Synopsis from Netflix: After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) hires a young American nanny (Victoria Pedretti) to care for his orphaned niece and nephew (Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller). But all is not as it seems at the manor, and centuries of dark secrets of love and loss are waiting to be unearthed in this chilling gothic romance. At Bly Manor, dead doesn’t mean gone.
After the monumental success of the first season, Haunting of Hill House, expectations were incredibly high. Creator Mike Flanagan’s initial season had a captivating cast, beautiful scenes, amazing cinematography/direction—that “Two Storms” episode—and a score that amped up every emotion, and we can’t forget all the creepy ghosts in the background.
While the new season doesn’t hit everything out the park, certain aspects outshine the original to amazing levels. On repeated viewing, I would wager some may prefer this season over the first. “The Turn of The Screw” is, Henry James, said himself a potboiler, and I’m sure he couldn’t have predicted how something he crafted just to earn money could still be so widely read, debated, and adapted. From the recent lackluster, money grab, Hollywood film adaptation, The Turning, to one of its earlier, and better, adaptations The Innocents, this book is constantly being transformed into plays or for the screen. But this series isn’t solely based on a single James’ work. The focus may be “The Turn of The Screw”, but they used additional material from other Henry James’ stories.
Slow Build Up But Stunning Cinematography
The series is more of a slow burn than its predecessor but, like its predecessor, there’s plenty to fall in love with, especially if you love gothic stories. Pacing can be problematic in certain episodes, but overall it doesn’t harm the series enough to be a focused issue because the series makes up for it in so many other ways.
The grandeur of a lot of the scenes of the house and grounds make it a place out of time, despite the story taking place in 1987 and that’s not an easy feat to accomplish. Mike Flanagan brilliantly handles the delicate balance between the source material and his vision. The cinematography is sheer splendor. Each shot is breathtaking and must’ve cost a small fortune. It doesn’t feel like or look like a series. The musical score, initially, was distracting because they used some of the same scores from the previous season and it would make my mind drift there. But the show does improve the further in you are as the characters reel us in.
Superb Acting With A New Theme
The acting is top-notch, with standout acting from T’Nia Miller as Mrs. Grose especially. The episode where she is front and center in particular is one of my favorites of this season and hopefully we get to see T’Nia Miller flex her acting chops in more films and shows in the future. Within a short amount of time, and after you get used to characters of the previous season speaking with accents, we forget that these actresses and actors are anyone but this new set of characters. Amelie Bae Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth give creepy turns as the two charges, Flora and Miles, that our Dani has to care for. The cook, Owen (Rahul Kohli) is adorably hilarious with all the puns he comes up with. They are so corny you just have to laugh.
I love the intro to the series and the ending as my heart both hurt and rejoiced in equal measure. While the first season dealt with grief, loss, and healing, this season, above all, is about love; familial love, passionate love, deep, abiding love and it works.
That’s not to say there are no scares or creep factors; however, some may feel it’s not as special because they spot some of the ghosts easily. Perhaps, though, that’s because we are already trained to look at every crack and crevice onscreen thanks to the first season. There are even jump scares that will catch many off guard because there’s no clue as to what is happening or how it all began. Gothic romance is not solely about love, but the haunting quality that love engenders, it’s spirits that linger long after they’ve passed.
The Haunting of Bly Manor‘s words, “dead doesn’t mean gone”, is not just a threat. It’s an enticement; it’s hope. For all who lost someone, this gives inspiration that we are not alone.
* Top photo Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020