Mike Flanagan took one look at Edgar Allan Poe’s body of work – a collection of verses and stories that obsess over death, loss, immortality, the afterlife, and the purposeless exercise of human existence – and thought, “That sounds like a hit Netflix show.” He was right.
Over the course of eight episodes, Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher plays out like a supernaturally-splattered Succession on steroids. Filled with allegories, Gothic symbolism, morally deviant characters, dark humor, grotesque deaths, and Carla Gugino whispering poetic monologues while donning every wig in the Netflix prop department, the show is a lush cautionary tale littered with Victorian-era prose and 21st-century problems.
Oh, and death. Bloody, agonizing, unimaginably cruel yet oddly satisfying, death. It’s that last bit we’re most interested in at the moment — the hows and whys of each Usher family member’s demise and what it means in the greater context of the show. So, being the callous observers of pop culture that we are, we’ve ranked those deaths — delighting in most, mourning a few, and loudly cheering for how our number one pick kicked the bucket.
11. Lenore Usher
Death By: Verna
When: Episode 8
Young Lenore was the best of the Usher clan, a teen who saw clearly her family’s faults and their capacity to change — if they so desired. She was Roderick’s favorite for a reason, which makes the inevitability of her death all the more tragic. By making his deal with Verna, Roderick doomed Lenore to die before she was even born. Thankfully, Verna took no pleasure in doling out her fate, giving her a glimpse of the future and some hope that her memory would live on in her mother’s philanthropic work.
10. Eliza Usher
Death By: Unspecified Illness
When: Episode 1
Some might blame Eliza Usher for traumatizing her children to such a degree that they chose to become mass-murdering monsters rather than live in poverty and obscurity as she forced them to. So, for some, the idea that she was buried alive by her children after suffering from a debilitating illness, only to claw her way from a soggy grave, prowling the neighborhood in the pouring rain in search of her married lover whose throat she then strangles feels like a reasonable comeuppance. Again, for some.
9. Madeline Usher
Death By: Cyanide and Treachery
When: Episode 8
Madeline Usher was a brilliant, shrewd businesswoman driven by greed, the pursuit of power, and her loyalty to her brother — which is why her death at the hands of the person she trusted most seemed so horrifying. With their bloodline erased and Verna knocking on their door, Roderick poisoned his sister’s drink with cyanide, mummifying her still-living body by replacing her eyes with jewels to mimic the entombing process of the Egyptian pharaohs whose obsession with immortality she shared. She eventually gets her revenge, but for a woman whose life work was creating an Artificial Intelligence algorithm that could keep her consciousness alive indefinitely, we can’t believe this is how she’d want to go out.
8. Roderick Usher
Death By: Deserved Strangulation
When: Episode 8
Unlike his sister, who was so jaded by their father’s abandonment and their mother’s submissive penance, Roderick Usher felt like he had the capacity to be good. He married, had children, and almost took down a pharmaceutical company killing people for profits. His choice to make a deal with the devil that granted him the riches and power he yearned for while passing the burden of payment onto his own children revealed a moral rot that managed to eat away at his family tree as the years went on. Still, betraying his sister felt like the final nail being hammered into his coffin so having Madeline murder him in the same way his mother murdered their father felt satisfying … and morbidly ironic.
7. Napolean Usher
Death By: Accidental Fall Orchestrated By A Black Cat
When: Episode 4
Napolean Usher was a hard-partying Lothario who used his family’s fortune to erect himself a gaming empire built on other people’s good ideas and large amounts of blow. He was a prick, sure, but we weren’t actively rooting for his demise until he slaughtered his boyfriend’s poor cat, bought a demonic replica, and then tried to play the victim when Verna wouldn’t take it back to the kill shelter. Wearing black satin to a funeral we can forgive, but tearing apart your apartment with a mock-up of Thor’s hammer so you can murder an innocent animal is just vile. Toppling over your penthouse’s dangerously designed balcony is probably a cleaner death than this guy deserved.
