Choice. A single word that can surge your entire existence to the top where you embody Gulliver, overlooking puny humans, or you can lead an honest life without greed where heaven awaits you with open arms. Make a selfish choice, and you end up within the pit fires of hell. Mike Flanagan etches a Netflix masterpiece in the horror genre where a satirical reference compilation of Edgar Allen Poe’s work was amalgamated into a nail-biting storyline that lingers even after you have completed your watch.
A single thread that holds the entire storyline together throughout the 8-episodic paragon is death. Death is the only constant factor in the episodes that follow, meaning you will witness an epic death in every episode. And no, Flanagan does not adhere to a resolved, no regrets death- approach. Instead, the show leaves no barriers in between to show the process in its ghastly form, a direct and unfiltered consequence of the greedy choice made by Usher twins Roderick and Madeline to an omnipotent harbinger of fate, Verna.
Verna comes across the twins at a bar on New Year’s Eve, 1979, and the decision that they make ignites the entire House of Ushers and leaves behind the ashes of the fallen. What was the choice that Verna granted them? According to a Netflix Tudum article, “They’ll get the whole world — running Fortunato Pharmaceuticals, making more money than they could ever imagine, literally getting away with murder — all sans consequences. But the next generation will have to foot the bill. “When you’re done, at the end of it all… just before you would have died anyway, your bloodline dies with you,” Verna offers them. So they took it for the unbridled fame but did not pay heed to the repercussions that were made clear to them by Verna.
As promised, she came to collect once the twins had reached the zenith of their success. And just as she promised, the House of Ushers fell to their ghastly deaths. We have compiled a list of everyone who met their fate in the series episode-wise. Take a look.
Eliza Usher – Episode 1, “A Midnight Dreary”
Beginning with Eliza, she was the mother of Roderick and Madeline, a present mother who was swaddling in the remaining days of her illness but stood tall and grounded when it came to her unwavering faith in God. Ironically, Eliza is named after Edgar Allen Poe’s real mother, Eliza, who met her death at a tender age. The Fall Of The House Of Usher imbibes the twins burying their mother alive, thinking she was dead. Instead, clinging on to her belief system, she crawled out of her coffin, scrambled all the way to Rockerick’s absentee father, Longfellow, and choked him to death, thereafter succumbing to death herself. Although Longfellow’s story arc and eventual death do not directly refer to any Edgar Allan Poe stories or poems, they seemingly share thematic elements with Poe’s stories, Ligea and Morella.
Drawing from Edgar’s work The Premature Burial, where the artist emphasizes his fears of being buried alive, episode one was made.
Perry Usher- Episode 2, “The Masque of the Red Death”
The first Usher to taste the lingering curse of Verna, Perry (Prospero) Usher was the youngest wedlock child to join the Ushers, only to be donned as a black sheep. Desperate to prove his father right, Perry attempts to throw a masqued rave, thinking it will paint him in great colors in front of his ignorant father. As the night grows and reaches its raving epoch, Perry thinks he is unleashing sprinklers full of water, but Verna materializes and turns it into acid. So, when the sprinklers hit the live audience beneath, they turn into puddles of rotting meat, taking Perry along with them.
The storyline is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Masque of Red Death, in which a wealthy prince named Prospero throws a masquerade ball in his castle while his kingdom is ravaged by a plague. Things reach the ‘uneasy’ radar when a mysterious red-masked person arrives and materializes as Verna, thereby triggering the curse and plummeting everyone to their deaths.
Camille L’Espanaye- Episode 3, “Murder in the Rue Morgue”
The next death is an unfortunate one and is outlined with pure jealousy. Camille Usher visits her sister Victorine’s animal lab and tries to dig dirt on her to bring her down in the eyes of the world. She comes across Verna (vengeance) herself and discovers the torture Victorine inflicts on her research chimpanzees by cutting open their chests and dumping them like garbage. When she got enough dirt she could expose, Verna shape-shifted into a chimpanzee and scratched her face off, and not in a civil way.
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue serves as a metaphorical testament to the story, where it blurs the lines between humanity and insanity, underlining the fact that it takes a single switch to change into the thing we don’t desire. The narrative coherence between Camille’s death and The Murders in the Rue Morgue highlights how, despite being a part of a highly privileged section of human civilization, Camille and the other Ushers are no less savage than a chimp who acts purely on primal instincts.
Napoleon (Leo) Usher- Episode 4, “The Black Cat”
In The Fall Of The House Of Usher, Napoleon wakes up from a bender while heavily latched onto substance abuse. In a fit of rage from hallucinating after consuming a substance, he accidentally kills his boyfriend’s black cat, pointing at the name of the episode, as well as Edgar Allen Poe’s work called ‘The Black Cat.’ Consumed with guilt, Leo decides to exchange the deceased cat with a new one (from Verna) so that his partner will not get to know about the unfortunate incident.
