The Haunting of Hill House Season 2 isn’t really The Haunting of Hill House Season 2. As you know by now, Netflix has signed Hill House showrunner Mike Flanagan to a new deal and is turning last year’s Halloween horror hit into an anthology series.
That new “The Haunting of” (or maybe just “The Haunting”) will continue in 2020 with The Haunting of Bly Manor.
What is Bly Manor, you ask? Glad you did, as we have answers. Just like The Haunting of Hill House was based on the classic horror novel of the same name, The Haunting of Bly Manor will be borrowing from another classic ghost story. Bly Manor is the setting of the 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James (or Hank Jim as he’s come to be known around these parts).
Granted, The Haunting of Hill House didn’t take much from the novel on which it was based. Some characters, themes, and the setting were all migrated over but Flanagan used them as only a jumping off point to tell his own modern ghost story. It would seem likely that The Haunting of Bly Manor would operate on a similar level – taking only a handful of elements here and there to create a “reimagining” that in reality ends up just being an entirely original story with heavy homage.
Still, 2020 is a long ways away to wait for and The Turn of the Screw is just sitting there waiting to be read. With that in mind, here is what happens in The Turn of the Screw and how that might eventually influence The Haunting of Bly Manor.
The Turn of the Screw was written by Hank Jim (sorry: Henry James) during the gothic or dark romance period of the late 19th Century, in which authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe penned their famous works. Gothic literature in this case means that the author was clearly paid by the word and someone dies for seemingly no reason at the end (looking at you The Birthmark).
While The Turn of the Screw may be a touch long-winded for a ghost story novella, it is rather compelling once stripped of all its Victorian adornments. It’s a frame story that begins with some rich aristocrats sharing ghostly tales. One aristocrat in particular has a story that he’s sure will knock everyone on their ass. It comes from an older woman he used to know who has since died but she wrote a manuscript before she did.
The manuscript, which takes up the meat of the novella, tells the unnamed woman’s story. The woman, who shall heretofore be known by her job title “The Governess,” interviews for the job of governess (a kind of home school teacher for rich kids) with a very handsome and charming rich man. The man says that he has recently become the guardian to his niece, Flora, and nephew, Miles, following their parents’ deaths.
The charming man wants the governess to become their live-in teacher on the country estate that the man owns: Bly Manor. The governess accepts the job for many times what she is usually paid on the condition that she never bother the charming man for any reason whatsoever. She, for all intents and purposes, is completely in charge of these kids alongside the Manor’s housekeeper, Mrs. Grose.
The governess gets set up in Bly Manor, which she finds pretty yet intimidating. Shortly after her arrival she receives a note from Miles’ school that the boy has been expelled for unknown reasons. She worries that Miles will be a little terror but when he and Flora arrive for the summer they are both anything but. In fact, these kids are almost supernaturally charming. The governess loves loves loves loves loves these brats and finds them unbearably beautiful and innocent.
Soon the governess begins to see mysterious specters on the castle grounds. At first she sees a dapper red-haired man routinely looking into the windows of the manor and occasionally looking down from its rampart windows. Then she sees a woman all dressed in black – oftentimes with her head in her hands as though devastated.
Through much needling of Mrs. Grose, the governess comes to believe that these two specters are recently deceased employees of the estate. The man is Peter Quint, a very improper and ungentlemanly man (Victorian speech for sex pervert) who died slipping on the ice on his way into town. The woman is Miss Jessel, the previous governess at Bly Manor who was sent away and died of unknown circumstances. Mrs. Grose kind of confirms that Quint and Jessel had a sexual relationship.
The governess sees Quint and Jessel several times and begins to go a little mad. She comes to believe that Quint and Jessel are after the children for some dark purpose for another. It turns out, however, that she’s probably right. The kids start to behave a little weird – a little more adult. Miles in particular begins to sound like Number Five from The Umbrella Academy. Flora even one day escapes Bly Manor and takes a little trip across the lake to presumably see Miss Jessel.
The governess realizes that it’s time to write to the children’s uncle and also send Flora and Mrs. Grose away to get away from all the madness. The children will be safer separated and she will stay behind to be with Miles.
In the novella’s climactic scene, the governess demands to know why Miles was expelled from school. He says we will tell her…but then kind of doesn’t. It’s implied that he may have said coarsely sexual things to the other children? In fact, it’s implied throughout the book that Quint may have had an inappropriate sexual fascination with the children. Thing is though – this being a novella from the Victorian era, the prose can’t really come anywhere close to confirming that. Or perhaps the unclear nature of it all is specifically designed to increase the horror.
Either way, just as Miles is about to tell the governess more, the visage of Peter Quint appears in the window and Miles’ body begins to break down as the poor little boy sweats and trembles in the governess’s arms. Then his heart stops and he dies. The end.
Yes, it really does end that abruptly as all gothic horror from the 19th century must. Still, there is more than enough going on within the novella’s limits that could make their way into The Haunting of Bly Manor. It’s highly unlikely that The Haunting of Bly Manor will be a direct adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. Just as Hill House moved the setting from the mid-20th century to present day, The Haunting of Bly Manor will likely move the story from the mid-19th century to present day, or close to it.
While the location of Hill House is never specified, it’s clear that Bly Manor is in England. It’s possible that The Haunting of Bly Manor will also take place in England but that seems rather unlikely. Flanagan likes to write what he knows and based on all of his previous output it’s clear that he appreciates setting things in locations that are familiar to him. Plus, it’s not like there aren’t any old manors in the U.S. There will almost undoubtedly be characters named Miles, Flora, and Mrs. Grose, though their roles could change quite a bit.
One thing that seems certain, however, is that The Haunting of Bly Manor will feature children. There’s something about the presence of children that just makes ghost stories scarier. Perhaps it’s because we are more superstitious as children and therefore the presence of them in horror films and shows helps put us back in that mindset. The Haunting of Hill House made great use of its young cast and as such was able to examine how trauma can affect individuals as they grow and age.
The Turn of the Screw almost feels closer to The Haunting of Hill House the TV show in this regard. Perhaps the chief theme of the entire piece is the concept of innocence and the great lengths that adults will go to preserve it. Flora and Miles are the most important characters and symbols in The Turn of the Screw and it almost seems like a waste of the concept if The Haunting of Bly Manor doesn’t incorporate youthful innocence in one way or another.
Beyond that, however, there is only one other thing that we can say for sure will end up in The Haunting of Bly Manor: ghosts, lots of them. The ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are big parts of The Turn of the Screw. The Haunting of Bly Manor may not adapt their “characters” directly but perhaps their status as known, named ghosts, means that the show will delve into its respective ghosts histories even more than The Haunting of Hill House did with the Hill family. Even if these new ghosts don’t get names though, Flanagan has already made it clearthat The Haunting of Bly Manor will feature plenty of the show’s patented “background ghosts.”
Many fans of The Haunting of Hill House were relieved that the show was letting the Crain family live happily ever after but also concerned that Bly Manor wouldn’t be able to live up to the heights of The Haunting of Hill House Season 1. Based on the novella season 2 will be based on, however, they needn’t worry. The Haunting of Bly Manor could very well look quite a bit like The Haunting of Hill House when it’s all said and done.