Servant Returns to Clean Up the Chaos of Season One | TV/Streaming

The premise of “Servant” is pretty clever. Dorothy Turner (Lauren Ambrose) lost her 13-week-old son Jericho, and it led to what could be called a mental break wherein she takes care of a doll as if it’s her biological child. The doll was the only thing that could pull Dorothy from her catatonic grief, and so everyone around her has to play along as much as possible, including going as far as hiring a nanny named Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) to care for Jericho. Dorothy’s husband Sean (Toby Kebbell) and brother Julian (Rupert Grint) hope that she will come back to reality but then Jericho the doll suddenly becomes Jericho the breathing child. Did Leanne kidnap another infant? Did she really bring Jericho back to life? The action of season one dug into not only why Leanne was really there but some of the secrets of Dorothy and Sean’s past. And then it ended by revealing a connection between Leanne and Dorothy in that the girl was a part of a cult that mom reported on back when she was working. Leanne disappeared with Jericho at the end of season one, leaving everyone in the Turner house adrift and confused.

And that’s where season two opens. Dorothy is desperate to find Jericho, but it’s hard to search for a missing child that’s technically already dead. Sean and Julian struggle to figure out how to manage what happened at the end of season one, and the writing on “Servant” struggles to find momentum. Once again, the show creatively constricts itself to the Turner brownstone, showing glimpses of the outside world only through televised reports and things like FaceTime. A show that locks its characters into one place plays a little differently during the pandemic than the writers could have ever imagined, but that formal choice remains one of the its greatest strengths. Dorothy and Sean feel trapped in their own excess. They’re unbelievably wealthy but there’s a cold, imposing, dark nature to their house that amplifies the tension of “Servant.”

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Sadly, the plotting gets a little slack for the first time. It seems like they’re building to major events in those final three episodes but too little happens in the 3.5 hours leading up to them. Without spoiling how, Leanne ends up back in the house, and there’s a “what do we do now” aesthetic to the storytelling that gets a little flat and repetitive. It’s a season in which the characters often act panicked, but it’s too content to meander in its oddity instead of pushing its characters forward. “Servant” circles themes without really sinking its teeth into them, too often feeling like its simply biding time.

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