Leanne makes a surprising new friend on this week’s episode of Servant, Apple TV+’s M. Night Shyamalan-shepherded show about a nanny upending the lives of a rich Philadelphia couple.
Dorothy’s rival at the TV station shows up in their lives with a little more force than usual, and it’s up to Leanne to fix things, and keep the Turners from losing what they worked so hard to gain.
Servant recap: ‘Donut’
In this week’s episode, titled “Donut,” Leanne (played by Nell Tiger Free) may be safely in the house but Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) is making it clear that the old arrangement is over. Leanne will not be touching baby Jericho. After last week’s episode, Dorothy trusts no one. Sean (Toby Kebbell) is on the couch now, because he disobeyed Dorothy and took Leanne’s side over hers.
Sean is out of sorts while Dorothy is mad, confiding in Leanne that he just wants to have a normal family life. Dorothy is unreachable, walking around in a huff with Jericho strapped to her, fearful to let him out of her sight. She’s so preoccupied that she doesn’t notice the insect infestation.
Leanne is crying in the park with her followers lurking nearby when Dorothy’s replacement, Isabelle (Molly Griggs), jogs by and correctly surmises that she’s upset because of Dorothy. She, too, has cried because Dorothy was rough with her. They make a date to get coffee and talk, something Dorothy’s going to love if she finds out about it.
Of course, what Isabelle really wants is to grill Leanne about Dorothy. Leanne can smell the fix, so she asks her homeless followers in the park to keep an eye on her. Her conversations with them start to seem more and more cultish, with her taking the place of Aunt May.
Isabelle does a little digging and discovers that the real Jericho died last year. So who’s baby is that around Dorothy’s neck? Leanne isn’t sure what to think, but she knows she doesn’t like that Isabelle lied to her. And we all know what happens to people who cross Leanne.
Our kind of people
Dylan Holmes Williams directs again this week. He does some really fun, wonky stuff with off-screen space and his zoom lens. The shot-reverse-shot conversation scene of Isabelle and Leanne has a David Cronenberg-quality (Cronenbergundian, as the director prefers this quality to be known). Each shot forces the viewer’s attention toward a face that seems closer than it is to the lens, unnerving in a not-exactly subtle, but not entirely motivated way.
Servant never loses steam when it comes to cleverly framing otherwise-ordinary situations. Shyamalan, of course, sets the bar (his 2021 film Old is a master class in disorienting and clever presentation – every frame is a cubist delight). But for Servant, he found directors who can think visually in the way that he can, which is why this is one of the greatest shows on TV. There’s never a dull image. Every mundane and crazy thing is shot with such magnificent certainty that each episode could be studied in either a drawing class or in film schools looking to show how to enliven material.
The final shots of this week’s episode are all-timers. Sean throws a dinner party to celebrate his show airing, so the Turners are all watching when Isabelle is shot to death on air as she covers an active shooter situation live. In floating Dutch tilts, Leanne and Dorothy trade looks — Dorothy’s one of true horror and trauma, and Leanne’s beatific smile, the smile of a child giving their parent a Christmas gift or a dog presenting a dead rodent to their master. Excellent work from everyone.
Watch Servant on Apple TV+
New episodes of Servant arrive on Fridays.
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.