The Haunting of Hill House impressed with its single-take episode, but "Two Storms" did make some subtle cuts in places to keep the story moving. The Netflix series dominated over Halloween 2018 and not only proved immensely popular with viewers, but also went on to top many TV critics' end-of-year lists. By far the most lauded and discussed episode was "Two Storms," which was conceived to play like one continuous take. As with much of the series, "Two Storms" flicks between the past and present, providing glimpses of the young, idealistic Crain family, freshly moved into Hill House, and their current, more troubled selves in the midst of a family breakdown at Nell's funeral, with both time periods experiencing foreboding thunderstorms.
"Two Storms" uses a mixture of camera trickery, clever scenery and hours of practice to move seamlessly between locations and time periods, with members of both the younger cast and the present cast flitting in and out of shot in perfect synchronicity. The episode is ambitious to say the least but the payoff is incredibly effective, as the long takes create a sense of the two timelines bleeding into each other, taking the viewer on an otherworldly and uninterrupted ride through the Crain family's lives, not dissimilar to Nell rapidly falling through her own timeline to become the Bent-Neck Lady. Naturally, the process of filming such long and complicated takes would've been fraught with potential problems, and subtle cuts are used to divide the lengthy sequences, all while maintaining the flow and rhythm of the camerawork.
The first cut doesn't occur for a staggering 23 minutes and 5 seconds, including the opening titles which run for approximately 1 minute, 20 seconds. This is a jump cut from a young Steve reassuring Luke, to an older Steve calling Luke's name at the funeral parlor. The sudden cut to Luke's misty-eyed stare gives the effect of waking up from a dream and this is by far the harshest cut in the entire episode. Another long take begins, before concluding with a second cut around the 40:25 mark. This edit is far less noticeable than the previous cut, occurring when an older Hugh chases Nell's ghost in the present and opens a door, with the scene's darkness used to meld into a shot of Hugh's younger self entering through a different door back in Hill House. The tight timing of this transition helps to maintain the feel of continuity, while actually providing a well-deserved break in filming.
The third cut can be found just before the 47-minute mark and is difficult to pin down due to the episode's use of shadow. In the past, Hugh finds Nell but since the thunderstorm cut Hill House's power and the supernatural is playing havoc with Hugh's lantern, the scene keeps delving into darkness. Once Nell is discovered, the light goes out again and the gloom is punctuated by the ignition of a lighter; the audience is back in the present. Although this cut is far more gradual than the others, it's just as smooth, allowing the light to carry viewers between timelines. A fourth cut occurs just shy of 53 minutes, and is similar to the second "door" edit in style. Here, Shirley has discovered her sister and husband fooling around and hurriedly walks away in disgust. As she turns in the corridor, her figure is replaced by that of her mother, moving the action back to Hill House.
From the moment Nell's coffin falls onto the ground and the storms outside begin to fade, "Two Storms" reverts back to a more regular editing style, with frequent cuts between characters' expressions, the two timelines and different areas of the parlor. This seems to symbolize an end of the night's paranormal activity, as well as the Crain family finding a moment of clarity, ceasing their internal bickering to pick Nell's body from the floor. The Haunting of Hill House is already confirmed for a second season, and although the story will revolve around the tale of Bly Manor this time around, it'll be fascinating to see whether Mike Flanagan attempts another groundbreaking and ambitious episode that tops his achievements in "Two Storms."