Apple TV + is back with Servant episode 4 Bear, and if you thought things couldn’t get weirder, think again.
The highly stylized series from M. Night Shyamalan and Tony Basgallop presented the next tiny thirty-minute bite of absurd mystery today and honestly, I can’t decide if it’s the coolest or most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. One thing is for sure, I can’t stop watching.
Just when you thought Dorothy couldn’t get any more batty, she declares they are taking the dead/not dead doll baby out to meet her coworkers. Never mind that said coworkers all know she lost her baby weeks ago and might just report her to the police for kidnapping. Between being gaslit by Sean, who actually is just trying to keep everyone out of jail and Dorothy from a straight jacket, and whacking away at sewage on air, she suddenly develops crippling insecurity. She flits through the house performing the role of Mommy, more than actually being a mommy. She even pontificates about changing the baby’s name, or at least the spelling as if it’s as simple as declaring it.
Vying for creepiest guy duo in history Sean and Julian spy on the Leanne using a gutted stuffed bear nanny cam. Sean still can’t taste anything and thinks he may have more splinters of wood in his neck. If that’s not odd enough Dorothy at one point spits toothpaste in his eye to help him see if there is something in it. He sports a half-face bandage for one minute as a result.
A strangely busy episode that provided tons of information did nothing to solve the mystery. Almost nothing happened this week besides nifty gastronomy and more wine drinking. The Turners had a rough time getting pregnant, Leanne probably smuggled her own baby into the house, and she has admired(been obsessed with) Dorothy since she was a child.
Nothing we see is real.
Lauren Ambrose’s Dorothy is so over the top it’s comical. Therein lies the genius. No sane person would behave the way she does. Maybe a cartoon character, but not a functional human. She blithely dances between wildly overconfident and shaky as she hurls insults and verbal jabs at Sean. She then falls prey to unbelievable bouts of uncertainty. The former is typically so nasty you feel sorry for the unpleasant Sean(“Sean’s don’t really make much of themselves”), and the latter so fake you want to shake her.
Sean(Toby Kebbell) and Julian(Rupert Grint) are stereotypical cardboard cutouts of male toxicity. So exhausted by Dorothy’s overwrought, narcissistic behavior Sean can barely look at her. Julian scowls and skulks along as if he has to prove he’s something other than Ron Weasley. Coupled with their mansplaining these two drink wine constantly. SO MUCH WINE. Their performances are only matched by Nell Tiger Free, who must be the unsettling bi-product from an unholy union between the nanny from The Omen and Piper Laurie’s Margaret White.
Sean constantly is making dishes that are representative of themselves or deconstructions. Lobster ice cream served in the lobster shell and birds nests of sugar might just be jackhammers to our skulls that nothing is as represented.
There is zero nuance here and the thought does cross my mind that maybe none of them are real and this is one of Ari Aster’s dollhouse dioramas from Hereditary. It is Shyamalan after all, so it seems reasonable to consider all options. In a St Elsewhere twist, in the series finale, the camera will pull back to reveal a girl playing with a gorgeous dollhouse. Think a mix of Josh Malerman’s The House of the Head mixed with the classic Twilight Zone episode Miniature. Would anyone really be that surprised to find a child behind everything we saw?
There are clues in the episode titles.
Shyamalan loves to hide answers in plain sight. In The Sixth Sense, he practically telegraphed the dead characters with the color red and clever dialogue. Most of the public, including myself just didn’t see it. Reborn, Wood, Eel, and Bear are both literal indicators of events that happen in the episode but might also offer deeper meaning. Reborn is a no brainer, but the three titles after that are more obtuse.
Wood is both the splinters in Sean and a symbol of knowledge. In episode four, Sean feels something in his eye and with all the splinters he’s had so far, there’s no way it won’t turn out to be wood. Plus he didn’t wear any eye protection during his little renovation project last episode. Dreams about wood in eyes symbolize a belief that there is someone you feel can’t be trusted in your life. I’m pretty sure we know who that is.
The third episode Eel featured a gruesome skinning. As arresting as this was for the viewer it has a deeper meaning. Eels have been confused with snakes and with the strong religious iconography Leanne has brought into the house and her initial reaction to the eels, she may think there is a literal serpent in her garden of Eden. Eels themselves symbolize strong male energy for obvious reasons. Julian and Sean certainly seem to think they are the picture of masculinity. Likely Shyamalan is telling us to pay attention to the one lied to, not the liar.
Lastly, episode four Bear, saw another animal get eviscerated. That poor stuffed animal never did anything to anyone. Bears symbolize commitment and authority. They also are associated with fierce parental protection. Dorothy has already bonded with Jericho her reborn child. She seems now to also have a blind spot for the odd young nanny.
Leanne isn’t a witch, she’s just bewitching.
We already know from episode three, Eel, Leanne’s family is all dead. In fact, she should be dead as well. Maybe Leanne wasn’t so keen on her original family and decided to burn that reality down. If she burnt one home down, whats to say if the Turners don’t make her happy she won’t crispy critter them too? In a news story from 2011, a very young Leanne is being interviewed by Dorothy. The loving look Leanne gives the television leads me to believe she has coveted Dorothy as a mother figure for eleven years. I sincerely hope Dorothy can live up to her expectations. If she can’t we could be looking at a Single White Female situation.
Sean is becoming a doll in the place of Jericho who has become a real boy.
Gepetto and Pinnochio trade places in essence. There are plenty of markers to make this a compelling theory. If Leanne prays to some wood god who created an infant from a doll(instead of her packing him in her suitcase, something must take its place. Nature must have balance. The infant’s name hint at that as well. Jericho can mean both fragrant or moon. The moon rules our tides and marks the changing of days with the lunar cycle. The father and child could be exchanging positions. As one wanes, the other rises.
Bonus Theory- Dorothy isn’t the only one with allergies.
Sean mentions to Leanne that Dorothy had an overactive immunity that caused her body to see unborn babies as allergies or irritants and she would miscarry the child. Sean could be allergic to wood. If the child is a living wood child, and Leanne’s totems all over the house may have activated his allergy. It would be an alternative explanation for his taste bud loss. Severe allergies can compromise the taste buds among other things. Hypogeusia, the medical term for the loss of taste can also be attributed to neck surgery and radiation. I doubt anyone is irradiating him, but Leanne might be slipping splinters under his skin. He apparently feels a new one on his neck.
We will just have to wait for next Thursday’s episode to see if this is real life or just a fantasy. Catch our ongoing coverage here.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.