The Fall of the House of Usher, the latest miniseries from acclaimed director Mike Flanagan, delves into the theme of greed. Unlike Flanagan’s previous works which centered on grief, love, and faith, this series takes a different direction by focusing on the insatiable desire for wealth and power. Set in a world of opulence, the story follows the life of Roderick Usher, an obscenely wealthy businessman, as he reveals his sinful past to investigator Auguste Dupin. Inspired by the tragic deaths of his children, Roderick’s tale is a bloodsoaked account that draws inspiration from various works of Edgar Allan Poe.
A Campy and Tongue-in-Cheek Journey
Flanagan’s signature melancholic scares take a backseat in The Fall of the House of Usher, giving way to a more campy and tongue-in-cheek tone. The series embraces a fun and twisted narrative that keeps viewers engaged throughout. With each of the eight episodes focusing on the demise of one of Roderick’s children, the series employs a binge-worthy structure that hooks the audience. However, this format may leave viewers craving more development for certain characters or actors they were drawn to.
A Revelation of Demises
The series unfolds through three timelines, adding complexity to the narrative. Roderick’s conversations with Auguste act as the framing device, while the events leading up to his children’s deaths make up the two weeks prior timeline. Additionally, the series takes us back to a fateful night in 1979 when Roderick and his twin sister Madeline shared a significant moment. As the episodes progress, the macabre and unusual ways in which the Ushers met their demises are revealed one by one. While some of the twists may seem predictable, the show manages to maintain its grip on viewers’ attention.
A Revelation of Characters
The Fall of the House of Usher introduces a fascinating cast of characters, portrayed by several of Flanagan’s frequent collaborators. The Usher siblings, played by Samantha Sloyan, Henry Thomas, and real-life wife Kate Siegel, are a morally bankrupt and dysfunctional bunch. They abuse drugs, indulge in dark obsessions, and mistreat their romantic partners. Flanagan’s decision to make most of the siblings queer adds another layer to the show’s vibe, reminiscent of American Horror Story. Each actor delivers unique and hammy performances that align perfectly with their respective roles.
Bruce Greenwood, who replaced Frank Langella mid-shoot, delivers a remarkable performance as Roderick Usher. He convincingly portrays the complex character, oscillating between the ruthless pharma tycoon and the remorseful father. Greenwood shares the spotlight with Carla Gugino, as her character Verna acts as Roderick’s enigmatic foil. Gugino brings intrigue and warmth to a character that could have easily been one-dimensional. Willa Fitzgerald’s portrayal of Madeline stands out among the ensemble cast, as she offers a more vulnerable and human interpretation of the character compared to Zach Gilford’s Roderick. Mary McDonnell’s performance as the merciless matriarch feels somewhat overplayed and lacking in depth.
While The Fall of the House of Usher is undeniably a thrilling ride, it may leave some viewers longing for more substance. Unlike Flanagan’s previous works, this series does not delve into deep conversations about existential matters or prompt introspection. It explores the age-old notion that power and money can corrupt individuals, a theme that has been explored in other popular shows like Succession. Perhaps Flanagan’s intention is to leave viewers wanting more, mirroring the insatiable greed depicted in the series. The emptiness and collective undoing of the Usher family serve as a cautionary tale about the consequences of boundless desire.
An Exploration of Insatiable Greed
The Fall of the House of Usher, set for release on October 12, is yet another intriguing addition to Mike Flanagan’s repertoire. With its twisted narrative, campy tone, and exploration of greed, this miniseries promises to captivate audiences. Despite its slight shortcomings in terms of character development and emotional depth, the series offers an enjoyable and bloodsoaked watch that will leave viewers questioning their own desires.