Sean and Dorothy throw a party this week on Servant, the Apple TV+ show about a nanny who is more than she seems and the family harboring her. Leanne is starting to notice that her adopted family isn’t being quite as familial and loving as she’d like. And she decides something must be done about it.
As the neighborhood gathers in the Turner household, Leanne plots her own pincer maneuver in a brilliantly directed installment of the best series on Apple TV+.
Servant recap: ‘Neighbors’
Season 4, episode 5: In this week’s episode, entitled “Neighbors,” Dorothy (played by Lauren Ambrose) and Sean (Toby Kebbell) wake up in the same bed for the first time in the months since her accident. She wants to try getting into her wheelchair. Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) is against it, of course. She doesn’t think Dorothy is up to it, but of course the last thing Dorothy wants is for Leanne to tell her what to do.
Dorothy gets downstairs in time to see an envelope come in through the front door. She wheels herself to get it, suffering great pain to bend down and retrieve the envelope. But it’s worth it, because it’s a letter from the Church of Lesser Saints, offering to take Leanne off their hands. And that’s exactly what Dorothy wants.
So the question is, how can she let them in without alerting Leanne to their plot to get her out of the house? How about a party? Invite everyone in the neighborhood, and if the church delegates happen to show up, well, they had no way to control that, did they? Dorothy and Sean know that Julian (Rupert Grint) will be against the plan, and not just because he and Leanne are romantically (or at least carnally) involved. He reminds them that every time they’ve tried to do without Leanne, it’s ended terribly for all involved. And each time, the nanny ends up more powerful than ever.
Dorothy finally notices the crowd of unhoused zealots living in the park across the street from their house, who have been gathering around Leanne since last season. She was in the hospital as the crowd grew, so she didn’t know how crazy things have been. She says she needs this to end now.
Now that’s a party!
The party itself is a scream, with Dorothy grilling everyone about their religious beliefs, Leanne trying to scare off everyone with her tales of home invasions, and Sean being ill-equipped to handle the neighborhood eccentrics. Against his better judgment, Julian stays to help out and mostly gets put on babysitting detail.
“I’d rather sing ‘Wheels on the Bus‘ than have your neighbors ask me what I do for a living,” he tells Sean.
“What do you do for a living?” Sean asks.
And while all that’s going on, Leanne has her people search the houses of the Turner’s guests. They find proof of the invaders from the church just as the power goes out at the Turner house.
In the darkness, Sean and Dorothy panic because no one has revealed themselves as cult members yet. The Turners talk a little too loudly about how they’ll just try again until someone takes Leanne off their hands. Of course, Leanne hears all of this and she’s about to do something about it when the cultists finally do show up and throw a bag over her head in an attempt to abscond with her.
They use a taser on Leanne, which provokes a kind of psychic attack. It nearly splits the Turner house in half, dropping debris on Leanne’s assailants, creating a crater in the street outside, and causing a chandelier to plummet to within mere inches from Sean, almost crushing him.
Leanne reminds Sean and Dorothy in no uncertain terms that she will not be leaving.
Artistry makes Servant the most shocking show on TV
Carlo Mirabello-Davis directs and gives this episode the Sidney J. Furie special. Furie was a Canadian filmmaker who, in order to survive in a confused British film industry, made the job more interesting for himself in every way he could. Part of that was putting the camera in absurd, impossible places, like inside of a lamp or in a phone booth up the block from the main action.
Davis tries the same thing here and the results are geometric perfection. Camera angles turn bodies into deserts, banisters into prison bars, cakes into buildings, and staircases into labyrinths. Knives block out faces like glasses.
There are a hundred great compositions all the way through, but my favorite might be when Dorothy asks Leanne to go lock the back gate. Leanne walks up the z-axis toward Dorothy, who is about 5 feet from the camera. Just as Leanne stops downstage of Dorothy, Dorothy starts wheeling herself off-screen and Leanne walks in the opposite direction, their conflicting directional momentum acting as an edit into the next shot.
You don’t think about the work that goes into a shot like that until it’s over, because until it reveals its purpose, it just looks like something ordinary. Which could be the motto of Servant. The show could be about anything, but it’s the most deviously photographed and shocking show on TV.
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.