‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’: Why the Narrator Makes the Story More Tragic

Carla Gugino plays the narrator in The Haunting of Bly Manor, but who is she and how does she relate to the story? Find out what Gugino’s character means to the couple getting married and the Wingrave children who inhabit Bly Manor. 

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

AMELIE BEA SMITH as FLORA, VICTORIA PEDRETTI as DANI, and AMELIA EVE as JAMIE
AMELIE BEA SMITH, VICTORIA PEDRETTI, and AMELIA EVE | EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ is really a love story 

Showrunner Mike Flanagan based the second installment in The Haunting franchise on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. And while James’s tale is a horror novella, some elements make it a gothic romance. 

Bly Manor is — at its heart — a love story,” Flanagan said in a release for The Haunting of Bly Manor.

Gothic Romance is often misunderstood — something about the word ‘romance’ lends itself to expectations of something tawdry, syrupy. Sappy even. But in Henry James’s world, ‘romance’ had a different connotation. Romance meant mystery and excitement — and Gothic Romance meant horror and ruin. Romance held buried secrets, supernatural agony, and the sense of encroaching doom.

Bly Manor uniquely blends those elements together to tell some of the most heartbreaking romances. One of those romance is that of Jamie (Amelia Eve) and Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti). 

Who is the narrator in ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’? 

Bly Manor begins with a rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding of an unnamed couple. “It seems we have time enough and wine enough,” a guest says when Gugino’s character offers to tell a long ghost story. 

RELATED: ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’: Are There Hidden Ghosts in Season 2?

By the finale episode, it becomes clear that the bride is a grown Flora. Gugino plays an older version of Jamie, the groundskeeper at Bly Manor. Those in attendance at the wedding include those who played a role in Flora’s upbringing at Bly, including Jamie. Her role in telling the story is to reacquaint Flora with her past, which she has long forgotten. 

Bly Manor taints Jamie and Dani’s love story 

To save young Flora (Amelie Bea Smith), Dani must assume the role of “the lady in the lake,” Viola (Kate Siegel). A character ripped straight from the pages of The Romance of Certain Old Clothes, Viola is the ghost responsible for so many of the deaths at Bly Manor. From Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) to the ghostly figures of a plague doctor and a young boy, Viola’s deathly grip has turned Bly into a permanent home for many of the manor’s visitors. 

AMELIA EVE as JAMIE and VICTORIA PEDRETTI as DANI in THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR
AMELIA EVE and VICTORIA PEDRETTI | EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

In the final episode, Dani uttered: “It’s you, it’s me, it’s us” to save Flora’s life. By speaking those words, Dani invited Viola to assume her living body. Tragically, Dani she could only house Viola’s evil spirit for so long. 

Dani and Jamie are reunited at the end of ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’

After several happy years with Jamie, Dani realized she must return to Bly and put Viola to rest. She couldn’t risk losing Jamie at the hands of Viola. “The beast had lurked indeed, and the beast, at its hour, had sprung,” Jamie said of Dani’s return to Bly in episode 9. “And she could not risk the most important thing. Her most important person.” 

Jamie carried on a number of years without her until Flora’s wedding day, when she was able to share the story with those who lived it. In the show’s final moments, Jamie falls asleep in a chair, the door to her hotel room propped open — a practice she had taken to after Dani left. The last shot of The Haunting of Bly Manor showed Dani’s hand resting on Jamie’s shoulder — a painful nod to the show’s tagline: “Dead doesn’t mean gone.”