Skip to main content

The Fall of the House of Usher’s ending, explained

Bruce Greenwood sits in a chair in The Fall of the House of Usher.
Eike Schroter / Netflix

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Fall of the House of Usher (2023).

The first episode of Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher sets up a few mysteries that the series doesn’t solve until its eighth and final installment. The first is, of course, why Verna (Carla Gugino) even chose to orchestrate the deaths of all of the Usher children. It’s also unclear initially why Lenore (Kyliegh Curran) is constantly texting her grandfather, Roderick (Bruce Greenwood), during his conversation with C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly). Lastly, there’s the nature of the mysterious “confession” that Roderick has promised Dupin. After all, what could a man so blatantly unscrupulous possibly have to confess?

How The Fall of the House of Usher sets up its big finale

The Fall of the House of Usher’s finale, fortunately, answers all of these questions. Early on, the episode flashes back in time to finally reveal what happened the night that Roderick and his sister, Madeline (played in her youth by Willa Fitzgerald), first crossed paths with Verna. As anyone who has read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado may have guessed, it’s revealed that the two used Fortunato Pharmaceuticals’ 1980 New Year’s Eve party as a way to lure Roderick’s boss, Rufus Griswold (Michael Trucco), into the company’s basement. The two then drugged Rufus and sealed him alive behind a brick wall in order to complete their takeover of Fortunato. (The twinkling Roderick has heard throughout the series and the jester that’s haunted him are both callbacks to the costume Rufus was wearing the night he was killed.)

In order to cover up their crime, Roderick and Madeline went to the closest bar they could find: Verna’s. Once there, she offered them a deal: She’d ensure their unlimited success if they agreed to defer their “payment” for her supernatural protection to the next generation of Ushers. Without much hesitation, Roderick and Madeline agreed. The deaths of his children are, in other words, the outcome of a deal that he himself willingly made decades prior because he believed they’d be better off living short lives of luxury than ever knowing what it’s like to struggle financially. That same New Year’s Eve night, Verna promised that Roderick’s children wouldn’t die until his own time came, which is why it was his own fatal diagnosis that commenced the start of his kids’ deaths.

Carla Gugino stands behind a bar in The Fall of the House of Usher.
Eike Schroter / Netflix

In its opening third, The Fall of the House of Usher episode 8 additionally reveals that not only was it Roderick’s selfishness that broke up his marriage to Annabel Lee (Katie Parker), but that he later used his wealth to lure their kids away from her. It’s implied that she killed herself after losing the love and attention of her children — the very same ones Roderick had already condemned to die by that point. His adult children aren’t the only people that Verna has to kill as part of her deal with Roderick and Madeline, either.

In one of The Fall of the House of Usher’s most moving scenes, Verna pays a visit to Lenore, tells her about the positive impact her life will ultimately have on the world, expresses her sincere regret over the nature of their conversation, and then painlessly kills her. It’s not, therefore, Lenore that has been texting Roderick throughout the Netflix series, but the AI bot version of her that she’d innocently begun to develop with her aunt, Mary McDonnell’s older Madeline.

The deaths mount and the mystery deepens

Following Lenore’s death, Verna begins to torment Roderick with visions of her body, all while revealing her true form as a shapeshifting Raven (Verna is an anagram for “Raven”). She shows him the staggering number of people that his and Fortunato Pharmaceuticals’ drugs have killed and orders him to confess his crimes to Auguste Dupin. Before he does, however, he reveals one more surprising secret: Prior to Auguste’s arrival at their meeting, Roderick reunited with Madeline and poisoned her in order to ensure that their debt with Verna would be fully settled by the end of the night.

Carl Lumbly stands in front of an old, decaying house in The Fall of the House of Usher.

Roderick then cut out Madeline’s eyes and replaced them with sapphires in order to send her into the afterlife like the Egyptian queens of old. Unfortunately, just like the Usher siblings failed to do with their mother years prior, Roderick didn’t double-check to make sure that Madeline was truly dead before he locked her in her own sarcophagus. As a result, the creaking and pounding that Auguste previously heard coming from the basement was, it turns out, the efforts of a still-alive Madeline trying to break free.

