When The Haunting of Hill House premiered in October 2018, it instantly became a hit. Everyone was watching it, theorizing about it and pausing each episode to find the hidden ghosts. With a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an all-star cast, Hill House was an absolute success. 

That’s why fans were skeptical when Mike Flanagan announced there would be a second season of the show. However, when it was announced to be an anthology series similar to those like American Horror Story or Room 104, fans quickly embraced the idea. 

The second season in the series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, proves that once again, Flanagan is a master of storytelling and an all star with casting. 

The season follows Dani (Victoria Pedretti), an American who moved to London to get away, and ends up getting a job as an au pair for a wealthy family. She begins to notice strange, haunting occurrences at the manor and must handle them –– while navigating her own demons as well.

There’s no doubt that Pedretti is the shining star of this season. Her performance as Eleanor in Hill House was enthralling and disturbing, and she brought all of her strength and talent to this leading role. Watching her go from Hill House to the leading woman in season two of You to now the leading woman in Bly Manor is phenomenal. Her range and talent are undeniable and she electrifies every scene she’s in.

But Pedretti isn’t the only familiar face we see from Hill House to Bly Manor. Audiences can recognize other Hill House and Flanagan stars like Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Carla Gugino, as well as new faces like T’Nia Miller, Amelia Eve and Rahul Kohli. 

Thomas’ performance is arguably the most surprising, as he gets to really come out of his shell and play two versions of himself in completely different lights. Siegel is always absolutely perfect in whatever role she’s given, and whether that’s Flanagan’s magic of knowing what to cast his wife, her natural talent or a combination of both, it doesn’t matter. Jackson-Cohen’s performance is arguably the most compelling because of all of the massive manipulation and skeeviness he brings to the role. Though we watched his troubled character in Hill House try to survive, his performance –– and his accent –– in Bly Manor is truly unforgettable. 

Flanagin hit a home run with the new faces as well. Miller’s spaced-out, proper and dreamy performance of Hannah makes you fall in love and want to protect the kind woman at all cost. The same can be said for Kohli’s portrayal of Owen, the sweet cook who is just smitten for a woman and craves a simple life. Then, Eve’s performance of Jamie brings this tough, strong woman who won’t take any rubbish from anyone, but has a deep complexity to her that you want to unravel. 

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the phenomenal cast without mentioning the two children who anchor the performance: Amelia Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth. Smith is adorably terrifying, while Ainsworth has the difficult undertaking of playing not only Miles, but other characters as well when the ghosts travel through his body. They’re both perfectly splendid. 

A master of storytelling, Flanagan perfectly lays out this tale of terror with a heartbreaking twist. However, that is his speciality. Flanagan is the only director to master turning grief and loss into a horrifying tale, and not make it tacky or insensitive. Though both seasons of the show are based on literature, Flanagan makes it his job to weave the stories together by slowly unfolding the central plot with secondary backstories, leaving no character left behind. 

With a phenomenal cast, brilliant cinematography and excellent storytelling, The Haunting of Bly Manor is definitely a must watch this year. Flanagan, you’ve done it again.