We still don't have an exact premiere date for The Haunting of Bly Manor, but we're starting to get a good idea of all the horrors creator Mike Flanagan has in store for us this season, which will be inspired by The Turn of the Screw and other works by Henry James.
Victoria Pedretti stars as Dani Clayton, an American tutor living in England who takes a job looking after two orphaned children, Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) at the remote Bly Manor. Pedretti, who starred in the anthology's first season, The Haunting of Hill House, will also be reunited with Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who plays the villainous Peter Quint; Henry Thomas, who plays Miles and Flora's wealthy uncle who wants nothing to do with his niece and nephew; and Kate Siegel, whose role is being kept secret.
But while there is a lot of cast overlap between Bly Manor and Hill House, this season will be very different from its predecessor. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Flanagan discussed how Bly Manor will diverge from the anthology's breakout first season. Here are five ways Flanagan revealed that The Haunting of Bly Manor will be different from The Haunting of Hill House.
1. It will be a love story. One of the reasons viewers were so drawn to Hill House was its layered exploration of family trauma and grief. But Bly Manor will be more of a love story, with three romances in particular that will drive the season. "They all have a very dark edge to them. And by the end, it's really hard to differentiate tragedy with romance," Flanagan told Vanity Fair. "That sense of romantic longing for someone who meant so much to us -- but who's gone -- really is the heart of any ghost story."
2. It will take place in the '80s. Shirley Jackson's Hill House took place in the '50s, when the novel was written. Flanagan brought the series into the modern era, with the main storyline taking place in the present day and flashbacks set in the '90s, when the Crain family first moved into the haunted manor. For Bly Manor, Flanagan will again be modernizing his source material; The Turn of the Screw is set in the late 19th century. But rather than bring the storyline fully into the present, Flanagan shared that Bly Manor will largely be set in 1987.
3. All the hidden ghosts will have backstories. The first season of The Haunting was filled with secret specters lurking on screen that viewers could track down for fun. But this season, all of the hidden ghosts will be part of the narrative. "This season we wanted our hidden elements to tell their own story," Flanagan explained to the magazine. "And very much unlike the first season, they're actually going to be explained. By the end of the season, you're going to know who they are and why they're there."
4. Bly Manor won't actually look scary… at least at first. From the very second the Crains moved into Hill House, the mansion gave off some seriously spooky vibes and put a lot of the family on edge. But when Dani Clayton arrives at Bly, she'll find it welcoming and beautiful. "I loved that idea that it didn't present with any threat, that it would just be this more welcoming, more beautiful aesthetic, so that you don't walk in and say, 'This is a haunted house,'" Flanagan said. Of course, Bly's beauty likely will only lead to Dani letting her guard down, which is probably the last thing one should do when moving into a haunted house.
5. This time, there will be creepy dolls. Hill House gave us a lot of nightmarish images we can never unsee, but Bly Manor aims to up the ante by introducing a lot of dolls this season. Some of these dolls will be beloved playthings of the young Flora, but there is also a "pile of decrepit, discarded dolls in the basement,"per Vanity Fair. (Lord give us strength to face these when the time comes.)
We do not know if these dolls are haunted or not, but they will play a role in unraveling the mysteries of the haunted mansion and mirroring the themes this season explores. As Flanagan explained to Vanity Fair, the dolls are a metaphor for control and claiming ownership of a person. He noted that "we can draw lines to all sorts of toxic romantic relationships that way, and get into gender politics and the objectification of women in particular by this genre." But the dolls will also provide clues to the meaning of the events at Bly Manor. "The more attention a viewer focuses on Flora's dollhouse," Flanagan said, "the more they're likely to see what's happening and why."
The Haunting of Bly Manor will premiere this fall on Netflix.