Starring: Lauren Ambrose, Toby Kebbell, Nell Tiger Free, Rupert Grint
What can make or break the family are the high stakes in the second season of M. Night Shamylan’s Servant, a constantly dread-filled drama littered with cults, possible super powers, grotesque meal planning and gallons upon gallons of red wine.
Picking up immediately after season one, magical nanny Leanne (Free) and the baby who may or may not be the resurrection of Jericho have gone missing. Jericho’s dad Sean (Kebbell), with the help of pompous alcoholic brother-in-law Julian (Grint), are on the ersatz-mission to find them both, all for maintaining the facade for Jericho’s mother Dorothy (Ambrose) that her son had never died in the first place, as to save her from mental distress.
It’s a lot. But a good a lot. Everything that made season one magical, the ambiguous mystery of what’s really going on, has been fine tuned to near perfection. There really isn’t anything else quite like Servant, but it’s fair to compare it to a show like The Leftovers or even Twin Peaks — What makes it great is the compassionate embrace of uncertainty and the absurd. The world of Servant makes sense only on its own terms. The characters and narrative are much like the house where most, if not all, the story of Servant takes place — An Overlook Hotel of ever-changing architecture, bending to the whims of mood and theme, where new doors appear to rooms that reveal more and more of who, and what, they are.
The way certain secondary characters interweave themselves into the family’s drama is borderline illogical, but serves the greater purpose of conveying the series’ ultimate thesis of familial bonds and navigating trauma. It may not make sense, but rarely in life do our own traumas make much sense, either. Sometimes, the family we’re born into never really feels like family to begin with, and it’s up to us to form those relationships ourselves. For the characters of Servant, that family could be a cult, an upper-class metropolitan household, or a game of make believe where pretending tragedy never struck a loved one is the only safety net to keep things from falling apart.
While the performances from the entire cast are again enough to tune in week after week, it’s Rupert Grint’s Julian that steals the show. Less a generic comedic relief and more a complicated bombastic smartass, his presence is a much-needed foil to the overall morose tone of the series. Highlights include an impromptu review of a fast food chicken sandwich, a cocaine fueled game of charades, and quotation of a Guns N’ Roses lyric with religious fervor.
With a finalized deal to concluded this series after four seasons, the second season finale has landed us right in the middle of the overall narrative. While there are hints of expanding the scope of Servant to include more outside agitators which could possibly disrupt what makes the insular structure of the show work so well, the handling of the series so far suggests it’s in good hands for the remainder of its run.