And break free she does. Roderick’s sister comes stumbling up the stairs, blue sapphires where her eyes used to be, and promptly strangles him to death while their childhood home collapses on top of them. The moment brings the Usher family’s story full circle — ending with a reflection of the moment when Roderick and Madeline watched their barely-living mother strangle their uncaring father to death in front of their eyes.

How does The Fall of the House of Usher end?

Carl Lumbly’s Auguste, thankfully, manages to make it out of the Usher household alive. Before Roderick dies, he finally gives Auguste the confession he’d promised him hours earlier, too. In the moments before Madeline’s escape, Roderick tells Auguste that deep down he knew the deal he and Madeline had made with Verna was real. “I knew I would climb to the top of the tower on a pile of corpses,” he says. “We told them it was about soothing the world’s pain. That’s the biggest lie we told. You can’t eliminate pain.”

“There’s no such thing as a painkiller. Imagine if we’d put that on the bottle?” Roderick muses. “I bet I still could have sold it.”

The Fall of the House of Usher | Official Trailer | Netflix

In its closing moments, the Fall of the House of Usher finale reveals that Roderick’s wife, Juno (Ruth Codd), inherited everything after his death, dissolved Fortunato Pharmaceuticals, and transformed it into a drug rehabilitation foundation. Verna, meanwhile, takes a moment to pay a final visit to the Usher family’s graves, placing symbolic items atop each tombstone (ex. A phone for Camille, a whiskey glass for Roderick). It’s a darkly funny conclusion and one that further drives home The Fall of the House of Usher’s core themes.

When they were alive, the Ushers (Lenore excluded) saw life as a series of deals to be made. Roderick and Madeline, in particular, were fine with dooming the next generation if it meant immediate luxury for them. In the end, though, all the Ushers’ greed leaves them with is death and a few things. It’s hard to imagine a fate worse than that.

The Fall of the House of Usher is streaming now on Netflix.

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Welch
Alex Welch is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
3 Edgar Allan Poe horror movies to watch after Netflix’s Fall of the House of Usher
A man in red with a red face in The Masque of the Red Death.

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the creepiest, darkest authors in history, and in some ways, he invented the genre we now know as horror. In spite of his enormous influence, though, there have been fewer Poe adaptations than you might think.

With the arrival of Mike Flannagan's The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix, we're getting one of the splashiest adaptations of a Poe work we've ever seen. Even so, this new series isn't the first time that Poe has been adapted. Here are three of the best movies based on the horror author's legendary work.
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
The Masque of the Red Death - Vincent Price (1964) - Official Trailer

Read more
Only Murders in the Building season 3 ending, explained
Meryl Streep wide eyed and shocked in a scene from Only Murders in the Building season 3.

Each season, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building brings an exciting new whodunit murder mystery complete with a new set of potential killers. Every season also adds impressive cast members, and for season three, that includes Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep in pivotal roles. As usual, the episodes follow Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short), and Charles (Steve Martin) as they run their own investigation to uncover the truth, creating podcast episodes to chronicle each discovery and theory.

The story in season 3 picks up where season 2 ended, with Rudd’s character Ben dying on stage in front of a crowd during the opening night of Oliver’s play. Mabel, looking on from the audience, has that “oh no, not again” face. But how does it all play out?
Everyone is a suspect

Read more
The Creator’s ending, explained
John David Washington stands by a bridge in The Creator.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Creator (2023).

Early in The Creator, its hero, Joshua (John David Washington), is assigned by his military superiors to track down and kill the mysterious figure known as “Nimata,” the creator of a new AI weapon that's supposedly capable of ending the war between the anti-AI U.S. and the robotic and human civilians of New Asia. It’s during this mission that Joshua crosses paths with the weapon in question, an AI child named Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), who has the power to remotely shut down any technological devices in close proximity to her.

Read more