Mike Flanagan’s Netflix horror–drama show ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ delves into several motifs and themes of Edgar Allen Poe’s works through the lens of an elite, wealthy family. Roderick and Madeline, the Usher twins, build an empire for their family by grasping at every opportunity and luck that comes their way. However, decades into the Ushers and their Fortunato Pharma company’s morally dubious success, tragedy strikes the family when Roderick’s heirs start dropping dead one by one.
With the family under trial and public scrutiny and the menacing shadow of an ominous woman constantly accompanying them, the Ushers try to preserve their name and their personal reckoning. The story unfolds in multiple narratives occurring at different moments in time. Thus, it possesses an intrinsic air of intrigue, pitching mysteries and building on them until the end. Therefore, if you’d like to learn the truth behind The Usher’s past, present, and future, here is everything you need to know! SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Fall of the House of Usher Recap
On November 20, 2023, Roderick Usher, head of one of the most influential families in America, invited Attorney Dupin, the man leading the trial against his family and pharma company, Fortunato, to his weathered old childhood home. At the meeting, Roderick dives into his life story, promising to confess his crimes and divulge the truth behind his children’s deaths.
Roderick and his twin, Madeline, grew up with a religious mother, Eliza, with their father, William Longfellow, across the street. Since Eliza was Longfellow’s secretary and the Ushers were born of an affair, Longfellow, owner of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals, refused to acknowledge the kids’ relation to him. Eventually, Eliza contracted a deadly disease and died after taking Longfellow down with her. Due to his father’s neglect, Roderick vowed not to turn his children away despite the circumstances around their births.
As such, now the Usher empire stands with Roderick and Madeline at the top and Roderick’s six kids as the heirs. Beside them remains Arthur Gordon Pym, the family’s attorney and most loyal associate. Consequently, when Dupin takes the family to court, Pym serves as their lead enforcer. For the first court date, the entire family shows up when Dupin makes the claim that he has an inside informant from the family who will help him bring them down.
Although the Ushers don’t know it yet, Dupin has lied to sow seeds of doubt within their inner circle. Dupin’s plan takes effect, and Roderick, shaken by the idea of a traitor, puts a bounty on whichever Usher colluded with the government against their blood. For Roderick and Madeline, every Usher heir and their significant others are a suspect. Furthermore, some of the kids hold their own suspicions.
Nonetheless, a significant shift occurs when Prospero “Perry” Usher, the youngest of the lot, meets a gruesome end. Perry wants to prove his worth in the family and tries to make millions out of nothing by throwing a hedonistic orgy in an abandoned building. After a creepy encounter with an unnamed woman, Perry, and his guests die viciously after a mistake rains acid upon the entire room. Yet, Perry’s sister-in-law, Morelle, barely survives and is hospitalized at once.
Misfortune comes for Camille next. While looking into the informant, Camille suspects Victorine, who is developing a revolutionary medical device for various heart-related issues. When Camille tries to look into the shady details of Vic’s business, she enters her lab, where she is mauled to death by one of Vic’s test chimps. However, before her death, the strange woman from Perry’s party also visits Camille and imparts some cryptic final message.
The next two siblings, Leo and Vic, are driven to their deaths by strange circumstances revolving around their lives. Although these two siblings commit suicide, the details surrounding their deaths remain inexplicable. Moreover, the woman appears to be around every sibling before their deaths. By now, Roderick’s CADASIL disorder has started to affect his life through hallucinations of his dead kids.
Furthermore, although the twins try to deny it, they realize that the strange woman at every crime scene is Verna, a bartender they met on New Year’s Eve of 1979 when they were running from their actions, looking for an alibi. Ultimately, after the oldest Usher kids, Frederick and Tammy, meet their own demises, Madeline accepts the reality of the situation. Verna, the bartender from 1979, has returned for her payment.
The Fall of The House of Usher Ending: Who is Verna?
