As “The Haunting of Hill House” depicted the entirety of the book, many assumed that a second season could not possibly be made. We have seen certain other series (not to throw anyone under the bus but… “13 Reasons Why”) continue after wrapping up the entire book in one season and then going off script for the entirety of the rest of the show, which isn’t always the best look.
So when Netflix announced that a second season would be released in Oct. of 2020, many folks were scratching their heads in wonder.
In Oct. of 2018, Netflix released one of its best hit serieses to date, “The Haunting of Hill House.” Directed by Mike Flanagan and based on Shirley Jackon’s 1959 gothic novel of the same name, the 10-episode season left viewers gripping their covers and then immediately rewatching: the missing piece of the puzzle fell into place when it was announced that the second season would not be a continuation of “The Haunting of Hill House,” but rather, the series would be taking on a rather “American Horror Story”-esque approach where most of the original cast members return, but the entire plot and set of characters are completely new.
Similarly to how “Hill House” was based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, the newest season, entitled “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” was based loosely on “The Turn of the Screw,” the 1898 horror novella written by Henry James.
It is important to note that this adaptation was way looser and more disconnected to the original written work than the first season was. If you had previously read the novella and thought you were set to understand the entire nine-episode season, you’d be sorely mistaken.
While the characters’ names are the same, and the general frame of the story is similar in that there is a new nanny who is hired at a mysterious mansion with unique children and wacky staff members, the Netflix adaptation isn’t even set in the same century. Taking place in the mid-‘80s, everything is obviously quite different from what went down in the original piece, which took place in the late 19th century.
While James’ story is quite dark and scary, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is debatably way creepier. “The Turn of the Screw,” while undeniably eerie, is told from the point of view of the nanny who is made to be an unreliable narrator in her mental state. The feeling is considerably different when watching the show as you are watching what is going down with your very own eyes, from the death of Eddie to the horrifying appearance of the Lady of the Lake.
Another point that is worth bringing up is that the on-screen adaptation is far harder to follow than the novella; however, it seems as though this was intentional. Told out of chronological order, viewers do need to be quite focused and in the zone in order to be able to grasp what is happening and why. Even so, it can be easy to finish an episode and think, “…What did I just watch?”
This feeling is resolved in episode eight entitled “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,” potentially the best episode of the entire season, when the backstory of the entire house is laid out on the table. While it can feel frustrating to be confused for the time leading up to that, it is super satisfying to see things finally making sense after all of the guesses and assumptions you had been making up until that point.
Though it didn’t quite top the untouchable “Haunting of Hill House,” it was a steller second installment in a series that hopefully continues. From the presence of the super disturbing ghosts, to the all-too-realistic themes of possession versus love, to the freaky time traveling sequences through memories, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is the perfect thing to binge if you want to feel the chills while Halloween approaches.
And while you don’t need to have any prior knowledge of the first season as the plots are completely unrelated, it makes the watch even more exciting if you have seen it as there are some incredible easter-egg references to some of the things that occurred at Hill House.
All in all, if you have the time and the stomach for such spooks, both “The Haunting of Bly Manor” and “The Haunting of Hill House” while you are at it, are must-watches for this time of year.
Ali Kochik is a third-year English Writing major with minors in Journalism and Women’s and Gender Studies. AK908461@wcupa.edu