The season finale of Servant was everything we could have hoped for from this slow-burning creepy tour through a potentially haunted house.
Apple TV + is all in for their original programming. They renewed Servant for a season two before season one even aired. As sure as they were that viewers would show up for this ominous mind-bender, they could not have predicted the rabid fan base they would accrue. Yes, there have been complaints that it was too slow, but for lovers of Servant that just added to the fun. Anticcccccccipation as Frankfurter would have said.
The finale gave very little away but opened a whole new chapter. Where has Leanne and her cult gone? Did they take the baby? Is anyone a ghost? Is Leanne capable of resurrection and if so did she resurrect her entire church? How about Sean? Did he die on that trip to shoot the cooking competition and doesn’t know it? If time is not linear as many propose it could be possible.
Episode 10 “Balloon” began by answering one big question. What did Sean keep the placenta for? The answer to every baptism house party is savory Croquembouche spiked with freeze-dried placenta. A recurring theme this season is expressed by Sean as he prepares the pastry mountain. As one life begins another must end. M. Night Shyamalan has explained Servant was a biblical story modernized. Life must have balance and if someone was resurrected who did we sacrifice for it? Sean who by the end of the finale was burning himself to feel something is the most likely candidate. He is losing pieces of himself daily. First taste, now touch.
Resurrection is a constant. Whether it is the resurrection of Christ or someone like Lazarus that Christ brought back to life Servant has no shortage of references to it. The titles of the episodes all have something to do with rebirth or repurposing. Wood although dead can be used for warmth and construction, rain represents cleansing and regrowth, and haggis is repurposed sheep stomach stuffed with meats and spices.
Servant episode ten shows the Turners baptizing Jericho and hosting an open house in his honor. Sean is acting nervous about something the Priest said while Dorothy holds court. One of the party guests mentions they haven’t been inside in years while another questions how they afford the house. Sean gives every appearance of being successful chef cooking for the 76ers and acting as a celebrity chef and Dorothy is a news reporter. Coupled with family money they should be financially set. This is true unless one or both of them has been out of work for an extended period.
These throwaway comments are clues to the biggest twist of season one. Time is not linear in the world of Servant. The tag line for the series doubt everything you believe should have been a tip. In episode one, Leanne peruses Dorothy’s news footage and the dates range from 2011 to 2019 with a glaring gap between 2011 and 2017. Perhaps Jericho died long ago like in 2011, and she has been suffering from a psychotic break since then.
The early footage she watched showed a much harder hitting reporter. She was focused on serious journalism as opposed to the fluffy social pieces swe see her do in 2019. In addition, Leanne came to the couple when she was 18 she claimed. But if time is illusory perhaps Leanne came earlier and has been with them for years now.
In episode nine Toby was not interested in Leanne but in episode ten he brings her a balloon and champagne. He must be familiar enough with her to invite himself into her room. That kind of comfort and presumption only comes with time. Leanne’s naked back is not as scarred as we see it earlier in the season when she whips herself towards the end of the finale. Lastly in episode one when Leanne helps Dorothy alleviate her blocked milk duct the intimacy those two women share is either super weird as they’ve known each other just days or Leanne has been with them for a much longer time than we originally thought.
There are more instances where time is out of sync. Sean uses the wrong alarm code when trying to take Jericho away, but Julian uses the same code later in the season. This is because these two events are not concurrent. Dorothy does use the same code moments later however debunking this whole theory. The house or Jericho himself might be supernatural and stopped him from escaping with the baby.
In episode nine during a flashback concerning Jericho’s fate major temperature swings and visible foliage changes occur in days instead of weeks or months. Jericho grows into a much larger more active baby in the span of days instead of weeks. The infant Dorothy leaves on the changing table is significantly older than the newborn Dorothy holds as Sean leaves to record his show. Maybe Sean was gone longer than a few days? Maybe he died?
These timeline incongruities are a symptom of a larger device. All of episode nine was intended to “show” us what happened to Jericho. With Dorothy catatonic or psychotic and no one else present how do we know what really happened? Sean says he did not tell anyone about the child’s death or contact the authorities. In the blowfish scene with Leanne, he tells her the police told him it happens to 40 children per year. One of these statements is false unless there has been more than one child.
