The penultimate episode of season one shared time with the present and the past. Jericho’s demise was shown in agonizing detail, while Sean and Leanne square off.
If Servant episode 8 was Julian’s, episode 9 was devoted to Jericho. We finally know what happened to Sean and Dorothy’s baby. It wasn’t anything bloody or supernatural, just deeply sad. Every year there are stories about parents who forget kids in their cars. Lack of sleep, desperation, postpartum depression, and fussy infants make for a deadly combination. Dorothy’s very real meltdown is hard to watch. There wasn’t anyone watching who wasn’t shouting at the screen to remember Jericho. Instead, she left him to die a terrible death and then cared for him for four days while his body grew cold and decomposed. We still don’t know exactly what Julian found but the sounds of flies and Dorothy’s state, fill in a lot of details.
The episode opened with Dorothy giving birth to Jericho. It is a bright day full of promise that feels just as false as anything Dorothy could have directed herself. Everything Dorothy says and does is scripted and contrived. It is who she is. She is too perky, overly polished and self-indulgent. She is the joke that reports on personal interest stories as seriously as if they were hard-hitting exposes. Always on, she is about appearance. Like any good celebrity, she posts pictures of her beautiful child and her camera ready self just two weeks after birth.
All is not perfect in the Turner’s house. Sean was asked to judge a televised food channel competition. His star is rising. Sean and Dorothy have a complicated relationship. Too much competition and insecurity keep them from appreciating each other. They are incapable of communicating their fear and concerns. Instead of admitting she is scared to handle Jericho alone, or voice real concern to leave Dorothy on her own, they snipe at each other. It is the behavior we have seen all season.
After several days of a fussy baby and very little sleep, Dorothy forgets Jericho for an extended period of time in a hot car. She barely registers the forgotten baby she is so out of it. She even turns on a fan in his room without realizing he isn’t in the crib. Spliced in between these tense moments are current time events. Leanne has made it her mission to torture Dorothy into remembering the truth.
Lauren Ambrose is fantastic tonight. Her wild swings from doting mother, to exhausted parent, and disbelieving woman are incredible. Each is played to complement the other. Dorothy is a hot mess, but she is relatable. Ambrose has developed a character that is larger than life while still vulnerable and broken.
Leanne intuitively understands how to hurt Dorothy. She is simultaneously saccharine-sweet when offering to cook breakfast while telling Dorothy she looks good for someone who just had a baby. It’s a top-notch “neg” from someone who purports to be a naive girl. Her offer to make breakfast may have been just a front to poison her though. Sean stops her from adding cayenne pepper explaining Dorothy likes the idea of spicy foods but her body does not. He explains that if she thinks it is in the food she swears she can taste it. That ability to subvert reality is what allows her to ignore everything that happened with Jericho and the Reborn Doll turned living child.
A super close up conversation between Leanne and Sean gets to the heart of the matter. Leanne knows what Dorothy did and can’t forgive her. She wonders why Sean can. This uncomfortably intimate scene would not work without the chilling calculation by Tobe Kebbell(Sean) and the indignant sadness of Nell Tiger Free(Leanne). Every detail of this weird interlude works. The shadows as they hit Sean’s face highlight his superiority. Leanne’s tear-filled eyes which never completely release their tears and the slimy raw flesh of the blowfish ceviche is well executed without being overt. It was a masterclass in slow-burning menace.
Sean and Leanne have tiptoed around each other from the beginning. Neither trusts the other and that distrust has come to a head. He seems to know she poisoned Dorothy to cause the violent illness she was currently suffering from, and Leanne knows what happened to Jericho. She can’t imagine why he would stay with her after what happened. Leanne’s mode of aggression is sneaky and passive, while Sean is far more direct. He knows she can’t tolerate eating odd foods, especially exotic proteins. He scares her with the risk of poisoning by tetrodotoxin. This isn’t the first time he has intimidated her with food.
This slow-moving thriller has been maddening at times. What the actual fuck is going on is a question asked almost every week. Things come back from the dead, dolls come to life, people start shedding wood shards like hair, and everyone calmly drinks wine like a soccer mom on Friday afternoon. So many disparate things that shouldn’t fit together, do in sublime perfection. Events parallel each other with such effortless subtlely you barely register the importance. For example, before Jericho died Dorothy took his temperature and it was 97.2 degrees, just as her temperature was at the end of Servant Episode 9.
Pay Attention To The Food
Food continues to play an important role. Even the discussion of food is important. Intercut between Dorothy’s past with baby Jericho are Facetime conversations and episodes of Sean’s competition. Commentary from him discusses the bitterness created by torching food. Clever and macabre touches like this put clues in plain sight while also driving the overall tone of casual disgust. There is something offputting about the entire character list. Creator Tony Basgallop has done a masterful job developing a world that is slightly wrong. Everything is a touch wonky and distasteful.
