Based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, the series centers on the Crain family and Hill House, the home where they lived for one summer as children and the very place that upturned their lives. While the series was filled with hidden ghosts, enough scares to cause people to faint, and deep and riveting family dynamic, one last-minute change to the story by director Mike Flanagan completely changed the tone of the final scene.
"We toyed with the idea for a little while that over that [ending] monologue, over the image of the family together, we would put the Red Room window in the background," Flanagan told The Hollywood Reporter. "For a while, that was the plan. Maybe they never really got out of that room."
However, the horror director had a last minute change of mind and change of heart, switching gears and the ending completely to give season one's finale an entirely different tone.
"The night before it came time to shoot it, I sat up in bed, and I felt guilty about it. I felt like it was cruel. That surprised me. I'd come to love the characters so much that I wanted them to be happy," Flanagan revealed. "I came into work and said, 'I don't want to put the window up. I think it's mean and unfair.' Once that gear had kicked in, I wanted to lean as far in that direction as possible. We've been on this journey for 10 hours; a few minutes of hope was important to me."
While Flanagan ultimately decided not to allude to the remaining Crain siblings still being trapped in the Red Room, instead offering them a much happier ending via the route of a flash forward, there is still the possibility that their happy ending could come crumbling down should the series be renewed for a second season.
Flangan also revealed that Hill House is "still haunted," leaving open the possibility that Steven, Shirley, Theo, and Luke never truly got out of the Red Room, or that they will one day return to Hill House. After all, Steve has now inherited the responsibilities of the home following his father's sacrifice.