‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’: The Show Proves Love Can Be Beautifully Horrific

Fans were shocked to find out that The Haunting of Bly Manor wasn’t all that scary. In fact, many fans found the series to be heartbreaking more than anything else. In The Haunting of Bly Manor, each character deals with pain of loss and grieving somehow. The show’s looping pattern beautifully demonstrates the ways a touching love story can be a horrific tragedy all the same.

[SPOILER ALERT: Major spoilers ahead for The Haunting of Bly Manor.]

VICTORIA PEDRETTI as DANI CLAYTON
VICTORIA PEDRETTI | EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ is a series of tragic love stories 

At its core, Bly Manor is a love story. “Gothic Romance is often misunderstood,” showrunner Mike Flanagan explained in a release about the series. “Something about the word ‘romance’ lends itself to expectations of something tawdry, syrupy. Sappy even.” 

In Henry James’s world, “Gothic Romance meant horror and ruin.” To demonstrate how a romance can be magical and horrific, Flanagan used cyclical storytelling. 

The characters in ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ go through memory loops 

The Haunting of Bly Manor tells the story of life, love, and loss repeated in a continuous loop of memories. A fan on Reddit made the connection between the storytelling in Bly Manor and psychology. 

“The Freudian notion that repressed memories are the root of psychological problems is reflected in the ghost’s behavior.” The ghosts that haunt Bly Manor slowly start to lose their features over time, as well as any memories they had from their life on Earth.  

The fan continued:

Though they may eventually forget who they were and what they’re doing in Bly Manor, their pathological behavior (like the Lady of the Lake’s walks) continue. They get trapped in memory loops, only beginning to break free when they face present reality.

This was the popular psychological understanding: you might not remember your trauma, but it still influences your behavior and thought patterns, distancing you from coping with reality.

Anyone that comes in contact with Bly Manor must face what haunts them, grieve a loss, and come to accept their fate, all while realizing that life is a series of memories on repeat. 

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ begins and ends with the same shot 

In the opening scene of The Haunting of Bly Manor, we see an unknown woman (Carla Gugino) wake in a chair, the door of her hotel room cracked slightly. She ventures to the bathroom to glance into the water she left pooled in the sink and tub, only to see her reflection. 

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Throughout the story, we learn that this woman is an older version of Jamie, the former groundskeeper at Bly Manor. Since losing Dani (Victoria Pedretti) at the hands of the Lady in the Lake (Kate Siegel), Jamie waits each day for her love to return to her.

At a hotel to attend Flora’s wedding many years after their experiences at Bly, Jamie continues to wait for Dani’s return. The show’s final shot is the same image — Jamie, asleep in a chair with the hotel door propped open just a crack. But this time, Dani makes her presence known, her hand resting on Jamie’s shoulder.

Like so many other themes in The Haunting of Bly Manor, the idea of Jamie waiting for her love to return to her comes full circle. And, like so many of the relationships in The Haunting of Bly Manor, Dani and Jamie’s love and loss are both beautiful and horrific.