Reborn – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Wood – | Review Score – 4/5
Eel – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Bear – | Review Score – 3/5
Cricket – | Review Score – 3/5
Rain – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Haggis – | Review Score – 3/5
Boba – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Jericho – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Balloon – | Review Score – 4/5
Is Servant the flagship show Apple TV+ have been looking for? That’s a question I’ve found myself constantly asking whilst watching the 10 episodes of this unsettling, tense thriller. There’s no denying that the platform, in its infancy, has some pretty good titles already but none quite feel like enough to really push Apple to compete with the big players.
Servant then is an interesting show in that respect because it definitely has the potential to be a heavy hitter. Horror fans will certainly gobble this offering up and there are some very shocking moments throughout that will undoubtedly be big talking points over the weeks. Servant’s release schedule – mirroring that of Hulu with three episodes upfront and then one every week – will ultimately make or break the experience and right now, it’s hard to tell which side of the coin this one will fall.
Servant’s opening episode, with its array of unsettling compositional techniques and artistic camera angles, hypnotically drags you into this world immediately. The Turners are a family trying their hardest to paper over the mental cracks in their relationship. Following the death of their 13 month old son Jericho, Dorothy clings to her remaining shreds of sanity through a lifelike doll she takes care of. Despite Sean’s concerns, they invite 18 year old Leanne Grayson into the house as a Nanny, with the simple task of looking after the doll. Unfortunately this task becomes anything but simple.
A plot twist at the end of the first episode opens Pandora’s box and as the season progresses, it becomes apparent there’s more to Leanne than first meets the eye. Several new characters are introduced across the duration of the series and eventually all of this culminates in a shocking cliffhanger ending that will leave you hanging on agonizingly for the second season.
Aesthetically, Servant uses all the usual tricks of the horror trade, including a growing mystery that layers numerous questions on top of one another through to the finale. Just when you feel like you’re understanding what direction the show is going, another twist sends you careering off in a different direction. Anyone in the mood for a good mystery will certainly find themselves right at home here and the 30 minute length for each episode is perfect too, preventing this one from ever outstaying its welcome.
There’s a lot of tension building dotted throughout the season as well, but therein lies the biggest issue with the show. Releasing these episodes once a week (after the initial trio that go live Thursday), feels like it may be problematic, especially given fans will have to wait until January to see the shock twist at the end. Even worse, there’s a few episodes here that serve as suspense builders where there isn’t a whole lot going on. Having said that, there are some very good moments dotted throughout too but Servant certainly makes you work to get to the good stuff.
The tight-knit group of characters at the core of this one do a surprisingly good job with the material they’re given though, with a consistent arc throughout the season. Dorothy’s unhinged mannerisms and seeming descent into madness is perfectly paced across the 10 episodes while Sean plays off the arrogant, concerned and ever-so-slightly unhinged husband really well too. Rupert Grint is surprisingly charismatic as the red wine swigging Julian while Neil Tiger Free takes all the usual cues from the “creepy girl” playbook and moulds them into Leanne’s character. The result is an ensemble cast far from the Mary Sues you’d expect from a horror, which ultimately allow the series to feel all the more real because of the inherent character flaws on display.
When it comes to the camera work and general scene composition, Servant offers up an incredible array of artistic shots. From important details lurking in the background to spinning one-shot takes around a dinner table, Servant continues this carousel of talent right the way through to the finale.
With little in the way of jump scares and gore to rely on, Servant wisely leans into psychological horror territory instead, much to the benefit of the show. Despite the gripes some fans will inevitably have with the upcoming weekly release of each episode, Servant has a way of slithering into your mind early on and refusing to leave, which should be enough to see you weather the storm through some of the slower episodes to get to the good stuff. It’s certainly worth it too, and the finale does a good job answering enough questions to keep you coming back for more to find out what happens next.
With a second season already green-lit and plenty of stand-out moments in the first season to digest, Servant is a show that’s perfect for a late night binge but a difficult one to sit through once a week. While this is a far cry from something like The Haunting Of Hill House, Servant’s mystery and unsettling horror should be enough to see you through to the finish.
Verdict - 7/10