There are strangers in the house on this week’s Servant, the Apple TV+ show about the absurd goings on in a Philadelphia townhouse.
Writer Tony Basgallop and director/producer M. Night Shyamalan continue to reap rich rewards from showing what it looks like when the kookiest people in town try to do things normally. Mystic nightmare nanny Leanne thinks every shadow is a murderer, and Dorothy doesn’t seem to think anything is wrong.
The truth likely lies somewhere in between, but who knows if they can keep it together long enough to discover what’s really going on.
Servant recap: ‘Hive’
In this week’s episode, titled “Hive,” the Turners are throwing a dinner party, much to the chagrin of Leanne (played by Nell Tiger Free). Sean (Toby Kebbell) and Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) are trying to forge connections for baby Jericho to help his prospects later in life.
Leanne is firmly against the idea of intruders in the house. She hasn’t vetted any of them and doesn’t trust anyone. Every stranger she sees is an emissary from her cult in waiting.
To assuage her fears, they have Julian (Rupert Grint) and his new girlfriend, Veera (Sunita Mani), come over to man the security cameras, newly installed after last week’s break-in. Thus everyone’s watching when the guests start grilling Dorothy about the weird things that have happened to the family in the house over the years.
Of course, things can’t stay normal for more than a few seconds. Leanne suspects that someone among the interlopers is a plant. And indeed, it seems like the children’s entertainer (Rob McClure) fits the bill. However, Dorothy interrupts her interrogation of him with a pair of kitchen shears. Dorothy gets the party back on track just in time for a hive of bugs to flee the chimney and attack the guests.
Our kind of people
M. Night Shyamalan’s daugther, Ishana Shyamalan, directs this week’s episode. She does wonders with perspective, from all the shots of Julian in front of the security camera monitors, to a scene of Leanne brushing Dorothy’s hair while she voices her fears about their life.
Leanne insists over and over again that everything is fine as it is. Dorothy and Jericho don’t need anyone else — they’ve got this perfect family, right? Dorothy isn’t so convinced. And the more incapable Leanne acts of accepting that the world isn’t still out to get her, the less patience the rest of the Turners have for her.
Of course, the beauty of Servant is that the minute someone’s convinced of something, some incidental oddness will break that spell definitively. Dorothy’s look as Leanne leaves her after a day of imaginary assassins and very real swarms of equally real insects has her finally chipping away at the facade of normalcy she’s concocted.
What’s next for Leanne?
The direction in which I have to assume we’re headed is the family alienating Leanne, only for her to save them from some future harm. But I hesitate to predict much here. The joy of Servant is never knowing what’s coming next or why. And that’s why this is probably my favorite Apple TV+ show. How many other things can so upset and disorient you in breezily paced half-hour increments?
Also this week: Shout out to the use of Cass McCombs’ heartbreaking song “Brighter” during an early scene. It adds an extra layer of bittersweetness to the Turners finally all being on the same page, but still managing to lodge distances between each other. If only they could all communicate … but even the smartest people have trouble with that.
Watch Servant on Apple TV+
New episodes of Servant arrive each Friday.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.