Verna’s curious presence in the Usher’s lives continues to be the biggest mystery haunting the narrative. With each sibling’s death, Verna’s interference in the matter increases, and she starts showing unnatural colors. As a result, everything changes when the revelation comes that the twins crossed paths with the woman once in 1979.
Since Verna looks as young as she did decades ago, Madeline tries to reason that the woman at her nephew’s and nieces’ deaths is actually Verna’s daughter. Perhaps Roderick’s pattern has landed him another heir, this one more psychotic than most. Over the years, Roderick and Madeline have built a sizeable estate, with the former’s kids set to inherit everything equally after the twins’ deaths.
Furthermore, Roderick allows each kid a startup loan for their ideas if he and Madeline deem the idea good enough. Therefore, Madeline believes Verna’s alleged daughter has come seeking her share and wants to take out all competition and inherit the entire fortune. Nevertheless, the truth becomes harder and harder to deny.
Madeline and Roderick were not born into their fortune. As illegitimate heirs to the Fortunato company, with a mother who killed the previous owner in her near-death psychosis, the twins were only ridiculed workers in the company. However, after an opportunity for something bigger knocked on their door in the form of a young Auguste Dupin, looking to sue Fortunato for their illegal practices, the Ushers took advantage of the situation.
Through a long con, Roderick tricked Dupin under Madeline’s instructions and earned the trust of the Fortunato owner, Rufus Griswold. Afterward, the twins led the man to death with the perfect stage set for Roderick’s ascension. However, the twins went to a bar to build an alibi on the night of Griswold’s death. There, they met Verna, with whom they drank well past the ball drop until the bar ran empty. In the after-hours, Verna, garnering the twins’ hungering ambitions, offers them a proposal. The twins can have unending power and luxury without any legal repercussions for their actions. In return, they would only need to barter away their future generations.
Thus, for a long lifetime of absolute control and wealth, Madeline and Roderick only have to agree that the day the twins die, so will their bloodline. For the Ushers, who grew up knowing their blood should’ve gotten them a seat at the table but didn’t, this offer is tempting and impossible to turn down. Even though the pair have secured a bright future in Fortunato, nothing is set in stone. As such, if Verna’s offer is real and will grant them a grandiose life free of consequences, they can give their kids and grandkids a short but luxurious life.
Deeming the same more valuable than a long life lived in poverty, Madeline and Roderick agree to Verna’s offer and sign their family’s future away. Nonetheless, after they leave the establishment, both presume the night’s events were a shared delusion since they can find no trace of Verna or the bar. However, when the siblings look for her in the present, Pym finds impossible photographic evidence of her throughout history.
From Bush and the Rockefellers to Zuckerberg, Pym finds photos of the strange woman peppered everywhere on the internet, dating back to 1901. Although no clear answer is given about her identity, we can assume Verna is a celestial being going as far back as civilizations, humanity, and even time.
Fans of Edgar Allen Poe will recognize the visual and thematic reference between The Raven from his eponymous poem and Verna’s character, down to the fact that the latter’s name is an anagram for the former. In the poem, the raven symbolizes unending grief over love’s loss. Likewise, Verna seems to be a harbinger of grief within the narrative. Still, her character surpasses this metaphor.
Verna enjoys watching humans selfishly gorge on their ambitions while actively putting the rest of humanity at harm. She seems to crave the knowledge of how far a person’s hubris is willing to take them. As a result, she has worked with numerous names throughout history and watched them destroy the world and its residents for their own benefit. She does the same with Roderick and Madeline Usher.
In his lifetime, Roderick brings numerous deaths for Verna, and when his life runs out by the same disorder that claimed his mother, Verna comes to reap her payment: The Usher bloodline. As such, she leads each Usher to their deaths, starting with Roderick’s kids, who all deserve their grisly deaths one way or another. Yet, when she comes for the youngest, Lenore, Roderick’s granddaughter, the only innocent one, Verna gives her a quick and painless death.
