Play Now The Haunting of Bly Manor Season 1 Episode 1 The Great Good Place!
In Northern California, 2007, a woman attends a rehearsal dinner for a wedding. There, she tells the story of an au pair, which dates back to 1987 in London. American transplant Dani Clayton is hired by Henry Wingrave to look after his niece and nephew in their manor in Bly, Essex. When Dani arrives at the manor with the cook, Owen, she meets the children, Miles and Flora, and the housekeeper, Hannah Grose. Flora warns Dani not to leave her room at night, but Dani ignores this. She finds many talismans spread throughout the manor, one of which belongs to the previous au pair, Rebecca Jessel, who allegedly killed herself. Hannah describes the talismans as a protection for Flora. When Dani stumbles on The Lady of the Lake’s talisman one night, she is locked in Flora’s cupboard by Miles. She panics and sees a spectre with glowing eyes she has seen repeatedly in a mirror in the back of the closet. Dani is let out of the closet a few hours later and the Lady of the Lake’s talisman is back under Flora’s dresser, as usual. She notices muddy footsteps entering the manor, and when she follows them outside, she sees Miles and Flora staring at her from their bedroom windows.
A bright-eyed American au pair hopes to make a difference caring for two orphans in a grand English manor. Yet the feeling of dread is undeniable.
Based on The work of Henry James
Creators: Mike Flanagan
Director: Mike Flanagan
Star Cast: Alex Essoe, Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Greg Sestero, Henry Thomas, Martin McCreadie, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Rahul Kohli, Tahirah Sharif, Victoria Pedretti,
Producer (s): Kathy Gilroy, Leah Fong
Cinematographer: James Kniest, Maxime Alexandre
Production House: Intrepid Pictures, Amblin Television, Paramount Television Studios
Original network / Official Sites: Netflix
Release Year: 9 October 2020
Runtime: 55 min
Genres: Drama, Horror, Gothic romance, Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural, TV Mini-Series
The Haunting of Bly Manor doesn’t waste any time before it gets to the haunting. In the opening minutes of the series — long before we lay eyes on Bly Manor itself — we get our first glimpse of the ghost that haunts our protagonist, Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti): a strange, shadowy figure with yellow lights for eyes, staring at her from the reflection in a passing car’s window.
And while it’s a little too early in the season to start tossing out theories, I think there’s a clue here. Long before The Haunting of Bly Manor opens the front door of its stately, titular English country house, we learn that Dani is already haunted. Whatever is waiting for her inside Bly Manor, she’s bringing her own ghosts with her.
From the very beginning, Bly Manor signals that the season will be consumed with the tragedies of the past. The series premiere opens in 2007 at a purportedly haunted castle in Northern California, where a group of guests is drinking on the eve of a young couple’s wedding. (I’m not quite sure why these partiers all agree that they want to hear a ghost story, even if Carla Gugino is the one who offers to tell it.)
And with that, Bly Manor is off to London in 1987, where we’re swiftly introduced to Dani. An American expat who’s not in any hurry to return to her home country, she jumps at the chance to be a live-in au pair to a couple of orphaned children at a manor in the English countryside.
Theoretically, the two kids are under the care of their uncle, Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas), but you don’t get the sense that he’s all that interested in the job. Dani, by contrast, seems to view caring for them as both a privilege and a moral duty. In an emotional monologue, she describes how she abandoned her job as a schoolteacher because she couldn’t make a difference for all 25 of the children in her class, no matter how much she loved them. She’s confident, however, that she can do it with these two.
After a little hemming and hawing, Dani gets the job, and she’s on her way to Bly Manor. But the purity of her motives remains an open question. She’s clearly running from something, and you might think a full-time job in a remote, old house would be enough to get her to safety — yet her habit of obsessively covering every reflective surface in a room with a cloth screen certainly implies that whatever chases her is never far behind.
At Bly Manor, Dani meets the rest of the skeleton staff charged with looking after the place: Owen, the cook (Rahul Kohli); Jamie, the groundskeeper (Amelia Eve); and Hannah Grose, the housekeeper (T’Nia Miller). But much of the episode focuses on the children themselves. This is the big gamble of The Haunting of Bly Manor — can it find two child actors capable of the nuance and ambiguity required to make every aspect of this story work?
After one episode, I am very confident in saying: maybe! Ten-year-old Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) is polite but brooding, and he was expelled from his boarding school under murky circumstances. He seems to be testing Dani — handing her both a butterfly hairpin and a spider in an effort to gauge how she’ll react to kindness or cruelty. His sister, 8-year-old Flora (Amelie Bea Smith), is mostly precocious and cheerful. She also has her own strange qualities, including a penchant for creepy dolls and a tendency to seek advice from Miss Jessel, who is either an imaginary friend or a ghost.
Which is it? As the episode ends, that remains another tantalizingly open question. Near the end, Hannah sketches in a vague biography of the real-life Miss Jessel, who served as Miles and Flora’s previous au pair until — after a bad encounter with a man — she walked into a pond and drowned herself. Flora found Jessel’s corpse, and there’s no telling how and when that kind of trauma may manifest. But just when you might be inclined to write the whole “imaginary friend Jessel” thing off as a coping mechanism, Dani spots another mysterious figure — a strange man frowning at her from a balcony in a dusty wing of the house that’s supposed to be sealed.
Yes, something is wrong at Bly. So when Miles and Flora lock Dani into a closet at the end of the episode, is it a childish prank gone wrong or something more sinister? Are Dani’s subsequent panic attack and breakdown due to a ghost she can see in the mirror, or to her belief that she can see a ghost in the mirror?
Maybe the real question is: Does it matter? During her monologue in the small chapel on the manor grounds, Hannah’s speech is underpinned by a recurring musical motif from the Haunting of Hill House score. It’s here that the connection between these two ghost stories, separated by both geography and time, finally becomes clear. Ghosts or not, everybody’s haunted by something. And whatever these houses bring out in their residents, it will need to be dealt with.