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The Haunting Of Bly Manor Twist That Shocked Victoria Pedretti

Spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor to follow.

The Haunting of Bly Manor had a lot to live up to. Its predecessor, The Haunting of Hill House, performed the near impossible feat of pleasing long-time fans of the original Shirley Jackson novel, despite changing much of the story. Showrunner Mike Flanagan achieved success with Hill House through a blending of chilling frights, emotional pathos, and one other important thing: shocking surprises.

No matter how studiously anyone may have read and reread the original novel and no matter how many horror TV anthologies one may have consumed, some twists no one could've seen coming. Perhaps the most notably shocking turn from The Haunting of Hill House is when Nell Crain (Victoria Pedretti) discovers in death that she is the Bent-Neck Lady who has been haunting her all her life. Time-bending moments like that are what make Hill House so enthralling to watch.

Naturally, with The Haunting of Bly Manor creeping onto Netflix, it's natural to wonder how the new anthology series compares. Equally natural is the desire to ask Victoria Pedretti herself, since she not only played Nell Crain on the previous series, but took on the lead role of Dani Clayton on Bly Manor.

So, what was it that managed to shock Pedretti in The Haunting of Bly Manor as much as fans were shocked by the revelation of the Bent-Neck Lady?

Why Hannah's story shocked Pedretti

The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor have many things in common, but one obvious element they share is ghosts. In both series, ghosts are real and regularly interact with the living. While the specters of Hill House tend to know what they are, the spirits in Bly Manor are much more of the Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense variety — they don't always know they're dead.

Likewise, if a ghost doesn't know they are dead, then the audience won't necessarily know either. Asked in an interview with Glamour about what plot twist shocked her the most, Pedretti had a clear answer. "Probably Hannah [T'Nia Miller] being dead the whole time," she said. "That blew me away, when we were talking about it in the writer's room. I was like, 'What? She was dead the whole time?'"

In point of fact, the reveal that Hannah Grose has been dead the entire season is about the most analogous story Bly Manor has to the Bent-Neck Lady story on Hill House. Both involve season-long mysteries surrounding a specific character, both involve time being out of joint, and both ghosts play a central role in the living characters coming to terms with their own trauma.

What makes Bly Manor's ghosts different from Hill House's

"There's a difference between feeling good and feeling alive. The two aren't always the same," says Hannah in the episode "The Altar of the Dead." Hannah's time prior to living at Bly Manor isn't one we see much of, but it does have one other interesting connection with Nell's backstory on Hill House — both women have marriages which do not last. The key difference here is that Nell's husband dies suddenly of natural causes, while Hanna's husband commits adultery before abandoning her. If you look at the two series side by side, the difference between these two stories perfectly encapsulates the difference in how each of them deals with trauma.

There is a lot of indirect trauma in The Haunting of Hill House. Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino) doesn't set out to harm her children, but she does wind up harming them because of how her mental illness impacts her perception of reality. Steven Crain (Michiel Huisman) is actively trying to help his siblings by paying them in exchange for the rights to tell their story, but the public awareness of the Crain family's suffering still causes tons of indirect trauma.

Hugh Crain (Timothy Hutton) actually encapsulates this perfectly in dialogue: "I was holding a door. Holding a door closed. I had my back against it, and my arms out wide, because I knew there were monsters in the other side and they wanted what was left of our family. And I held it so hard, I didn't have arms left for the kids. The monsters got through anyway."

Bly Manor (especially Hannah's part in it) is about something similar — it's about indirect guilt.

Why Hannah is really trapped in Bly Manor

Even though Hannah Grose has done nothing wrong, she still feels guilty and unworthy of happiness. Her husband leaves her, and somehow it becomes her fault, even though he was the one who chose to cheat and then leave. And once Hannah dies, her ghost becomes trapped on the grounds of Bly Manor.

For each ghost, being stuck in Bly means something different. With Hannah, there's an enormous focus on her relationship with Owen (Rahul Kohli). Hannah desperately wants to leave Bly with Owen, move to France, and start her life over. Hannah literally cannot leave the grounds, and being a ghost represents that feeling of paralysis which comes with being abandoned by someone she loved and trusted. Hannah doesn't think she deserves Owen or France — or, frankly, anything.

We see that same feeling with Dani, too. Dani blames herself when her fiancé Edmund (Roby Attal) dies because he's hit by a car right after she calls off their wedding. Dani is dealing with the guilt of being closeted. Even though Dani finds love with Jamie (Amelia Eve), she first carries around the false perception that her queerness has harmed others, and later, carries around the constant fear that comes from being hated for her queerness. Like Hannah, Dani struggles to accept that she deserves happiness. Even when Dani does accept that she deserves to be loved, she still knows that many people in this world would disagree — a huge source of anxiety. 

Hannah's being a ghost is shocking, but the scariest thing about the ghosts haunting Bly Manor is that they are all incredibly real for both the characters and many people watching their story play out.