The Haunting of Hill House Review: The Heart or The Stomach?

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A memorable season finale will answer lingering questions, satisfy curiosities and put the wheels in motion for the next phase of the story.

With The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 9 and The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 10, there seemed to be a tone of finality but will there ever truly be an end to the story of Hill House?

The answer is a pretty brisk no. There are still stories to be mined and ghosts to be uncovered. But before those can be explored, the Crain tale, twenty plus years in the making, needs to be resolved.

Poppy Hill - The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 9

Before the inevitable showdown with the house, we have to find out exactly what happened to Olivia. At this point, all we can say for sure is that Olivia is slowly losing her sanity, but everything else remains a bit of a blur.

Olivia’s descent into madness is spurned on by the ghost of Poppy Hill, but more important than Poppy’s influence is Olivia’s reaction. There appear to be moments of struggle, at least in the beginning, when Olivia genuinely tries to understand her emotions.

Related: The Haunting of Hill House Review - 'Twas A Dark & Stormy Night

She’s knows something is wrong, but she’s never going to be able to see that while trapped within the walls of that house. And even when she breaks out for a few hours, the damage has already been done.

The house has already preyed upon her to the point that the old Olivia is no longer there. She’s been replaced by the version of herself that the house wants her to be. The version who repels the outside world and it’s evilness and instead desires only to know the world within Hill House.

The desire to get her children out of the dream and back to reality, by poisoning them, became the only thing she wanted and needed to do.

Looking Over - The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 9

The red room scene was intense, even knowing that Nell and Luke wouldn’t take the drink, it was still an emotionally rich and devastating scene. And watching little Abigail, who turned out to be a real, live little girl, succumb to Olivia’s plan was heartbreaking.

It was pretty obvious Abigail was the Dudleys' daughter, even though there wasn’t any confirmation until the latter half of the finale. While that may not have been a shock, the deal they made with Hugh most certainly was. 

But before we even got to that, there was the whole dissection of the red room, as seen through the eyes of Nell. 

Mom says that a house is like a body. And every house has eyes and bones and skin. A face. This room is like the heart of the house. No, not a heart, a stomach.

Nell

It never occurred to me until Hugh mentioned it in passing to Steven that the families various "sanctuaries" around the house were really just their versions of the room. The house had been feasting on the Crains since the moment they stepped inside and for some of them like Steven, they never even knew it. 

Related: The Haunting of Hill House Review - A Final Goodbye

It's interesting to make note that younger Hugh never seemed to enter the red room. And perhaps that's why he never saw the apparitions everyone else did. Why was the house unable to get him?

Steven: I wish you would have told me.
Hugh: You didn't tell your sisters what you saw. Why not? Some things can't be told. You live them or you don't. But they can't be told. I'm sorry.
Steven: No. I'm sorry, Dad.

There was virtually no way things ended with Hugh walking out of that house with his children and living happily ever after. His projections of Olivia were of the woman he fell in love with, but the woman left behind at Hill House was nothing like her. And Hugh's appeals to this Olivia went nowhere. 

Sacrificing himself was the only way he was going to get Olivia to open that door. He knew it, and we all knew it too. It was Hugh's destiny to end up right beside Olivia and Nell in the confines of the home that shaped the lives of his entire family. 

Olivia made some compelling points about the dangers of the outside world, but at the end of the day, there is beauty, too. And unfortunately for them, so much of that beauty has been tainted by the effects of their time in that house. 

Leigh Hill - The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 10

The Dudley's knew the house better than anyone, and their decision to hide Olivia's crime to continue to see their daughter in any form was, well, an incredibly sad situation. Even though they would never see their daughter grow, they could still see her. And to them, that was worth more than anything else. 

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Things end on a hopeful note for nearly everyone, with Steven finally admitting his wrongs and Leigh giving him another chance. Shirley also humbles herself for a few minutes, to be honest with her husband and Theo gives herself a chance at happiness with Trish. 

Considering how depressing things have been, it was almost odd to feel a sense of relief. I watched the final scenes with baited breath, just waiting for one last shock. But it never came. 

In the end, the surviving Crains laid the house and their pasts to rest that final night. Oliva got to be reunited with her love and Nell her parents. And just like that, the doors to Hill House were closed. 

For now. 

The House - The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 4

Stray Observations

  • The acting all season has been stellar, and everyone stepped their game up for the final stretch. Kudos to the entire cast because this story doesn't work without the right actors to bring the story to life.
  • I can't stress how sad Abigail's death was. It was like a surreal flurry of a few minutes, figuring out she was actually alive and then watching her drink the tea. 
  • Did anyone else cry ugly tears when Hugh was apologizing to Steven? 
  • Steven is still the worst of the siblings, but Shirley sure did give him a run for his money towards the end. Considering the secret of her affair, the way she previously iced Kevin out without even giving him a chance to speak seems ridiculously cruel in hindsight. 
  • In my head, Steven and Leigh have twins, Luke become a counselor at his old treatment center, Theo and Trish stay in a committed, loving relationship and Shirley ... keeps being Shirley.

By my calculations, this is the best show Netflix has made yet. Every episode was strong, cohesive, visually stunning and acted to perfection. I'm very hard pressed to find many flaws, and it's a show I will look forward to diving into again. 

What did you guys think about the series as a whole? Did you like the ending? What are your thoughts on the red room? Would you be interested in seeing another season?

Please leave your comments below and thanks for taking the journey with me! 

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Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 9 Quotes

Poppy: Losing a child. Do you think there's a thing worse than that?
Olivia: No. I don't think there's anything worse than that.

I may have put too much on poor Stevie.

Hugh [to Olivia]