The Haunting Of Bly Manor wanted to be a ghost story. It had all the elements of one, but when it came down to the final episodes the real story being told wasn’t a ghost story. It was a story about love. In Episode 5, live-in housekeeper, Hannah Grose (T’Nia Miller), tells cook, Owen (Rahul Kohli), about a time when there was a mouse infestation at the manor. In order to get rid of them, glue traps were placed everywhere. Hannah then stumbled onto one and saw that a mouse had nibbled away its legs in order to escape just to die a few feet away. Even though there are many examples of how the relationships in The Haunting Of Bly Manor echo this story of being trapped, there are two that stand out.
(A warning that what lies ahead is filled with spoilers. Unless you are one who doesn’t mind knowing ahead of time, I highly recommend going and watching The Haunting Of Bly Manor on Netflix, and then returning to read.)
“I know why so many people mix up love and possession. But guess what that means? He didn’t just trap her. He trapped himself.” (Jamie, Episode 3)
Rebecca Jessel (Tahirah Sharif) and businessman Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohan) make up one of the two main romances explored in Bly Manor. At first glance, they seem to be a pair of star crossed lovers. Their romance blossoms and we can’t help but root for it. Yet, when Hannah points out that Peter Quint is the glue trap and Rebecca is the unbeknownst mouse, we are left with a nasty taste in our mouths as we reevaluate his behavior towards her. It’s then we discover that Peter and Rebecca are actually a toxic, abusive relationship.
He finds his way into Rebecca’s heart by “finding her key” which is his way of manipulating her. Once he establishes himself in her life, he showers her with gifts (an abuser grooming their victim). He praises Rebecca on her real reason for taking the position at Bly (to get a spot in Henry Wingrave’s law practice) and then when he feels inadequate, Peter finds himself using it as a way of belittling her by reminding Rebecca that “we are just the help.”
This push and pull that he does is emotional abuse. I’ve witnessed it between my parents growing up. My mother would constantly call my father “weakling” (among other things) and he would just take it.
Everything we’ve rooted for and loved between Rebecca and Peter before the rose-colored glasses are removed is a manipulation on Peter’s part to pull Rebecca in closer and closer. As Jamie points out, “The wrong kind of love can f*ck you up.” (Episode 3) After Peter is killed and trapped at Bly, he convinces Rebecca that there is a way for them to be together. He had been mastering a way of “sharing a body” with one of the children Rebecca looks after, Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), and thought that he could possibly do the same with her. Instead, Peter uses the situation as a way of trapping Rebecca to Bly’s curse as well. Without taking into consideration any possibility that Rebecca could potentially move on, and make something of herself, Peter decides to be selfish and basically murder her. He takes over her body, while making promises that he would be with her forever, walks her into the lake, and drowns her (while leaving her body just as she is in the middle of dying).
Looking at Peter and how he slithered his way into Rebecca’s heart and destroyed her life, it’s rather easy to say that he never saw her as someone to love, but as something to have. Another item to add to the illusion he was creating for himself. The power, the riches. Poor Rebecca acted as any woman with a thing for the “bad boy” would. She acted as though she could change him. Unfortunately, she learned the hard way that some people don’t change.
“I should have said something sooner. I didn’t want to hurt you, or your mom, or your family. And then it was just what we were doing. I just thought I was being selfish. That I could just stick it out, and eventually I would feel how I was supposed to.” (Dani Clayton, Episode 4)
The other major relationship in Bly Manor is the one shared between Dani (Victoria Pedretti) and Jamie (Amelia Eve). I will get more into them in a moment because, in order for them to come together, Dani first had to escape her own ghosts.
It’s really hard when you have that one friend that just constantly insists on being more than just friends. I’ve gone through having my guy friends admit to having a crush on me. One even attempted to ask me out while I was in the middle of crying about how crappy my day had been because I had an argument with my guardian. It’s even harder to explain to those friends why you don’t feel like taking a friendship deeper, especially if you are gay and don’t even realize it yourself (one of the things I found to have in common with Dani).
Edmund (Robby Attal) was her childhood best friend, but similar to what had happened to me, he wanted more. For years he kept asking her if she would marry him, and she constantly said no. Somewhere along the line, Dani decided to give in, but relationships can’t be held together by one party. If one person is putting their all and the other is struggling because they just don’t feel it, then it can cause an entire friendship to decay.
For Dani, entering into this marriage means that she finally gets a family. The one she was born into was broken. Her father died when she was young, and her mother was never able to pull herself together.
Dani’s also struggling with her sexuality. It’s the ’80s, which means it’s dangerous to come out as being gay. The world is in the middle of the AIDS pandemic, and the LGBT community was being blamed for it. So, when you are with these emotions that you have no idea what they mean, and the world around you is constantly showing how wrong it is to be what you are, of course you will try to force what is “appropriate” even if you do find yourself becoming distracted by the attractive seamstress fixing your wedding gown.
