The Fall of the House of Usher throws so many gruesome deaths and Edgar Allan Poe references at you that by the time you reach the final episode, you may have forgotten the show’s very first moments. Yet it’s in these moments that the series lays out its final twist, plain as day.
One of the biggest questions throughout The Fall of the House of Usher is how Madeline and Roderick Usher (Mary McDonnell and Bruce Greenwood) gained control of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals. Between the show’s past timeline and Roderick’s present-day confession to attorney C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly), we know that the Usher siblings got rid of CEO Rufus Griswold (Michael Trucco) in some way or another…we just don’t know all the unsavory details yet.
These details come to light in The Fall of the House of Usher‘s final episode, “The Raven.” On New Year’s Eve in 1979, young Madeline and Roderick (Willa Fitzgerald and Zach Gilford) kill Rufus by poisoning him with drugged Amontillado and walling him up inside the basement of the Fortunato Pharmaceuticals. This murder method comes directly from one of Poe’s most famed short stories, “The Cask of Amontillado.” In it, narrator Montresor lures his rival Fortunato to his wine cellars to show him a cask of Amontillado wine. As Madeline and Roderick do with Rufus, he then chains Fortunato up and walls him in, never to be discovered.
There are several hints at Madeline and Roderick’s plan throughout The Fall of the House of Usher. Most obvious is the name of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals — one of many Poe name references throughout The Fall of the House of Usher. Roderick also returns quite often to the wall he and Madeline built, where he hears the bells of Rufus’s New Year’s Eve jester costume. (In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Fortunato is also dressed as a fool to celebrate Carnival.) More subtly, when the Ushers first meet mysterious bar owner Verna (Carla Gugino) on New Year’s Eve, she notices the remnants of mortar on their fingers from their murderous handiwork.
But before we see any of that, before we even know who the Ushers are, The Fall of the House of Usher opens with the most telling needle drop of all time: Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” Just a few words of the classic tune are all the show needs to warn us that this whole story hinges on a wall built brick by brick by the Usher siblings. And Flanagan will drop clues for deaths at the start of each episode to come.
If you’re a “Cask of Amontillado” devotee, you may have caught the musical nod to the story right off the bat. But even if you missed that first hint, The Fall of the House of Usher hammers that reference home by playing a snippet of “Another Brick in the Wall” in the finale, right after Madeline and Roderick seal Rufus away. The repeated needle drop is an effective full-circle moment, one that’s in keeping with The Fall of the House of Usher‘s darkly funny nature. It’s also one of the many extra details The Fall of the House of Usher rewards you with on rewatch.
So, keep your ears open and your eyes peeled — you never quite know what tricks creator and director Mike Flanagan is going to throw at you next.
How to watch: The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming on Netflix.