I have always been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s work. From his early films, such as The Sixth Sense and Signs, he has established himself as a director of psychological thrillers that involve twist endings. In his more recent films, he has not done as well (we must forget there ever was The Last Airbender). I have stuck by him though, as I have always been a fan of his films. Even though some didn’t like films such as The Village, I really like the direction he takes his films. His use of color, his camera work, the way he sets up his scenes, really tells me that he tries his best to set us up for suspense.
Servant, is not one of Shyamalan’s first attempts at TV, but it is one where he serves as executive director, and he also directs a few episodes. Servant is currently an Apple TV+ exclusive. The TV series debuted in November 2019 in conjunction with the launch of the Apple TV+ service. So is this show that is backed by Apple worth it?
The answer: Yes, sort of, but I would not go out of your way to try to watch it.
The premise of the show is simple, a couple from Philadelphia, Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean (Toby Kebbell) lose their 13 week old child due to an accident. Since Dorothy experiences a psychological episode due to her grief, they get a reborn doll. Eventually they hire a nanny (Nell Tiger Free) to move in and take care of the reborn doll. As you can see this sounds creepy already, I mean, hiring a nanny to take care of a reborn doll?
The cast does an excellent job in this TV series. Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) has probably the best performance of any cast member in the TV series. You may remember Lauren Ambrose from the show Six Feet Under, where her role was Claire Fisher. She is able to portray a very creepy mother in this TV series, and at times I was probably the most scared of her having some kind of mental breakdown in the show over her dead child.
Equally creepy is the nanny Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), you may remember Nell Tiger Free as Myrcella Baratheon in Game of Thrones. In Servant, Nell Tiger Free also has a very creepy presence on screen, as there were multiple scenes where I was prepared for some kind of jump scare. Leanne takes care of the reborn doll for the family and acts as if nothing has happened, as if she is taking care of a real child. Her performance is astounding, I am hoping great things for this young actress, she will definitely go far in future projects in TV or film.
Rounding out the cast is Toby Kebbell (of Black Mirror fame) as Sean and Rupert Grint (of Harry Potter fame) as Julian. Their acting is great, although they are a bit overshadowed by Lauren Ambrose and Nell Tiger Free in creepiness factor.
Shyamalan does great work in setting up the scenes to be dark and creepy. The camera work is excellent in the show, and his use of sound and music to keep up the tension is equally excellent. With each episode, I was struck by the amount of eye candy I saw on screen, Shyamalan makes sure that his cast is dressed appropriately for each scene to make great use of the dark colors of the sets and add to that creepiness factor.
Shyamalan does great work in setting up the scenes to be dark and creepy.Wizzard on Servant: Season 1
So what was wrong with this whole show? The story. The writing really could have been improved. As I know Shyamalan does great work in keeping things creepy for a 2 hour movie. A 10 episode season seems to have overwhelmed him with enough material to keep us entertained. Sure the writing of the story is actually from Tony Basgallop, whom I am not familiar with but his credits do contain some big name shows that he has written some episodes for. Surely Apple and Shyamalan could have afforded an even better writer since they were able to put big name talent at the helm of this TV series.
The whole show was not a complete waste but the talent of Shyamalan and the talent of the entire cast in setting up each scene sometimes seemed to be wasted in the writing. There are certain plot points that I question if were ever needed, and at times it seems additional filler was added in order to make the 30 minute run time work for the episode. The only thing that saves this is the performance of the cast and the direction of Shyamalan, you can tell that Shyamalan tries his best in each episode to make us wanting to come back to watch the next one with some kind of plot twist toward the end of the episode. The end of Season 1 has me wondering what will ensue in Season 2. Sure, I will come back to watch Season 2, but I won’t go out of my way if my Apple TV+ subscription ends.
My recommendation: Watch it, but don’t go out of your way to watch it.