Welcome to Hill House.
If you've been itching for a chilling, fresh, atmospheric horror series, then this is the place you want to be. There is something sinister living within the walls of the hundred-year-old compound, and the Crain families destiny will forever be defined by the time spent calling that castle home.
The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 1 and The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Episode 2 both dive right into the then and the now of the Crains and the supernatural occurrences that plagued them and continue to shape their identities.
The first few episodes of any series are crafted to set the scene for what's to come. A chance to introduce central characters, the plot and the overarching themes. Here, we meet a seemingly close-knit family, led by straight-laced Hugh and vibrant Olivia, who struggle both in the past and present with their experiences about this house.
Oldest son Steven is the star of the first hour, as flashbacks show him stepping up to be the leader amongst his peers as a child but relegated to a bit of an outsider in the present, due to his ambition.
Everything the siblings went through as children differs, and for Steven, his inability to see the same things as everyone else has turned him into a modern-day cynic. He was very reminiscent of Jon Cusack's character in "1408," traveling around to hear stories of the dead and just looking to poke holes in the most fantastical tales.
Steven seems to be on a search for the truth while struggling to understand its meaning. Is the truth that his family was tortured and forever haunted by their time in Hill House? Or is the truth just that Steven is sane and everyone else is crazy?
Adult Steven seems to grapple with what to believe in a world that pulls him in both directions.
Hugh: Do you remember the bent-neck lady?
Hugh: She's back.
Meanwhile, adult Nell is struggling in every sense of the word. By the end of hour two, it seems like Nelly and Luke have outwardly been affected the most by their childhood. Nelly, in particular, has a sense of disconnection from everything and everyone. Even on her wedding day, she's just off.
Her return to Hill House was probably a long time in the making, and she almost looked happy floating around the decrepit halls. I have my suspicions about her committing suicide, but we'll have to continue to see how that plays out over the course of the series.
When Steven stumbled upon her in his apartment, the reveal wasn't exactly shocking but spooky all the same. For Steven's first encounter with a spirit to be his newly departed sister is as eerie and intriguing as they come. Now we need to know what exactly Luke was doing in that apartment a few minutes prior.
Is it possible his twin sister lead him there? It's evident that on this show, things are not as they appear.
Hour two is Shirley-centric and Elizabeth Reaser, as always, is a delight. Shirley meets death head-on at a young age, and it's her experience with the kittens and also seeing her mother in her coffin that has informed the person Shirley becomes.
Of all the siblings, she's most affected by what she perceives to be a betrayal by Steven. She's also clearly the matriarchal figure of the family, a position we can all assume came shortly after their mother's death.
She's stoic, yet soft in the rare moments when she allows herself to feel. When she tries to explain Nell's death to her children, she is completely detached from the emotions of that conversation. One could say she was holding it together for her children, but that's just who Shirley has become.
She gives them the same spiel she's given to the countless others about death and the process that happens between death and burial. It's only when she's alone with her thoughts and looking back at what lead her to the point where she's removing a bag of her sister's intestines that she breaks down.
There are many things unsaid in this family and Nell's death may be the thing to force them to talk about the past, present and future.
Nell is in the red room.Shirley
Once again flashbacks show the many disturbing things happening at Hill House, and adult Shirley still has dreams about the mysterious red room.
We've only gotten a few quick flashes of the aforementioned room, but something is lurking in there, and it might take a while to see just what is behind that big door.
- The casting on this show is incredible. Both the child actors and their adult counterparts play the characters with a delicate precision that makes for great television.
- Of all the siblings, Theo is the least shaded by the end of the second episode. Aside from living with Shirley and kicking her one night stand out abruptly, it's hard to get a grasp on who she is and what motivates her. I'm most intrigued by her story and how she's been molded by her childhood.
- Olivia's death is glossed over and explained away rather quickly, which leads me to believe we may spend a lot of time diving into that particular evening when Hugh rounded up the kids and left Olivia behind.
- There aren't many jump out of your seat scares, but all the images of the bent-neck lady are where nightmares are born.
- Steven and Shirley are both having marriage issues, with the latter being to a way lesser degree than the former. And where is Nell's husband? It's a testament to the writing and acting that I walked away extremely intrigued with all the sibling's relationship woes.
- Are we all in agreement that adult Hugh still talks to his dead wife?
- Full disclosure, I never read the novel, so if my take is entirely off, please know I'm walking into this series with a fresh set of eyes, for better or worse.
There's a nice, steady buildup happening now, as we get acquainted with the Crain's and color in more of their complicated world. When a pilot is done right, you're eager, curious and excited to welcome this story into your living room.
The Haunting of Hill House comes ready to make itself right at home.
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Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.