The moment Dani finally has some gall to think for herself is also the moment when Edmund is killed. Soon after breaking off her engagement, he is hit by a truck (I still can’t believe he didn’t look to see if a vehicle was coming before he decided to make his dramatic exit). Wrapped up in her own guilt over the accident, Dani begins to see Edmund.
Edmund is the manifestation of Dani’s internalized guilt. Every time she shows any signs of doing something to better herself, he appears to remind her what happened the last time she attempted to act for herself. So she continues to think, “Another night. Another time. For years, and years” (Episode 4) without really dealing with his death and instead of avoiding any memory of him by running away to another country. As any psychiatrist would tell you, that never works.
“I’ve got a problem. Or rather, we’ve got a problem, Poppins. You see, I’m not sick of you. At all. I’m actually pretty in love with you, it turns out.” (Jamie, Episode 9)
It takes Bly gardener extraordinaire, Jamie, to finally allow Dani to trust someone enough to fully open up. Not only to the events surrounding Edmund’s death but to the fact that she is a lesbian.
It was a huge highlight seeing this relationship develop throughout Bly Manor’s nine episodes, and also done in a way that made it feel natural. Jamie quickly became someone who Dani felt she knew for her entire life. She never passed any judgment on Dani or thought down on her like we had seen Peter do to Rebecca many times in the early stages of their romance. Instead, they allowed for one another to have the support system they each needed, which allowed them to become a better version of themselves.
Jamie spent her life watching her family crumble, being placed into foster care, having run-ins with the law and soon finding herself deciding that people were not worth her love and attention. She closed herself off to them and turned to plants because “you pour your love, and your effort, and your nourishment into them, and you see where it goes. You watch them grow, and it all makes sense” (Episode 6). Dani was the exception. The special Moonflower that only blooms once. The one Jamie decided was worth the work.
Dani managed to knock down Jamie’s mistrust for people, while Jamie taught Dani that it was OK to be happy even when you think you don’t deserve it. They are the ultimate healthy relationship, and that is where their glue trap lies.
Where Rebecca had become trapped in Peter’s possessiveness, both Jamie and Dani became trapped in their love for one another.
When Dani made the sacrifice to allow the “Lady In the Lake”, Viola Lloyd (Kate Siegel), into her body as Peter and Rebecca had done with Miles and Flora, she made herself a ticking time bomb. Viola was no longer a person. She had spent centuries with pent up rage and had lost any humanity she had left. Even though Viola didn’t fully take control of Dani’s body at that moment, Dani could feel Viola’s rage inside her. As Dani puts it, it feels as though she is lost in a jungle and is being hunted by this monster that will strike at any time. It could be days, months, years, or perhaps even hours and when it does the Dani everyone knows will be gone.
With this knowledge, most people would quickly think the person is crazy and decide to run. Jamie isn’t like most people. She decides to take a seat and ask, “Do you want company? While you wait for your beast in the jungle?” (Episode 9). Instead of waiting for the end to arrive, they take it day by day and see where time leads them. Where it leads is to a love story that would rival The Notebook (yeah, I said it!). We get to see their love develop from friendship to partnership, to soulmates. They complete one another.
Just when Dani is at her happiest Viola creeps in. She understands that once Viola fully takes control, Jamie would be at risk and she doesn’t want that. She also doesn’t want this happiness to end, but when Viola awakens and almost attacks a sleeping Jamie, Dani knows it’s time to leave.
One can’t help but look at Dani’s situation and see the similarities to that of a person suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s. First, it’s the newest memories that leave. Hours, days, and as the disease takes hold more and more the years begin to disappear. The person who was the love of your life for the past thirty years can quickly become a complete stranger. You soon can’t remember your own children. It becomes painful to watch, and I know because I’ve seen it with my great-grandmother and grandmother.
As Viola’s possession of Dani grows stronger she begins to experience a similar effect. Her grip on the world around her becomes harder to keep hold of.
After your loved one is gone you are left to continue on, which can sometimes be a worse fate. That is the ultimate glue trap, making it through the days, the months, and the years without the person that makes you feel whole. When you have loved someone that much and they leave it takes a piece of you.
When Jamie loses Dani her walls go back up and she stops living her life because she just waits for a ghost to appear. As months turn to years, she becomes the lonely lady that stares into sinks and tubs with hopes that she would find Dani looking back at her. She sleeps facing a door that is slightly ajar, just in case that night will be the night, and she tells their story disguised as a ghost story.
When Hannah Grose made the comment about the mouse and glue trap she was speaking of Peter and his hold over Rebecca. The Haunting Of Bly Manor shows us that any form of love can become entrapping. Viola’s love of her daughter and refusing to move on after her death caused there to be a gravitational pull of people’s spirits after they were killed on the property. Henry Wingrave fell in love with his brother’s wife and then had to raise their children after they died. Owen and Hannah never got to fully express how they felt for one another, and both regretted it. Love is a powerful emotion with huge consequences but also has its rewards. Even though Jamie found herself without the love of her life, she still had more years than she thought she would with Dani. In the end, “It is you. It is me. It is us,” and sometimes the glue trap is well worth getting stuck in.
All images courtesy Netflix