This was a mixed bag. The first part was maddening, as it almost entirely consisted of the typical horror trope of “character ignores clear red flags to leave.” I hadn’t been spoiled, but I sort of assumed pretty early on that Helen was Sam’s wife, just based of the episode titles (“The Father” vs. “The Mother”), and the fact that her actions made ZERO sense if something like that wasn’t the case (also, we already knew Sam has two girls). Even then, though, once she sensed that this place was WAY creepy, why wouldn’t she get her kids out of there and try again some other day alone? Why would she even bring them to begin with, if all she wanted was the money, and not to reunite them with their father? The ways she continued to put her kids at risk after like fifty clear signals that this place is dangerous could be the basis for a Child Services action for removal.
The other two parts were a bit stronger as the pieces came together, and Harris was great once the writing for her character stopped being so aggravating and focused more on emotion, but as Soolsma said, it was all pretty predictable. Jess’s character seems to radically shift just to service the plot and/or deliver twists, to the point where she isn’t really a definable character at all by the end of the show. Similarly, I can’t track Jason’s character motivations at all by this point. He went from violent asshole to sympathetic misunderstood grief-stricken parent in Summer (a character turn that I thought worked really well), but I don’t recognize him as the same character in Winter, and no explanation is given for him abruptly gutting Mr. Martin with an ax. Yes, I get genre tropes, and letting an audience fill in the blanks to some extent, but at a certain point, it just feels lazy when the writing doesn’t do ANY of the legwork in making a character’s actions believable. Even in Winter, she’s saying the baby was an accident, so it’s not like she had this nefarious slow-burn plan to get Sam’s baby in her from the get-go. I need some character development before you ramp up to her trying to stab a nine-year-old out of nowhere.
I did enjoy the way the depths of Sam’s guilt and insanity were slowly brought out over the course of the whole series. Summer was particularly effective once we realize that Sam is an unreliable narrator, but everything—or almost everything—that happens SEEMS to be real. Winter tied that up nicely with the reveal about (probably) fake Nathan. When Helen says Nathan disappeared ten years ago, I got chills, and you suddenly realize how truly unhinged Sam is. I did think that aspect was very well executed, as was Sam becoming a completely unglued murderous psycho.
Overall, a journey I’m glad I took, but much more memorable for the performances, setting and production aspects than the story.