Remember back in “The Haunting of Hill House” when Mike Flanagan expertly juggled two separate timelines to tell a compelling story capable of interweaving the past and the present through a series of progressively grander reveals?
Well, the man is at it again in Episode 3 of “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” as we dive into the haunted manor’s near past and finally learn more about the tragedy of Miss Jessel, as well as the mysterious man appearing throughout the house.
Turns out the man is Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an employee of Mr. Wingrave’s, as we begin the episode with a flashback one year prior. What exactly Quint does for Wingrave is a bit of a mystery, but today’s tasks include helping interview a governess candidate – one Miss Rebecca Jessel, to be exact. It turns out Miss Jessel (Tahirah Sharif) and Dani were both equally overqualified for the nannying gig, as Rebecca’s resume boasts various law and economics degrees. Miss Jessel’s interview goes far smoother than Dani’s, though, due in large part to Quint’s clear infatuation with her, and she gets the job.
Back in the present day – or in this case, night – Dani is still shaken by Quint’s sudden appearance at the house and a police officer is on the premises to investigate. However, it’s safe to say the officer’s heart isn’t really in the search as he explains to Dani that he did “a sweep” of the grounds but there’s nothing more he can do. The officers adds that Quint may be crazy and a thief, but he’s not dangerous, and Mrs. Grose explains how the man drained one of Mr. Wingraves’ bank accounts last year, stealing over 200,000 pounds. Unsatisfied with the officer’s halfhearted effort, Dani arms herself with a fire poker and heads out into the night to search for herself.
At this point, we jump back to a year prior, and it’s clear Flanagan and episode director Ciarán Foy are fully embracing the split timelines in this chapter. Unlike Dani on her first day of work, it’s not Owen the chef who transports Miss Jessel to Bly. Instead, it’s Quint, who uses the drive as one more opportunity to flirt with the new governess. But before long, the car arrives at Bly and Miss Jessel is greeted by a definitively happier crew.
Sure, the children’s parents are still recently deceased, but Flora, Miles, and even the other workers just seem brighter. Seems like the additional trauma of an au pair’s death can really bring you down. I guess we’ll find out. Looking back now, it’s clear just how much of an impact Rebecca made on these people – particularly Flora, who we learn picked up her signature “perfectly splendid” phrase from Miss Jessel.
A year later, Dani is exploring the same grounds Miss Jessel once did, only Dani is on the hunt for an intruder. Before she can find any sign of Quint, though, she runs into Jamie armed with a rifle – probably a more effective weapon than a fire poker, to be honest. Jamie shares her disdain for Quint as the two investigate candles left burning in the chapel. Jamie chalks it up to Mrs. Grose, and the two head back inside where Grose, Owen and the children have decided everyone will be sleeping downstairs in the living room together as a precaution.
While the kids slumber in front of the fireplace, Owen offers an observation about the prank calls we saw in Episode 2 that are answered to silence on the other line. The women assumed they were innocent jokes, but Owen believes it could be Quint attempting to reach Miss Jessel, and that he may not even know she’s dead, considering he took off with the money before her suicide.
Flash back to a year earlier, and Miss Jessel is getting along perfectly splendid with Flora as she learns all about the little girl’s doll collection. Rebecca compliments the creativity required to make up so many characters, but Flora quickly corrects her, saying the people aren’t made up. Hm… remember back in Episode 1 when someone predicted the dolls represent trapped souls inside the haunted house? That theory is seeming more and more believable by the episode.
Later in the evening after the children have been put to bed, Miss Jessel invites Peter to stay for tea, and the romance continues to build. Over tea Rebecca casually mentions that the children have already snuck out of the house twice in the middle of the night and tracked in muddy footprints – sounds familiar – which leads Peter to question her motives. Why has a woman of her caliber resigned herself to scrubbing floor boards? It turns out Miss Jessel has ulterior motives, namely a future career in law. So, in hopes of avoiding the same sexism and misconduct her female peers have endured in the workplace, Rebecca is using the governess gig to get in Mr. Wingrave’s good graces and win him over as a mentor. Miss Jessel’s hidden ambition makes Peter’s infatuation all the more extreme, and the two share a sensual moment before he heads home for the night.
In the present day another couple seems to be having quite a moment – although not a pair you might expect. Still all together huddled in the living room, Jamie and Dani discuss the fate of Rebecca and Peter. Jamie reveals more about Quint’s manipulation of Jessel and how he confused love with possession, saying, “The wrong kind of love can fuck you up.” According to Jamie, this most certainly was the wrong kind of love. But while he may have been the one exploiting Rebecca, Jamie says Peter inadvertently trapped himself, too, which may be why he still lingers around the Manor.
The discussion may not be cheery or necessarily romantic, but there is most definitely some tension here between these two women as they discuss what is and isn’t love and share some lingering glances. That is, until Mrs. Grose reminds them it’s probably safe enough now to take the children up to bed and call off the living room slumber party. On the way upstairs, Miles shares that he had a bad dream – one in which he hurt Mrs. Grose. So, gone away is any sort of happy tenderness, and back again is the sense of impending doom. Thanks a lot, Miles. But that’s only the start.
When Dani is back in her room, she once again sees the shattered glasses on her night stand, but this time they’re accompanied by a bloodied arm reaching for her in bed. There’s no time to waste digging into grisly limbs, though. There’s toxic love to be made! Back in the past, Peter makes his way to Miss Jessel’s room one evening and all of that pent up sexual tension is finally unleashed as she pulls him into her bed.
