Horror is not a genre I frequent as much. But I heard some good stuff about this show — particularly from one of my favorite YouTube film critics, Chris Stuckmann — who claims this show is the main reason he has an Apple TV+ subscription. So, I thought I would check out Servant, a show written by seasoned television writer, Tony Basgallop and executive produced by the one and only M. Night Shyamalan. After four nights of binge-watching this show, here are my thoughts.
The show centers around a couple of recently bereaved parents who decide to hire a nanny to take care of their baby. The catch is that their baby is a reborn doll. The mother thinks the doll is real, and it’s been the only thing to keep her out of her catatonic state following her actual baby’s death. However, as events transpire, the father becomes more and more suspicious of the nanny taking care of the doll.
The performances in this show are absolutely fantastic. Lauren Ambrose is a standout, as she brings so much heart and depth to a very tragic character in Dorothy, the mother. Toby Kebbell is fantastic as Sean, the father. He plays a much more cynical yet intelligent character that really drives the story. We also get a surprise performance from Ron Weasley himself, Rupert Grint. He plays Dorothy’s brother Julian, who also manages to be Sean’s partner in finding more about Leanne, the nanny. Nell Tiger Free, who had a recurring role in Game of Thrones, masterfully brings so much mystery to Leanne. There are times when she seems so innocent, and yet there are times when she is the most harrowing force on screen. It is pretty obvious from the get-go that there is more to her character than even the writer wants to show you.
The writing is the indisputable star of this show. The setup of this show is surprisingly simple, as most of the story takes place in this one house in Philadelphia. The complexity comes from the script, as it keeps you guessing and gives you more questions about the characters to ponder on while also keeping you engaged with the story. Every time a question seems answered, at least one more pops up a second later. It takes its time with the characters, giving you enough to stay engaged but not too much to where you will lose interest. And, because of the intentional gaps in our knowledge as the audience, that keeps our hearts beating rapidly and our jaws open as the show goes on. Now, par for the course of a horror show, there are moments that are definitely disturbing. But there is nothing cheap about those moments. There are virtually no jump scares. In fact, a lot of them are slow buildups and are horrifyingly realistic, reminding you of how Hitchcock used to do it. Throughout the show, there are small hints of possible supernatural forces, but most of the scary moments come from what the characters do or experience. And, because of how the show is paced, you are constantly in shock by what you are seeing on screen. Part of you wants to take a breather, but the other part wants to keep watching.
The cinematography of this show is breathtaking, and honestly, it deserves every award out there. Mike Gioulakis and Jarin Blaschke frame every shot of this show perfectly, forcing you to catch on very small details that make a big difference in the plot of this show. The colors and the close-ups and the camera movements are masterfully executed.
The attention to detail also bleeds through Trevor Grueckis’s score. The music is disturbing and intricately composed with impeccable sound design.
With all the details in the filmmaking, Basgallop respects his audience enough to trust them to be smart and on their toes. This is something that I wish more writers and filmmakers would do. Most of them, usually by coaxing of studio executives, take the easy way out and craft stories that remind us too much of what has already been done and don’t really respect its audience’s intelligence all that much. It comes across as lazy, and it is seen as a quick cash grab that nobody will talk about afterward.
By contrast, Servant is a show that everyone should be talking about and should be remembered for its masterful storytelling. If you’re into horror, you will enjoy this show right up to the disturbing season finale that will simply give more questions that need answering in Season 2.
Servant is the best show I have seen on Apple TV+ so far.