‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ crumbles under high hopes

The mastermind behind shows like “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Midnight Mass” is back at it again with a new Netflix original series called “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Mike Flanagan’s newest show follows Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) and his sister Madeline Usher (Mary McDonnell), heads of a Fortune 500 drug company called Fortunato, as they navigate a criminal trial centering around their totally nonaddictive opioid and the seven youngest Ushers dropping dead, one by one. 

Seven of the eight episodes involve an heir to the Usher legacy dying unpleasantly. Their grisly ends include being eaten alive by acid-laced water, being mauled by animals and being impaled. Before they meet their demise, each character is driven mad by a powerful woman named Verna (Carla Gugino). 

All of these tragic deaths send Madeline and Roderick searching for answers among a pending criminal trial. Flashbacks expand on how the siblings got their hands on the Fortunado funds and how Verna fits into it all. 

The success of Flanagan’s first few projects has had me and many others patiently awaiting his new shows, but to be honest, a few of his past series have not lived up to the hype and the same is true for “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

The show goes above and beyond with shock factor. Some of these scenes had my jaw on the floor due to the gore and sheer shock of the situation, but they were predictable. As soon as I realized a new character would be dying every episode, it became quite clear who would die and how within the first half of the episode. There were some outliers, but not enough for me to be satisfied with the plot twists.

The cast of “The Fall of the House of Usher” also consisted of Kate Siegel as Camille Usher and Rahul Kohli as Napoleon Usher. Photo courtesy of @thehaunting, Instagram

Another qualm I had was about the first episode and the criminal trial. One of the first things we learned about the Usher family was that one of them is an informant for the government. This issue turns the Ushers against each other for a good five seconds before it gets overlooked. I think that not expanding on this detail was a grave misstep that cost the show at least half a star rating from me. 

I also disliked Verna’s character and how she was used to explain all of the triumphs and defeats of the Usher family. I won’t spoil too much about how she fits into the plot, but she is a supernatural being in this season with too much power that was seemingly given to her by the scriptwriters for storytelling convenience. 

One thing I have noticed about Flanagan’s works is that the characters tend to go into these massively melodramatic monologues that just have me rolling my eyes. Almost every character gets one of these, but Verna’s are the most prominent.

Visually, I will say “The Fall of the House of Usher” was amazing. Flanagan is known for hiding important details in the background of shots and he continues to do that here. Watching these characters descend into madness couldn’t be more beautifully chilling. Paired with the graphic character deaths, the visuals is what saves this show from having a one star review. 

I couldn’t review this show without mentioning that it is teeming with Edgar Allan Poe references, most of which were lost on me. That might be the same for most people who have not read his works extensively enough to pick up on all of the hidden details in this season. 

Personally, I liked this, I just think it was done in the wrong way. The most prominent references to Poe are on-the-nose and show up at the end. Though I understand why these references were pushed to the end, I wish it was more obvious that viewers should be looking out for them. 

If you do end up tuning in this Halloween season, though it is a fun story, don’t expect much from the plot. The cinematography and visual effects are where this show really shines, if anything does. 


2/5 Stars




Featured photo courtesy of @thehaunting, Instagram