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Hot Show Preview: Mike Flanagan's The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix

Two men talk in front of a blazing fire
[L to R] Carl Lumbly as AUGUSTE, Bruce Greenwood as RODERICK in FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. Cr. Eike Schroter/Netflix

Disclaimer: I was given early access to the show and able to watch all 8 episodes in advance. The show debuts globally on October 12, 2023 at 3 am ET. There are no spoilers in this show preview. If you want a spoiler talk, please listen to my discussion with fellow critic Michelle Swope


The Fall of the House of Usher comes to Netflix on October 12, 2023. Based loosely on the short stories and poetry of 19th-century gothic author Edgar Allan Poe, Mike Flanagan, the current master of the horror TV series, drops another Netflix series, just in time for the season of all things dreary and bleak. Flanagan shares the director seat with regular collaborator Michael Fimognari, and the cast includes most of the ever-growing family of Flanagan's favorites: Carla Cugino, Willa Fitzgerald, Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas, Annabeth Gish, Zach Gilford, Bruce Greenwood, Samantha Sloyan, T'Nia Miller, Michael Trucco, Rahul Kohli, Igby Rigney, Robert Longstreet, Aya Furukawa, Sauriyan Sapkota, and Ruth Codd all come back to haunt us. I was so happy to see Codd return in a prominent role after her phenomenal turn as Anya in The Midnight Club. Newcomers to the Flanagan-verse also get inducted: Willa Fitzgerald, Mark Hamill, Mary McDonnell, and Carl Lumbly.
 
A group of people dine at a table
[L to R] Sauriyan Sapkota as PROSPERO, Kate Siegel as CAMILLE, Rahul Kohli as NAPOLEON, Matt Biedel as BILL-T, Samantha Sloyan as TAMERLANE, Mark Hamill as ARTHUR in FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. Cr. Eike Schroter/Netflix

What's it about?

Although Poe's writing arose out of the Romanticism movement in 19th-century Europe, Flanagan spins a tale, as he does, that feels all too relevant. Tragedy has befallen the richest family in town. Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) has just buried all six of his children, each of whom died in macabre and mysterious accidents. These include eldest son and heir apparent Frederick (Henry Thomas), fitness influencer Tamerlane (Samantha Sloyan), clinical trial researcher Victorine (T'Nia Miller), video game designer Napoleon (Rahul Kohli), public relations specialist Camille (Kate Siegel), and professional party boy Prospero (Sauriyan Sapkota). 

Contemplating this news in his office, Assistant US District Attorney, C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly) receives a mysterious phone call. Roderick asks August to meet him at his childhood home. When he arrives, Roderick tells Auguste that he wants to confess his crimes on tape. Auguste, who has been trying to build a case against the family for decades, reluctantly agrees.

A woman wearing a masque at a party
Carla Gugino as VERNA in FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. Cr. Eike Schroter/Netflix
 
Over the course of eight episodes, we listen to the strange tale of the house of Usher – a tale of longing, conniving, desire, ambition, and unchecked greed. Roderick Usher, along with his sister Madeline (Mary McDonnell), climb from bastard children to powerhouse siblings who run Fortunato Pharmaceuticals, a warehouse for pain control medication. The episodes include the details of each child's death and a piece of the overarching thread of how the Ushers built their tower of avarice.

Flanagan cleverly builds a world based on the characters and plots of Poe's stories. And there's one more mystery to solve. Before it all went wrong, Dupin claims he found one member of the clan to testify against the family. Who is the mole?

A woman stands on a bed holding a poker
Samantha Sloyan as TAMERLANE in FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. Cr. Eike Schroter/Netflix
 
But is it worth watching?

What do you think? Flanagan's projects have it all – terrific writing, set pieces, family drama, and plots that manage to seem both timeless and contemporary. He knows exactly how to direct his chosen brigade of actors and pulls the best out of them. In contrast to previous series, stuffed aplenty with flawed yet sympathetic characters. the Usher family only engenders our repugnance for their actions (except Lenore and Annabel). Yet through Flanagan's skill and the actors' finesse, we don't crave their doom. We see glimpses of light and goodness under the layers of depravity and want the best for them.  

Flanagan has always shown a fondness for storytelling and how it shapes the stories we tell ourselves and the actions we take. In Fall of the House of Usher, Flanagan can seamlessly create a storytelling device, making Roderick Usher a channel for reimagining the classic tales of Poe for the modern times. Don't be surprised if this drives new readers to the works of this classic author. Not only that, but the series manages to address one of the most prominent issues of our modern world, the opioid crisis.

A man glances behind him at a church
Bruce Greenwood as RODERICK in FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
 
People throw out the term masterpiece too loosely in the film critic world, but Flanagan has truly earned his place as one of the best working TV directors of our time. While it would take a miracle for any of Flangan's series to dethrone Midnight Mass or The Haunting of Hill House as my favorites in his catalog, there's no denying that The Fall of the House of Usher may be his most cleverly rendered piece of craftsmanship yet.

Coming to Netflix on October 12, 2023



Lindsey Dunn is a film critic with membership in both NC Film Critics and Southeastern Film Critics. She loves all things Cobra Kai, Netflix Dark, indie horror, and any stories about complicated relationships. You can find her at 1ofmystories.com and most social channels @1ofmystories.

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