Saturday, October 10, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Haunting of Bly Manor' - The Staff Commiserate Over Grief and Sorrow of Losing Loved Ones in 'The Way It Came'

Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor - Episode 2.04 "The Way It Came"

Racked with guilt, Dani is haunted by her own heartbreaking loss, Flora and Miles find ways to cope, and Bly's staff remember the dead over a bonfire.

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 Way It Came" was written by Laurie Penny and directed by Liam Gavin

Life and death are personally haunting. That is the evocative mood of this series. It plays with the conventions of what makes a ghost story. The audience probably went into this narrative with certain expectations. And yes, those could very much still occur later on in the season. Mysteries still loom large over Bly Manor. Flora and Miles feel it necessary to distract Dani instead of allowing her to see the mysterious spirit that sometimes walks through the manor. They take the blame for tracking mud through the house. That's their personal burden. They feel a sense of responsibility and protection over it. However, it's much more captivating to watch as the show offers these profound statements on life and death. The figure that haunts Dani isn't some kind of supernatural manifestation. Instead, it's the psychological trauma that comes from seeing her fiancé die right in front of her after she finished breaking up with him. It's terrifying. He haunts her every action. She ran away in the hopes of escaping the only life she had ever known. From a young age, she was incredibly close with Edmund. Listening to him tell their life story, it seemed like the only viable conclusion for them was to get married. She went along with that story in the hopes that she would develop the feelings to make it feel real. It never did. She never felt love towards him. She pretended. She appreciated having a family. But even that too felt false. His mother was projecting a sense of identity onto her. She was the daughter she never had. As such, she could bond with her in so many ways. In reality, this isn't what Dani actually wanted. She didn't have the words or understanding to know that she didn't fit into this heteronormative reality. She had to grab ahold to the life that allowed her to feel whole. She was still terrified. People saw her but never really tried to understand her. Those moments were increasingly fleeting for her. But now, Jamie sees her. She offers her comfort. She allows her to express every part of herself. And yet, Dani is still terrified by her past. That disrupts her future as well. She can't just run away from this trauma. It has embedded itself deep inside her. She lashed out at the memorial service for Edmund. She couldn't keep it together. She is still startled whenever she sees him in the mirror. But he has become a physical manifestation as well. She can feel him lurking over her. He haunts her because she feels personally responsible for taking the beauty of life away from him. He made her feel like the monster who was breaking what should have been a good thing. He didn't understand it. He was never given the freedom to grapple with it either. He was taken away. That implanted itself in her mind. Death does that. It plays with one's sense of reality. Flora expresses that in such a beautiful way. When her parents died, she questioned if she was dead as well. She was no longer alive and in a world in which people were engaging with her. She was consumed with sadness. And yet, she recognized that these powerful emotions proved that her life still existed. She may counteract with too much cheeriness now. But that allows her to offer compassion for anyone in their time of need. Owen felt burdened by his mother in the final years of her life. She slipped more and more away with each day. He cared for her because his sense of love was so strong. He understood exactly who she was even though that was lost to her. He saw her. He struggles letting go even though Jamie argues it would be compassionate to let her die before it got that bad. These characters come together to commemorate their sorrows. They need it. A burden can lift from their shoulders. Dani shares with Jamie her visions of Edmund. She tries pushing them away by giving into this new romance. It doesn't work. That is tragic. It leaves Dani and Edmund all alone by the bonfire at the conclusion of the hour. Life can be isolating at times. People have no clue what suffering others are going through. We try our best to be there for those we love. And yes, that is profoundly on display throughout this hour. And yet, pain and grief can't be fixed so easily. Dani had love for Edmund. It wasn't what he exactly wanted or needed. It's preventing her from embracing the love she deserves with Jamie. That is her personal obstacle. One that fuels her sadness and prevents her from seeing some of the mysteries along the walls of Bly Manor. She can't disappear into this grief though. She has to express it. She took the first step. She throws the broken glasses in the fire. She has to confront this if she wants a future with Jamie. Those don't have to be interconnected though. She makes them operate in that way because she has relied on Jamie so much during her time at the manor. One person cannot lesson the burden of another's sadness completely. It has to be a shared expression of human connection. It's necessary to have empathy and genuine compassion. Dani has found adults who truly care about her and want her to belong. She can succeed at Bly Manor. Death consumes the world. Sadness and grief do too. And yet, that is never the end of the story especially for those left behind to still live.