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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Peter Quint is The Haunting Of Bly Manor’s scariest monster

Oliver Jackson-Cohen stars in The Haunting Of Bly Manor
Oliver Jackson-Cohen stars in The Haunting Of Bly Manor
Image: Eike Schroter/Netflix
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We have very little control over our memories. Remembering an event, a person, a place doesn’t always feel like a revisitation. It can feel like an uninvited guest. The Haunting Of Bly Manor hinges on the chaos and disturbance of uninvited memory in “The Two Faces, Part Two,” a sequel to the series’ third episode. But whereas “The Two Faces, Part One” is mostly mired in exposition, this follow-up provides more of the interiorities of Peter Quint and Rebecca Jessel and spins its horror into a frightening web.

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We pick up in the attic, where Dani’s just been clobbered and tied up. Rebecca and Peter walk out, and Flora pleads with them to let Dani “dream-hop.” We finally have a name and a clearer understanding of the act of moving between memories—something Hannah has been doing in the denial of her own death, something Flora has been doing somewhat against her will, and something Rebecca and Peter are doomed to do in the afterlife. When people die at Bly, they can never leave. And when they’re forgotten, their faces disappear.

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It’s a very specific form of hell to be forced to relive the same memories over and over again. Peter Quint’s intrusive memory is of his mother asking him to steal money from Henry Wingrave. We learn a bit more about the hands that shaped Peter—his abusive parents, the pressure on him to help them. Peter Quint is still very much a bad man and a selfish one at that. We know now why he was so desperate to escape his life. These things contextualize his behavior without excusing it. Peter Quint is still a very bad man, but his selfishness and manipulations are rooted in something real. Watching Peter relive this memory with his mother endlessly makes for genuine horror.

Perhaps it’s because of his shitty childhood that Peter Quint especially cannot stand the loneliness of death and the feeling of being stuck at Bly. Even in the afterlife, he manipulates Rebecca. He can’t stand being alone, so he wants her to join him. He wants out of Bly, and he’ll do whatever it takes.

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Rebecca’s most recurring memory is of Peter with the polaroid and the fur coat. At a surface level, it might look like Bly Manor is romanticizing a codependent and toxic relationship by having Rebecca revisit a happy memory, but I see something different. Choosing to remember the highs of a relationship rather than the lows is actually a symptom of codependency. Zoomed-in, this moment is lovely, but it doesn’t take much zooming out to see the ugly parts: Peter’s jealousy and possessiveness, his empty charm, his manipulations. After all, it’s Peter who’s tucking her away in this memory. He wants her to remember him like this. Rebecca and Peter’s relationship is a real-life horror of its own, a frightening look at the cost of codependency.

Peter is a master of keys, knowing exactly how to open people up, or lock them away. He uses the children’s trauma against them to get them to do what he wants, convincing them that they’ll get to see their parents again, which is technically true in the sense that they will be able to dream-hop to their memories with their parents. But it isn’t real. It’s a simulacrum. It’s a strange torture.

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Peter uses Rebecca’s love for him to get her to do what he wants, too. When Peter’s ghost and Rebecca argue in the forbidden wing shortly after he reveals to her that he’s dead, the two figure out for the first time that he can take over her body. He tells Rebecca she needs to invite him in forever. It’s the ultimate act of a codependent couple: giving one’s self over entirely, erasing the lines between them. Rebecca and Peter binding together into an “us” does not bring the bliss he promises. She gets tucked away in the polaroid memory, and he stays in her body, alone. And Peter Quint does not like to be alone. So he walks into the lake in her body, lets her die, takes away her agency. He thinks it’s for them, but it’s really just for him. Now Rebecca’s caught in the afterlife, too, unable to leave Bly, unable to control what she remembers. Rebecca realizes at the very last moment what’s happening, and it’s simple but effective terror. Realizing what’s happening when it’s far too late. Every time it replays, the polaroid scene gets more and more morbid. The click of the camera, the repeated line “let me show you how beautiful you are,” it all creates a horror soundscape that unsettles.

I’m still a little frustrated by the rendering of Rebecca. While we get a deep backstory for Peter that contextualizes his behavior, we don’t get a lot of explanation as to why Rebecca might be so susceptible to his manipulations. The implication there is that a bad man’s behaviors require motive while a woman’s naivete is just...a given, and that’s lazy, sexist writing. Television too often makes the error of assuming the interiority of men is more valuable and interesting than the interiority of women. Rebecca functions as one half of this fucked-up relationship, and yet we only get character development of her as it pertains to this relationship. Bly Manor is much more interested in Peter Quint. He’s a liar, a puppeteer. But he also gets to be complicated. I do think Peter works well as one of the story’s real-life monsters. The way he tells Miles and Flora that if they give themselves over then they can all be friends and be in their “forever home” mimics the way he tries to initially convince Rebecca to let him in. He doesn’t learn any lessons from that initial violation. He’s still lying, still using others. And it’s that persistence, that relentless pursuit of his own self-interest, that really is quite frightening. He’s a formidable villain but also a human one. But Rebecca isn’t afforded the same dimensionality.

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At the end of the day, Rebecca gets to be the hero. She and Peter have a plan to take over the children’s bodies completely, but she only pretends to go through with it, coaching Flora to do and say the right thing and then helps Dani and Flora escape. But Rebecca’s heroism only underscores the lack of development for this character. She’s good and pure and uncomplicated. For most of the other characters, guilt, shame, and fear become traps. Rebecca’s trap is her relationship with Peter, and we don’t get to see much of her outside of how she functions in this relationship. Peter attempts to collapse her identity, but Bly Manor does so, too.


Stray observations

  • Hannah finally realizes that she’s dead. The Wile E. Coyote reference is perfect in the way that it takes something fun and cartoony and turns it into something horrifying. Bly Manor is quite good at that.
  • The lady in the lake is back, this time snatching Dani’s throat just as she and Flora are trying to escape. Does the lady in the lake only kill people who
  • Oliver Jackson-Cohen is fantastic and really makes Peter work as a character. I just wish we got the same or even close to it for Rebecca!
  • The child actors are also very good.
  • It is so devastating to hear Flora tell Dani that she’s going to the forever home to be with her mom.
  • I wonder why we haven’t gotten to see Miles tucked away/dream-hopping?
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