Note: This review covers the first seven episodes of the second season that we’ve seen so far and it also includes some spoiler details in regards to the show’s first season.
The inaugural season of Servant, created by Tony Basgallop and executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, ended with more questions than answers. At least when it comes to the peculiar young nanny who upended the lives of the Turners. Where did she go? What happened to the actual baby that she swapped out for the rebirth doll? Who is the strange cult tied to her? Season two picks up immediately after season one’s finale, continuing its measured streak of building mystery. However, this time, expect a darker tone as supernatural elements slowly creep in while the threat of violence looms large.
Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell) still can’t bring himself to reveal the truth to his wife Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) about their newborn Jericho. It’s a decision meant to preserve her increasingly precarious grip on her sanity. It sets in motion a series of events that put the Turners on an irrevocable collision course with inevitable catastrophe. Still believing the mysterious baby to be her own, Dorothy is determined to track down missing nanny Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), who placed the rebirth doll back before slipping out into the night. When she succeeds, Dorothy surprises them all with the lengths she’s willing to go to get Jericho back once and for all.
While presented as an unpredictable, often mind-bending psychological thriller that’s unafraid to lean into camp or intensity depending on the need, Servant is ultimately about parental trauma. Season one culminated in the reveal of a parent’s worst nightmare made a reality. Delivering a heartbreaking, masterclass performance, Ambrose’s portrayal emotionally devastated and grounded a show crafted entirely around ambiguity and claustrophobic mysticism. In season two’s first seven (of ten) episodes, Ambrose has yet to be given any material to work with that strikes that same level of depth but continues to build Dorothy as a woman spiraling further into the abyss. That’s likely because the sophomore season seems to be more interested in examining what it means to be a mother. Or perhaps more accurately, how bad mothers cause irreparable harm.
Servant isn’t interested in showing its hand any time soon, but the season organically raises the stakes and expands the world further. As the central characters and situations grow more unhinged, with a darker and more violent edge, hints of the supernatural slowly creep their way into the upper crust brownstone. At first, it’s subtle, but soon it becomes impossible to ignore.
The directorial roster this season is stacked so far. Raw’s Julia Ducournau helms the first two episodes. Blue My Mind’s Lisa Brühlmann, Isabella Eklöf, Nimrod Antal (Predators), Ishana Shyamalan, and M. Night Shyamalan each tackle subsequent episodes. All bring a cohesive vision in this atypical, compelling series.
Season two plunges Dorothy and Sean further into a world of pain. The more Sean avoids his grief to shield Dorothy from her own, the more the family finds themselves entrenched with forces they can’t comprehend. All of it seems to be building toward another reckoning with Leanne and her “family,” but this time, one that promises to be far, far worse. Basgallop and the team he’s assembled has created one of the best genre series currently running. Season two may not reach the same emotional heights as its predecessor just yet, but the genre elements have excitingly taken precedence. Servant bypasses the sophomore slump to deliver a compelling character-driven season that ups the ante on the gripping mystery while fearlessly getting more unhinged than ever.
Servant returns with weekly episodes on Apple TV+ starting January 15, 2021.