Late one stormy night, Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) invites an investigator named C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly) to his home. He offers to lay out the truth about his family’s criminal, violent history. Immediately, Poeheads should have a raised eyebrow as Dupin is a Poe character from works other than the one that gives this project a title, but Netflix and Flanagan’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” only uses the titular 1839 Poe story as the torso of the skeleton, attaching limbs based on other Poe works to it, including The Masque of the Red Death, Murder in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and many more. All of these nightmarish visions are attached to the family drama that Usher offers up for Dupin, giving the season a clever episodic structure in that each chapter intertwines a different Poe source into the overall saga of the Ushers.
It turns out that almost every branch of the Usher family tree has been cut by violent horror. How does Usher know all of these gory details? “I know because they told me,” says Usher. Dupin asks, “Before they died?” “No, not before,” he replies in one of the show’s many glimpses of Flanagan’s viciously dark sense of humor. (Poe had one too.) Roderick has been haunted by all his awful children who have shuffled off this mortal coil, and it’s because it feels like the ghosts are finally coming for him that he is ready to confess. He’s having visions of monstrous ghosts, including the recurring specter of Verna (Carla Gugino), a figure that connects most of these tall tales as a sort of vengeful force of karma, the devil come to take what she’s due from a man who profited off the pain of others.
Usher has been reimagined as the head of a massive pharmaceutical company he runs with his twin sister, Madeline (Mary McDonnell). Every episode includes flashbacks to a young Roderick (Zach Gilford), Madeline (Willa Fitzgerald), and Annabel Lee (Katie Parker), Roderick’s first wife. These fill in how the Ushers made their fortune, but they’re kind of a narrative drag. It’s important that Roderick and Madeline are cruel, selfish creatures—less so how they got that way. What’s more interesting is to watch how the fallout of their decisions fell on Roderick’s many children, all torn apart by some of Poe’s most memorable creations.
SOURCE : www.rogerebert.com