In the past crickets, eels, and haggis have all been important meals. The symbolism of the foods themselves is interesting when combined with the events of the episode they are featured in. In Episode 5, Crickets Leanne is convinced to try a cricket dish. Crickets invade her room and Leanne may have resurrected a dead insect. In Episode 3, Eel the snake-like creatures were beaten and skinned alive before being consumed. Serpent symbology is very important in a home that Uncle George condemns as Godless. Uncle George’s visit brought more strange eating habits with George’s bizarre removal of the tomato sauce from his chicken. There are some interesting concepts regarding religious iconography and tomatoes that could explain his behavior.
Servant Episode 9 brings us Blow Fish or Fugu and entire legs of animals. Leanne has beaten herself for simply eating a cricket. What happens when she eats a piece of raw fish? Fugu is a delicacy that if not prepared properly can be deadly. The poison tetrodotoxin is found in the organs of this fish and should never be eaten. Just like Dorothy, the fish is a fancy prize for the rich and adventuress that can be nasty and dangerous. Leanne indulges Sean and after tasting the fish says it tastes like “bruised fruit”. She continues that it is like an apple left out in the sun too long. Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden for eating an apple they were enticed to eat by a serpent. That is too specific to be coincidental.
The lowly egg white omelet this week made an appearance. Leanne makes Dorothy her favorite egg white omelet with cayenne that actually has none in it shortly before Dorothy becomes violently ill. She climbed into a hot car with a box of fish on her way to work. There is no proof of what made Dorothy sick. She says the smell of the fish is what initially did it. Without knowing how long Jericho was in the car, he could have been odorous when she finally remembered him. Smell is one of the strongest senses associated with memory. She could be sickened by the truth and not anything Leanne put in the food.
What happens on TV Still Matters
The outside world is never shown. Scant views of the street are shown, but very little from the world beyond the house with the exception of the television coverage. This utterly claustrophobic view has lent some to theorize everyone in the house is dead, but events tonight solidify Sean, Dorothy, and Leanne exist and are not deceased. Neighbors turn their head and record video of Dorothy. A random car alarm would not be enough to cause strangers to record something. A woman in her robe half-hysterical would. The television in Servant Episode 9 continues the theory that everything that happens on TV happens in some form in real life.
Forget Everything You Think You Know
Babies have already come and gone a handful of times, what is to say Sean isn’t behind the baby napping from the last episode. He is a first-rate gaslighter that with more than a passing knowledge of food. Perhaps, Dorothy had all the miscarriages before because of something he did to her meals. If instead of being the loving if cold husband and grieving father he is the Big Bad? That would change everything. All of his behavior through a different lens would look very different. He could have left Dorothy alone and fed her something before leaving ensuring her breast milk would give the baby colic. Sean could have orchestrated the entire thing. He now is wary of Leanne because she puts everything he has done at risk of discovery. It’s an alternative view of things that would bring a Shyamalan twist,
If Leanne did not poison Dorothy, it’s possible he did. He could have added something under the dome that dripped onto her food. Several episodes ago it was mentioned that spices had gone missing. One of those is Sumac which is another spice that can be dangerous. Instead of the conversation between Sean and Leanne being about him getting her to cop to hurting Dorothy, he may be threatening her with the second poisoning of the day. Essentially an “I did it once already today” kind of thing.
Leanne could be a naive girl. So far she has been portrayed as a miracle worker or a demon. What if she is neither? She could also be an angel sent to correct wrongs. Uncle George seems to think she is a child of divine power. If that is the case, she is the angel to Sean’s Devil. The potentially malignant chef has been involved in most of the food-related calamities even if it is peripherally. Sean kept Dorothy’s omelet and froze it right next to Dorothy’s placenta. He may have kept the omelet as proof of Leanne’s behavior even though he did it. That would force Dorothy to fire her.
Dorothy’s isn’t just narcissistic, she is categorically delusional. This woman has been training for denial her whole life. She has shown tendencies of complete self-centeredness. Evidently, this is a pathological ability for her.
Sean places Jericho’s umbilical cord and placenta in a storage bag in the freezer right after Jericho is born. These cords contain cord blood which can be used for medical procedures later in life if needed. Cancer and immunity disorders are treated with the stem cells found in the blood. Placentas can be eaten to deter postpartum depression and in many indigenous groups promote power within the tribe.
Jericho means City of Moon-That is both beautiful and important. The Moon is cyclical and Jericho’s life cycle appears to be as well.
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.