The Haunting of Hill House
Season 1 Episode 9
Episode 9 is Olivia’s story. The episode shows the slow decline into fear and paranoia that forces Olivia to do something truly horrible. The seeds have been planted throughout the series from the first episode and now all of the disjointed moments from everyone’s memory are brought into focus through Olivia and her new friend, Poppy Hill.
This episode takes place exclusively in the past, but there are certain moments that transcend time when Olivia begins to see visions of the tragic future of her children including walking into a room in Hill House that transports her to the basement of Shirley’s funeral home where she is confronted by the corpse of her adult daughter Nell. Things get even more surreal for Olivia when she begins to have visions of the twins both as dead adults and as children who tell her all of the horrible things that are going to happen to them as adults including Luke’s drug addiction.
Poppy, who was considered insane when she was alive, takes Olivia into one of the rooms of the house and tells her about what happened to her own child. She feeds into every dark impulse of motherhood and convinces Olivia that she needs to do something drastic to keep the children, especially the twins, in the house and away from the outside world.
As events continue to unfold, Luke asks if his friend Abigail can spend the night over the house before Olivia is supposed to leave to stay at her sister’s house. When Hugh discovers that Olivia lied about leaving and snuck back into the house, he immediately makes his way to the red room, finds it open and the events of the final night the Crain’s spent in the house begin to unfold when Hugh makes a tragic discovery about Abigail.
This episode hit all of the right notes both in tension and fear. Carla Gugino’s performance as Olivia was transcendent and witnessing the house preying on her fears as a mother made her acts all the more tragic because they are steeped in her deep love for her family. Seeing how the house feeds on her adds some interesting and well done visual and narrative moments that make you both fear Olivia when she finally begins to act, but also to fear for her.