Brought to Apple TV+ by M. Night Shyamalan, Servant continues digging into the mysteries within the Turner household. Before the start of the series, baby Jericho Turner passed away from a tragedy everyone refuses to speak about. In an attempt to protect the mental well-being of his wife, Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell) finds an emotional replacement. So, instead of nursing a living newborn, Dorothy Turner (Lauren Ambrose) finds comfort in an eerily realistic doll...
...Neglecting to inform most of their friends and family about the death of the baby, the Turners hire Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) as the live-in nanny for the not-so-real baby and shortly after her arrival the inanimate doll becomes a living, breathing infant. Brother-in-law Julian Pearce (Rupert Grint) who also struggles with the death of his nephew, eventually confides in the suspicious nanny the events which led to the baby dying. Now everyone in the home knows what happened to Jericho, so how did Jericho die? Why did he come back to life and did Leanne have something to do with it?
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
With the penultimate episode of season 1, M. Night Shyamalan returns to the director’s chair for “Jericho” and finally provides some insight into the baby’s death. The veteran director starts the story with a scream and continues to inflict us with the pain associated with birth and post-partum depression. Beginning with a homebirth and ending in an accident, we see through flashbacks how the short life of Jericho both started and ended at home. From the very first scene of the episode, Shyamalan fills the air with screams and covers the interior with shadows so he can simultaneously overwhelm and rob us of our senses.
Five weeks after giving birth, Dorothy finds herself alone in the house when Sean leaves for a long work weekend. With no Sean and existing in a pre-Leanne world, Dorothy struggles during a heat wave to maintain the home, baby, and her mental health. The temperatures wear on mother and son, making the baby easily agitated and the mother exhausted. The sleep-deprived mother clearly wants to love her baby, but she also grows more and more frustrated living as a single-parent. Dorothy finds ways to distance herself from Jericho, perhaps consciously or subconsciously. But either way the combination of tiredness and stress leads to the fatal mistake of leaving the infant in the sweltering vehicle.
With the absent Sean and the deceased baby, the director does not give us a dramatic or shocking reveal about Jericho’s demise. Instead, the death of the baby becomes marked by the arrival of a large piece of meat which slowly rots on the counter over the next few days. Shyamalan substitutes images of the dead Jericho with decaying meat which creates some gruesome anticipation in the minds of the viewer. The most maddening moments come from watching Dorothy go about her day and giving no acknowledgement that she is now caring for a tiny corpse.
The car served as a tomb for Jericho and throughout the episode the vehicle becomes associated with death and decay, yet Dorothy finds herself continually drawn to it. Almost as if she is returning to the scene of the crime, but with no conscious realization of why the car brings her so much anguish. In present time or in flashbacks we see Dorothy getting in and out of her car and even waking in the middle of the night to calm her vehicle’s alarm.
The jumping between past and present becomes a bit muddled and only the presence of Leanne or absence of Sean gives an accurate indication if we are observing Dorothy in a pre- or post- infanticide time period. And while the episode focuses heavily on Dorothy, Servant does allow the husband and nanny small moments to show their role in the mental health of the matriarch. Sean blames himself for the loss of Jericho and uses this as an excuse for not leaving his wife. And as for the nanny, Leanne’s passive aggressive behavior continues and she increasingly grows heavier on the aggression as she poisons Dorothy’s body and mind.
Uncovering the cause of Jericho's death lessens some of the overbearing load of mysteries, but Servant still hides numerous secrets. Who is Leanne? How is she connected to the supernatural occurrences in the Turner house? And even though Jericho appears as a baby in this episode, will he return to his inanimate state? Perhaps the approaching baptism will force some of the secrets to surface.
Don’t miss the finale of Season 1 of Servant when it drops on Apple TV+ January 17th, 2020.
By Amylou Ahava
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