Now I know that most of us might not have Apple+ as it really doesn’t boast a library anywhere near that of Netflix or Hulu and if you’re going to jump into a streaming service there has to be more than five shows available. Otherwise, what’s the point? And yes there are other shows on Apple+ besides The Morning Show which seems like the only show the streaming service is willing to heavily promote. Which is part of the reason why I want to point you in the direction of Servant.
Coming from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan, who has been in a bit of a resurgence ever since Split and I don’t care what critics say, I enjoyed Glass despite the ending being a bit disjointed and out of place. With that being said, just because Shyamalan’s name is attached to a property shouldn’t instantly scare you away plus it gives Apple+ more of the notoriety that it’s seeking to let their subscribers know that big names come to Apple. On top of that, the majority of the writing credit goes to Tony Basgallop who gets creator credit and is the series showrunner. Shyamalan directs a handful of episodes though including the series best “Jericho” which racks up the tension and gives some long-awaited answers. Each episode he directs gives those classic Shyamalan vibes that you remember from films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and even Signs. With the smaller scale of television, Shyamalan gets more in touch with what made him a household name.
Basgallop’s writing feeds into Shyamalan’s style and provides us a story that is anxiety building, tense, dark, and mysterious. I went into the show literally knowing nothing about the plot besides Shyamalan’s involvement and I want to say that that lead to a more enjoyable viewing experience. I literally had no idea what to expect and in some cases what I was watching. There’s a scene in the first episode, you’ll know it when you see it, that is horrifying… until it gets explained. By then it’s too late, the visual haunts you behind your eyelids. For a long time, my first thought with the show was the moment and each time I thought about it my stomach was left feeling wavy. Even thinking about it now leaves me uneasy.
As for the story itself, it involves a family, a terrible tragedy, and the hiring of an in house nanny. I know the details I’m giving are very vague but I feel the less you know the better the experience. For real. The show thrives off the atmosphere it creates and the tension between the characters and excels in creating something darkly mysterious and deeply emotional. Each episode leaves you wanting to know more and as the series progresses you find yourself maybe not wanting the answers. Sometimes the actual answer is more horrific then any theory and that’s where Servant lands its biggest gut punches. Hitting you with something so plausible that it makes you reassess how you viewed the majority of the characters.
Character is the strength of the show and there are some familiar faces abound. Nell Tiger Free not only has the best name in showbiz but plays the live in nanny. You’ll recognize her as Myrcella from Game of Thrones and her performance is haunting. There’s clearly more than meets the eye here but she plays Leanne both as a fish out of water and someone who is holding more answers than we know. You’ll recognize Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley himself) as he chews up the scenery every time he’s on-screen as the shifty, wine consuming, cigarette smoking, eff bomb dropping, older brother. Toby Kebbell plays the emotionally crushed/stinted husband dealing with tragedy and the shadow of what’s left of his wife. He’s both intense and deeply wounded and Kebbell gives a fantastic performance, but it’s Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) who steals the show as Dorthy Turner. Ambrose gives us a character who is defiant, is as fragile as cracked glass, and borderline insane. The performance here is layered and emotional and all comes together in “Jericho” as Ambrose is breathtaking. Her performance stays with you long after the episode concludes and that speaks not only to the power of the actor but the show’s ability to wrap you up in the central mystery.
Servant doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to television but not everything you watch should have that type of pressure. Instead, we get ten very engrossing episodes that suck you into this universe and have you begging for more. Luckily the series has already been picked up for season two and after the way it concludes you’ll be almost relieved with this knowledge. There are bigger mysteries afoot and a story that immerses you deeper and deeper with each episode. And with thirty plus minutes per episode, it makes for a quick but lasting binge and more than worthy of a little time in the spotlight.