I watched the first two episodes of Apple TV+’s new show, Servant on a plane on Tuesday morning. By Thursday night I had finished the first season. Servant is a far better show than I was expecting, and in my opinion, is way more interesting, well produced, and more memorable than the completely average-at-best The Morning Show which is getting all the headlines.
M. Night Shyamalan’s name is all over the marketing for this show, and he was indeed involved, executive producing the series and directing two episodes, but this is Tony Basgallop’s baby (pun not intended) and he is the creator and gets the solo writing credit for every episode. The show definitely feel Shyamalan-esque in all the right ways, though, so I could see why Shyamalan was interested in making this show happen.
Servant is a very small show in many ways. There are few characters, and almost every scene takes place in a single family home in Philadelphia. It follows a husband and wife, played by Lauren Ambrose and Toby Kebbell, who lose their child at a very young age and get a baby doll as a physical coping mechanism to help the wife get over the loss. They both put in amazing performances that really made me feel the sorrow, pain, and helplessness that they were going through.
They hire a nanny to help them raise this doll, which is certainly weird, but the nanny, played by Nell Tiger Free, is inexplicably committed to embracing the “reality” of the doll. Rounding out the cast, Rupert Grint plays Lauren Ambrose’s brother, and I thought did a great job playing the concerned, and aggressively suspicious friend role.
I don’t want to get too into the plot because you should go in knowing as little as possible, but you can probably guess that things get complicated with this new nanny and the whole season has you wrestling with what is real and what exactly is going on. I found it compelling from start to finish, and the way it uses food to communicate things in the plot is really inspired.
it’s also worth jumping back to the Shyamalan involvement. He directed episodes 1 and 9, and you can really tell that those episodes are a little better than all the rest. I’ve always loved his directorial style, while the words coming out of characters’ mouth are often far less exciting, and I think he’s in fine form here, working off someone else’s script. Also, the 9th episode is truly devastating and I was really surprised to see the show go as far as it did. I can’t say more without spoilers, but I’ll say that the show set themselves up to have an episode that was either great or horribly embarrassing, and they completely nailed it.
Servant has been picked up for a second season, and I think it’s very well deserved. There is a lot of ways the rest of this story can be told, and I hope they continue this level of quality, but as it stands today, Servant is a tight 10 episodes of television that left me feeling creeped out, uncomfortable, and always glued to the screen.