We’re having a séance this week on Apple TV+ chiller Servant, the wonderfully cracked show about a magical nanny who uses murder and mayhem to maintain her grip on the Philadelphia family who summoned her.
Leanne hates the two new nurses Dorothy hired to look after her during her recovery, but she’s losing her favor with Sean and Julian by acting so suspicious. Sean desperately wants Dorothy to go back to her old self, and is realizing Leanne might be the problem.
It’s a tense and sharply directed episode of the best show on Apple TV+.
Servant recap: ‘Séance’
Season 4, episode 3: As we join the Turner household in this week’s episode, entitled “Séance,” Roberta (played by Denny Dillon) and Beverly (Barbara Kingsley) introduce themselves to Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), Sean (Toby Kebbell) and Julian (Rupert Grint) with a terrible little song. They’re the two nurses Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) hired to look after her and act as a buffer between her and Leanne.
Sean puts them in the subterranean guest room, while Leanne looks on with murder in her eyes. Sean has been spending the last few days trying to cook for Dorothy, but she keeps rejecting his efforts. She’s still mad about him not siding with her against Leanne.
Leanne tells Julian she thinks Uncle George (Boris McGiver) and the rest of the Church of Lesser Saints sent the nurses as a Trojan horse to get to her, but he thinks she’s being ridiculous. Still, he investigates their rooms just to be safe. All he finds is a box full of vibrators and dildos. That’s plenty scary to Julian, but hardly proof of the pair’s guilt.
Dorothy, meanwhile, starts the two old women working basically overtime right away, which surprises them. People don’t usually want to get walking today like Dorothy does, but then people also aren’t usually combatting demonic forces. Dorothy manages to get up on her feet — but the first step is a disaster.
Nurses in the house
It doesn’t take long for Bev and Bobby to start making their presence known. They start trying to convince Sean to take his wellness more seriously. And they buy some toys for Jericho. Plus, in a real power move, they purchase new bedding for Leanne and rearrange her closet.
The women quickly recognize that the house isn’t going to welcome them with open arms. And when they ask Sean about it, he says it’s because the family doesn’t cope with loss very well. They suggest a séance.
Everyone participates, though with varying degrees of sincerity. Julian thinks it’s horseshit. Leanne hates the idea; she doesn’t want them filling Dorothy’s head with ideas she can’t hear.
Let the séance continue!
Beverly starts describing the death of a child and the destruction of the house. And, though Sean tries to stop the proceedings so as not to rile Dorothy, Leanne insists they keep going.
Then Leanne brings forth a dagger she stole from the commune and tries to get the two nurses to confess to being plants from the church. But when she goes looking for the markings of the church, she finds nothing. Dorothy, in anger, sends Leanne to her room like the nanny’s a child.
The whole Turner household now starts looking at Leanne strangely, though at least the séance brought Sean and Dorothy closer together. When Sean doesn’t argue with the séance, or with her decision to send Leanne out of the room, Dorothy decides she’s ready to start forgiving him and agrees to eat the pancakes he made for her.
However, that night, when Dorothy dreams about a dark spirit destroying their house and wakes up with Leanne asleep on top of her, she knows her troubles are far from over.
Servant scores with delightfully creepy directing
Ishana Shyalaman, daughter of Servant showrunner and executive producer M. Night Shyamalan, directs this week and is as good as she always is. I like the way she frames Leanne in particular this week. She uses fixed camera points from which to observe the nanny’s movements, like the pan up from Jericho’s changing table to the crib, where Leanne discovers the two nurses have taken their toy for the baby out of the trash and put it back in the bed.
Leanne also takes to stamping around the house like an evil Goth queen in her long gowns and palpable anger. Nell Tiger Free is so good in this mode — very up to the task of becoming her aunts in the cult she left behind but now is about to replace, whether she knows it or not.
There was also expert use of a swivel cam for a few unsettling 360-degree pans around the basement apartment, and one stealth split diopter. Ishana Shyalaman is every bit the exciting, experimentally minded visual stylist her dad is.
Servant has always been something like a Brian De Palma tribute, and few things are as exciting to see her mature in his image as le Shyamalan fille.
Watch Servant on Apple TV+
New episodes of Servant season four arrive every Friday on Apple TV+.
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.