The Lady in the LakeThe biggest secret of Bly Manor was explained in episode 8,"The Romance of Certain Old Clothes." The black and white flashback story centered on the onetime owners of Bly Manor, who for the sake of the show and this article are known as the Willoughbys. After the death of their father, the strong-willed Viola (Kate Siegel) and her younger sister Perdita (Katie Parker) become the sole owners of Bly. In order to save the house, Viola marries, but things quickly take a turn for the worse between husband and wife, and between the sisters, as sickness and jealousy twist their relationships.
If you were wondering why the ghosts at Bly can't leave, it's because of the "Gravity Well" that Viola's spirit created with her own grief. Killed by her jealous sister, her lonely spirit was abandoned by her husband and daughter after she got her revenge on Perdita, leaving her distraught and alone to walk the halls of Bly. As she wandered the halls by night after leaving her watery tomb in Bly's lake, the grief and loss rubbed away at who she once was, leaving her faceless and full of rage. It's those same emotions that created the strange state at Bly which means anyone who dies on the grounds is trapped there forever. Even though this all occurs before the ending, it's deeply connected to Dani and the events of the finale so it's important to revisit. In fact, as we head into the final episode, Dani's life is literally in the hands of the Lady in the Lake, who looks to have captured another victim of Bly, her fingers wrapped around Dani's throat.
Hannah Grose's Death and DenialHannah Grose (T'Nia Miller) died moments before Dani arrived at Bly. When we first meet her, she's still looking down at her own body in the well after being killed by Miles -- while the child is possessed by Peter Quint -- so her whole journey is defined by her death and her own acceptance of her reality. In the final episode, she finally comes to terms with her fate, breaking the cycle of memories she's been trapped in when her own psyche -- in the guise of Owen -- reminded her there were real people she could help in the world, even though it meant she'd have to accept her death and eventually become one of the faceless ghosts of Bly Manor.
Miller and the other cast members gave us a primer on the rules of being a ghost in Bly Manor and how they connected to Hannah's fate in the series. "If you don't admit to yourself that you're dead, if you're in that denial phase, you can touch and interact. Then as soon as that moment of realization comes, game over, you're gone. Your face starts to decay, you start to slip away, and that's it. You're stuck in Bly Manor forever in the knowledge that you're that you're gone, you're dead." See the cast of Bly Manor explain the rules of being a ghost in the video below:The fact that Hannah faces that truth and still heads out into the real world to save her friends makes her final act even more courageous. She manages to send Jamie and Owen in the direction of the lake, enabling them to help the kids and to witness Dani's sacrifice as she tries to save Flora.
Dani's SacrificeAfter discovering Peter Quint's plan for him and his lover Rebecca Jessel to possess Miles and Flora by utilizing the power of "dream hopping" to tuck them away into their own memories forever, Dani and Rebecca try to help them escape. With Miles already lost to Peter, Dani and Flora are trying to leave when Flora gets attacked by The Lady in the Lake. Dragged back into the house by her throat Dani is freed when Viola gets distracted by Flora, who reminds Viola of her own daughter, prompting the spirit to pick her up and head back to the lake. Rebecca Jessel takes over Flora's body with their mantra "It's You. It's Me. It's Us" in an attempt to save her from the experience of drowning, but just when all seems to be lost, Dani is overcome with an urge, one that is so strong she wades into the lake and yells "It's You. It's Me. It's Us."
In this moment she invites Viola into her own body, in an echo of what Jessell and Quint had been planning for the children's bodies. It's a brave action born from love that frees the spirits of Bly from the "Gravity Well" that Viola's grief had created and allows them to leave. Rebecca Jessel, Peter Quint, the Plague Doctor, the Dollface Ghost, and Mrs. Grose are all released from the grip of Bly Manor as Viola settles into her new body, leaving Dani seemingly the same as before. The reality of her new situation begins to set in, though, as she realizes that one day Viola will take over and she'll lose grip of her own body and mind. Losing that agency and control is a terrifying thing, but even in the face of this fear, Dani manages to find hope in love.
