Not long after this second series dropped onto Netflix, a friend posted to my Facebook feed that the show represented nine hours of his life he wouldn’t get back.
Having finished the series, I think I know why.
Now, I believe in being fair, so let’s be fair: The Haunting of Bly Manor isn’t necessarily bad television. It’s just that anyone expecting something in the same style as the far superior The Haunting of Hill House will probably walk away from Bly Manor at least a little disappointed. The tone and style is very different. Hill House came across as a much more traditional haunted house type of story that we’ve seen on TV and in the movies many times over, and done very well at that. Bly Manor is mostly going for a tragic mood. The Lady in the Lake was an angry, controlling woman, and she’s still wreaking havoc today.
Or whenever this series was set. I was never quite sure.
But someone needs to stop that thing before it finishes killing Dani. Hannah accepted her own death and was barely an obstacle as the Lady walked right through her. Flora got the Lady off Dani by reminding that faceless thing of her own daughter, switching Dani for Flora and taking the girl back to drown in the lake. Rebecca and Miles watched helplessly. Uncle Henry drove up by chance and got batted away like a rag doll.
So, Dani stopped the Lady by offering to become a permanent host. That worked. Flora didn’t drown, the other ghosts got to move on to the next life, and Dani seemed to me more of less in control of herself as she and Jamie went off to start a life together. They got five years before Dani realized the Lady was starting to take control and almost attacked Jamie in her sleep, so Dani went off and drowned herself. She’s the new Lady in the Lake, but she’s nicer so none of that other stuff will happen again. And Jamie was the one telling this story the whole time to an adult Flora and Miles the night before Flora’s wedding. Owen and Henry are there.
How Jamie knew half the stuff she knew I have no idea.
So, we have something that ended somewhat happily for everyone except Jamie. Owen started his restaurant in Paris. Henry stopped drinking. Miles and Flora didn’t remember the bad times at Bly, to the point that adult Flora didn’t seem to know who Jamie even was which makes me wonder who invited her to the wedding. Jamie ends the series waiting to see if Dani’s ghost will come for a visit.
So, what was that? Given the structure of the show (weak as it was), it could be said to be some sort of character study going for a somewhat bleak mood. That could work, but I wasn’t sure how well these different story strands hung together. Did that ghost following Dani from America give up when she tossed his glasses in the fire? I don’t know. He just stopped appearing after a while.
I think the real problem for me was it wasn’t all that scary, only a little creepy in places, while the plot seemed almost nonexistent. We got a whole episode devoted to Henry, who didn’t appear in that many episodes all told, but nothing for Owen? Mostly, I am not sure how this got up to nine episodes. True, some of them were good, like the flashback episode or the Hannah-centered one, but much of the time the show seemed to be treading water just trying to establish that bleak mood. And then we end on a wedding and happiness for 90% of the surviving characters.
I can appreciate what Mike Flanagan was trying to do, and there was a lot of art on display here, but really, this was too long and not particularly eventful. I think my general enjoyment of Hill House is the only real reason I went for it in the first place, and if I didn’t finish every show I write up here, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far.
7.5 out of 10 muddy footprints.
But now I need something else for Fridays. Let’s just grab something short while I try to think of something else. I am paying for Paramount+/CBS. I might as well check out their recent remake of The Stand.
A show about a pandemic during a pandemic? What can go wrong?