The Ending of 'Bly Manor' Could Not Have Been More Sad or Confusing

Josh St. Clair
·3 mins read
Photo credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix
Photo credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

From Men's Health

The following contains spoilers for Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor.

Watching Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor probably felt less like screening horror than retaking your mandatory sophomore English Literature course—which, you know, maybe is the same thing.

The series itself is based on various stories by Henry James, most notably, The Turn of the Screw, where Bly gets most of its character names, storylines, and dramatic points. The ending of the series, however, is not the same as the ending of the novella. (Literary spoilers ahead.)

In the novella, the narrator’s story ends with Miles dying in the arms of the governess. James’s ending is darker, but not by much. With Netflix’s iteration, we get an extended epilogue wherein Dani moves with Jamie to Vermont and lives out a relatively atraumatic life until it gets super traumatic and she decides to go back to Bly and drown herself. (The series really leans into the troubling gothic literary theme of women with mental illnesses—sometimes called the “madwoman in the attic.”)

We also learn that Flora and Miles grew up with Henry and conveniently forgot everything that happened at Bly. Probably because they were possessed half the time. Or just because they're forgetting makes the show spookier. If a child doesn’t remember, it did it happen? Probably. They were like 10.

We then return to the frame of the story—the wedding. Here, we start seeing both the world of the story and the world of the wedding blur together, as the narrator envisions the party guests as characters in her story. Or are they actually people in her life?

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Who is the narrator?

It’s unclear if the narrator is in fact Jamie or simply a woman herself experiencing some loss—and also staring vacantly into reflections hoping for the apparition of her lover to drag her into a pond so both can haunt eternity together. (Just healthy relationship goals.)

It’s possible, then, that the story was just an allegory for her own loss and pain. (This reading could also apply to James’s novella.)

Is Dani now the lady in the lake?

It seems like she is the lady in the lake to end all future ladies in the lake. In other words, Dani is keeping the spirits at bay. Since she’s not a salty jerk, she doesn’t need to literally drag anyone through the mud and into the water with her. (And isn’t that what ghosts are in this story—salty jerks who take revenge for almost no reason? Sorry the plague killed you. Jeez.)

So, yes, Dani is trapped, but heroically so.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

What was actually real?

Even accepting that the story itself did happen (and isn’t just a narrational allegory), it’s difficult to know at what time some of the principal characters ceased being flesh and blood and started being apparitions. Hannah is a notable confused example. While we learn that she ultimately met her fate at the bottom of the well, we see her throughout the series observing well-like features of her environment. The walls of the chapel become stone. She starts seeing cracks. Are these premonitions or memories? One could probably make a case for both.

Photo credit: Men's Health
Photo credit: Men's Health

We do see her actually hold the wine bottle during the bonfire (something ghosts seemingly can’t do—even though the lady in the lake can literally drag people … yeah, ghost physics doesn’t totally make sense). We might then assume the night of the bonfire was her last—and that she falls into the well soon after, sticking around only to have an existential awakening and further confuse the viewer.

It’s likely that a lot of these uncertainties are on purpose, and that we’re not really meant to know exactly when (or if) things actually occur. What’s the fun in knowing, anyway?

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