As Apple TV enters the arena of the Great Streaming War, its star-studded series such as The Morning Show, as well as its period drama Dickinson, have now been complimented by entirely different fanbase: the horror/thriller crowd.
With a huge name like M. Night Shyamlan attached (as executive producer and director of the first episode), Servant certainly has enough buzz to get noticed. But does the final product live up to the hype? Let’s take a closer look at the first three episodes of Servant!
Spoilers Ahead: You’ve Been Warned!!!
Weirdest Job Ever?
The series begins with Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) arriving at the home of Sean (Toby Kebbell) and Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose). She was hired to be a nanny to their newborn son Jericho. We the audience are shocked to find that Jericho is actually a doll (their real son passed away weeks earlier).
However Leanne doesn’t seem phased or troubled by this, and treats the doll like an actual baby. The true shock arrives when Leanne comes home with an actual human baby rather than the doll. Dorothy acts as it nothing has changed but Sean fears that the police will come knocking any moment since clearly this child was taken from someone.
This prompts him to send his brother-in-law Julian (Rupert Grint), along with a private investigator to dig into Leanne’s past to see if she is legitimate. Julian even goes to her hometown in Wisconsin with a private investigator, but their trip only yields more questions than answers.
All the while, she goes about in the house with an almost too innocent persona that just comes off as more of a creepy aloofness. But only Sean and Julian (along with the audience) seem to really feel it.
If you had watched any of the trailers or promotional material, they painted a dark and creepy series with a family struggling to discern the line between fantasy and reality as they “raised” a doll rather than a baby. The doll itself was featured primarily and therefore we could be forgiven for expecting that it would play a major role for the whole season.
However, in a seemingly crafty move, Servant gave us the old bait and switch and gave us a much more compelling dilemma with the abduction of an actual child and the mystery of where he came from.
We can sympathize with Sean, as he obviously wants to do what’s right and return this child, but he also doesn’t want to see his wife go to prison for kidnapping, or at least for aiding and abetting.
Making Use of Its Budget
Another area where Servant really shines is in its overall simplicity. Given that it’s an Apple TV original, we can assume it probably doesn’t have the biggest budget in the world.
This is also evidenced by the house being the primary location of most scenes, as well as the cast of only a few actors. However, all of these work to the series’ benefit.
The small ensemble of actors allows for more character growth and chemistry, in fact the whole series feels like a creepy play at times.
Plus, as M. Night Shyamalan demonstrated with The Sixth Sense, Split, and The Visit, filming on a small budget without many visual effects really helps the filmmaker focus more on keeping the story and dialogue as sharp and compelling as possible.
Nell Tiger Free does a great job of seeming like there’s always something just beneath the surface with her. While Lauren Ambrose is unyielding as an overambitious reporter whose own goals and forwardness can make whomever she’s talking to feel uncomfortable.
Overall, it’s strong casting, along with Toby Kebbells and Rupert Grint (who struggles to maintain his American accent, but does a decent job throughout.
Aside from Grint’s lackluster accent, as well as some signature Shyamalan awkwardness in the first episodes, there aren’t really any other major issues (thus far). Servant is off to a great start, and hopefully the tension only builds into something even more disturbing!