The Haunting of Bly Manor
Having spent the past few episodes delving into the various people and ghosts at Bly Manor, the series is finally ready to expand its scope to the most mysterious figure who isn’t currently in residence: Henry Wingrave, the perpetually drunken solicitor who throws money at his orphaned niece and nephew while staunchly refusing to have any actual contact with them.
In what’s quickly becoming a pattern for Bly Manor, Henry’s ghost story is essentially a love story smothered under loss, guilt, and grief. The problem? His lover was none other than Charlotte Wingrave, who was married to his brother Dominic (and who are now both dead).
There’s not much in this story that reflects well on Henry — but via the flashbacks, it’s interesting to see him younger, lighter, gentler, and in love. In the present, Henry is wracked with guilt over the affair that has manifested in an extremely literal way: His own smirking doppelgänger, who arrives when no one else is around to chug scotch and needle Henry about the darkest moments of his life.
This is straight out of another story by The Turn of the Screw writer Henry James — more on that below — but honestly, I found it closer to silly than scary. But whatever you think of the doppelgänger, he does fill in some important gaps in the story. The most important is that Henry, not Dominic, is Flora’s biological father. The timeline of Flora’s birth is how Dominic figures it out in the first place; after confronting Charlotte, they decide to reconcile, on the condition that Henry stays out of their lives for good.
Dominic arrives at their shared office to collect his things and give Henry a final kiss-off — a lengthy, somewhat overwritten speech that, as far as I can tell, also manifests the doppelgänger that continues to torment Henry. “Yourself, Henry — your real self — he’s an evil shit,” Dominic sneers. “A grotesque little demon, isn’t he? I pity you, because you have to live with him.”
That speech seems to have sealed Henry’s fate. Despite the shocking news that Dominic and Charlotte have died in an accident on the trip that was intended to save their marriage, Henry obeys his brother’s order and stays away from Bly Manor and the orphaned children. He spends all his time in the office, working and drinking, and occasionally working up the courage to call Bly in hopes that Flora will pick up the phone so he can hear her voice (which turns out to be the source of the mysterious “crank calls” that have bothered Dani from the very beginning).
This could easily turn out to be a bleak dead-end for Henry. But near the end of the episode, something interesting happens: Henry defies the doppelgänger whose torments seem to keep him locked into place. Like Dani’s dead fiancé Edmund, it’s not entirely clear whether Henry’s doppelgänger is an actual, supernatural power or the manifestation of his own guilt and self-loathing. But whatever the truth, forcing his way past the doppelgänger and out of the office leads him, at last, onto the road toward Bly Manor.
And none too soon, because the number of people who can protect Miles and Flora is steadily dwindling. Back at Bly, Flora has been acting even stranger than usual, and we finally have enough context to grasp what’s really going on. Just as Peter Quint can possess Miles, Miss Jessel can possess Flora, keeping her off-kilter and disoriented in her own mind.
When Dani goes in to check on Flora one night, and finds Miss Jessel sitting on the bed, it looks like someone might finally be on the verge of solving what’s been haunting the children all along. But Peter Quint takes control of Miles’ body and comes to the rescue, bashing Dani over the head and knocking her unconscious. And given everything we’ve heard about Bly Manor being a trap you don’t even realize you’ve been caught in, there’s a real and disturbing possibility that Dani Clayton is about to become the home’s newest ghost.
Bumps in the night:
• Hidden Ghosts: At 23:41, there’s a pale-faced figure standing on the left side of the screen, at the entrance of Flora’s closet.
• More evidence that the solution to Bly Manor’s ghosts is facing them head-on: It looks like Dani’s decision to confront Edmund’s ghost and burn his glasses worked. Even during Dani’s night with Jamie, he never shows up (in reflections or otherwise).
• Henry’s situation is a loose adaptation of the Henry James story “The Jolly Corner,” which is about a man who becomes convinced that a doppelgänger is leading the other life he could have had. It’s in the public domain, and you can read it here.
• There are still parts of Henry’s story that remain tantalizingly vague. It’s implied that Henry and Charlotte’s affair began while Dominic was away on one of his many frequent business trips. Henry and Dominic also happen to be business partners. Were all those long trips a coincidence? Or was Henry encouraging those trips to ensure that he’d have ample time to spend alone with Charlotte?
• As an even younger child, Flora befriended the ghost of a young boy who doesn’t have a face, and gave him a mask to make him feel better. Thanks to Hannah Grose, we know that not all the ghosts at Bly Manor are malicious — maybe this boy will have some positive role to play before this is over.
• Henry tells Flora he had his own “imaginary” friend as a child at Bly Manor — a soldier who terrified him. That’s probably a nod to the Henry James short story “Owen Wingrave,” which follows a young man haunted by the legacy of the dead military men in his family. You can read it here.
• Alex Essoe, who plays Charlotte Wingrave, also played Wendy Torrance in Doctor Sleep, showrunner Mike Flanagan’s sequel to The Shining. Matthew Holness, who played Dominic Wingrave, is probably best known for co-creating and co-starring in the cult parody series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, which you should absolutely watch if you haven’t already seen it.
• Origins for a couple more things we’ve seen throughout the show: Henry buys Flora the Bly Manor dollhouse for her birthday, and Charlotte teaches her how to make the “talismans” she says will protect her.
• In a very lengthy speech, we get Jamie’s backstory. The short version: Her mother cheated on her father and eventually abandoned the family, leaving the young Jamie in charge of her siblings. After an accident, she committed some kind of crime in London, got sent to jail and discovered both therapy and gardening, and rebuilt her life once she got out.
• Jamie reassuring Dani that they will have other nights together makes me very, very worried that they won’t have any more nights together.
• Henry has apparently replaced the 200,000 pounds stolen by Peter Quint, which came out of an account eventually intended for Miles, out of his own savings.
• While filling in for Dani, Owen cheekily promises that “nightmares, monsters, or bogeymen under the bed will be dealt with swiftly and fairly.” Don’t make promises you can’t keep, man.
• If Jamie’s speech inspired you, here’s a guide for growing your very own moonflower vine. Seems difficult!