The Haunting Of Bly Manor Episode 5 Explained The Altar Of The Dead- Henry James’ Most Romantic And Sad Story
Easily the most beautifully rendered, The Haunting Of Bly Manor Episode 5 is a highlight of the season and a painful reminder to love when you have the chance.
If there is one thing The Haunting of Bly Manor does well, it is melodrama. Like all the stories from Henry James, they have all been self-reflective, romantic, and occasionally scary. The Haunting Of Bly Manor Episode 5 is a perfect example of all those elements. They come together in a poignant episode that stands out as a turning point for the living and the dead that call Bly Manor home. It is an amazing bit of storytelling that used images more than words to explain everything.
In The Haunting Of Bly Manor Episode 5, Hannah Grose gets lost in a revelry of the past. She jumps between reality and the memory as she attempts to come to grips with what has happened to her. Playing out like a tender mixed tape of past conversations, this is easily the most powerful of all the episodes. It is a profoundly respectful look at Hannah’s kindness and the undying love she has for Owen. Every word and every image leads us closer to the devastating conclusion. Cracks in walls that are just a construct of the well superimposed over a more pleasant memory and leading conversations between Peter and Hanah are all clues. Hannah has been dead all along. We also see Peter’s painful death. Love and death surround the living.
The James story, The Altar Of The Dead, was first published in his collection Terminations in 1895. It is a beautiful tale of the transcendent power of love. In the story, a man George Stransom mourns the loss of his first love and later begins seeing additional friends and acquaintances obituaries in the newspaper. He lights a candle for them day after day, except his enemy Acton Hague who he has never forgiven. While lighting his candles, he meets a woman, Mary Antrim, honoring her own dead. The person she has lost is none other than Hague. At some point in the past, he also had wronged her, but she chooses to forgive him. They become friends but eventually split because Stransom refuses to forgive Hague.
After losing his friend, he no longer finds solace in the alter and stops going. Months later, he is dying and returns to the altar one final time. He has a vision of Mary asking him to forgive Hague. He finally understands that holding onto Hague’s negative emotions was detrimental and tried to ask as he is dying for Mary to light one more. Mary may not know exactly what he meant, but the reader does. In his final moment, he forgives Hague and finds peace. He is too late to find love, however.
During one of her interludes, Hannah and Peter face off over a stolen necklace. He is an angry, bitter man, but he does have one thing right. Hannah should not stay hidden away at Bly Manor. She needs to live her life. Hannah’s favorite place at the Manor is the chapel, where she lights candles each day for the dead. Ironically, she does not know she needs to have a candle lit for her until the end. Her guide through her memories is Owen and Charlotte. They both gently guide her to accept the truth about herself, Peter, Sam, and Miles. Coded conversations about Hannah’s husband, Sam, work two ways.
Just like Stranson should forgive and move on, so should Hannah. Hannahs denial of her death is just one more example of her avoidance of harsh truths. It also serves as heavy foreshadowing that someone should light a candle for her. Just as the children get “tucked away” in happy memories, Hannah loses herself in thoughts of Owen. She knows instinctively that she is dead but can’t admit it to herself. At some point, before Dani came and the children’s parents died, she was jilted.
That event is what causes her to be reluctant to leave with Owen. It is also the singular moment that seals her fate. For her, Bly Manor provides safety. She does not need to forgive anyone, but she does need to face the truth. She is dead, and she lost her chance with Owen. Hannah’s realization that she will not have a chance at love with Owen is heartbreaking. It’s one final brutal blow to hear Owen ask Hannah to run away with him knowing she can never leave Bly Manor. She finally agrees to go, but she can’t change the past, and sadly it can never be.
Lost love is everywhere at Bly Manor. Seemingly no one gets out with lasting love. Owen and Hannah are separated, Rebecca and Peter are doomed, Henry and Charlotte never had a chance, and the narrator also speaks of loss. They are all mice in the trap of Bly Manor. The biggest tragedy of Bly Manor is not death or betrayal, but lost love. One lesson about The Haunting Of Bly Manor Episode 5 is you can’t afford to wait. Find all our analysis of The Haunting Of Bly Manor here.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.