Mike Flanagan has become television's King of Horror. His first show, The Haunting of Hill House, loosely based on the Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, released to almost universal critical praise. The success was quickly followed by The Haunting of Bly Manor and the wildly popular Midnight Mass. He worked his adaptation magic turning multiple Christopher Pike novels into the series The Midnight Club, adding a heartfelt touch to his series portfolio. Then he turned around to tackle Edgar Allan Poe in the wickedly glorious The House of the Fall of Usher.
At the end of last year, he announced he would move from Netflix to Amazon, and fans are waiting with bated breath to see what horrors he will unleash there. We couldn’t help but look at his incredible series and relive our favorite episodes. Here are the 10 best Mike Flanagan episodes, ranked leading up to our all time favorite.
10. The Midnight Club — Episode 8: “Road to Nowhere”
As Natsuki tells the story of Teresa, we get to see more of her struggles with depression that landed her in the hospital in the first place. Flanagan uses repetition to take us on a dark journey of revelation, adding sight, smell, and sounds to highlight the uncertainty and give the story a sinister edge. But the message isn’t hopeless or helpless. Rather, we can relate with Teresa’s struggles. Life is hard, and sometimes staying alive to fight another day can be the hardest struggle of all.
9. The Midnight Club — Episode 7: “Anya”
While this wasn’t considered one of the scarier storylines, it did resonate the most with audiences. Perhaps it’s because we’re led to believe that Anya survives thanks to the ritual her friends perform. But as the twists unfold, we realize this isn’t Anya returning to society, but rather an untold future. The heartbreak of knowing she’s dying but isn’t alone makes this episode one of the best.
8. The Fall of the House of Usher — Episode 7: “The Pit and the Pendulum”
Strong women pitted against each other is a plot device Flanagan wields masterfully. This episode captures the dread of impending doom that the titular story evokes, but it’s also a foreshadowing of how the House will eventually fall. To combine the two in the penultimate episode is a stroke of genius, and to highlight the tension between Madeline and Verna, two of the strongest characters in the show, creates a breathless anticipation that guarantees viewers hit “play next” the second the credits roll.
7. The Haunting of Bly Manor — Episode 8: “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes”
Like many of Flanagan’s shows, learning the origin behind the horror is always memorable. Here, we live through how two sisters, Viola and Perdita Willoughby, brought nothing but misery and terror to Bly Manor. It’s a story filled with hate and love, stubborn rage and tragic heartbreak. In that swirling vortex of emotion, everyone who dies at Bly Manor is destined to stay at Bly Manor. But worst of all, they all forget. It’s an episode filled with twisted longing, turning the tragic murder into a sinister reality that leaves viewers unsettled as they head into the final episodes.
6. Midnight Mass — Episode 6: “Acts of the Apostles”
After the heartbreaking death of Riley, Erin opens the episode by literally moving his ashes to row back to land. As she rallies the troops, Father Paul and his apostles prepare for the vigil. Locked inside the church, the town is introduced to the “angel” and mass chaos ensues. The tension of the episode isn’t in the massacre, although it’s gruesome and bloody and horrific. It’s in the shift from Riley and Father Paul to Erin and Bev, two defiantly strong women who will do whatever it takes to save the people they care about. It’s a subtle change in focus, but one that throws the complacency of expectations out the window and sets the tone for the finale.
5. The Fall of the House of Usher — Episode 8: “The Raven”
Rather than give us shocking twists halfway through, The Fall of the House of Usher was a show building towards a dramatic end. This is fitting for a Poe adaptation, particularly one that blends multiple stories into one. The monologues are perfection, the imagery is haunting, and the gleeful delight woven into the downfall of this terrible family is utterly satisfying.
4. The Haunting of Bly Manor — Episode 5: “The Altar of the Dead”
Whether it’s by accident or design, Flanagan has a talent for creating magnificent midpoints, and The Haunting of Bly Manor is no exception. In the same way that Hill House took us through Nell’s shocking realization, we see the past and present unfold in this series in various moments to highlight the fact that Hannah Grose is actually dead. The repetition could have backfired, but Flanagan handles the revelations deftly, creating an urgency with each recurring scene, ensuring the viewer is not only riveted, but desperately needs more.
3. Midnight Mass — Episode 5: “Gospel”
For five episodes, Midnight Mass built up to feel like we were going to get an epic showdown between Riley and Father Paul. But right as everything seemed to be going right for Riley, it all went wrong. In a moment that echoed across the credits and the internet, Riley sacrificed himself to save not just Erin, but the entire town from the evil that’s been insidiously infecting it. It’s a heartbreaking moment filled with love and loss, and it fuels the emotional momentum to carry us through the final episodes.
2. The Haunting of Hill House — Episode 6: “Two Storms”
After the revelations of the bent-neck lady, it was hard to see how the season would maintain the tense dread that had been building. But “Two Storms” was the perfect follow-up to do exactly that. In a masterful weaving together of the past and present, we experience two different storms that changed the Crain family forever. It emphasizes the tragedy of Nell’s life (and death), while the remaining children are finally able to confront their father to tell them the truth of what really happened all those years ago.
1. The Haunting of Hill House — Episode 5: “The Bent-Neck Lady”
Easily the best episode of the season, we get an intimate glimpse into Nell’s life and the events leading to her death. Learning that Nell was the bent-neck lady and had been haunting herself was one of the most shocking moments of the season in a twist so exceptionally well executed, very few people saw it coming. It gave Nell’s life and death a tragic undertone that rippled into every episode, both before this episode and carrying on that inevitable dread through the rest of the season.