However, as he begins marinating and spiraling in guilt, he thinks he has taken matters into his own hands by wielding a hammer (which, ironically, Chris Hemsworth gifted him) and trying to put an end to the cat. Instead, he tore his entire place down, and right on the balcony, as he hallucinated the black cat, he jumped towards it, only to fling himself off the edge and succumb to his own death.
In both tales, the cat (or Verna in The Fall of the House Usher) is emblematic of the troubled conscience of the two characters and the unavoidable consequences of their moral transgressions.
Victorine Lafourcade- Episode 5, “The Tell-Tale Heart”
A suicidal death is magnified through the lens of guilt consumed by killing a loved one. We are talking about the bone-chilling episode of Victorine, the lab experimental doctor, who cut open her chimpanzee’s chests and tortured them to find instruments for human research. When her girlfriend Alessandra questioned her unethical demeanor towards practicing medicine in a fit of rage, Victorine threw a bookend at Alessandra, only to kill her instantly.
The life-pumping monitor that she was testing out was placed on the heart of her dead girlfriend and beat in steady rhythmic tikTok wave, eventually driving Victorine(and viewers!) crazy. Unable to bear the undying rhythmic sound of a mechanic heartbeat, which reminded her of Alessandra’s death, Victorine committed suicide.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator is haunted by the sound of a beating heart after committing an obsession-driven murder. Like Victorine, he grows so guilty and paranoid over time that he starts hearing an unbearable heart-beating sound. Both guilt-ridden characters ultimately struggle to make sense of their reality.
Tamerlane Usher- Episode 6, “Goldbug”
With a faltering business launch of her company ‘Goldbug,’ Tamerlane Usher is haunted by Verna, who materializes in front of mirrors as Tamerlane’s doppelganger and torments her life choices through her own reflection. Reaching the brink of insanity, Tamerlane embodies a giant fire poker and shatters every glass around her to get rid of the reflection. Her pre-frontal cortex cannot make sense of her surroundings, and she ends up poking the mirrored ceiling above her head, only so that the shattered glass pieces can pierce her body and bludgeon her into her sweet release.
Frederick Usher- Episode 7, “The Pit and the Pendulum”
The most gruesome and painful death in the series, Fredrick’s fate was already sealed through his father’s wrongdoings, as explained by Verna, but his blatant torture of his wife after catching her in the act of infidelity during Perry’s rave night got him the most painful and slow death of all characters.
Morelle was one of the few lucky ones to survive the severe acid burn from Perry’s rave. Her act of adultery was caught by her husband, who then took it upon himself to torture her throughout by taking charge of the burn ward, where she was in a slow recovery process. However, he tortured her in gruesome, unthinkable ways until one day. He accidentally overdosed on the paralyzing medicine he was giving his wife and proceeded in a fit of rage to go to the rave site and destroy everything around him.
Verna then voiced out to his employees in Frederick’s tone to demolish the site while he was trapped inside. To give him a taste of his own medicine, she also makes a pendulum-like metal blade gradually descend towards his body to make him experience a slow, painful death. It sliced him layer after layer until nothing was left of him.
Annabel Lee- Episode 8, “The Raven”
According to Netflix Tudum, ‘Roderick’s first wife and only true love, Annabel Lee (Katie Parker), leaves him after he betrayed his sense of integrity and threw young investigator C. Auguste Dupin (Malcolm Goodwin) under the bus to get ahead at Fortunato. Auguste (portrayed in the present by Carl Lumbly) later tells Roderick that the only reason he trusted him back then was because he trusted the good-hearted Annabel Lee.’
She dies of suicide after she and Roderick separate due to his unethical business and takes full custody of their two children, Perry and Tamerlane, whom Annabel cannot live without. The guilt washes over him years after her death when he imagines how his life would be if he chose the moral compass.
Rufus Griswold- Episode 8, “The Raven”
Throwing back to the night Roderick and Madeline had sold their souls to Verna, New Year’s Eve, 1979, they had just finished burying Rufus Griswold alive behind a brick wall that they built around him. They knew he would perish behind the wall as everyone was going home for the holidays. Even so, the process was fast-tracked by Madeline, who poisoned him with cyanide beforehand.
Lenore Usher- Episode 8, “The Raven”
The beloved daughter of Frederick and Morella, who met her untimely death only at the age of 16. Verna took to joy in killing her because she was innocent but an Usher. So, she ended up being collateral damage for just carrying on the family name. Her death came peacefully, and she did not counter any torture, unlike her other family members.
Madeline Usher and Roderick Usher – Episode 8, “The Raven”
The final round of Usher deaths culminates in the deaths of the two Ushers who unleashed the curse upon the entire family in the first place. The prophecy of Verna finally materializes in the final episode. Madeline and Roderick Usher are based on the two main characters in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher.
Roderick spikes Madeline’s drink and mummifies her alive by replacing her eyes with blue, royal Egyptian stones. She materializes into her mother’s avatar by crawling out of her mummified position and heads towards Roderick to kill him. Before he succumbs to death, he breathes the word “Nevermore,” indicating that their fate has finally been sealed and has reached full circle.
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