‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’: [Spoiler] Is the Real Villain, Not the Lady in the Lake
Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor is packed with threatening spirits. The most ominous of them all is seemingly the Lady in the Lake—the faceless woman who treks the grounds of Bly Manor, killing everyone in her path. But there’s one ghost in particular whose nefarious deeds are much more insidious than hers.
[SPOILER ALERT: Major spoilers ahead for The Haunting of Bly Manor.]
Peter Quint is the real villain of ‘Bly Manor’
Henry Wingrave’s valet, Peter Quint, is the real villain of the story. He’s established as an evil presence from the start, showing up as the creepy man Dani Clayton sees on the parapet of Bly Manor. The manor’s employees think he jetted off after embezzling Dominic and Henry Wingrave’s money and stealing Charlotte Wingrave’s jewels, and he’s hated even more by them because they think his sudden disappearance led to Rebecca Jessel’s suicide.
What the Bly staff doesn’t know until later is that Peter is actually dead, not missing. He was killed by the Lady in the Lake. And viewers later learn that Rebecca’s death was, indeed, triggered by Peter’s sudden “disappearance,” but not in the way it’s originally painted out. Flora and Miles Wingrave’s beloved au pair does kill herself, but it’s while Peter’s ghost possessed her.
Rebecca was tucked away in a happy memory when Peter (her boyfriend!) drowned her in the lake. At the last moment, Rebecca regained consciousness, and fought for her life, but it was too late. Peter’s plan to have her forever had worked. And this is what he did to the woman he loved.
Peter Quint was willing to kill to get what he wanted
Bly Manor and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (the Haunting of Hill House alum who plays Peter) does a good job of humanizing the character in Episode 7. In the episode, titled “The Two Faces, Part Two,” viewers learn that Peter grew up impoverished with an abusive father and a mother who did nothing to help her son. He spent time in a juvenile detention center, and his mother used that information to blackmail the valet in his adult life.
She threatened to tell Henry Wingrave of Peter’s past crimes if he didn’t help her get some money, and that’s the memory to which Peter continuously (and unwillingly) dream-hops. It’s torture for him, and it motivates Peter to try anything to escape his ghostly circumstances.
His plan includes Rebecca dying so they can be together forever, but they have to possess people in order to escape the fate of their faces and memories fading away the longer they’re trapped at Bly. So, Peter convinces Miles and Flora that if they let him and Rebecca possess them forever, they’ll be tucked away in happy memories with their dead parents. (He calls it the “forever home.”) Yes, he literally wanted to possess children with his girlfriend so they could be together…as siblings. (Clearly, the sibling part wasn’t ideal, but they felt it was a better fate than what awaited them. And thankfully, Rebecca eventually thwarted Peter’s plan.)
Peter Quint had a hard life, but it doesn’t excuse his evil deeds
While it’s true that Peter’s familial trauma is heartbreaking, and it’s understandable why he’d harbor resentment for his place in the world, it’s hardly justification for him murdering Rebecca and Hannah Grose, embezzling and stealing from the Wingrave fortune, and his attempt to effectively murder two young children.
He does all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify his hideous deeds, like when he said to Miles, “Life is a bit funny in that way. Sometimes, right can seem wrong, and wrong can seem right. But that’s the difference between children and adults. Seeing the big picture.” Convenient mindset, Peter! No doubt, all the people you killed would appreciate hearing that.
The Lady in the Lake is without a doubt one of the scariest characters in the series, but it’s because she is long past dead and is unconscious of her actions. Her existence is mindless, which makes her impossible to control (although, Dani figured out a tragic way). Peter’s deeds are thought out, meticulous, and continuous. He chooses to enact evil for his own personal gain, to hell with everybody else. And that makes all the difference.