Servant, one of a handful of original series from the new Apple TV+ streaming service, makes its premiere on Thanksgiving Day. Executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, the psychological horror series hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves, as it gets lost among other Apple TV+ originals stealing the spotlight like The Morning Show, See, and Dickinson. But if you’re eyeing Apple TV+, it’s worth your time.
The series, which has already been picked up for a second season, is like Black Mirror meets American Horror Story meets, well, any twisted horror film from Shyamalan – it has his signature style written all over it.
(Note: Some mild spoilers ahead)
You first meet Dorothy and Sean Turner, a married couple who hire a nanny to care for their newborn child. As expected, however, there’s more than meets the eye here.
Toby Kebbell, who fans will recognize from the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History Of You,” plays Sean, a respected private chef and molecular gastronomist who loves to experiment with exotic dishes (sometimes to puzzling and vomit-inducing levels). He alsohas a wine collection and cellar that will make you want to throw your sad excuse for a wine rack out the window.
Lauren Ambrose (The X-Files) is Dorothy, a bright and bubbly local news personality who is clearly hiding sadness beneath the wide-eyed smile that seems to be permanently plastered on her face. Nell Tiger Free, who you might recognize as Game of Thrones’ Myrcella, plays Leanne, the mysterious young woman who answers a nanny ad. Her deadpan demeanor and unclear background make Sean suspicious of her from the get-go. And Rupert Grint (the Harry Potter series) is Dorothy’s scene-stealing, smug brother who proves to be one of Sean’s closest confidants.
The twists and turns will have you reeling as you try to guess what is truly going on. By combining religious, sci-fi, and disturbing elements, the series keeps you continuously guessing. You might be sympathizing with a character one minute and loathing them the next, then curious about their motivations, all in a single episode. How could they live like this? What is Leanne hiding? And why do these really strange things keep happening?
Dorothy and Leanne strike up a strange bond that sees them come together in a strange, unsettling supposed delusion. Yet each seems to secretly resent the other despite acting like two women who desperately want to be friends. The fact that the majority of the series takes place in the Turner home (thankfully, it’s a rich and opulent one) makes it drab and mundane at times. But that’s the point.
One episode is all it takes to make you realize that Servant is more than just your typical horror, including some jarring moments that will leave your mouth agape. Beyond the horror elements, it addresses trauma, loss, and one’s ability (or inability) to process it, presenting a thought-provoking undertone that complements the psychological roller coaster you’re taken on through each episode.
The story won’t be for everyone, and the fact that it stretches across five-plus hours makes you wonder if it could have been better as a movie — and with a second season already brewing, it will be difficult to maintain the drama, mystery, and nail-biting tension of the first season. Like American Horror Story and Black Mirror, Servant might have been a better concept as an anthology series instead.
Still, even if you’re not in love with it, you may find it difficult to stop watching just to see what happens next (darn those cliffhanger endings!). As such, it’s a shame Apple didn’t release the entire 10 episodes at once because Servant is very bingeable, especially since episodes can be consumed quickly, with most running about 30 minutes. In fact, if you’re not one for staying in suspense, you might want to wait until all episodes are available and binge it all at once.
The good news is, following the debut of the first three episodes on Thanksgiving, the remaining seven will be released weekly. While it’s no Black Mirror, Servant is a compelling series for those who gravitate toward mind-bending psychological games, puzzling occurrences, and stories that let you know “things aren’t always what they seem.”
If you’re looking for something a little different this holiday weekend, once the pies are gestating and the kids have gone to bed, M. Night’s latest thriller is certainly worth a look.
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