Plot: Following its suspenseful season one finale, the second season of Servant takes a supernatural turn. As Leanne returns to the brownstone and her true nature is revealed, a darker future for all lies ahead.
Review: When Servant debuted on AppleTV+ back in 2019, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. As a fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s early work, I had been burned with the rest of you by many of his mid-career projects. But, Servant was different. With scripting duties shared with creator Tony Basgallop and several other directors, Shyamalan’s role as producer and editor allowed him to shape a vision for the series. That vision was one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I have ever had and I mean that in the best way possible. With the second season, Shyamalan and his crew have shifted from a thriller into a fully supernatural tale that will still leave you questioning what the hell is going on as you descend into the madness of this tale.
Picking up immediately after the first season finale, Sean and Dorothy Turner (Toby Kebbell and Lauren Ambrose) are searching for their nanny Leanne Grayson (Nell Tiger Free). Dorothy still believes that her dead infant son Jericho is alive and that Leanne absconded with him. Sean and Dorothy’s brother Julian (Rupert Grint) wrestle with finding Leanne while dancing around the fragile psyche of Dorothy. As they search, things begin to shift in the Turner household as everyone loses their grip on reality. Without giving anything away, whatever we may have thought was happening in season one is far more otherworldly. Having seen the first seven episodes of the 10-episode second season, I can say that whatever theories you may have had about this story are going to have to be revised by the time you finish this run.
The cast continues to be one of the best ensembles on television. Toby Kebbell’s Sean was previously our gateway into this story but as his beliefs of what is going on begin to shift, so does our confidence in his reliability. Rupert Grint steals every scene he is in with a slightly manic performance drowned in alcohol. Lauren Ambrose’s Dorothy becomes a far more frightening character this season as she moves away from playing the traumatized victim to a more unhinged perspective. I desperately want to share some of the craziest moments from this season of Servant, but you just have to see it for yourself. We also see Leanne as far less than the naive wallflower she seemed to be from the start to a literal force to be reckoned with.
Using a similar format to the first season, we are given glimpses of flashbacks to Dorothy’s pregnancy that hint at how traumatic the loss of Jericho was to the couple while also learning a bit more about the kind of people that she and Sean truly are. Without giving away much about the story, what Leanne can do, and how the infant doll somehow came to life are partially answered. This also opens the door for more questions which will leave you scratching your head about what is going on in the Turner home. Shyamalan and Basgallop continue to keep the tension ratcheted up to an uncomfortable degree while the physical manifestations in the series begin to make themselves apparent. While Shyalaman does direct a vital episode this season, the filmmaker brought in more talented people to helm chapters of this season including his own daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan, who also scripted two episodes. Shyamalan served also as editor and helped with the score which is why he deservedly has his name atop the title.
What worked so well with the first season of Servant was the blend of paranoia reminiscent of films like The Tenant, Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, and Hereditary. Season two begins to echo more supernatural fare like Carrie and Shyamalan’s own The Sixth Sense as well as classic thrillers like Mommy Dearest and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? There are also similarities to Bryan Fuller’s luxurious approach to NBC series Hannibal that make the grotesque seem beautiful, something this series does quite well. Yes, the consistent use of iPhones and Apple products are a bit on the nose, but forcing the viewer into experiencing this story in one location and at the mercy of where the characters go amplifies the more horrific elements we see on screen.
Servant is a deeply unsettling series. But, it is also oddly beautiful, especially in how it lingers on the preparation and presentation of meals. Food and wine are as central to this story as the Turner’s home, a location that shows more layers this season than we saw in the previous one. With Shyamalan stating that Servant will likely run for a total of four seasons, there is clearly an endgame in mind for where this story is going. Even in this second season, it is starting to become difficult to believe some of the decisions these characters make but it all seems to be in service of where Tony Basgallop and M Night Shyamalan are planning to take us. I for one am prepared to continue on this ride to see just how crazy things are going to get.
The second season of Servant premieres on January 17th on AppleTV+.