Sunday, October 11, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Haunting of Bly Manor' - Hannah Explores Her Past But Finds a Devastating Revelation in 'The Altar of the Dead'

Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor - Episode 2.05 "The Altar of the Dead"

She's seen it all. The memories come flooding back for housekeeper Hannah Grose as she reflects on the living and dead trapped at Bly Manor.

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 Altar of the Dead" was written by Angela LaManna and directed by Liam Gavin

This is the most high concept episode of the season to date. The story up to this point has happened very linearly. The people at Bly Manor were growing closer as a family unit. The lines had become incredibly blurred between family and staff. These people care about each other. They came together to join in Owen's sorrow and grief. They want the best for Miles and Flora despite the numerous tragedies they have endured. And yet, dark and spooky things are happening here. The monstrosity didn't leave when Peter Quint went missing. In fact, his presence still haunts the manor. His impact on the world is still deeply felt. He has a tangible presence. It's different than Dani being haunted by Edmund's ghost. Peter has the ability to possess Miles. That explains why his behavior is so erratic. He covers up so much. People are willing to write off his actions as him lashing out as a child dealing with trauma. In reality, another person controls him from time to time. That is one of the big revelations of this hour. It's all told from Hannah's perspective though. She considers Bly Manor to be her home. It was the place that welcomed her with open arms after her husband cheated on her and left. She was given a safe place to live by Charlotte Wingrave. That bond was incredibly genuine. Hannah does her best to keep her spirit alive even though Charlotte has long left her. She wants to do right by the children. And yet, pieces of the puzzle haven't been adding up in her life. She drifts off. She sees things that others don't. She too has been traumatized by the horrors that lurk within these walls. Bly Manor wasn't always a heinous place to live. In fact, it had long been a loving and unifying place for Hannah. The family there gave her support even though she wanted to hold onto hope that her husband would return to her. Her faith is strong even when others can see the obvious and depressing truth. She isn't exactly living in denial. Parts of her brain are refusing to let her acknowledge that she died. It happened in a split second. She was still allowed to continue living life as she always had. It's only with the possibility of escaping this place that she is forced to realize the truth. She has always been steadfast in her identity. She cares about the children. She gives so much of herself to others. She never wants to let it be known that she is suffering. She can embrace this lifestyle for as long as she wants. She just has to remain present to do so. Owen is of the belief that each person should take advantage of the present because it's unclear what the future holds. He can't trust the past either. He hopes that his memories are pure and genuine. He is also mature enough to know that his own mind can't be trusted. His mother lost herself in her memories. She couldn't tell what was real anymore. Hannah struggles with that here as well. It makes all of this play as an extended tragedy. One wherein Owen is trying to help her come to terms with what happened. He encourages her and allows her to play out these scenarios for as long as it takes.

However, it's not Owen who is offering her this support. It's not Hannah either. They engage with her after she is let in on the memories of other people at the manor. She sees that Peter was actually killed by the Lady of the Lake. Miles and Flora saw it. Peter took ahold of Miles to ensure that he still had a presence in this world. Of course, it's a limited worldview. He can never escape from this place. That was the one thing he wanted. He no longer wanted to be beholden to the Wingrave family. He tried to get Rebecca to see things the same way. She loved him despite his scary and oppressive aspects because he made her feel loved in the way she had always wanted. Hannah always knew that things would end tragically between them. She did her best to save Rebecca. In the end, there was only so much she could do. And now, she is the one lost in despair. She is forcing herself to live these memories over and over again. It can be comforting as well. They honor the past. It's happiness that is largely on display at the manor. However, she always saw Peter as trouble. He continues to manipulate the manor with his chaos. Miles is in danger. She knows the truth. She may not be able to do much about it because she has to grapple with the reality that she is dead now as well. She can never leave for Paris with Owen. She desperately wants that. She clings onto something that can never be. That's absolutely devastating. She could lose herself entirely in the process. She has to constantly remind herself who and where she is. All of this should be important to her. She just has to engage with it. She can't live in the fantasy anymore. Her family needs her. She has to offer herself up for them once more. She will do so knowing that they can never return the favor in a tangible way that rewards everything she has always done. Her life has been destroyed. She still has meaning and value though. She brings so much perspective to the manor. That's necessary. It's a strong armor against the horrors at work. Miles and Flora have had to deal with so much on their own. They are terrified. They don't want anyone else to die like Peter did. Those ghosts continue to haunt them. It's nice having Hannah around. The acknowledgement of life and the ability to have a future beyond the limits of this manor is also necessary though. Otherwise, it's the same tragic spiral that Hannah had long forced herself to accept in order to be at peace with her life.