Love has been found at Bly Manor. Unfortunately, the intruder has not. The children find themselves to be the life of a party that is cut short by a death. Roll credits.
The majority of the season’s third episode is devoted to the back story of characters who haven’t had much to do with the plot so far in the present timeline. Additionally, the overall tone of the horror series is, at this point in the story, missing much of the horror elements from the previous season. It’s not an unenjoyable view, however, but one that’s notably different for those who were fans of the inaugural season.
While it’s not truly fair to compare the two, it is interesting to observe the contrasting nature of the way in which the storytelling is presented in Hill House and Bly Manor. Within it’s DNA, the seasons are similar in that Hill House also jumped around in time. However, unlike Bly Manor, viewers were provided with details that progressed the story of the central characters, regardless of the timeline. Furthermore, it appears that perhaps the biggest difference in each season’s respective storytelling method lies in the question the story is asking of the viewer. For Hill House, that question is “What is happening?” With Bly Manor, the question is not about what’s happening, but rather “Who is it happening to?”
Before descending into spoiler territory, viewers should check out “The Two Faces, Part One” before continuing with this review.
What’s love got to do with it?
The episode begins where the last one left off, with Miles on the floor, having collapsed after the appearance of Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen The Invisible Man). Unfortunately, we will have to wait a bit to learn what happens next as the episode quickly shifts it’s attention elsewhere in the form of another flashback.
We are introduced to Rebecca Jessel (Tahira Sharif The Christmas Prince) who has applied for the au pair position at Bly Manor. Leading the interview is a witty Peter Quint and the children’s irritable Uncle Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas E.T., The Haunting of Hill House). Although the interview doesn’t seem to be going well, much like in the case with Dani, Rebecca is ultimately hired.
Peter personally delivers Rebecca to Bly Manor, and judging by his cool reception he is not well liked among the staff. Which is unfortunate, because Peter seems to have gained a growing interest in the new au pair, making special visits to the manor under the guise of business. Eventually, Peter takes up residence in one of the manor’s empty rooms. It’s not long, however, before he is spending his nights in Rebecca’s room instead.
Rebecca wishes for the relationship to remain a secret and Peter begins to display a more controlling nature. Nevertheless, the couple becomes inseparable and careless. When they venture into the closed wing of the house for an intimate photo shoot, they are discovered by housekeeper Hannah (T’Nia Miller) in a compromising position.
Later, things are awkward in the kitchen while the adults prepare dinner. Chef Owen (Rahul Kholi iZombie) unknowingly antagonizes Peter who responds by abruptly packing to leave. In an unwarranted fury, he accuses Rebecca of flirting with Owen before departing from the manor altogether.
Back to present time, the police are assuring the Bly residents that Peter Quint is nowhere to be found. They express surprise at his alleged appearance, making it obvious that Peter is on the run, however, we do not learn from whom or what he is running. The Bly residents assume Peter is trying to contact Rebecca, concluding that he would not have learned of her death. They also assume that the silent calls they have been receiving are Peter’s. For everyone’s safety, the adults and children gather by the fireplace to spend the remainder of the night.
The next morning, a missing Flora is found by the lake where Rebecca drowned. We also glimpse the ghost of Rebecca standing on the opposite end of the lake. Back in the manor, Dani ponders why Flora would visit the lake when she hates it so. To this, Miles claims that Flora is in fact a liar and not to be trusted.
A Yarn of a Tale
Did someone order an unsettling two-child show? That evening, the children announce to the adults that story-time had arrived. With equal amounts of delight and dismay, the group gathers before the staircase where Flora articulates a sweet story about a cat called Tales who is searching for it’s mother. For his part, Miles dives into a story about sentient puppets, whom after a prolonged period, forget that they were whittled into existence by a creator. Upon reuniting with the puppet maker, they disdainfully mock him.
The maniacal (and exceptional) performance is interrupted by a ringing phone. Upon answering, we learn that the voice on the other end has called to inform Owen that his ailing mother has passed away.
Later that night, out in the yard, with a simple gesture, it is subtly communicated that Dani and Jamie have developed feelings for one another. But, alas, no time for the warm and fuzzy, for Dani begins to suffer another panic attack during which the glowing-eyed dark shape appears before her, only this time not confined to a mirror. The episode ends with the glowing-eyed shape being swiftly swept away into the house as if it has been abruptly pulled from behind.
With the conclusion of the season’s third episode, we are officially one third of the way through the Bly Manor tale. Given this fact, it seems that we know rather little about the main protagonist, Dani Clayton, and have spent a good portion of the previous two episodes devoted to the backstory of side characters. Which is unfortunate, because the story really comes to life when we’re not being whisked away by flashbacks.
As we move into the second act, there is still much to learn about Dani. As in, who or what is the dark shape? Why does it have glowing eyes? Why did Dani leave the States and a teaching career? Then, there’s the entire premise of the season, which is that everything on screen is actually a story being told at a wedding rehearsal by someone merely billed as The Storyteller. What is the significance of the wedding and it’s guests? Lastly, who is the storyteller and how is she related to any of it?
There’s certainly a lot of ground left to be covered. Here’s to hoping that the narrative begins to hone in on these details as opposed to introducing even more peripheral characters from other timelines.
Austen Miles is a husband, father, and writer. He can be found on Twitter: @austen_miles, and on Instagram: austenmiles.