I was rather impressed by the previous episode. Something seemed to actually happen, filling in the backstory for a character that had some secrets that hadn’t been revealed and actually advancing the plot.
Then we got this one, and I think I know why this series has been bothering me.
See, this episode gives us the backstory for Henry Wingave, the uncle to Miles and Flora and the man who hired Dani.
And…I don’t know why we’re getting much. Essentially, Henry was having an affair with his brother’s wife, and Flora is actually his daughter. And that’s…fine. Henry Thomas, another holdover from Hill House, is a good actor, and he finally has something to do here. There’s an effect where his character is haunted by a dark moment from his past–the moment when he learned his brother and wife died while on a trip to repair damage to the marriage caused by his affair–that takes the form of himself smiling the most evil smile Henry Thomas can manage.
And…I can’t bring myself to care.
My biggest fear for Bly Manor has always been that there wasn’t enough from the source material to warrant nine hour long episodes. And so far…I think I was right. So, rather than advance the plot, we just get backstory for a different character each episode.
And it’s not as if the main plot doesn’t advance. We see Flora interact with the faceless ghost of a boy roughly her age. She has dreams of her past where she knows it’s the past and so does everyone else involved. Dani sees Peter’s ghost and talks to Rebecca’s ghost, and the episode ends with Miles knocking Dani unconscious. That is plot advancement, and I actually rather liked the bits of Flora remembering her dreams were her past and not her present.
But so much of this episode is about Henry, a character who has stood on the sidelines, not done a whole lot, and while played by a capable actor, doesn’t really seem to deserve a whole episode based on his own past. But that’s what the grab bag of Bly Manor has been so far: just a lot of backstory and not much else, with different characters getting the spotlight no matter how much they might be removed from the main plot.
I suppose Hill House did something similar with its large cast, but it was still all based around the main narrative of a father and his now-adult children all being haunted by the haunted house they all lived in and cost them the life of their mother. So much of Bly Manor has been less about what the house did to people so much as it is how messed up these people were even without the influence of the house. And narratively, that doesn’t quite work.