Friday, October 9, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Haunting of Bly Manor' - Miles' Past at Boarding School Saw Him Lash Out in Numerous Ways in 'The Pupil'

Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor - Episode 2.02 "The Pupil"

After experiencing a harrowing scare, Dani tries to teach the children a lesson. Still, the kids have an unsettling way of getting under one's skin.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor.

"The Pupil" was written by James Flanagan and directed by Ciarán Foy

Little things here and there aren't just right at Bly Manor. That continues to be the energy during the second episode. It's a little tedious. The pacing slogs more here than in the premiere. It's beneficial to see more of Miles' time at boarding school. Even that is presented as a mystery. It teases some kind of complicated motivation that lies deep within him. One moment these children are perfectly sweet and innocent. They are splendid as Flora likes to continually describe everything as. And then, they suddenly shift. They become little monsters who terrorize Dani as she is simply trying to entertain them or tuck them into bed at night. The atmosphere remains very mysterious and eery. It is effective. But again, it comes across as the show not rushing to get to the point of what is going on in this location. This place is haunted because of the deaths that happened in the past. Dani is running away from her own secrets back in America. She is terrified by a simple pair of broken glasses. Flora looks at them as an innocent object. She is apologetic for seemingly breaking them. However, Dani knows there is more going on. It's probably connected to the mysterious figure she sees whenever she looks in the mirror. And yet, that remains just a fleeting tease at the moment. She has a panic attack as a result of that. Fortunately, Jamie is there to provide comfort for her. Dani returns the favor. The people who work at Bly Manor are getting to know each other. They have become a makeshift family in the hopes of taking care of Miles and Flora. And yet, Miles has these impulses that always come across as devious. He asks inquisitive questions. He has a unique mind that should be cherished. But he also comes across as dangerous to those around him. The priest at his former boarding school wants to play it off as the grief that comes from the death that has consumed his life lately. He is lashing out in a way to feel things and take up space in this world. But it also fosters a debate about what exactly is motivating his actions. One moment he says he jumps out of the tree. The next he fell. That mystery creates this snowball effect that quickly leads to his expulsion. An explanation may be found in him needing to return to Bly Manor to be there for his sister. He is protective of her in that way. However, he teases her as well. He throws her doll down the laundry chute. He breaks the order that Jamie has established in her garden. These characters are all particular about what they want and how they embark on achieving that. They remain stuck in their rigid roles of service to these children. There are moments where the children get to be innocent as well. That deserves to be preserved for as long as possible despite the hardships they have endured. And yet, it seems inevitable to fail because of the creepy mysteries that lurk throughout this entire system. Mrs. Grose sees a crack in the wall that Jamie can't later on. Flora shushes a figure that is creeping up behind her during the game of hide and seek. Dani once again sees a man outside the manor before he fades away. When she runs out to confront him, all she sees is Miles looking out at her. He then collapses. It's all meant to be shocking and confusing. But again, the pacing is deliberate and annoying. It's frustrating because it seems necessary to pick up the pace and explain why the audience should be invested in what's happening. Small things can be just as terrifying as the big jump scares and crazy special effects work. That even allows stories to be more intimate and vulnerable with its characters. It allows the story to be about how they are responding to the strangeness happening around them. Here, it's clear that it has become a part of the lived experience for them. Dani is used to not looking in mirrors. Flora and Miles know the figures that haunt the manor. It's only scary now because Dani is completely in the dark about what this job truly entails. She receives support from the staff. They serve her and recognize that she is the one in charge of the children no matter what. But she still struggles in connecting with them. The audience gains a little more insight here. It may not matter in the end as the Narrator declares. Not every mystery or action needs an explanation. That ambiguity can also make for a captivating story. The story itself just needs a little more depth and stakes to it so the audience can understand and have expectations for what could happen next.