Ranking the Tragic Romances of ‘Midnight Mass,’ ‘Bly Manor’ & ‘Hill House’
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Midnight Mass.]
In each of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix shows are lovers who don’t make it to “happily ever after,” would-be romances that never were, and perhaps most frighteningly, whirlwind affairs that mistake possession for genuine affection. These tales of passion gone wrong offer frights deeper than any jump scare, and they had us wiping away tears, too.
Here we’ve ranked them from least to most devastating—although really, they’re all pretty sad.
8. Rebecca and Peter (The Haunting of Bly Manor)
Saddest quote: “You left! After the water came into my lungs, you just left.… This isn’t what you said. I didn’t agree.”
There’s no denying it: While their story is a large part of The Haunting of Bly Manor, Rebecca (Tahirah Sharif) and Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) were dysfunctional, and theirs is a possession story, not a love story. His insecurities and downright frightening temper made him a less-than-ideal match for the bright, sweet Miss Jessel, but she fell for him, anyway—and in the end, her love for him was her downfall. After his death at the hands of the Lady in the Lake (Kate Siegel), Peter realizes that anyone who dies at Bly remains there as a ghost—and he deceives Rebecca into giving up her life, possessing her and drowning her so they can be together, forever. He doesn’t stay with her as she passes, and her first moments of “ghosthood” consist of her screaming in horror at her body as it floats on the water. Shame on you, Peter Quint!
7. Henry and Charlotte (The Haunting of Bly Manor)
Saddest quote: “There’s a lot more to it than love. A lot more to it.”
We’re not sure how to feel about these two. While Henry (Henry Thomas) loved Charlotte Wingrave (Alex Essoe), and she fell for him, too, it was hard to root for them. She was married, and to Henry’s brother, at that! As if that wasn’t awkward enough, it turns out Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) is really Henry’s daughter. With all that considered, Henry deserved the verbal evisceration he received from his brother, which eventually inspired the smiling, eerie ghost that haunts him throughout the events of Bly Manor. And just before her death, Charlotte kind of, mostly broke things off with Henry in favor of repairing her relationship with her husband, although she did kiss Henry before she left, so… who knows where it might’ve gone. All things considered, it seems like they were a classic case of “right person, wrong time.”
6. Nell and Arthur (The Haunting of Hill House)
Saddest quote: “I’ll get the light.”
Poor, poor Nell (Victoria Pedretti) and Arthur (Jordane Christie). While their love story lasted about an episode, it was enough to make us cry. It seemed Nell had found The One in kindhearted sleep technician Arthur, who was always able to pull her out of her paralysis when the Bent-Necked Lady returned. Unfortunately, that was what led to his demise: She saw the Lady and couldn’t move, he stood up to get the light, he suffered an aneurysm, she couldn’t call for help. His loss pushed Nell into a downward spiral from which she never truly recovered, but Hill House knew how much she adored him; it used him (as well as her mother) as means of tricking her into dying in the house and remaining there forever.
5. Erin and Riley (Midnight Mass)
Saddest quote: “I love you, Erin Greene.”
Erin (Kate Siegel) and Riley (Zach Gilford) had all the ingredients for a classic love story. They were former best friends returned home years after their paths diverged, they possessed feelings for each other they’d never really let go of, they had a unique understanding of the other person.… Yet in the end, none of that was enough. Riley winds up turning into a vampire, and to make Erin understand the danger she and the rest of the town are in, he sacrifices himself and allows sunlight to burn him to ashes before her eyes. But before he goes, he makes sure to tell her he loves her—and she says she loves him, too. Had Midnight Mass not been a horror show, they would’ve ended up together; instead, they both die. At least we got a few moving monologues out of it.
4. John and Mildred (Midnight Mass)
Saddest quote: “On those hard nights when you were so close, sleeping beside the man you were supposed to be with, I’d tell myself that if you would just show up and ask me, I would have taken this collar off and I would have gone with you. I would have gone with you anywhere in the world.”
