Sean and Julian attempt a Hail Mary to wrest control of the Turner house away from evil nanny Leanne. And Dorothy’s about to realize there are worse things than being loved too much.
The episode, entitled “Tunnels,” is a sharply directed half-hour of the horror/mystery series, which is the best show on Apple TV+ — and indeed one of the finest things on TV, full stop. It points the way to darker things coming in Servant’s final two episodes.
Servant recap: ‘Tunnels’
Season 4, episode 8: There’s a storm a-brewin’ in the streets of Philadelphia. Is it Mother Nature’s doing? Or is it the handiwork of Leanne (played by Nell Tiger Free)? Her attic apartment in the Turner house is flooding, and she’s none too pleased. She goes downstairs and finds Julian (Rupert Grint) reading up on psychiatric disorders.
Leanne tries to get him to talk about his feelings, but he deflects and sends her back to bed without him. The weather is so bad, in fact, that all of Leanne’s unhoused followers in the park across the way are advised (by her) to seek shelter elsewhere. She tells them to leave her alone in the Turner home, and spread her gospel wherever they can. She apparently doesn’t know that now is a bad time to send her helpers away.
You see, Sean (Toby Kebbell) and Julian are planning something. After Uncle George (Boris McGiver) explained to them that Leanne isn’t a supernatural being of some kind but rather a mixed-up girl who’s been the center of a number of coincidences, they agreed to help him put an end to her reign of terror. Of course, that’s a two-step process — and both are tricky. They must bring Leanne down to the basement apartment, where George will be waiting to talk her into agreeing to a deprogramming. Or anyway … that’s what he told Sean and Julian would happen.
Dorothy and Leanne talk things out
Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) tries finally talking to Leanne about her obsession with the Turner family. Leanne wants to know why Dorothy is so opposed to her help. And Dorothy wants to know why this family in particular means so much to Leanne. They’re both withholding things, but at least they’re dancing a little closer to the truth of the situation. In response, Leanne climbs to the rooftop and curses her god for his inability to kill her with the storm.
Julian tries to talk Leanne into coming to the basement. But when that fails, he and Sean grab her (and in the process, accidentally drop her) and drag her down there. Once in the basement, Julian doesn’t like the look of George, the big ceremonial fire, or the other cultists down there with him. Still, he hands off Leanne because he promised Dorothy and Sean he’d try to get rid of her.
… but Uncle George isn’t so lucky
George says, in a few more words, that the only person who can kill Leanne is Leanne — and he says she needs to do it. Otherwise, their god will destroy the earth. Leanne waits until he drops his guard, then takes the sacrificial dagger he offers her and kills him with it. Then she kills George’s helpers and burns his body.
As Dorothy attempts to shower, she falls down. Sean and Julian hear Leanne singing, and go to the basement to investigate, but never make it. The storm breaks one of the kitchen windows, scaring Sean so much that he accidentally stabs himself with a knife he was wielding out of fear. Then, when Julian tries to go get his phone to call an ambulance, Leanne pushes him down the basement stairs. He falls, and knocks a wine rack over on top of himself.
As the two injured guys are being wheeled out by paramedics, Leanne whispers to Sean that he’ll never be allowed back in this house after his betrayal. Then she goes upstairs to let Dorothy know that it’s just the two of them and Jericho now.
It’s all for me
Nimród Antal returns to the director’s chair this week, and he just knocks it out of the park. Using all of the malevolent geography and geometry of the Turner household to his advantage, he makes the setting as scary as it has yet been, even though the situation never fully seems out of Leanne’s control.
The best shot in the piece is definitely the burning of Uncle George. Leanne grabs some kerosene, douses him in it, and then slowly walks over to an open flame to light the fuse, so to speak. With Leanne in the foreground in focus, the flames spread across the basement to George’s body in the background.
It serves as a perfect little encapsulation of the new Leanne’s attitude. Behind her is everything she will no longer suffer, and there’s nothing ahead of her that can stop her. It’s very fine work and, as always, a great showcase for Nell Tiger Free, who loads her portrayal of Leanne with a kind of pixie-ish evil.
Leanne has to both be a young person who doesn’t understand the world and a demigod of some stripe who can nevertheless make the wide world bend to her will. It’s a tough thing to ask, and yet Free has always been an excellent presence, caught between a sort of othered innocence and a sensual tyranny.
Servant needed an impossible thing: the tail of a kite that becomes an anchor. She pulled it off. And she will be missed when this show ends.
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.