6. Victorine Usher
Death By: Suicide
When: Episode 5
Victorine Usher, like her siblings, was desperate for her father’s approval. So desperate in fact that she sacrificed her soul and her life’s work for the chance to impress Roderick with her heart mesh technology. Her intentions may have begun altruistically, but the pressure and impossible demands made upon her by a selfish, self-serving parent slowly drove her to madness. Well that, and the fact that she accidentally killed her wife, used her dead body as a human trial for her device, disassociated the whole thing, and then was plagued by an incessant ticking noise that no one seemed to hear save her. Eventually, she put herself out of her misery, carving out her own heart because her tests needed a healthy organ.
5. Rufus Griswold
Death By: Solid Masonry (And Cyanide)
When: Episode 8
Technically Rufus Griswold isn’t a member of the Usher family, but his death was so deliciously horrible, that we had to give it a shout-out here. Everyone on this list (save Lenore) probably deserved to meet a gruesome end, but Griswold’s, while not as painful as some, felt the most satisfying. After blackmailing the Usher siblings, turning Roderick into Fortunato’s patsy, and taking credit for Madeline’s schemes, the pair enact their revenge at a New Year’s Eve party. Drugged with a paralytic and poisoned with cyanide, Rufus wakes up chained to a wall in the basement of the company’s building with Madeline and Roderick burying him alive with brick and mortar. Before leaving him to die in the dark, Madeline places his jester’s mask back on his face which explains why Roderick often hears bells as he blankly stares at the wall when Verna comes to collect her debt.
4. Camille L’Espanaye
Death By: Vengeful Chimps
When: Episode 3
Curiosity didn’t just kill the cat, it also killed Camille L’Espanaye. The Usher family’s resident spin doctor was too good at her job, hounding her sister Victorine once she sniffed a whiff of deceit surrounding her medical trials. She came to the lab intent on getting proof of Victorine’s crimes so in that, she was successful. But, when you’ve been marked for death since birth and you don’t heed the warnings of a preternaturally wise security guard who looks like Carla Gugino, getting your face ripped off by an angry chimp your familial rival has been experimenting on is kind of your own fault.
3. Tamerlane Usher
Death By: Mirrors (And Insomnia)
When: Episode 6
Tamerlane Usher hopes that by building a wellness empire to rival that of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, she might finally separate herself from her name — and prove her worth to her disinterested, unfeeling father at the same time. Instead, her clout-chasing side hustle ends up costing her a marriage, a company, and her sanity. Technically, Tamerlane dies when dozens of glass shards impale her body after she breaks every mirror in her home to ward off Verna’s harassment but, would she have spiraled so quickly if she had just listened to her himbo husband and gotten some damn sleep? Who can say?
2. Prospero Usher
Death By: Radioactive Orgy
When: Episode 2
Poor Prospero Usher. A young, bisexual twink with more money than talent, more ambition than know-how, and a higher following count than IQ score. His revelatory idea to create a club franchise that caters to the rich and ready-to-behave-badly set is lost on his elders so, naturally, he picks an abandoned Fortunato lab to host a trial run. Unfortunately, despite Verna’s warnings, he goes ahead with the debauched revelry, signaling the start of the night’s climactic mass orgy by way of the building’s sprinkler system whose water source he neglected to check. Bodies were writhing and people were definitely screaming, just not in the way Prospero planned as acid rained down on his guests, leaving almost everyone charred beyond recognition. This is why we don’t leave the house.
1. Frederick Usher
Death By: Swinging Pendulum But Mainly, His Own Idiocy
When: Episode 7
A bumbling egomaniac with no spine and a taste for the nose candy, Frederick Usher was the last of his siblings to kick the bucket and his death was both nightmare-inducing and, honestly, well-deserved. After torturing his adulterous wife — an unresponsive burn victim — for a few episodes, Frederick enacts his ultimate revenge — injecting her with a paralytic so that he can slowly remove her teeth to keep in a tin box. High on committing the kind of crimes against humanity that the Geneva Convention was created for, Frederick takes his cocaine and his coddled-from-birth sense of entitlement to the warehouse where his brother died in order to see it finally torn down. But, while pissing on Prospero’s grave, he snorts the wrong drug, dropping like a drunk fly and laying prone, unable to shout for help as the building collapses around him and a pendulum of sharp debris slices its way through his innards. Unlike Taylor Swift, Karma is not Frederick’s boyfriend.