M. Night Shyamalan’s executive produced series SERVENT delivers a second season of mystery and thrills on Apple+ beginning January 15th. The problem is; if you weren’t into the first season, you may not love the second. As beautifully produced as the series is, season 2 seems to offer no reveal, no release. Instead, we only get further layers of mystery and intrigue that make little to no sense.
Season one sets up the story of Philadelphia TV reporter Dorothy Turner (Lauren Ambrose) and her celebrity chef husband Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell) who hire a nanny to take care of their “son”. Yes, “son”. You see the well-to-do couple suffered the tragic death of their newborn and as a means to ease maternal shock have utilized a prosthetic. A doll to be exact. That is until Dorothy snaps out of it. Thing is that when mousey nanny Leanne Grayson (Nell Tiger Free) appears on their doorstep in a middle upper-class Philly neighborhood, a real baby suddenly arrives in the place of the doll. While the mourning mother and the nanny act as if things are normal, Sean and his brother in law, Dorothy’s brother Julian Pearce (Rupert Grint), are aghast at the developments. With me so far? Cool.
Season 1 left us with no real answer as to where the actual infant came from or where the nanny suddenly disappeared to. Season 2 picks up right where the prior left off, developing the theory that Dorothy might not be totally nuts, and that her husband Sean, and her brother Julian, might know more than they let on. Even in the delicately worded scenes in confidence between the two men, we get no answers, only more questions. While Dorothy, the quintessential reporter uses every tool at her disposal to locate Leanne, and hopefully her infant, or what was supposed to be her infant, her husband and brother plot another path. Meanwhile, a plot is hatched to trap Leanne and force her to divulge what she knows.
Let’s start off with the good. I cannot tell you how much I hated Dorothy. Ambrose’s work on this character is remarkable in that she makes us hate her yet sympathize with her. She is at once icy and in need. This is a rare treat. Next Free’s monotone portrayal of Leanne rides the line of innocence and omnipotence. That’s not to mention the fine work by Grint post-potter as a selfish opportune. He is a solid actor with a presence. He needs more work and now. Then there is poor Kebbell. Everything he gives is golden but really, what is it?
No, the problem, if I had to put my finger on it, is the arch. Stories are a difficult thing in regards to episodic and in the case of a mystery, the only tool that SERVANT seems to use is more mystery. Twists and turns fold in on themselves in the hopes of creating intrigue, instead only make confusion.
What makes it even more frustrating is the fine work across the board both in front of and behind the camera. Series creator Tony Basgallop knows a damned good idea and is a talent to watch. He knows how to stir up intrigue and mystery. Yet somehow, I feel like we are at the hands of a fine storyteller that is being asked to string things out.
In short, the first half of SERVANT season 2 offers the same level of complication and intrigue as the first without the release. We learn what caused Dorothy’s pregnancy complications. We begin to dive into the paranormal aspects of the story. Yet, as of halfway through the season we only have more questions than answers.
Norm(an) Gidney is a nearly lifelong horror fan. Beginning his love for the scare at the age of 5 by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, he set out on a quest to share his passion for all things spooky with the rest of the world.