The next morning in the present day, Owen volunteers to spend the day at the house again out of abundance of caution, saying his ill mother could probably use some time without him looming over her. Right away, though, the day gets started on a bad note as Miles informs Dani that Flora is nowhere to be found. We can’t have more than five minutes of peace at Bly Manor, can we?
Cut back to a year earlier and Flora is playing by the lake with Miss Jessel, and she’s finally finished crafting Rebecca’s custom doll. Turns out it’s the same creepy toy that’s been trapped under the dresser ever since. Back in the present, we find Flora in the same place by the lake staring creepily across the water and shouting at what we can only presume to be Miss Jessel’s ghost. Frightened by Flora’s peculiar behavior, Dani calls the doctor to check in on the little girl, but according to him, everything looks perfectly fine. Still, he orders a day of bedrest just in case.
Again venturing back to the past, we find ourselves in the bedroom with Rebecca and Peter once more after a night of love. Miss Jessel rises and begins to get ready for her day with the children when we get our first extremely worrying behavior from Quint. Instead of allowing her to go about her day, he demands she come back to bed, even going so far as to grab her arm and jerk her towards him. Eventually, he concedes and lets her go, but it’s not long before his desires strike again.
Later in the day, Peter steals Rebecca away from the children and takes her to the house’s forbidden wing – despite her objections – where he has set up candles, wine and a most definitely not creepy fur coat from the DECEASED LADY OF THE HOUSE. You could not pay me to put on a dead woman’s clothing in the creepy, off-limits portion of her home, but Rebecca is already under Peter’s thumb and obliges. Donning just the fur coat, Rebecca poses for a series of Polaroid photos (the ones Dani later finds), and the two quickly fall into bed, until Mrs. Grose catches them and reminds Miss Jessel of her duties. Here we see a side of Mrs. Grose we have yet to see, as she stands up to Peter and warns him that she will kick him out of the house if he continues snooping around in the forbidden wing.
That evening everyone is gathered in the kitchen preparing dinner, and Owen and the children are hard at work on a cake. As Owen takes the batter around and gives everyone a taste, Peter sulks in the background, soured by his scolding from earlier and clearly upset by the chef spoon feeding Rebecca the batter. It turns out this offense was so foul that it was enough to drive Peter out of the house. After dinner Quint packs his bags and readies himself to return to London, despite having planned to stay at Bly for the entire week. Quint’s toxicity and manipulation is on full display now as he berates Rebecca for the innocent taste test and uses it to claim she would easily open her mouth for any man who asks. Obviously, this is abusive behavior but it seems Miss Jessel is already in too deep.
As the episode begins to wind down, we return to the present day and it’s time for a Wingrave children tradition: story time. Feeling recovered from her inexplicable illness Flora joins Miles in full costume to put on a production for the adults. Each child tells a story, and Flora starts things off with a tale about a lost cat searching for its mother. Naturally, Miles’s story is far more disturbing, telling of a puppet master who abandoned his creations. Without their owner, the puppets came to life, becoming fully autonomous and forgetting their master. But when the man returned, his puppets wouldn’t respond to him, so he tortured them. Is this story reminding anyone of a certain haunted basement?
Luckily, Miles’s tale is interrupted by a phone call that everyone expects to be another ghost dial from Quint. Unfortunately, it’s far worse. Owen’s ailing mother has passed away. As the shock settles in, everyone comforts him, and Mrs. Grose walks him to his car so he can head home to begin getting her affairs settled. Emotions are running high, and Dani uses it to share her feelings with Jamie, telling her she’s happy she stayed the night. The two clasp hands and share a truly touching, tender moment, even hesitating and seemingly contemplating a kiss. In the end, Jamie hops in her car and heads off, telling Dani, “Who the hell knew?” If you thought this romance was going to be between Dani and Peter, you’re wrong.
But, because we can’t have nice things at Bly Manor, any sort of happiness is immediately sucked out of the moment, as Dani turns around to see none other than the haunting Shadow Boy who has been following her. We get our first extended look at the man and his flashlight-like eyes, which likely were once covered by Dani’s broken glasses. Then, as Dani screams, the shadow is sucked into the house and the episode ends.
- Let’s get one thing straight… Peter Quint is a certified psychopath. We had hints of his terrifying behavior in the series’ first two episodes, but now it is most definitely confirmed. He’s manipulative, abusive, and liable to snap at a moment’s notice. As Jamie said, he dug his roots into Miss Jessel, and it’s no wonder she met such a grim fate with him looming over her.
- I’m getting some very serious fire foreshadowing in this episode. On two separate occasions different characters made references to the manor burning down. When Jamie and Dani were in the chapel, the gardener mentioned that one day the candles left aflame would burn the manor down. Plus, after Quint gave Miles his father’s lighter in the flashback, it came with one rule: don’t burn the house down. Well, it sounds a lot like someone is going to do just that.
- The Mrs. Grose food and beverage catalogue is about to earn its own subheading in this breakdown. Once again during the Bly Manor crew’s sleepover, Mrs. Grose passed up a tasty hot chocolate, and then even turned down booze, too. I mean, who wouldn’t need a drink after a terrifying night like she had? Very suspicious… However, in the flashback sequence during the cake making, Owen splattered batter on her face, so maybe she got a taste there?
- The Jamie-Dani ship is here and I’m all onboard. It’s not the relationship I expected to see this season, but it’s by far the best potential match. Hopefully this one ends up better than Peter and Rebecca’s.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.