If you’re all done with your Haunting of Bly Manor binge, then most of your burning questions have probably been answered. You know why Dani was being haunted by the specter of a man with glowing eyes. You know why Hannah Grose has been feeling so distracted and disoriented of late. You know why the Lady in the Lake haunts Bly Manor, and why Rebecca Jessel died, and why Miles has been acting like such a creeper. But there’s one major loose end that’s left hanging at the end of the season, and that’s the fate of Charlotte and Dominic Wingrave.
We know from very early on that Flora and Miles have been recently orphaned, which is why their uncle, Henry Wingrave, is advertising for an au pair. It soon emerges that the Wingraves died while they were on a trip to India, and Flora notes that the family had to bury two empty coffins. Beyond that, all we know is that they died in “an accident.” We don’t know whether the bodies were actually never recovered, or whether it was simply not possible to get them transported back to the UK from India—but since this family seems to be extremely wealthy, it’s hard to imagine the latter being true.
Episode 6, “The Jolly Corner,” explores Henry’s demons and reveals more details of the Wingraves’ ill-fated trip. Henry seems to essentially live in his London office and has buried himself in work, drinking compulsively and refusing to take calls from Bly Manor. This is because he’s consumed with guilt over the death of his brother, whom he betrayed, and mourning his sister-in-law, whom he was in love with. Henry and Charlotte had been having an affair for years—so long, in fact, that Henry is Flora’s real father. A couple of years before the show takes place, Dominic discovered the truth, and banished Henry from Bly Manor (and Flora’s life). Charlotte visited Henry at his office and told him that she was going to India with Dominic in an attempt to save their marriage by recreating their honeymoon. Neither of them returned from the trip alive.
So, is there any reason to believe the Wingraves’ death was anything more significant than a freak accident? The show is based on Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, which follows a governess hired to take care of two orphans, so the parents have to die in order for the inciting incident of the story to work. But the Haunting of Bly Manor writers offer a big hint that there’s more to the story than its source material. During episode 6, Henry is tormented by his alter ego, who responds with this line when Henry announces he’s going back to Bly Manor: “They’ll be so happy to see you. And maybe you can tell those little kids to their faces exactly how their parents died. And you can tell them why they were taking that trip in the first place.”
Hmmmmm. It’s possible this entire line is just referring to Henry’s guilty secret—that he was having an affair with Charlotte, which prompted the Wingraves to take the trip that killed them both. But “exactly how their parents died” is a pretty specific turn of phrase, especially since we never do hear any details about their cause of death. In a show that’s so much about characters coming to terms with their own mortality, that feels like a deliberate choice.
We don’t get any clues beyond that scene. Henry gets a phone call to inform him that the Wingraves are dead, but the content of the call stays off-screen, so there’s not a lot to go on as far as theories are concerned. It is strange that Viola, aka the Lady in the Lake, never killed Dominic and Charlotte, even though they were seemingly sleeping in her bed. In episode 8, Viola is shown killing multiple unfortunate people who stumbled into her one-time bedroom over the years, but she let Dominic and Charlotte live for reasons that aren’t ever made clear. But Viola is unable to leave Bly Manor or its grounds, so there’s no way she could have killed the Wingraves in India.
On balance, it seems like the Wingraves really did just have the bad luck to live in a haunted mansion, and then die sudden and untimely deaths from a completed unrelated cause.
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