The Haunting of Bly Manor is the second installment of The Haunting series that follows Dani (Victoria Pedretti) as she travels to England and takes a nanny job for two orphaned children, Miles and Flora (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth and Amelie Bea Smith). However, her new job proves to be perilous as there are ghosts lurking around her new home.
This series explores what it is like to be a ghost and how they interact with each other and with humans. But though ghosts are more in the forefront this season, they are not as memorable as The Bent-Neck Lady from The Haunting of Hill House. The ghosts this season are placed in the background of various shots more than they are used for actual scares.
In fact, Bly Manor is more a tragic love story than a horror series. I first thought that this would be another family drama dealing with trauma like in Hill House, though there is some family drama here. The shows takes some time for the love story to be revealed, which causes some pacing issues. But once you are in tune with that, the show picks up and makes more sense.
The acting was well done, with some Hill House actors returning in this series as different characters. However, the accents definitely took some getting used to. The British actors of course sounded natural, but the American actors posing as British or Scottish were very noticeable. I’m looking at you Oliver Jackson-Cohen (who plays Peter Quint in the show.)
Like Hill House, a majority of episodes centers on one character, which is a storytelling tactic I really enjoy. However, this time the order felt off. The backstory for the original residents of Bly Manor takes place in the penultimate episode. We didn’t get episodes centered on some of the side characters like Jaime (Amelie Eve) or Owen (Rahul Kohli), which I would have liked to see. The Uncle Henry (Henry Thomas) episode also was just not as compelling, largely because it takes place out of Bly. Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller) though was a stand out, and her episode was really well done.
Guilt, longing, denial, and grief are all themes explored in Bly Manor. Even though these characters are being haunted by spirits, they were already haunted by these feelings. Mike Flanagan, the series creator, tends to explore themes like these in his other projects and it makes it easier to connect with his characters and stories than what is usual in other horror films and shows. Flanagan is not as involved in Bly Manor as he was in Hill House, and it definitely shows, but his influence here is still really strong.
Overall, The Haunting of Bly Manor is just perfectly splendid. I prefer Hill House to Bly Manor, but this series delivers on strong emotional beats and well-developed characters. The scares may be lacking, but that didn’t mean that the story was uninteresting. I think Bly Manor will benefit from re-watches and the final episode makes a lasting impression.
I give The Haunting of Bly Manor an B+