As is the case with many horror stories, The Haunting of Bly Manor is just ominously creepy at first. It isn’t until the housekeeper-centric episode 5 that things really get wonky, and the supernatural starts to come into focus. It’s scary and confusing. So let’s talk about that episode 5 ending, and how the Haunting of Bly Manor timeline can explain everything. This may be obvious but SPOILERS for The Haunting of Bly Manor ahead. (Seriously. Even if you’ve seen up to episode 5, be warned, because in order to explain it we need to look at the whole season.)
Alright, let’s get going.
Episode 5, “The Altar of the Dead,” focuses on Mrs. Grose and attempts to explain what’s been going on with her. No haunted house is complete without an eerie housekeeper, right? Why does Hannah Grose seem to disassociate from time to time? Why does she tend to hold cups up to her mouth instead of eating or drinking? Through (what seems like) flashbacks, we learn a little more about Flora and Miles’ parents, and how Hannah came to live at Bly after her husband ran off with another woman. We also learn that Hannah and Owen had a “will they/won’t they” flirtation that ultimately never turned into anything.
Now, for the big reveal.
That’s because we also learn Hannah is dead. When did she die? That is the question. It appears Hannah was murdered on the day that Dani arrived at Bly. She was pushed into the well by ten year old Miles, who was controlled by the ghost of Peter Quint. She’s wearing a red turtleneck and a plaid skirt at the bottom of the well. She was wearing that same thing the day she met Dani, which helps the viewer place her death in the timeline. This means Mrs. Grose has essentially been dead the entire time. Twist!!! How she is able to cook and change clothes as a ghost is a mystery… but it’s alluded to in episode 5 and later episodes that Hannah is a particularly stubborn ghost unable to let go of the living world.
Since the moment she died, Hannah’s ghost has been interacting with the present while cycling back and forth between memories in her mind. She’s unstuck in time. That’s why she keeps repeating the year, 1987, and the children’s ages as things get more and more confusing. It’s an attempt to ground herself in the present, and in her death.
Let’s talk timeline.
The basic timeline of The Haunting of Bly Manor is as follows: In 1984, when Flora is 5 and Miles is 7, Owen is hired and Flora sees her first ghost. Two years later the parents die. Rebecca Jessel comes to look after the orphans and has an affair with Peter Quint. By the time 1987 rolls around, Peter is dead (though everyone thinks he just disappeared), Rebecca is dead, and the children are being possessed by the former lovers. Hannah dies just after Dani is hired to be Rebecca’s replacement. More lore reveals itself later, but the majority of the story takes place in this time frame.
Hannah is not the only one at Bly Manor who drifts off and has trouble knowing when and where she is. It happens to the children as well. But when Flora and Miles get “tucked away” into memories, and seem to experience three or four years of time all at once, it is because they are being manipulated by the ghosts of Peter and Rebecca. Hannah Grose is somehow doing it to herself—reaching back from beyond the grave.
Wait, so who killed Hannah?
Hannah can snoop on Rebecca and Peter’s memories too, but she knows she is intruding. That’s how we learn that the terrifying Lady in the Lake ghost killed Peter Quint because he was trying to leave Bly with stolen jewelry. Hannah’s death has nothing to do directly with the Lady and everything to do with the unfortunately hot (and evil) former valet himself. It’s Peter who kills Hannah for being too nosy. As we learn in later episodes, the Head Ghost In Charge is not responsible for everyone’s deaths at Bly… though they are all in danger of sharing her lonely faceless existence.
So, at the end of episode 5, when Owen asks Hannah to go to Paris with him (Emily in Paris crossover, anyone?) it’s so upsetting because deep down Hannah knows she’s dead and can’t follow him. She can’t leave Bly. She’s stuck in the glue trap just like everyone else. When she replays the memory and tries to change her fate, it doesn’t even seem like Owen and Jamie see her. She’s starting to fade away because she’s a g-g-g-ghooooooost!
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