9. Episode 2: Open Casket
The Haunting of Hill House is a unique series in that it spends the first five episodes aggressively improving in quality. This is all by design, as each episode acts as another piece of the puzzle, filling the audience in on the background and history of each respective character. All of this meticulous build-up leads to some awe-inspiring pay-off, but it also means that upon first viewing some of the initial episodes may leave viewers a bit cold.
Open Casket is one such episode, as it explores Shirley's history with death. The flashback storyline of this episode is easily the strongest part, as a young Shirley discovers a box of sick kittens and attempts to nurse them back to health. Ultimately, they all die and it affects Shirley on a deep level. The moment of her believing that one of the kittens is still alive because she sees its mouth moving, only to discover that there's an insect crawling out of the kitten's mouth is both unnerving and emotionally affecting as Shirley realizes she can't fix everything.
The modern-day storyline mostly centers around Shirley going about her usual business, which can sometimes feel like a lost episode of Six Feet Under. Once Shirely learns of Nell's death and has the body brought to her house so she can do the embalming herself, the modern storyline really takes off, but it just makes one wish it had happened a bit sooner.