Servant season 4 review: the final season gets off to a blistering start
Heading into its fourth and final season, M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller Servant has a lot of questions to answer. In fact, almost all the big ones remain unanswered. The Apple TV Plus series is supposedly about a young couple who lose their baby, only to miraculously return not long after their new nanny arrives. But after three seasons, the mysteries have only continued to pile up. In addition to those essential family secrets, there’s a crumbling house that feels almost cursed, warring religious factions, strange magical powers, and maybe even angels.
It’s a lot, and at the start of Season 4, the show doesn’t seem too concerned with tying up all the loose ends: it’s more concerned with ratcheting up the tension and making you feel as uncomfortable as ever.
Note: this review is based on the first three episodes of Servant Season 4. It includes very light spoilers for those episodes and some key spoilers from the previous three seasons.
But before we get into that, a little reminder of where we are following the season 3 cliffhanger ending. That chapter ended when Dorothy Turner (Lauren Ambrose), fearing for the safety of her baby, Jericho, decided to sneak him out of the house. But in the midst of a conflict with her husband Sean (Toby Kebbell), brother Julian (Rupert Grint) and the nanny she’s so terrified of, Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), Dorothy ends up falling several floors thanks to a creaking railing infected. with termites.
The final season opens with Leanne, seemingly oblivious to how Dorothy feels about her, getting the house ready for her return. She cleans and decorates and begins to bake Dorothy’s favorite cake. It’s an ordinary family made disturbing by close-ups and the nagging feeling that something bad is about to happen. Then, of course, a cult member shows up intent on bringing Leanne back into their fold, and all hell breaks loose.
One of the defining features of The Servant is how clearly it is influenced by Alfred Hitchcock. The vast majority of the show takes place in a house in the city of Philadelphia, and even with all the puppets and weird baby magic, it has the kind of back-window-based core, like you’re spying on the Turner family through the windows. The early moments of Season 4, however, set up another Hitchcock classic with a sequence pulled straight from The Birds. It’s pure chaos. Leanne is chased by cult members, seemingly everyone on the block—joggers, hot dog vendors, mail carriers—potentially in disguise and out to get her. This is the closest the servant ever comes to action, with the street outside the Turner house turned into something of a war zone as Leanne begins to fight back. She manages to escape only with the help of birds.
From there, the show returns to its typical vibe—that is, creeping horror and unexpected revelations. Dorothy returns home but is confined to her bed after the accident, and her distrust of Leanne has now turned to outright hatred. Despite Leanne’s constant efforts to care for her, Dorothy refuses to have anything to do with her babysitter, eventually going so far as to hire a pair of adorable but nosy nurses named Bev and Bobby (Denny Dillon and Barbara Kingsley, respectively ) to perform these duties.
All the while, the Turner house continues to literally crumble, as it has slowly done over the last few seasons. Early on, the entire neighborhood is forced to deal with a sudden and intense outbreak of bugs, which is especially amusing for the bedridden Dorothy. And after the street attack, Leanne is increasingly paranoid about the cult trying to get her, further mobilizing her followers for protection. There are hazmat suits and hidden rooms and an extremely disturbing leg-shaving session. At some point, there is also a session.
Lauren Ambrose in Season 4 of Servant. Image: Apple
Part of what makes Servant so fun to play is the fact that it doesn’t waste your time. The episodes are only about 30 minutes long and filled with so many intriguing themes and quirky moments that it can be hard to wait to see what unexpected development will happen next. The short episodes also give you a chance to catch your breath after being bombarded with a concentrated dose of creepiness. And even with so many needles to thread, that structure remains in place at the start of Season 4.
That said, with Bev and Bobby, this season at least introduces characters to help break that tension. The pair immediately and forcefully enter everyone’s lives. And while it’s clear there’s more to them than their bubbly personalities, it’s still funny to watch them hand Julian, a recovering alcoholic, a Marie Kondo book to help him clean up his life or to give Leanne a self-help guide for troubled teenagers. They provide exactly the kind of outside perspective that the family desperately needs.
The first few episodes don’t answer the biggest question about the series: namely whether it will manage to stick with the landing. It’s a problem that has plagued this style of puzzle box mystery show ever since Jack decided to hang around the lost island. I still have no idea what exactly Leanne is or how the Turner baby is able to transform from a reborn doll to a living human child and back again. And I’m still desperately waiting for someone – anyone – in Dorothy’s life to finally tell her what she did to start this whole strange series of events.
So, yes, it may all go nowhere. There’s a lot that could be left unresolved by the end, and the answers we get may not satisfy those who’ve been stuck for the past few years. But the start of the final season of Servant pushes forward with the kind of confidence that at least ensures that I’ll enjoy the ride wherever it actually takes me—and the only thing I know for sure is that I have no idea where it might end up. life.
The fourth season of Servant begins streaming on Apple TV Plus on January 13, with new episodes released the following Fridays.