There's no better way to spend the Halloween season than by watching a spooky show. The perfect spooky show for this year is “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” the follow-up to the wildly popular “The Haunting of Hill House.”
Though fan-favorites like Victoria Pedretti, Henry Thomas, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen return for the second season, don’t expect an update as to how the Crain family is doing. The Haunting is an anthology series, similar to American Horror Story, only better. Though both seasons feature some of the same actors, it's a completely different story.
Luckily, most of what made the first season so great are present in the second season. From complex characters to outstanding performances from the entire cast, The Haunting of Bly Manor isn’t a show you want to miss.
It’s Based on the Works of Henry James
Similar to how The Haunting Hill House was loosely based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, The Haunting of Bly Manor is based on another piece of classic horror fiction. The story is mainly based on Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of The Screw. James’ novella is about a governess who takes on a job taking care of two orphaned and wealthy children but quickly realizes that something strange and supernatural is happening to the children. Bly Manor also takes inspiration from other Henry James stories like The Jolly Corner and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes.
Family and Loss Remain Central Themes
Some of the main themes in Hill House are family and loss, and this sentiment continues in Bly Manor. The story is set in 1987 when a young American woman named Dani (Victoria Pedretti) interviews for a position as a live-in au pair for the niece and nephew of wealthy lawyer Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) at their country estate in Bly. The children, eight-year-old Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and 10-year-old Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), have been through a lot.
Two years before the story, they lost their parents in an accident, and the suicide of their previous au pair, Rebecca (Tahirah Sharif), and the mysterious disappearance of their uncle’s valet, Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), have only made their grief worse. Despite what they’ve been through, both of the children are incredibly kind and welcome Dani with open arms. The children live with their housekeeper, Hannah (T’Nia Miller), and are also close with their cook, Owen (Rahul Kohli), and gardener, Jamie (Amelie Eve).
It doesn’t take long for Dani to realize that despite only the children being related, Bly is a family home. Since their uncle is barely in the picture, Hannah, Owen, Jamie, and now Dani are parental figures to Flora and Miles. As the show progresses, it’s clear that the staff at Bly Manor will do anything to protect Miles and Flora, and Miles and Flora will do anything to protect their parental figures. This theme comes more into play when Dani begins to see strange things around the manor and notices that the children are hiding something.
Loss is another central theme in Bly Manor. Every character has experienced some form of loss, and all of the emotions surrounding the loss (everything from denial, pain, sadness, and guilt) haunt the characters throughout the story. The lingering emotions from their losses make some of the characters sad, some bitter, and some paranoid. This theme works well because like family, loss is a universal experience. Exploring these two universal themes in Hill House is one of the many things that made the show so great and helped the audience love the characters, and Bly Manor is no different.
It’s a Gothic Romance
While Hill House was praised for perfectly blending genres like family drama and horror, Bly Manor’s two main genres are family drama and Gothic romance. It’s still scary in the best way possible, but the show will tug more at your heartstrings than make you reach for your pillow. There are several love stories woven throughout the narrative: some healthy, some toxic, and some so heartbreakingly beautiful that you’ll cry.
A Gothic romance is a story that blends elements of Gothic fiction with a romantic twist. Classic Gothic tropes include a gloomy, haunted atmosphere, supernatural elements, family secrets, and suspense. Some of the most famous works of Gothic romance are Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. All three of these stories are suspenseful romances that take place in haunted atmospheres, and Bly Manor is no different.
Bly Manor asks a question many of us wouldn’t even think to ask: What’s the difference between a ghost story and a love story? In truth, the question should be if there’s a difference between the two, and the story explains why in the most beautiful way possible.
Though Bly Manor isn’t as scary as its predecessor, it’s the perfect show to watch this Halloween season. From the incredible performances from the actors to the strong character development, the show is perfectly splendid.
If you’ve already watched Bly Manor and you want more, check out the most famous adaptation of The Turn of the Screw (until Bly Manor), the 1961 horror film The Innocents.