“If you ain’t watching The Haunting Of Bly Manor through squinted eyes and the cracks of your fingers, lose my number and @. Psychopath,” tweeted one fan.
“I would like to formally apologise to my future self as I am now going to watch The Haunting Of Bly Manor, and undoubtedly regret it later on when I can’t sleep,” added another Twitter user.
And one more noted: “I can’t start The Haunting Of Bly Manor yet because I need a comprehensive list of all the jump scares so I can close my eyes.”
To these people, I will say this: horror is subjective. It’s rare to find two people who are scared by the exact same things, after all, and everyone has different tastes when it comes to fear. As such, some may favour the pulsating dread of this series, Mike Flanagan’s reimagining of Henry James’ gothic novel, The Turn Of The Screw. Others, on the flipside, might find the series lacking in big, bold, Bent-Neck Lady-esque jump-scares. That’s just the way it is.
While horror is subjective, though, love is universal. And that is where The Haunting Of Bly Manor comes out on top, because – as one character shrewdly notes – this isn’t a ghost story. Not really, not properly.
Instead, it’s a love story. And a beautiful, heart-rending, and entirely unexpected one at that.
As reported on 9 October: What place does love have in a horror series, you ask? An incredibly important one.
Firstly, it makes you care about the characters, which, in turn, makes you care about what happens to them. Every strange noise in the night is amplified, every close shave cuts a little closer, every threat looms larger than ever. Your heart pounds not just because you’re frightened, but because you’re frightened for someone. You’re rooting for them, desperately willing them towards a happy ending.
Secondly, and as mentioned already, love – finding it, falling into it, longing for it, losing it – is a universal language. As such, it makes the story more accessible. It grounds the horror in reality. And, in the process, it makes it… well, it makes it feel more relatable, too.
The Haunting Of Bly Manor’s creators know all of this. And perhaps that’s why our TV show begins, and ends, on the eve before a wedding. A young American is marrying her forever person, and her family and friends have gathered to share their advice and anecdotes on love.
Among them is a mysterious latecomer. A mysterious latecomer who, it seems, is there to share a story.
Sat by a roaring fire, and with everybody’s attention firmly upon her, she takes them back in time and overseas. And there, in 1980s England, she introduces them all to a young au pair, who has just taken on a job at the eponymous Bly Manor.
The au pair is, of course, Dani (Victoria Pedretti) – and her young charges are the impossibly creepy Flora (Amelia Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). And, yes, over the course of the series, her friendship with these children exposes a dark secret within the manor’s grounds.
However, it is her blossoming relationship with Jamie (Amelia Eve), the manor’s reassuringly straightforward groundskeeper, that truly steals the show.
The duo are never introduced to one another. Not formally, anyway. Instead, Jamie acts as if Dani has always been there. And that, in turn, feels entirely natural to Dani: she feels as if she’s known Jamie all her life.
Throughout the show’s nine episodes, the pair grow slowly closer. Jamie begins affectionately referring to Dani as “Poppins”, while Dani turns to her for comfort and support when she needs it most.
Friendship blossoms into romance. And romance, in turn, blossoms into something stronger, deeper than even that.
Without giving too much away, the show’s final episode sees Dani make a choice that changes the course of her life forever. No, we’re not talking about the climactic sacrifice by the lake: we’re referring to something far quieter, yet far grander, in its own way.
We’re talking about the moment Jamie comes and sits beside Dani on the bed, and asks her if she wants company. Because the au pair of our tale chooses to be brave. She doesn’t bury her feelings, as the tragic Hannah Gose (T’Nia Miller) did with Owen (Rahul Kohli). She doesn’t allow all the what-ifs and buts to chase away any chance of happiness. Instead, she hooks her little finger around Jamie’s, and asks her to come away with her on an adventure.
The rest of that heartrending final episode is dedicated to the life the young women build together. To the home they make in America, to the flower shop they set up, to the many days, weeks, months, years they spend in each other’s company.
To the battered houseplant Dani brings home for Jamie to rescue, only for the latter to find an engagement ring hidden inside.
Because, although the pair can’t legally marry, and although the threat of death continues to hound Dani, she wants to spend every day possible with her best friend and the love of her life. She wants to make the most of the time they have together. And she wants them to wear the rings and know that they have chosen one another.
It eventually becomes clear that the mysterious woman telling the au pair’s story is, in fact, Jamie. That the young bride who is due to be married is a grown Flora. That Dani, sadly, passed away long before this happy event came to pass.
Moved by the tale, Flora – who has forgotten everything of her time at Bly Manor – tells Jamie: “Sometimes when I’m sitting next to him in that easy silence you only get with your forever person who loves you as much as you love them, I start getting really terrified.”
Revealing that she feels a wrench in her heart whenever she thinks of losing her husband-to-be, she tearfully adds: “How am I supposed to live a life that he’s not in?”
Smiling, Jamie then delivers the show’s powerful final message.
“You shouldn’t be thinking of losing each other at all,” she says. “Don’t let that hang over your happiness right now. Enjoy that easy silence.
“It’s rare, what you’ve got. But, when the time does come, years and years from now, it will be hard every day and it won’t get easier. But eventually after some time you’ll find little moments, little pieces of your life that remind you of them. And they’ll be silly and dumb, or they’ll be sad and you’ll cry for hours, but they’ll still be a piece of them.
“And you’ll hold them tight. And it’ll be like they’re here with you. Even though they’re gone.”
In the show’s final scene, we see Dani’s hand – golden ring still visible on her finger – resting lightly on a sleeping Jamie’s shoulder.
It serves as a beautiful reminder that the people we love most never truly leave us. Their memories are the ghosts that visit us after dark: at first, painful hauntings of our own making; later, something that brings us solace when we need it most.
And it’s this hopeful ending that, in this writer’s opinion, makes The Haunting Of Bly Manor one of Netflix’s best and most emotionally-charged series yet.
So long as, of course, you don’t go in expecting your bog-standard horror.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.