Warning: spoilers will follow for episode 5 of The haunted Bly Manor“The Altar of the Dead.”
Did you see it coming
The fifth episode of the Netflix ghost story The haunted Bly Manor ended with a shocking revelation, which was at the same time an emotional belly blow, when the audience learned the truth about one of the main characters: Hannah Grose, the chic, elegant housekeeper on the remote estate, is dead. And was dead from the moment that that Audience was introduced to her.
But so much happened before that bomb was dropped in the last moments of “The Altar of the Dead”
The episode started where episode 4, “The Way It Came,” left off: After Owen and Hannah toasted the memory of Owen’s recently deceased mother, they sat by the campfire discussing the future. And then Hannah was just back in the past, reliving the moment when she first met Owen at his manor interview.
At first it seemed like another, more cruel turn was about to take place: Owen had just lost his mother to dementia, a disease that caused her to lose herself in the past, and now the same thing seemed to be happening to Hannah. But as Hannah became increasingly unraveled, stumbling from one memory of Bly Manor to the next, informing the viewer about important bits of the story of Peter Quint and Rebecca Jessel, something even stranger happened: every time she came back to the kitchen her conversation with Owen is a little different. She was essentially talking to an avatar of herself. And she herself when Owen tried to send her an important message: Something is wrong with Miles.
Just like the au pair, Hannah had seen 10 year old Miles display inappropriate adult behavior, including smoking on the premises. And when she traveled back to the night Peter Quint disappeared, it all started to make sense. Quint was killed by the Lady in the Lake, the ghost that roams the halls of the mansion every night, and moments after his death his ghost touched Miles and briefly owned him.
It was not miles act strange; It was Quint in his body. And unfortunately for Hannah Grose, whose distrust of Quint was already making him her enemy and whose love for children meant she didn’t want to let go of things, this put her in great danger. After discovering Miles and Quint’s ghost together, Quint took over Miles’ body and pushed Hannah into a well, killing her instantly. The Hannah Dani Clayton and the audience met on episode one was Hannah’s ghost, who stood over the fountain and was so traumatized by her sudden death that she thinks she is still alive.
Looking back, there were several clues in the first four episodes that suggested Hannah was a ghost, just like in The sixth Sense. For example, while much of the story takes place in Bly Manor’s kitchen, Hannah is never seen eating or drinking even with meals. And their behavior could be perceived as strange from the point of view of au pair and public surrogate Dani Clayton; She seems absent-minded, forgetful and keeps popping up and wandering off at strange times.
And then there were those cracks that Hannah saw again and again in the walls of the house, but which no one else noticed, and how she always unconsciously touched the back of her neck when she saw them. The last thing she saw, the moment she broke her neck at the bottom of the well, was a crack in the stone.
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This twist not only pulls the rug out from under the viewer, but recontextualises it and casts doubt on everything we’ve seen so far. If a main character didn’t even know they were dead, does that mean there are other ghosts walking around Bly Manor that have not yet been revealed?
The heartbreaking ending of “The Altar of the Dead” has been compared by fans to the big twist in episode 5 of The Haunted Hill House, “The Bent-Neck Lady.” Both stories played with time and perspective to pit themselves against the tropes of ghost stories in disturbing, ultimately tragic, ways and how viewers felt about these characters as the story progressed.
As this new information about Hannah Grose will play in the remaining four episodes of The haunted Bly Manor, the season’s internal supernatural mythology and her unspoken, long smoldering romance with Owen? You just have to watch to find out.
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