Who is the Lady in the Lake in Haunting of Bly Manor? Viola's tragic story explained
10 October 2020, 15:23
Behind the scenes of The Haunting of Bly Manor
Flora's dolls hint at the ominous figure, but who is she? Here's the heartbreaking story of Bly Manor's Viola Lloyd... [SPOILERS]
The Lady in the Lake – or Viola Lloyd – is first alluded to at the start of the season, when we find out that a specific doll lives under Flora’s chest of drawers in her bedroom, a few metres away from her replica Bly Manor dollhouse. And for bloody good reason, tbh.
While Bly Manor is based on The Turn of the Screw, creator Mike Flanagan and the writers turned to another Henry James short story for inspiration behind the Lady in the Lake. Her story is based on the short story The Romance of Certain Old Clothes.
Here's her backstory and how her cursed legacy affects the characters who live at Bly Manor, right from the very first episode.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Haunting of Bly Manor!
Who is the Lady in the Lake in Haunting of Bly Manor?
We first become aware of the Lady in the Lake in the very first episode – although she's not mentioned by that name until a few episodes in.
On the first night, when Dani (Victoria Pedretti) puts Flora to bed, she's playing with her dollhouse. Dani picks a doll up from underneath the chest of drawers, and Flora sternly tells her to put it back. She then warns her to stay in her room all night.
The next night, Dani finds the doll in the middle of the room which startles Flora. Miles and Flora then lock Dani in a closet. When she emerges, she leaves the room to find a set of wet footprints in the hallway. The doll is shown to be back under the drawers.
We don't get a glimpse of the terrifying figure until episode 4. Flora wakes up and notices that the doll has moved from under the drawers and in to the dollhouse – and that Dani is out of bed. She shouts for Miles and then goes to find Dani.
The two siblings then distract Dani as they watch the lady walk slowly across the room behind her and out the front door. Once she's gone, they finally return to bed. The doll – we assume – is back under the drawers.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Haunting of Bly Manor episode 5!
Flora and Miles’ rules about staying in bed and not moving around the house at night become abundantly clear during a flashback in episode 5.
While stuck in a memory, Hannah finds herself watching Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) leave Rebecca Jessel’s bedroom one night. As he leaves, he bumps into Miles and Flora, who are standing in the doorways of their own rooms. He speaks to them, and as he turns to leave, he is grabbed by the throat by a terrifying ghostly woman.
The faceless figure kills him and drags him down the stairs and outside, into the bottom of the lake.
Flora and Miles are the only two people to witness what happened, which explains why they are so serious about staying in their rooms at night – and why Flora keeps a constant eye on the location of the creepy doll. This is also the reason why Miles and Flora locked Dani in the closet. They weren't terrorising her, they were trying to keep her safe.
We don’t find out why the lady killed Quint until episode 8, when her backstory is revealed in an episode based on Henry James' short story called The Romance of Certain Old Clothes.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Haunting of Bly Manor episode 8!
In episode 8, we flashback to the origins of Bly Manor and learn how the lady in the lake came to be.
Viola and her sister Perdita live at Bly with their father, until he dies. Viola later marries a man named Arthur Lloyd. A few years later, she has a daughter then falls gravely ill. When a priest is bought in to bless her soul before she passes, she refuses. This is where it all begins...
Throughout her 6-year illness, she notices her husband and sister growing closer. Missing her husband and daughter, she wanders to the main bedroom every night to watch them sleep. Eventually, she decides to put all her jewels and clothes into a chest and lock them away, only for her daughter to open when she's old enough.
Sick of caring for her sister, Perdita then smothers her to death and eventually marries Arthur. Years later, in a bid to make some money off her sister's belongings, Perdita opens the chest and is immediately strangled by Viola's spirit.
We then find out that Viola is stuck in some sort of locked room purgatory after her death. It seems that the room is a metaphor for the locked chest and once its open, she's free to roam the house. Arthur and his daughter then move out of Bly Manor and throw Viola’s chest in the lake.
Viola’s room vision soon merges with the watery grave she’s been condemned to. Now, instead of leaving her bedroom and walking to the master suite, she walks from the lake, into the house, up the stairs, along the corridor and into the bedroom, in the hopes of seeing her daughter.
Overtime, her face and her memories fade but her path remains the same. She does this every night, hoping to find her daughter and if someone is in her way, she kills them. The priest, the doctor, Peter Quint… And even almost Dani.