories with their lacklustre plots and surface level characters, The Haunting of Bly Manor is the perfect Halloween series for you. Because if The Haunting of Hill House is perfect, The Haunting of Bly Manor is as close to perfection as one can get. 

Image: Kevin via Flickr