SERVANT Review – Apple TV Plus’ First Horror Offering is Unsettling and Intriguing
The Turner’s marriage has gone through some… complications. Their son, Jericho, died at thirteen weeks old, and Dorothy went through a psychotic break. The only thing that snapped her out of her near-comatose state is a Reborn doll, a lifelike baby doll that replaced her dead baby. Dorothy seems to have no clue, which forces her husband, Sean, to grieve their baby alone.
The pair hire a nanny, Leanne, to take care of Jericho. As soon as Dorothy leaves for work, Sean lays out the situation for Leanne and tells her that when Dorothy isn’t home, she is free to do as she wants. Leanne, a shy, god-fearing farm girl from Wisconsin, doesn’t seem troubled by the idea that she is looking after a toy, and treats the doll as if he were a live baby, even when Dorothy isn’t home.
But after only twenty-four hours in the Turner home, Jericho becomes a real live boy. Dorothy and Leanne act as if nothing has happened, but Sean is beside himself with concern. Who is this baby? Where did it come from? And who is this mysterious nanny who had no compunction about caring for a toy?
The story is intriguing, if not a bit predictable. It is pretty obvious that this wasn’t a snatched child, and that there is something supernatural going on. I have to assume this isn’t just straight-up witchcraft or Satanism, and this mystery keeps me coming back.
The show itself isn’t really scary. There are no jump-scares; no monsters; no violence (although there is a scene in episode three with an eel which is rather upsetting). More than scary, Servant is disturbing. There is the weirdly almost-human doll that we are first introduced to that makes you feel like you are staring into the Uncanny Valley. Then there is the moody music and frequent rainstorms, and the entire show (well, the three episodes I watched) are set within the Turners’ Philadelphia home, which lends a claustrophobia to the show.
Lauren Ambrose’s Dorothy is unsettlingly chipper – until you understand her mental state. Then it feels perfectly in-line with her character. Toby Kebbell’s Sean is surprisingly patient with his wife. Rupert Grint as Julian, Dorothy’s brother, seems a little imbalanced, but as one of only two people who knew about Jericho’s passing, he is a great confidant to Sean. And Nell Tiger Free’s portrayal of Leanne is unnerving as you try to figure out what she is up to. Is she a fairy godmother of sorts, making Dorothy’s dreams come true? What is her ulterior motive?
Servant begins streaming on Apple TV Plus on November 28th.
An unsettling, intriguing Gothic drama that keeps you wanting more.