The horrors of Midnight Mass have their roots in a forbidden, doomed romance. Once upon a time, Monsignor John Pruitt (Hamish Linklater) and Mildred Gunning were in love, and Sarah (Annabeth Gish) is their biological daughter, not Mildred’s and her husband’s—scandalous! Pruitt’s true motivation for bringing the “angel” back to Crockett was to save the dying Mildred and have a second chance to be with her, and to truly be a father to their child. It’s heartbreakingly obvious the decades have not dulled their feelings for each other (the octogenarian, dementia-ridden Mildred knew Father Paul’s true identity right away), but because Mildred wasn’t willing to “destroy four lives” by leaving her husband, upending the happy childhood Sarah had known and requiring John to leave the Church, they could never have been together. But in the end, their conclusion is bittersweet: As the sun comes up and they’re both young again, he asks for her forgiveness. She kisses him, and they burn together. We still kind of wish they’d all gotten to be a happy vampire family, but alas—it was not to be.
3. Owen and Hannah (The Haunting of Bly Manor)
Saddest quote: “Yes, Owen. I will go to Paris with you.”
What could have been…but never was. These two shattered our hearts when Owen (Rahul Kohli) asked Hannah (T’Nia Miller) to go with him to France. It was obvious from the first episode that they’d had feelings for each other for quite a while, but Owen was spending the majority of his time away from Bly with his ailing mother, and Hannah, having suffered through an awful marriage, was hesitant to be involved with anyone again. Eventually, she decided to make that leap of faith and trust Owen—but unbeknownst to her, she was too late. By that time, she was already dead at the bottom of the well on Bly’s grounds (thanks, Peter!) and could never be with him. Making us even sadder: When Owen dedicated his eventual restaurant in Paris (A Batter Place) to her and put her picture on the wall inside.
2. Hugh and Olivia (The Haunting of Hill House)
Saddest quote: “We were solid, babe. Those last few days don’t count.”
For Hugh, in some ways, his beloved Olivia (Carla Gugino) never died. He was too late to stop the house from taking her life, but he continued to hallucinate her for decades after her tragic death, leaning on his wife for guidance in difficult situations. When they were both alive, their marriage is realistic—they argue, they reconcile, they compromise—and sweet, and they were always there for their kids. (Whether or not the two believed them about the ghosts in the house is, unfortunately, another story.) In the end, Hugh makes his wife’s ghost a “promise he’ll keep forever” by dying at Hill House to remain with her there as a ghost, too. At least they got a happy ending…kind of.
1. Jaime and Dani (The Haunting of Bly Manor)
Saddest quote: “The gardener said the words she’d heard those years ago. She willed it with everything she had. ‘You, me us. Us. Take me with you,’ she cried in her heart. ‘Take me. Drag me down like you did the others.’ But the Lady in the Lake was different now. The Lady in the Lake was also Dani. And Dani wouldn’t. Dani would never.”
From the beginning when Dani (Victoria Pedretti) “felt as though she’d known [Jaime] her whole life,” these two were perfect—and devastating. Jaime (Amelia Eve) helped Dani let go of her trauma related to her fiancée’s death, and even after Dani invites the Lady of the Lake into her to save everyone at Bly, Jaime still wants to be with her for however long Dani has to live. They stay together for years, wear wedding rings, own a flower shop together and are happy. But eventually, the Lady of the Lake starts to take over more and more of Dani, and Dani realizes she must return to Bly and drown in the lake to prevent Viola from hurting her wife. She leaves Jaime in the middle of the night, drowns, and when Jaime returns to Bly and tries to drown herself so she can be with Dani, Dani won’t claim her—she won’t take her life. In the end, Jaime leaves the door open and fills tubs and sinks with water every night, in hopes that Dani will return to her again. That sound you hear? Yeah, that’s just us, sobbing.
The Haunting of Hill House, Now Streaming, Netflix
The Haunting of Bly Manor, Now Streaming, Netflix
Midnight Mass, Now Streaming, Netflix