Ultimately, regardless of her undisclosed title, Verna remains a supernatural force closely related to themes of death and success. Consequently, she has an intrinsic connection with mortality and immortality. Therefore, before she claims Roderick and Madeline, she compels the former to meet with Dupin to disclose every secret to ensure his memory, now immortalized in human consciousness, holds some truth behind it.
Why Does Roderick Try To Kill Madeline?
When Roderick invites Dupin to his childhood house, he offers the attorney a way to bring the Ushers in with 73 charges and one admission of murder. Since he has spent his entire life running away from his actions’ repercussions, the sudden need to repent seems odd. The show enhances both sides of the coin as it unfolds, tracking Roderick’s past as well as his present. The farther back one looks, Roderick’s ambitions and cutthroat attitude come to light.
Roderick is a man who betrays his friend to climb the ladder, deceives the love of his life, and puts a bounty on his own flesh and blood. Even though Roderick does it all under Madeline’s influence, his eagerness to succeed becomes clear when he jumps at Verna’s offer in 1979, even though he’s the only one to lose something since he already has two kids at the time. Nevertheless, he gives their lives away like it is nothing for a chance of success.
Yet, after Verna’s return to Roderick’s life, the man realizes his own folly. Although his disorder, CADASIL, creates hallucinations, when he sees his kids’ dead bodies haunting him, it is due to Verna’s supernatural interference. He believes the Usher name has come to an end now, and he must submit to Verna’s desires. Every mistake he has ever made haunts him, and he blames himself for his children’s deaths since they died for his ambition and greed.
Therefore, Roderick tries to kill Madeline to put an end to the Usher bloodline like Verna wants. Earlier, when Madeline kills Roderick before Verna brings him back to life, the Usher twin does it to save her own skin. She thinks by killing Roderick, she has found a loophole that would rescue her from damnation. Nevertheless, the deal was for the twins to leave the world together.
In the end, Roderick brings Madeline to their childhood house’s basement, which he has filled with their priceless collection of items, preparing the perfect tomb for his twin. Roderick recognizes the genius within Madeline and wants to give her a queen’s death. Thus, after drugging her, he gouges her eyes replaced with precious stones and kills her. Nonetheless, Madeline doesn’t truly die.
While Roderick shares his story with Dupin, Madeline tries to escape the basement, periodically making thumping noises from below. Eventually, when Dupin learns about her demise, he realizes the woman may not actually be dead. Soon, Madeline escapes and attacks Roderick. As the twins struggle in a fight against each other, the Usher house falls to ruin.
As the thunder persists outside, the Usher house collapses, with Dupin escaping in the knick of time. The siblings meet their end buried under the same house where they had their beginning together.
What Happens To The Usher Inheritance?
Although the story holds a sad ending for its protagonists’ The Ushers, their departure greatly benefits the world, which poses as the former’s biggest enemy. In that regard, the show has a twisted ending, narratively depressing but reinvigorating in the grand scheme of things.
Ironically, the Usher inheritance goes to the one person who proves to be the least of the Ushers: Juno, Roderick’s second, much younger wife. Juno married into the name and never got respect from the rest of the family due to her past. Coming from a rough life, Juno was an addict who almost dies before she was saved by the Usher family’s milking cow, Ligodone, the painkiller.
Although the drug was massively addictive and led to thousands of deaths, Fortunato continued to defend its usage and marketing as a non-addictive pill. By the end, Juno was on a heavy dosage of the drug and presented as the star witness of Ligodone’s non-problematic existence. Therefore, she had three years of difficult and slow withdrawal process when she wanted to come off the drug.
After all the Ushers die, Juno inherits their money as the sole member of the family and puts it all into the Phoenix Program, an addiction recovery and rehabilitation Center. Similarly, Fredreick’s wife and Lenore’s mother, Morelle, donates her compensation money from the family to domestic violence charities. Furthermore, she opened a nonprofit in her daughter’s name, who saved her, which ended up saving countless lives. In the end, the Usher money goes into repairing the damages the family left on the world during their stay.