As a fan of all of Flanagan’s work thus far, it is no surprise that I, for the most part, love The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s hard to pull off tension when there is a foregone conclusion. But sometimes, the telling sets up the suspense. The Fall of the House of Usher discloses early that all six of Roderick Usher’s children died within two weeks. Each death is different, and unraveling the ‘how’ and ‘why’ is what makes the series gripping. The Fall of the House of Usher is a whirlwind of mostly unsavory characters, yet compelling thanks to the intricacy the writers and Flanagan incorporate into the series.
The Fall of the House of Usher Makes Edgar Allen Poe Fans Rejoice
Like earlier Mike Flanagan creations, he does not pull from the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name. Other Poe works appear. Titles of episodes aside, it adds an entertaining layer for viewers to have “aha” finger-pointing moments. The poems spatter throughout, including parts of them, like “The Raven,” making up episode titles or a priest reciting parts from “For Annie.” With an attention to detail, The Fall of the House of Usher is an immersive experience.
Knockout Performances and Dialogue
Flanagan’s penchant for monologues mainly works. But sometimes they go on far too long. Roderick’s (Bruce Greenwood) lemon monologue is far too long and occasionally nonsensical. It’s clear what the writer’s aim was; however, it feels inauthentic. But some, like Camille’s breakdown of handling the press, stand out, thanks to the actress Kate Siegel’s execution. Carla Gugino, as Verna, is a force—a brilliant performance, given how many differing roles she filled. Seeing anyone else in the role is impossible, as she balances humor, danger, and vulnerability.
Rahul Kohli always delivers fantastic performances, whether playing a caring father in Midnight Mass or a selfish drug-addled game producer. Fans of T’Nia Miller rejoice as she returns with a moral facade that lacks morality. Bruce Greenwood and Mary McDonnell, as Roderick and Madeline Usher, deliver on the selfish, hollow nature of greed that sacrifices everything. Ruth Codd as Juno adds unexpected comic relief and emotional moments. It’s a delight seeing Kyliegh Curran in the series after her powerhouse role in Doctor Sleep. But she’s given far too little here.
As Flanagan recycles cast from previous series, there’s always the challenge that viewers will envision their former characters. For most, that does not occur. However, a couple from Flanagan’s short-lived series, The Midnight Club, lacks character development in the series to be distinct. This is stark with both Aya Furukawa and Igby Rigney. So, it’s disconcerting seeing them as Tina and Toby.
Less Horror, More Entertaining
Scare-wise, The Fall of the House of Usher starts strong. There are jump scares and the popular lurking-in-the-shadows frights. Flanagan’s series shines in terrifying ways when the horror skulks in the background. When it comes to the fore, it’s less chilling yet more hip.
The decay of the Ushers’ childhood feels symbolic of the rot of their character and the wear and tear of time, bringing about inevitable death. The Picture of Dorian Grey is another story where a physical object represents the rotten soul of a character. Some graphic scenes of bloodshed occur. So, those unprepared should brace themselves.
While mentions about politics, media, and the industry sometimes feel forced, the larger message works. It’s entertaining and highlights that everyone’s debt comes due in time. Some may not like it, claiming infectious “wokeness” reached Flanagan.
The emotional punch present in other Flanagan series is not here. These are not likable, caring people. So, the haunting impact of a Hill House or Bly Manor is absent. Still, The Fall of the House of Usher has mindblowing, inventive scope, production value, and sensational performances. The gothic elements, hedonism, elitism, and bloodshed coalesce into a fun banger. If the wealthy elite can cheat death or the devil, they will. For them, everything has a price. This is one of those “glad I ain’t them” shows.