For those of you unfamiliar with Servant, created by M. Night Shyamalan for Apple TV+, here's what you've missed so far: After the death of their infant son Jericho, Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell) fill the void of their lost baby with an eerily realistic doll...
...Refusing to acknowledge the loss of her son, Dorothy continues to mother the doll while Sean neglects to inform friends and family of the passing of Jericho. To perpetuate the ruse further, the young nanny Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) moves into the Turner household and begins caring for the doll. After the doll comes to life, Sean refuses to accept that Leanne’s arrival has nothing to do with the now-living baby, therefore he heavily investigates the girl only to find she supposedly perished in a fire years ago. So, who really is the servant? And what is her connection to the resurrected Jericho?
Since the premiere of the first episode a few weeks ago, the baby/doll and the titular servant have been vying for the position of top mystery. Over the last couple episodes, the focus strayed from the unexplainable baby and remains largely pointed at Leanne. A great deal of scrutiny from Sean and brother-in-law Julian (Rupert Grint) discovered a whole lot of nothing, so for the most part the Turner’s came to terms with their abnormal situation. However, the comfortable pattern of weirdness becomes disrupted in Episode 6 “Rain” when part of Leanne’s past comes to dinner.
A letter arrives for Leanne stating the simple message of “Found you” and shortly afterwards a man appears dressed in rotting clothes which cover even worse looking shoeless feet. Leanne introduces him as her Uncle George (Boris McGiver) and Dorothy immediately insists he stays at the house until the rain lessens up. The wife desires to play the gracious host, but she struggles when George behaves rudely as a guest and demonstrates a deprecating attitude towards his niece. The man goes out of his way to suck the joy out of everything, even for himself. As they sit down for dinner, he painstakingly wipes away all sauces and seasonings from the meal Dorothy specially prepared as everyone at the table looks on with shocked expressions.
Two aspects of “Rain” differ from the previous episode: Sean went on a trip leaving Dorothy to run the house, and this is the first episode with a female director. Alexis Ostrander (Light as a Feather) looks at how the women of the show deal with the controlling aspects of the men in their life and helps us see the male aggressions and mindset through a more feminist point of view. During the meal, their visitor reveals the intention of his visit and he announces that when he leaves, he will be taking Leanne with him. And with Sean away, Dorothy’s brother steps in as the man of the house. George completely controls Leanne and while Julian does not dictate the overall decisions made by Dorothy, both women ultimately remain labeled as helpless in the eyes of their families.
However, while the men bark orders at Dorothy and Leanne, Ostrander uses an interesting use of light to allow the women to stand out against the darkness. Throughout the episode, the men’s faces remain purposely obscured or in shadow. The first time Uncle George steps into the house we see his feet before we see any of his facial features. And even after the camera locates his face, the man frequently stands in shadow where at least half of his face hides in the dark. The heavy rain outside obscures all natural light, so the house is covered in shadow, however, Dorothy and Leanne earn the spotlight despite the darkness all around them. While at the dinner table Dorothy’s face appears illuminated and bright as she refuses to let Julian and George control her life.
Julian agrees with the stranger about Leanne leaving, but Dorothy remains set on keeping the nanny with the Turners. Sean makes physical appearances in the beginning and end of the episode, but for the rest of the time he appears only as a digital presence via phone or tablet, which allows for Dorothy to make her own decisions and easily ignore her husband. Instead, the wife tries persuading George away from his authoritative approach by offering her hospitality. She presents kindness to Leanne where her uncle gives her rudeness. In an attempt to empower the nanny, Dorothy asks Leanne to state which option she wants and obviously, the girl chooses to stay with the Turners. However, the uncle leaves a mark on Dorothy when he exits with the words “This is not a house of God.”
The idea of religion seems to be weighing on Dorothy’s mind quite a bit in this episode, especially with the arrival of George. After the awkward dinner, Dorothy adorns a cross necklace and when confronting George or about to interact with him, she absentmindedly touches the jewelry as if she senses something evil in Leanne’s uncle and needs extra reassurance. George’s intimidating presence also prompts Dorothy to schedule a baptism for her baby, which does not please Sean once he returns home. Not just because the family never participated strongly in any religion, but also because this means people outside of the home will now meet the mysterious baby. “Rain” furthers the mystery of Leanne, but the episode really excels at setting us up for the next installment. Not only will more people become exposed to the strange Leanne and the living doll, but as the final scene of episode 6 unfolds, we watch as Leanne nervously touches her crucifix and notices Uncle George ominously standing across the street from the Turner’s house.
Episode 7 of Servant, “Boba’, premieres on Apple TV+ on December 27th.
By Amylou Ahava
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