Servant unleashes a bed bug blitz [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

Servant unleashes a bed bug blitz [Apple TV+ recap]

By

Servant cast members in hazmat suits and gas masks.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse ... bed bugs!
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewDorothy is back in the bizarre Turner household this week on Apple TV+ thriller Servant — and she’s not happy to be home. Leanne insists on normalcy, but considering the things that have happened, that’s asking a lot.

To make matters worse, Tobe and Julian are stuck in the house together. Plus, the Turners have a big bug problem, Sean can’t stand up for either Leanne or Dorothy, and Dorothy keeps throwing a monkey wrench in Leanne’s plans.

Servant recap: ‘Itch’

Season 4, episode 2: In this week’s episode, entitled “Itch,” Dorothy (played by Lauren Ambrose) has returned to her house after long months in the hospital. Her husband Sean (Toby Kebbell) tries to gently let nanny Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) know that Dorothy doesn’t want much to do with her, what with her paranoia over Leanne trying to steal her baby and the whole falling and breaking her back thing.

But Leanne doesn’t want to hear it. She will make the household orderly again if it kills her … or someone else. Sean is still as much a pushover as ever, so he can’t put his foot down when Leanne insists on maintaining order and seeing to Dorothy herself. Julian (Rupert Grint) adds to the trouble when he says he and Leanne shouldn’t be affectionate in front of Dorothy. Leanne gets why they’re tiptoeing around the situation, but she is undeterred. Within a few minutes of her first morning back, however, it is clear that Leanne and Dorothy cannot exist in this house together.

Sean’s assistant Tobe (Tony Revolori) comes over to help Sean with food prep. Tobe and Julian have a mutual dislike of each other since they both have a history with Leanne. Dorothy decides to call in reinforcements, including her stepmother Kourtney (Katie Lee Hill), so she won’t be alone with Leanne for too long. And that means there’s a full house when something very bad happens.

Attack of the bed bugs

They look outside and see the street crawling with men in gas masks and hazmat suits. The whole neighborhood is riddled with bed bugs. Dorothy is already covered in bites and scratches from her relentless itching. Kourtney calls her husband — Dorothy and Julian’s dad, Frank (Todd Waring) — for backup.

As the Turner men try to handle the situation themselves, Leanne and Dorothy enter the endgame. Dorothy won’t eat anything Leanne prepares. She twitches as Leanne shaves her and cuts herself. And, best of all, when Leanne tries to help Dorothy use her bedpan, Dorothy spills all of it on Leanne.

By day’s end, Leanne’s patience is wearing thin. Her only consolation is when Tobe makes her mole for dinner. Feeling heartened, she decides to have a frank chat with Dorothy. Sure, they can all take her for granted and try and handle her, but Leanne’s in charge. Dorothy had better start understanding this new dynamic, because there’s very little anyone could do if Leanne decided to take further charge of the situation.

Of course, Dorothy decides to press her luck. She hires two live-in nurses (Denny Dillon and Barbara Kingsley) to look after her instead. Leanne is getting very angry.

Accidents may happen

Leanne (played by Nell Tiger Free) holds a baby in a scene from Servant season four on Apple TV.
Leanne (played by Nell Tiger Free) knows who’s really running the show in the Turner household.
Photo: Apple TV+

Kitty Green directs this week, back again from last season and doing her usual wonderful things with bisecting people and objects with her framing. Whenever she wants to draw our attention to the fresh menace of a situation, she’ll present body parts like geometric puzzles when we first see them and with every new edit. It’s wonderfully unnerving.

I was stunned to see Denny Dillon as one of the Tim Burton-esque crones who appear out of nowhere to help Dorothy in her war of attrition against Leanne. Not that it’s not also nice to see Barbara Kingsley, who’s been a TV fixture for a few decades and also showed up in David Lynch’s wonderful The Straight Story. But Dillon is one of those actresses who’s been around forever and never really got any kind of due for her years of work.

You may remember her from 1977’s Saturday Night Fever or, if you’re a freak about bizarre older movies, Garbo Talks, House IV, Author! Author! and Seven Minutes in Heaven. She’s been working steadily since those days (she had a part in the tasteless United 93, to name one of the higher-profile projects) but it’d been a while since I’d seen her. When she and Kingsley show up and wordlessly advance on Leanne like golems from a Brothers Grimm story, it filled my heart with obscene glee.

Servant keeps serves up superb horror

Indeed, Servant’s fourth season keeps doubling down on the nightmarish fantasy of the series’ earlier episodes. The show always flirted with this kind of imagery, but in the home stretch, we’re getting some gloriously deranged visions. Perhaps my favorite was Uncle George (Boris McGiver) writhing and screaming in the rain as workers pull bug-infested mattresses out of houses on the Turners’ street.

Servant routinely puts the vanguard of modern horror cinema to shame. Part of that is being so ecstatic and huge (and unafraid of the implications of “too much”). And part of it is the series’ parade of directors, who are so keen-eyed and ruthless in depicting the imploding world of the Turners and their zealous opponents. This season will go down in history (for me) as one of the most devilishly inventive bits of media of the decade.

Watch Servant on Apple TV+

New episodes of Servant season four arrive every Friday on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

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.

Cult of Mac's Newsletters

Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.