How closely do ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ episodes mirror the Edgar Allan Poe stories that inspired them?
Spoiler alert: This article incorporates spoilers for The Fall of the House of Usher.
“Once upon a midnight dreary,” all of us sat all the way down to watch Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher. The Mike Flanagan-helmed series draws on Edgar Allan Poe’s works to inform the story of a family who falls from their high tower of wealth right into a series of gruesome deaths. Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood/Zach Gilford) and his sister, Madeline (Mary McDonnell/Willa Fitzgerald) grew up with little or no means.
After a fateful 1980 New Year’s Eve, during which the siblings meet a mysterious woman named Verna, they take charge of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals and amass a significant fortune on the backs of innocents hooked on their drugs. The Usher family appears to be a fictional comparison to the Sackler family, although they’re haunted by a mysterious figure named Verna. While the framework of the story pertains to Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” every character’s story pertains to a distinct Poe tale.
In Episode 1, titled “A Midnight Dreary” after the opening line of “The Raven,” we study Roderick and Madeline’s relationship with their mother, Eliza. Eliza was named after Poe’s real-life mother, but her story is hopefully very different from Eliza Poe’s. Her story and subsequent death are based on Poe’s 1844 short story, “The Premature Burial.”
In the story, the unnamed narrator has a condition called catalepsy that causes him to fall into such a deep sleep that he seems dead. He fears premature burial a lot that he becomes obsessive, refusing to go away home and constructing an elaborate tomb. He eventually wakes in a dark, confined space, nevertheless it’s not a tomb—it’s a ship! Eliza, nonetheless, actually is prematurely buried. She suffers from a chronic pain disease that gets so severe, her kids think she’s dead when she’s just asleep. They bury her of their yard, but she crawls out … and attacks their biological but absentee father, William Longfellow, the CEO of Fortunato.
Prospero “Perry” Usher
Episode 2 is named “The Masque of the Red Death,” a really fitting nod to Poe’s 1842 short story. The story’s primary character is even named Prince Prospero, like within the series. Both men throw masquerade parties, during which all of their guests die. In the story, Prospero throws the party for nobles hiding from a bleeding plague called the Red Death. In the series, he throws it to indicate his family that he can live as much as the Usher name. Plus, the deaths are each catapulted forward by a mysterious masked figure. In the Poe tale, the figure is the embodiment of the Red Death, while within the series, it’s Verna.
Camille’s death episode, titled “Murder within the Rue Morgue,” is nearly directly based on Poe’s 1841 short story, “The Murders within the Rue Morgue.” Camille gets her name from one in all the 2 women who die in Poe’s original story, and just like the story’s detective, Camille decides to research Victorine’s unethical experiments for her personal amusement. In each tales, Camille dies brutally by the hands of a primate, although the lab and experimentation bit is exclusive to the Netflix series.
Napoleon “Leo” Usher
Episode 4 relies on Poe’s 1843 short story, “The Black Cat,” during which an unnamed narrator loves pets until he perversely starts abusing them. In each the story and the series, the primary character descends into madness due to substance and alcohol abuse. After a bender, the protagonist worries about what they’ve done to their cat. In the series, Leo’s boyfriend’s cat is dead within the morning, so Leo does what he can to interchange the cat without his boyfriend noticing the difference.
In the story, the narrator is already driven to madness when he hangs his cat with a noose, but decides to interchange the cat after this. In each instances, the alternative cat drives the protagonist to true madness. Leo gauges out the cat’s eyes, similar to the narrator did to his first cat, and the cats live within the partitions. In the tip, Leo dies by attacking the cat and going over the balcony, however the theme of being driven to madness by guilt in each stories is identical.
While Victorine gets her name from a personality in “The Premature Burial,” her fatal episode is named “The Tell-Tale Heart,” based on the 1843 story of the identical name. In each stories, the protagonists are playing up their sanity after murdering someone they love very much. In the unique story, the narrator dismembers their victim and hides them within the floorboards. When they begin hearing sounds, they imagine it’s the beating heart of their victim.
This mirrors Vic’s story, when she hears the sound of the synthetic heart she put in her girlfriend’s corpse. This also differs from its origin story in that as an alternative of dismembering her girlfriend’s body, she keeps the corpse propped up in an empty room. In the story, the narrator’s guilt leads them to admit, while within the series, Vic’s guilt and desire to succeed leads her to stab herself within the chest.
Episode 6 is titled “Goldbug,” which refers to Tamerlane’s health and wellness company that shares the name of Poe’s short story, “Gold-Bug.” However, her death relies more on the 1827 poem, “Tamerlane,” and the 1839 short story, “William Wilson.” (Funnily enough, Tamerlane’s husband, Bill, is called after William Wilson.) Tamerlane is a lovelorn warlord within the poem, and within the series, she marries a “peasant” and uses her relationship to feel powerful.
In the story, nonetheless, William is haunted by a doppelganger. In the series, Tamerlane is haunted by the girl who plays her while dining with Bill. And in each stories, the protagonist confronts their double … and finally ends up killing themselves. As mirrors and doubles conquer the story, Tamerlane’s death by mirror shard remains to be as bloody and gruesome as any of the Ushers’ deaths.
Leading as much as Frederick’s death, he tortures his already-burned wife, Morella “Morrie” Usher, by drugging her into paralysis and pulling out her teeth with pliers. This also happens in Poe’s 1835 story, “Berenice.” But Frederick’s death mirrors the death and torture by pendulum in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Poe’s 1842 short story. In the series, Frederick is tasked with pulling down the constructing during which Prospero threw his party, but when Frederick goes in before the destruction, he by chance paralyzes himself with the assistance of Verna. He’s forced to stare on the ceiling because the destructive pendulum swings into his abdomen.
In the ultimate episode of The Fall of the House of Usher, we finally learn who the Ushers murdered and the way. His death relies on Poe’s 1846 short story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” which is told from the murderer’s perspective, like within the series. In each versions, the murderer lures the victim right into a catacomb-like area and kills them by entombing them behind a wall. And in each, the body was never found.
Roderick and Madeline Usher
Throughout the series, Roderick and Madeline’s story maps closely with Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Throughout the series, Roderick and Dupin hear sounds coming from the basement, which Roderick says is Madeline. We learn in the ultimate episode that Roderick poisons Madeline’s drink with cyanide and mummifies her in order that she will have a nice death and live eternally as “a Queen.”
This relies on Poe’s satirical story, “Some Words with a Mummy.” But Madeline isn’t fully dead. She marches upstairs, her eyes replaced with stones, and she or he strangles her brother to death. As this violence ensues, their house collapses upon them.