Dani and JamieThe love story between the gardener and the au pair has always been at the heart of Bly. Dani's journey from being trapped in the closet by her family's expectations, alongside the struggle to trust herself and Jamie enough to begin a relationship, has been a long one, but together the pair overcome that to have years of a happy life: settling down, opening a business, falling in love, living for years together, getting a civil partnership, and visiting Owen in his restaurant in Paris. They manage to craft something happy even with the threat of Viola looming over them. This is Flanagan's take on the lesser-known Henry James story "The Beast in the Jungle," from which the episode takes its title. It centers on a man who is so consumed with worry about a cataclysmic event that he never enjoys the goodness in the life he's living, which ends up being the great tragedy he feared. Despite everything, Jamie grounds Dani in the now, in the love that they share, and till the very last moment they're together loves her deeply. But when Viola begins to take over and threaten Jamie's life, Dani leaves.
The Lady in the Lake 2.0As much as we might have wanted a happy ending for Dani, the reality of her fate is a devastatingly sad one. Her sacrifice to save Flora created a space in the world for Viola and her rage, and when that rage beomes too much, Dani returns to Bly Manor and the lake. The interesting and even more heartbreaking thing here, though, is that Dani's own love overpowers Viola. The Narrator reveals that no soul at Bly has ever been hurt since Dani became the Lady in the Lake, and that even if they did, their soul wouldn't be trapped. This is a new iteration of the spirit, one that is a combination of Viola's sadness and rage and Dani's love and sacrifice.
The Narrator and the WeddingAnother of the finale's biggest secrets is the reveal that the show's Narrator (Carla Gugino), who has been telling her ghost story around the fireplace at the wedding, is actually Jamie, the gardener from Bly Manor who spent the best years of her life in love with Dani. That's how she knows the story of the haunted house, the Lady in the Lake, and the sweet, loving American who sacrificed herself to take the spirit's place. The other surprise here is that the wedding she's attending seems to be that of the young woman we knew as Flora Wingrave. In her explanation of the story, the Narrator admits she might have shifted and changed some names and places, but as the Bride and Groom dance, we see each of the characters in the guises that we knew them in throughout the series when they were younger, seemingly confirming that the Narrator was telling the story of the young woman that was getting married and her brother, that they'd once forgotten.
Dani's Hand on Jamie's ShoulderThe final shot of the series centers on Jamie sitting alone in her hotel room and leaving her door open in the hope that Dani can visit her. Just before the credits roll we see Dani's hand appear on Jamie's shoulder, suggesting that the new Lady in the Lake has once again found the woman she loves.
Despite the seeming ambiguity of whether Dani was visiting Jamie for the first time since she died or had been with her all along, the cast all believed that Dani had been with Jamie the whole time.
Miller told IGN that "it's almost like she's trying to reach out and say, 'It's okay. You're okay. I'm okay...' Oh, it's so terribly romantic, death just can't keep them apart." Jackson Cohen agreed. "I think she'd been with her since she died." It was something Flanagan apparently established during his pitch to the actor. "I was in floods of tears by the end of this thing," he explained. "Because then Mike just said, 'And she puts her hand on her shoulder, and she's been there this whole time.'"
Amelia Eve -- who plays the younger Jamie -- agreed, adding an extra layer of emotional reading to her take. "I think she'd been with her throughout. I think that Jamie doesn't know that she's been there the whole time, and that she's been seeking some kind of sign to let her know that she has been there. And I think that moment is just beautiful because I imagine that the Narrator feels her presence in the moment that we see it as well. So it feels like that's the moment of connection where they come together." Excuse us while we cry for ten hours.
So there you have it, straight out of the mouths of the cast of Bly Manor. That ambiguous ending isn't so ambiguous at all and in fact leans into a hopeful, romantic narrative that we rarely get to see in horror storytelling, contradicting the usual tragedy at the heart of Gothic horror.
You can watch The Haunting of Bly Manor globally on Netflix now.
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