Servant Review: Creepy, But Missing M. Night Shyamalan's Signature AHA Moment

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M. Night Shyamalan brings a creepy offering to Apple TV+ with Servant.

Starring Lauren Ambrose, Toby Kebbell, Rupert Grint, and Nell Tiger Free, the story focuses on a grieving couple after one of the most traumatic events you could imagine.

If it were up to me, you'd never know the nature of that tragedy before watching because the reveal loses its impact when a trailer gives away too much.

Servant Poster Tall

You know that Shyamalan works with jarring reveals in his work. The Sixth Sense and The Village are good examples of it. But if you had taken away the GOTCHA moments, you're left with The Happening. Other than for a laugh, does anybody want to be left with The Happening?

So, yes, the official Servant trailer discloses so much that it's difficult to recommend the series. Mark Wahlberg isn't going to drop a whiny monologue about bees, but your jaw isn't going to drop, either.

Still, I'm going to recommend Servant because the overall production culminates in a fairly disturbing experience, and although I wasn't pleased with the end of the first season there is plenty to get us started for the already-renewed series.

Lauren Ambrose on Servant

Dorothy and Sean Turner seem to have it all. Dorothy is a news reporter with a dedicated following, and Sean is a celebrated chef with a discerning palate that earns him accolades.

They have a stunning row home in Manhattan, and their marriage is rock solid.

But Dorothy is suffering after the loss of their child, and it's only after Sean introduces a life-like infant back into their home that Dorothy begins to see the light in life again.

It doesn't take a licensed psychologist to see that the road they're taking is quite dangerous, but Sean's guilt at the situation that unfolded on his watch is almost as encompassing as Dorothy's grief.

Toby Kebbell on Servant

Sean wants to find a sense of normalcy again, so he does something so outside of the norm that it almost makes things right.

While he may have taken things a step too far by caving to Dorothy's need for extra help to care for the baby, finding the right nanny who can accept the situation for what it is and help guide Dorothy back to life again seems like a step in the right direction.

Well, you'll never know unless you try, right?

The nanny that gets invited into the Turner's lives is Leanne Grayson (Free), a simple, solitary girl who seems far afield from modernity.

Nell Tiger Free on Servant

But while another nanny might find the particular circumstances afoot at the Turner home, Leanne hardly seems affected at all. Instead, she embraces the absurdity of it and appears to care deeply for Dorothy, at least on the surface.

Dorothy's brother, Julian (Grint) suggests to Sean that taking their already awkward situation to another level by inviting a stranger into their home could have disastrous consequences.

Like any normal person, he can't help but wonder if Leanne's on the up and up. After all, wouldn't anyone else see a red flag on the play of humoring someone suffering as much as Dorothy?

Shocked at Jericho

Once the pieces are lined up, Servant follows the everyday lives of the Turners and Leanne and baby Jericho, such that he is.

Adding to the sense of the macabre is the claustrophobic townhome in which almost all of the action takes place. It's a dark home despite the love inside of it.

Dorothy's work is seen mostly on television as various people watch her broadcasts and she frequently revisits her work with a series of DVDs she keeps in the house.

Sean's career requires him to create a lot of culinary concoctions at home, and it's not pretty.

The Culinary Expert

Any pleasantries around cooking come at Dorothy's hands. She's normally responsible for taking care of the family and her meals evoke home and hearth.

Sean's work, on the other hand, evokes strong, unpleasant scents and textures as he uses ingredients meant to impress including rabbit, eel, monkfish, and crickets.

Cooking in entertainment can leave you craving a new or favorite dish, but not on Servant. It seems like the equivalent of curdled milk and rancid meat. It looks like it should be fine, but something about it is just off.

But what I really appreciate is that the series doesn't take a tact that appears in entertainment far too often.

Cradling Jericho

Maybe it's only because Leanne is so different, but any interactions between Sean and Leanne, even during intimate moments, don't feel sexually relevant.

Since so many shows take the young woman living within a home to mean she must titillate the husband luring him away from his wife, it's a relief that Servant feels that energy is better served elsewhere.

Servant takes its time unspooling its central mystery, and even if the path seems well-traveled, a few surprises are waiting.

It can feel a little bit slow at times, but the promise of a second season helps temper any disappointment with the pacing because the final episodes of Servant Season 1 offer many possibilities for what lies ahead.

Do you think Servant sounds interesting enough to wade in and give it a try?

Servant premieres on Apple TV+ on Thursday, November 28.

Review

Editor Rating: 3.25 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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