A woman (Carla Gugino) stands in above the crowd wearing black hat and trench coat in 'The Fall of the House of Usher.'

Carla Gugino Is Queen in Netflix’s ‘Fall of the House of Usher’

Quote the raven.

The Fall of the House of Usher, Mike Flanagan’s latest limited series with Netflix, has knocked it out of the park. As a fan of Flanagan’s previous series like Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Hill House, I expected to enjoy Usher, but this horror series is special. The Fall of the House of Usher is a mix of Edgar Allan Poe stories and a warning for greedy souls that they always get theirs in the end. The entire production team went above and beyond for Usher.

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Many of the actors in Usher have been in other Flanagan Netflix productions, and they all brought their A-game this time. And while everyone gave a fantastic performance, Carla Gugino really blew me away. Gugino, who got her start as a child actor, has starred in films like Watchmen, Spy Kids, and Gerald’s Game. She’s great in everything she does. Her role as Verna in Usher took her all over the map of emotions and situations. She played every scene flawlessly. Let’s take a minute to appreciate her performance and examine exactly who she played. For as many closeups as she had over the 8 episodes, I could have done with a few more (please read more poems to us).

Quote the raven: SPOILERS ahead for The Fall of the House of Usher!

Who is Verna?

The series finds a mysterious woman named Verna who begins haunting the obscenely wealthy Usher family. Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood), and his sister Madeline (Mary McDonnell), rose to fame and fortune with their pharmaceutical company, Fortunato. Most of Fortunato’s income comes from an opioid called Ligodone, which is like a fictional version of oxycodone. Both drugs were pushed as non-addictive pain relievers that ended up causing the opioid crisis. Although the Ushers sell a highly addictive drug to people (including children) under falsified data and have a company rife with corruption, they have never faced any consequences. Madeline, Roderick, and Roderick’s six children live in a world of overwhelming wealth and privilege.

Things are wonderful for the Ushers until Verna (Gugino) appears and takes them out one by one. Each Usher has a death tailor-made to their crimes, or lack thereof, from Verna. In the second episode, Verna invites herself to Perry’s exclusive warehouse party. She stuns in her lingerie and death mask while telling Perry (Sauriyan Sapkota) exactly how the night will play out. For Leo (Rahul Kohli), Verna manifests as an animal shelter employee. For Frederick (Henry Thomas), she’s a construction worker. Verna is like a one-woman vengeful version of the Village People. In one scene leading up to Camille’s (Kate Siegel) death, Verna goes from a security guard to a chimpanzee. It may sound bonkers, but I couldn’t look away from her monologue as a chimp who’s been experimented on in the name of greed … I mean science. Give this woman all the awards.

But who, or what, is Verna exactly? Throughout the series, we get clues about her until the final episodes where everything is laid on the table. On New Year’s Eve 1980, Madeline and Roderick meet Verna in a bar that exists outside of time and space. Verna asks about their dreams and what they would give to achieve ultimate riches. Since the siblings don’t seem to have limits, Verna offers them all the wealth they could want. The only catch is that the Usher bloodline dies with Roderick and Madeline. This means any children they have will meet early ends. They agree, arguing that at least they’ll live comfortably while they are alive. Forty-three years later, Verna comes to collect.

When Arthur Pym (Mark Hamill), the family lawyer, went on an expedition around the world, he came across a place in the Arctic. This place seemed to be a gateway to creatures living in the Earth’s hollow and existing outside of human reality. Verna, it seems, is one of those creatures. Lured out by the expedition’s terrible behavior, Verna visited the human world to make deals with questionable people. She visited people like the Ushers who stood at a crossroads.

Pym finds pictures of her with all kinds of questionable people in history. If they gave in to their cruel sides, she would let them live their dream for a while. Or they could say no thank you and choose the side of good. Verna says there is a different world where the Ushers struggled more financially, but weren’t corrupt to their cores. The mark associated with Verna throughout the series is Poe’s iconic raven. She may even turn into a raven. Also, if you rearrange the letters in “Verna,” you get “raven.” No matter if she’s Verna or Raven, Gugino owned this role.

(featured image: Netflix)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.