FaceTime calls, iPads galore, and Apple TV integration stretch the suave design of M. Evening Shyamalan’s in-house thriller to a breaking level.
Early in “Servant” Season 2, the Turner household begins a brand new enterprise. It’s a pizza enterprise, so not far faraway from the household patriarch’s purview as a chef, and it’s solely non permanent, given his cuisine-related curiosities sometimes lengthen past savory pies. However in contrast to so many within the meals business who’ve been pressured to adapt during the last 10 months, the Turners’ option to pivot to supply isn’t COVID-related. The Turners simply don’t need to depart the home.
That the pandemic doesn’t transpire throughout the season — which, like many, had manufacturing suspended midway via as a result of virus — isn’t an issue in and of itself. “Servant” crafted a fantastic first season underneath the identical remoted parameters, and there’s lots of craft work to admire within the new, somewhat excessive homebound adventures of Sean (Toby Kebbell), Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose), and her little brother Julian (Rupert Grint). Nonetheless, it’s onerous to shake that it’s the household’s alternative to remain indoors. These people aren’t caught inside for the sake of society or some other narrative actuality; they don’t depart the home (a lot) as a result of it’s a part of the present’s formal conceit: “Servant” is about in a single location, whether or not the story justifies it or not, and in Season 2, the clearest purpose to not depart the home appears to be it’s higher promoting for Apple.
A lot has been made concerning the numerous Apple insurance policies dictating how and the way usually the Cupertino firm’s wares are featured onscreen. From the deluge of product placement seen in Apple originals to a mandate that villains in any film, made wherever, can’t be seen behind a Mac, the tight-lipped tech large has been fastidiously establishing its model picture for many years now. (What a flex it was when the very first shot of the very first Apple TV+ sequence depicted an iPhone earlier than any human face.)
However in “Servant” Season 2, that not-entirely-subtle-but-convincing-enough branding tarnishes what’s in any other case a really pretty present to take a look at. Over the course of seven episodes offered (out of 10), I can’t inform you what number of key scenes are proven one display eliminated, the place the digicam (run for 2 episodes by M. Night Shyamalan) frames a TV, or an iPad, or an iPhone, or all three, additional distancing the viewers from the place the precise exercise is going down. Worse nonetheless, it forces characters to provide you with more and more elaborate causes to remain inside, like, say, beginning a pizza supply enterprise. Dorothy does that as a result of she’s hoping to get a peek inside somebody’s home, however somewhat than the standard, extra lively, extra viewer-friendly choice — going to the home and sneaking inside — they select a passive, slower, and altogether much less plausible course.
And it doesn’t finish there. Very similar to New York is a personality in “Intercourse and the Metropolis,” Apple merchandise change into their very own character in “Servant.” The household huddles round a glowing display, watching in horror at occasions taking place elsewhere; information studies blare from each nook of the home, remotely transferring the plot alongside; Julian usually carries an iPad whereas strolling in entrance of the lounge TV, conducting two FaceTime calls without delay: one via the pill, the opposite due to an Apple TV set-top field.
Courtesy of Apple TV+
“Servant” is begging to go outdoors the home, and even when it does, the one option to hint the motion is from residence. To say this studying of the season is clouded by present circumstances could also be true — we’re all itching to get outdoors, and thus a bit extra conscious when individuals select to not — however nobody desires to look at individuals watching individuals; they need to see them take motion and watch the motion unfold.
So, product placement apart, what’s there to see in Season 2? Loads of great things! Although “Servant” usually reads like a comedy that thinks it’s a thriller, there are nonetheless some genuinely chilling scenes (that shan’t be spoiled right here). Sit up for a hypnotization, eerie occurrences at 2 a.m., and at the least one diabolical use of meals that, even if you happen to see it coming, proves satisfying due to how onerous the present leans into its culinary theme. Ambrose is much more giddily excessive, Grint angrily slugs again much more wine, and Kebbell finds spectacular indignant man attraction enjoying a determined husband caught between supporting his spouse and acknowledging actuality.
Sure, “Servant” nonetheless revolves round Jericho in Season 2, the infant that died and both a) got here again to life upon seeing his new nanny, Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), or b) was stolen from a mysterious cult by stated nanny and has now been returned. Dorothy and Sean spend all season attempting to get him again, whoever he’s, with Dorothy nonetheless the deluded crackpot who doesn’t keep in mind her son’s dying and Sean the all-too-aware accountable one who could also be giving in to his spouse’s will (by alternative or in any other case). It doesn’t matter what you suppose you realized after final season’s pseudo-revealing cliffhanger ending, relaxation assured, extra twists are in retailer. By Episode 7, “Servant” enters an entire new style, and a few followers will roll their eyes on the escalating plot contortions whereas others ought to delight within the sheer audacity of author/creator Tony Basgallop’s concepts.
All in all, I’m a lot nearer to the latter, although a lot of the enjoyment that “Servant” may ship is hampered by the way it chooses to inform its story. Be that due to Apple’s imposition or pure inventive license, “Servant” nonetheless hasn’t come collectively as cleanly as its Good Residence know-how.
“Servant” Season 2 premieres Friday, January 15 on Apple TV+. New episodes shall be launched weekly all through its 10-episode run.