All things considered, the ending of the The Haunting of Hill House was a pretty happy one! Sure their dad died and sacrificed himself to forever haunt the hallways of that terrible mansion. And yes, their sister died in a horrible way, becoming the very spooky ghost that terrorized her life. And yeah, they all experienced a trauma that they’ll never recover from. But, in the end at least they escaped the Red Room!
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Or did they?
In an interview with the Wrap, actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who played the drug-addled Luke, points to a key detail at the end of the final episode that changes everything.
In the Crain family’s final confrontation with the house, all of the children are drawn to the Red Room, where they have a vision of their own lives. As Jackson-Cohen tells the Wrap:
There’s this thing that happens when we’re all in the Red Room. Every, uh — again, I feel like I have to be careful if I’m saying this right. (laughs) But whenever each child, each sibling, is in the Red Room, something in the fantasy is red. And it’ll be a very, very small thing. For Luke, when Luke gets taken to the hotel room, he’s worn Converse throughout the show, and all of a sudden his Converse are red. And it’s so slight you can barely even see it. And I think Steven is wearing a red jumper [in his fantasy.]
The show ends with Steve (Michiel Huisman), Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), Theo (Kate Siegel), and Luke escaping Hill House and going back to their lives. The final shot of the surviving family members shows them standing around Luke and a two-year sobriety cake.
“And so there’s something at the end — it was Kate [Siegel], who plays Theo, who kind of pointed it out to me — with Luke’s sobriety cake. Um, she went, ‘The cake is red.’ And on set I went, ‘Oh, my God!’ And she went, ‘I don’t know!’ And I asked Mike [Flanagan], and he went ‘I don’t know.’ And so I can’t tell whether or not I’m just crazy with this — or whether or not it’s something that could have legs.”
Now, that definitely seems like a more fitting ending to this show. It certainly explains why Luke would miraculously survive injecting himself with rat poison (he didn’t).