The Haunting of Bly Manor: Series Review

I was truly excited about the second season of this anthology series because I loved The Haunting in Hill House so much. I should have known better than to set the bar so high. In truth, it was a struggle to get through the second installment of the anthology series because contrary to its catchphrase, it was far from perfectly splendid.

Synopsis: American teacher Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) applies for an au pair job in an old English estate called Bly Manor to escape the demons that haunt her. Little did she know that in taking on two young charges, Miles (Benjamin Even Wainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith), she will be entwined in an even more complicated web of mystery.

The story, based on Henry Thomas’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, had a lot of promise. The problem was the pacing.

Perhaps fueled by the impact that Hill House made when it chose to make its shocking twist towards the only midpoint into the series, the second season also chose to do the same.

Unfortunately, the central character of Dani was the least interesting character in the entire equation. It was truly a struggle to get through the first four episodes that were Dani centered, perhaps because Victoria Pedretti seemed to play all her roles in the same, monotonous way. If you don’t believe me, feel free to check her works on Hill House, You, and Amazing Stories. This time was no different. The panicked expression, the hyperventilation, and all the crying was a recycled version of her previous roles combined.

The characters from Bly were much more interesting. And this was why the story only picked up with Hannah’s episode (Episode 5). True, it had its confusing moments with all of the time skips but I preferred being confused rather than being bored.

It takes five episodes before the series made headway in delving into the more important stories that were related to Bly. By this time, some insight is finally given into the hauntings.

I love Viola’s (marvelously played by Katie Siegel) story and what motivated her to hold on to the spirits at Bly. It was scandalous and tragic at the same time. Hannah’s tale was so sad as well. I would have liked it better if her backstory was explored even more instead of the death of Dani’s fiance which did not really relate much to the events at Bly, except perhaps to tease that the dead fiance may be joining forces with the Bly ghosts (which he was not).

I liked how they presented Miles, Flora, and Uncle Henry’s parts of the tale as well so it all makes sense as connections were established among the character’s stories and actions.

And then we go back to Dani again to close out the series. Sigh. I would have preferred to skip the last minutes of the series if not for the fact that I was already at the finish line and was afraid that I would miss an additional revelation.

Even without measuring it against its predecessor, I would have to say that Bly Manor was passable but nothing quite memorable. It had great cinematography, scoring, and editing, and it paid homage to its predecessor with a few nods here and there but apart from that, I don’t think it needed nine episodes. The series would have done better to shave off three episodes for more compact storytelling.

All in all, it wasn’t horrible, but it was a challenge. It wasn’t cohesive, overall, and there were times that the script seemed to force the connections among the characters but it managed to tell its story, once again with an ending inspired by the first season, but on all counts, it was inferior to the first installment of the anthology.

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