The Fall of the House of Usher Falls Just Short

By Grace Hamilton, Opinions & Editorials Editor

Mike Flanagan makes a stunning return to form in his new series The Fall of the House of Usher. Or does he? 

With his usual style and engaging way of storytelling, Flanagan introduces the story (based loosely on an Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name) marvelously. It has mystery, it has horror, it has Carla Gugino. 

What it may be missing is ensuring that the audience can stay hooked through eight hour-long episodes. 

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The Fall follows the rise and eventual fall of a family’s empire: the Ushers, who became the rulers of a pharmaceutical dynasty, eventually find that all their wrongdoings have consequences. These consequences are exhibited fantastically by the harbinger of death, Verna (Carla Gugino of Flanagan’s Haunting of Hill House fame). 

The emperor himself, Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood), recounts his sordid history and the events leading to all six of his children’s deaths to Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly), the man who actively tried to pursue the Ushers in a court of law. 

It’s a great story — it’s just a long one. 

Flanagan tells this story through flashbacks — and more flashbacks. By four episodes in, I was a little tired of the tale. 

All of this is okay, however, because of how good Mike Flanagan is at telling a story. 

He knows how to weave together a compelling narrative, which is only improved because of the immense talents of his casts. He largely uses the same actors for his projects, and it’s a genius decision because of the sheer amount of talent in them. For The Fall, Flanagan added Mark Hamill to his cast, and it’s a decision that pays off many times over. 

I can’t praise the acting enough. Every time Hamill or Gugino were on the screen, I wanted them to stay on the screen. 

It’s not necessarily that I was disappointed by a lack of horror, either — there were good scares accompanied by masterful effects. 

While all of Flanagan’s projects fall under the genre of horror, not all of them are actually scary. The Haunting of Hill House was terrifying, The Haunting of Bly Manor was less so and Midnight Mass wasn’t scary at all. The Fall falls somewhere comfortably between Hill House and Bly Manor.

The effects are good. The acting is great. It’s a good story. So why does it still fall kind of flat? 

I did enjoy The Fall of the House of Usher — don’t get me wrong. I like anything that Mike Flanagan does because I think he’s good at what he does. I was invested in the story, in the secrets behind what made the Usher family so successful — and so cursed. 

I think, however, that the story sometimes got lost in itself. It feels a bit like it had to be stretched out to fill the runtime with unnecessary scenes or scenes that dragged on just a little too long. 

Despite my small complaints, it’s still good television. Does it fall flat the further you go in? Sure, absolutely. But, it at least makes up for its faults with its visual triumphs and a stunning cast.