[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through Episode 5 of The Haunting of Bly Manor, “The Altar of the Dead.”]
I’ll never forget my first watch of The Haunting of Hill House. The show kicks off extremely strong, but then you hit Episode 5, “The Bent-Neck Lady,” and that right there is some next-level horror. Turns out, The Haunting of Bly Manor follows a very similar trajectory. Episodes 1 to 4? All excellent, but Episode 5, “The Altar of the Dead” is an incredibly devastating and well-crafted character study that ripped my heart to shreds.
This is the episode that puts the spotlight on T’Nia Miller’s Hannah Grose and one’s ability to “skip” or “memory jump.” The episode begins where the previous installment left off, with Hannah at the bonfire. But then, she skips back to the past, specifically to the first time she met Owen (Rahul Kohli). Throughout the episode, that memory is replayed and morphs as Hannah revisits other memories and her current condition comes into focus.
In celebration of The Haunting of Bly Manor’s October 9th debut, I got to chat with Miller for a new episode of Collider Ladies Night and you can bet there’s a heavy emphasis on the events of “The Altar of the Dead.” While Miller may not have every single nitty gritty detail of “memory jumping,” that confusion well aligns with Hannah’s state throughout the episode.
“It blew my mind. I sat down with Liam [Gavin] and we had to work it out. He had a very clear storyboard and we went through it. You just had to know which year you were in and what was going on for you at that time, and then just play each of those memories truthfully to that memory. And then, in the in-between jumps – because obviously you don’t shoot in order so you’d be shooting something and I was like, ‘So, where we picking up from?’ So there was a lot of playback. ‘So, okay, what did I do last time? Where are we?’ It was very confusing. Which is great because Hannah was very confused! [Laughs] I was just genuinely confused a lot of the time.”
As we saw in earlier episodes, Hannah has slipped before, but the events of Episode 5 seem different. Here’s what Miller said when asked if the conversation at the bonfire put her on a more intense series of memory jumps than Hannah had ever experienced before:
“I think that the longer that she’s dead, the more intense, the harder it is to deny the actual reality, and I think that’s what happens at the bonfire, you know? Because the last memory jump is of her going back to the bonfire where Owen’s about to go. That’s just literally happened 10 minutes ago, but she’s had a whole episode of her being elsewhere, and she’s too late to say to him, ‘I’ll go to Paris with you. I love you. Let’s make it work,’ by 10 minutes where previously she’s jumping back years, right?”
Hannah does quite a bit of memory jumping in this episode, but there’s one memory in particular that stands out from the bunch – the one that isn’t hers. Hannah goes back to the night when Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is killed while Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) watch. How exactly does that happen? Miller noted that she doesn’t know the specifics but did add:
“Ms. Jessel says, ‘Why are you here?’ Because she’s slipping deeper and deeper, right? Because something is wrong with Miles. It happens when Owen says, ‘Something is wrong with Miles.’ And it’s a denial – everything’s about denial in this show – that something is wrong with Miles, so she slips into his memory. It’s weird. There’s these two different realms that exist at the same time with this ghost world and what’s real, and they skip into each other. Like the rules of, some ghosts can touch, some ghosts can’t, some ghosts have a face, and [some] fade away. It’s pretty complex!”
Not only is this just a small portion of our conversation about Bly, but this is also only a tiny chunk of our larger chat about Miller’s journey through the industry thus far. To hear more about Miller’s experience carving her path to Bly, check out her full episode of Collider Ladies Night right here.