Finally, after five episodes, Two Storms puts all of the living Crain family members together. Unfortunately, it’s a family reunion for the wrong reasons. All of the Crains arrive at the Harris Family Funeral Home for Nell’s viewing. In both past and present timelines, trauma and open wounds culminate in raw confrontations against the backdrop of powerful storms.
The Past – Nell Goes Missing
On the evening of a brutal thunderstorm, the Crain family is awakened by the main hall chandelier crashing to the floor. When the power goes out, Flanagan delivers another spin on The Haunting’s classic ‘whose hand am I holding’ moment. Theo is holding little Nell’s hand but with a flicker of lightning, Theo turns to see that she’s grasping at air. Nell has disappeared somewhere in the massive halls of Hill House.
As the storm rages on, the Crains stumble through the dark looking for Nell. Olivia seems to slip into a fugue state. She wanders the halls and seemingly disappears into shadows while Hugh tries to catch up to her. Two more spectral figures also make an appearance in Two Storms. In one of the bedrooms, Olivia sees an elderly woman sitting on the edge of a bed. Down the hall, Olivia opens a door and a young boy in a wheelchair rolls past her.
Then as quickly as it started, the storm ends and the lights come back on. Nell is standing right where she was when she disappeared. She tells her family over and over that she didn’t go anywhere, and called out to them but, ‘Nobody could see me.’ IN a sad but touching moment, twin brother Luke hugs her tightly, promising to never lose her again.
The Present – Everybody Hates Hugh
All of the present scenes are confined to the Harris Family Funeral Home. The claustrophobic setting forces the estranged family into confrontation as a storm strikes and unresolved anger boils over.
Brothers Luke and Steve arrive ahead of their father. In typically awkward Crain fashion, Steve booked him and Luke into first-class, leaving Hugh to fly coach. Theo is drunk, and Shirley is indignant and self-righteous. When buttons mysteriously appear over the deceased Nell’s eyes, the Crains begin to lash out at one another.
Much of the resentment is directed to Hugh. Years after their mother’s death, the Crain siblings still blame their father for hiding things from them. Steven, for instance, blames Hugh for projecting ghost stories onto his kids, while ignoring Olivia and Nell’s mental health problems. Theo admits she took money from Steven’s book royalties. In the midst of Shirley’s outpouring of anger directed at Theo, Kevin decides to come clean about that secret bank account. As it turns out, Kevin has secretly been taking money from Steven’s book sales, too. He tries to explain that Shirley’s penchant for giving customers discounts necessitated it. But Shirley won’t hear of it and accuses Kevin of taking ‘blood money.’
Before the lights come back on, Hill House drops a few more surprises. Shirley walks in on Theo reaching out to Kevin for a kiss. And The Bent-Neck Lady isn’t gone. Hugh catches a glimpse of her in the shadows. But as the previous episode implied, The Bent-Neck Lady is now Nell. The Crain’s fighting is only cut short when Nell’s casket falls over, dumping her lifeless body to the floor.
Some Final Thoughts
After five episodes, The Haunting of Hill House delivers its strongest episode. What’s interesting is that this is probably the most stripped down episode. Two Storms isn’t driven by plot points. In contrast to earlier episodes, the supernatural also plays a significantly smaller role. There’s certainly still ghostly visions and unsettling imagery. But Two Storms is an emotionally raw episode where unresolved grief and trauma is what haunts its characters. All of the performances are excellent; each character is given an opportunity to shine. It’s as powerful an episode of television as one can expect. If there’s a downside, Two Storms stills leave the overall narrative feeling a little directionless.