The story of Jericho is told from a specific perspective and as a result, it’s the ultimate unreliable witness. The baby could easily have been kidnapped by the Church/Cult of Lesser Saints as the news story indicated was a growing problem. Episode ten showed Dorothy reporting on a standoff with the Church. That was how she recognized Aunt May. In the story, the building exploded with lots of children inside including Aunt May. Coincidentally that story was from 2011. Was that the event that caused Dorothy to quit working for six years? Is it possible everything that happened in season one happened from 2011 to the present? With Leanne making an appearance two years ago?
Jericho could have been kidnapped just as easily as left in a hot car. It would also explain why no one was arrested. Dorothy remembers someone in a hazmat suit lifting something out of Jericho’s crib. Sean had a large hunk of ham delivered while he was gone that was left to rot on the kitchen table. In Dorothy’s state, she could have been caring for a rotting ham quarter instead of Jericho for weeks. Julian is in the hazmat suit and he removed the ham. It is the only explanation that accounts for a missing child and the putrid smell. The finale of Servant certainly didn’t make clear what Julian and Sean had to do with the dead baby if anything.
If Sean was right all along about Leanne being questionable, it isn’t all that far-fetched to assume all of the resumes that randomly showed up after a friend of a friend tweeted something are all cult members. If everyone who applied was from the same cult it would ensure one of them was selected. Why the cult wants someone in this house is anyone’s guess.
Leanne, Sean, and Julian are none too thrilled to see Uncle George and Aunt May. Uncle George has been stalking them for some time and appears at will. He is filthy and decrepit. If he died in the explosion during the standoff in 2011 he could have been resurrected by Leanne. He is from the earth and comes and goes at will from the ground itself. Aunt May is clean and put together indicating she could have escaped the fire entirely.
The biggest twist of episode 10 comes when Leanne chooses to go with Aunt May and Jericho goes missing leaving the doll in his place. The cult members after the world’s weirdest group hug disappear in an instant. A patrolling policeman sees them briefly while driving by but when he backs up they are gone.
The other odd thing of note is the beautiful overhead shot of the group that shows a blue balloon floating above them. The balloon is not visible in the policeman’s view seconds later. Where did it go? If the entire group is resurrected they can move through the earth. From dust to dust. That would account for their abrupt disappearance.
The doll itself which Dorothy recognizes as not Jericho has been hastily dressed in the pajamas Jericho had on earlier. If the doll and Jericho are one and the same he would be fully zipped and buttoned as he was when they put him to bed. I find it hard to believe Leanne stuffed a baby in her suitcase so someone else must have taken Jericho and left the doll.
Leanne willingly left with Aunt May and Uncle George. Aunt May tells her she is their servant, not Dorothy’s. She left Dorothy whom she had unfinished business with. If she wants to please those she loves and punish those she doesn’t as George suggests to Sean, does that mean she loves the Church? Are his words just the vindictive ramblings of an old man, or words of warning?
Uncle George is a fount of information through biblical riddles. He tells Sean he should know that Jericho is his. “The soul is perishable, the body is imperishable.”, he says. This from 1 Corinthians 15:42 means your soul or essence is immortal even when the flesh is weak. Jericho’s soul lives on and as a result, Sean becomes immortal too. Parents are immortalized through their children.
Incredible tension was built through patient pacing and dizzying camera angles. The quartet of Lauren Ambrose, Toby Kebbell, Rupert Grint, and Nell Tiger Free has been electric. Each bringing something unique to their scenes. They are four parts of the same whole all vying for control. Servant has been an addictive distraction for the doldrums of winter. Now that season one is over we will have to wait one long year before another season hits the streaming platform. Until then binge it again. Happy hunting, you never know what you will find. Who knows, like the fantastically trippy Braid, it might just all be in one character’s mind. Catch up on all our coverage including all the symbolism and theories you might have missed here.
- Leanne’s name is a combination of two. Lee meaning wood and Anne meaning of grace or favor. With what is happening to Sean it is too coincidental her name contains that meaning.
- In episode one, Dorothy shows Leanne where Sean’s man cave is. In a series with very specific spacial rules about what is shown it is surprising that his private room is never seen. Will we see that space in season two? Is Sean a ghost? That might explain why his alarm code didn’t work.
- Still no word on what the big deal is with Sean’s coffee pot.
- Blue plays a major role in the season. Sean frequently wears blue, the bank bags are blue, Leanne’s dress and Jericho’s balloons. Blue symbolizes confidence, faith, truth, and curiously heaven.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.