The Haunting of Bly Manor Ending Makes Clear That a Ghost Story Can Also Be a Love Story
Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor is a ghost story and a love story—and, as one crucial character points out in the finale, those two genres can sometimes be the exact same thing. Bly Manor tells the story of the wealthy Wingrave family and their employees, who occupy a country estate filled with the ghosts of everyone who dies on the premises. Unlike writer-director Mike Flanagan's first haunted house series, The Haunting of Hill House, which left many of the supernatural specifics up in the air even in its final episode, Bly Manor, which is based on Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, pretty much spells out how all the spookiness went down. Here's what you should know.
The Lady in the Lake was key to the entire haunting.
In Episode Eight, we learn the origin story behind the Lady in the Lake, Bly's most dangerous spirit. She was an 18th century noblewoman named Viola, who married and had a daughter before falling ill. During her convalescence, Viola was cared for by her sister Perdita, who took over her role as lady of the household—which made Viola pretty jealous. One day, sick of her caregiver role and liking the look of Viola's husband, Perdita smothered her ailing sister to death. Viola's angry ghost returned to murder her sister, and has haunted Bly ever since.
At the opening of the finale, Viola's ghost is poised to kill governess Dani, just as she murdered Perdita, Peter Quint, and many others, when she becomes distracted by little Flora. Mistaking the girl for her long-dead daughter, she picks Flora up and carries her into the lake. But before the girl drowns, Dani invites Viola's spirit to enter her body. This possession breaks Viola's spell over the property, and all of Bly's ghosts, including Quint, Miss Jessel, and housekeeper Hannah Grose, disappear.
But the story doesn't end with Flora's rescue.
When Quint and Miss Jessel possessed the Wingrave kids, the ghosts were very much in the driver's seat. But when Viola enters Dani, Dani remains herself, though she's aware of the ghostly presence within her and fears that one day it will overpower her. Perhaps, as an adult, Dani makes a less hospitable host than the children did, or maybe Viola's centuries-old, faceless and forgetful spirit lacks the possessing punch that Quint and Jessel had.
But for the moment, all is happy at Bly—the Wingrave kids and their uncle pack up and move to the States, while Jamie and Dani build a life together in the UK and household chef Owen opens a restaurant dedicated to Hannah's memory. But Viola's ghost still haunts Dani, and over the years its influence over her grows. One night, in order to stop Viola from gaining full control and potentially hurting Jaime, Dani returns to Bly and drowns herself in the lake.
The ending reveals that an older Jamie has been the story's narrator all along, and she's telling the story to Flora's wedding party. Miles, Owen, and Henry are all there, and Flora and Miles, having forgotten the events at Bly, don't even know that they're hearing a tale about their own lives. Before calling it a night, Flora points out that Jamie's tale wasn't a ghost story, but a love story—which Jamie declares the "same thing." Then, she retires to her hotel room and falls asleep curled up a chair. In the final shot of the series, Dani's ghostly hand caresses her shoulder.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.