Spoilers for The Haunting of Bly Manor episode 9, “The Beast in the Jungle”.
If you’ve already finished binge-feeding The Haunting of Bly Manor then, first of all, congratulations. You are what everyone’s favorite haunted orphan Flora would deem “perfectly splendid.” Second, you’re probably reeling from the finale, which gave audiences an emotional punch via the conclusion of Dani and Jamie’s love story, followed by a dizzying final ten minutes. Let’s discuss exactly what happens in this final sequence, and in particular with the mysterious character of Carla Gugino, the storyteller.
The show opens with a voiceover from the character of Gugino, who has a northern English accent and quotes the lyrics of the song “O Willow Waly”: “We lay my love and I under the weeping willow / but now alone I lie and cry by the tree. ”As this voiceover takes place, we see the woman running a bath and looking at her reflection on the surface of the water. The song is important because it was originally created for the 1961 film Innocents, which – just like this series – is an adaptation of Henry James The turn of the screw. But the deeper meaning of the words of The Storyteller and the Tub will only become evident in the end.
The show is rounded off by a sequence that takes place the night before a wedding in 2007, at a castle somewhere in northern California. As the guests sit around a fireplace, their conversation turns into ghosts; the castle in which they find themselves would be haunted. Gugino’s character volunteers to tell a ghost story, which she says is quite long, and for some reason everyone is totally okay with this shot because who really Needs to sleep the night before a wedding? She continues to tell the story, which takes us decades back in time to 1980s England and the main action of the series.
As the season unfolds and we watch Dani (Victoria Pedretti) become entangled in the mysterious hauntings of Bly Manor, the storyteller remains present as a voiceover, recounting the action from time to time. Dani develops a touching relationship with Bly Manor’s gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve), and their romance becomes the emotional anchor of the series. And finally – the exact timing depends on how closely you look – you put two and two together. It’s no coincidence that Gugino’s narrator has the same accent as Jamie. She East Jamie.
Knowing that Jamie is telling really changes the amount of airing of the show. Take Dani and Jamie’s first memorable non-meeting in the kitchen, where they still don’t recognize each other at all clearly do you notice. “The gardener did not even introduce herself to the new au pair,” notes the narrator. “She barely recognized her. She just treated her like she had always been there. The others in the room just assumed they had met before. Which, if she was being honest, was this. that the au pair was feeling when she first saw him, the young lady. “We don’t wonder why the narrator knows this – she has been established as a fairly omniscient narrator at this point – but knowing that Jamie describes the moment makes his choice of words much more loaded.
Likewise, her description of how Jamie copes after losing Dani becomes truly devastating once the twist is revealed. “For the rest of her life, the gardener looked in the reflections, hoping to see her face,” explains the storyteller. “His own Lady in the lake. She would leave a door open at night, just a crack, if she ever came back. The latest hit in the series is Jamie, now played by Gugino, doing just that. She looks at the surface of the bathwater, then leaves her door open, hoping in vain that tonight will be the night Dani returns.
As Jamie notes at the very end of her story, she knows deep down that it’s futile. Dani will never come back, because now that she’s the new Lady in the Lake from Bly Manor, her memories will fade like Viola’s, and she won’t remember Jamie at all. The only trace of who she was will be “in the memory of the woman who loved her the most” … who is also the woman who tells the story.
Let’s go back to the lyrics to “O Willow Waly”, the haunting song Jamie quotes in the intro voiceover, and which recurs several times throughout the season:
We lay my love and I under the weeping willow / But now alone I lie and cry next to the tree
Sing “Oh willow waly” by the crying tree with me / Sing “Oh willow waly” until my lover comes back to me
We lay my love and I under the weeping willow / A broken heart has I. Oh willow I’m dying, oh willow I’m dying
Knowing what we know now, these lyrics pretty much read like Jamie’s life story. Yes, you can send your therapy bills directly to Mike Flanagan – I most certainly am.
But that’s not an entirely tragic ending, as Jamie’s conversation with the bride, aka Flora, makes it clear that she’s found a way to live with the loss of Dani. Flora has thankfully forgotten everything she experienced with Bly as a child, so she experienced Jamie’s story as if it was entirely new to her. But she is still moved to tears afterwards and fears losing her own husband one day.
“It will be difficult, everyday, and it won’t be easier,” says Jamie. “But eventually, after awhile, you’ll find little moments, little pieces of your life that remind you of him. And they’ll be silly and stupid, or they’ll be sad and you cry for hours. But they’ll always be a part of it. from him, and you’ll hold them tight. It’ll be like he’s here with you, even though he’s gone. ”
They share a hug and Flora reveals that she is, in fact, Flora. We get a bittersweet wedding montage where Jamie exchanges meaningful looks with an older Owen and Henry – and imagines them as themselves younger. It’s clear from those looks that they remember their time at Bly, so Jamie isn’t entirely alone in her memories of what happened at the mansion. And since the show is all about the self-defeating impulse to lock yourself in memory to escape reality, it’s as close to a happy ending as we might ask.
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