Everything has been leading to this. We have watched and waited for the other shoe to drop for three seasons. We knew there were things very wrong in the Turner’s house. Long before Leanne came, this family was in chaos. The indulgence and later deception of Dorothy were troubling. The men in her world, with the exception of her father, were well-meaning. They loved her but didn’t know how to help her. When the worst possible thing that can happen to a mother happened, their lives, in effect, ended. They have all remained stuck in this hideous limbo of what could have been but never was. Servant Season 4 Episode 4 threw out the playbook and showed us it’s better to face reality no matter how terrible than remain a prisoner to the past.
Nell Tiger Free(Leanne) has been given free rein to let her freak flag fly, and she steals every scene. What was once an odd mousy bystander is now a commanding presence. Dorothy(Lauren Ambrose) and Julian(Rupert Grint) used to jockey for attention. Each is more over the top than the other as they raise the volume on their collective personas. Dorothy is the shiny performer. She is always on and always perfect. Her family is an extension of that identity. Her ridiculously clueless, narcissistic behavior was fun to watch, and no one could deny Julian’s brilliant one-liners delivered with biting sarcasm that hides a wealth of pain. Now it is as if Leanne’s power has grown so immense she is muting their lives and leaving behind husks as cold and pale as a wintry morning.
Lip-glossed and wild-eyed, Leanne has become unhinged. She has always been troubled, but now she is entering uncharted territory. In a chilling opening sequence, she talks to the mannequin she calls “mother” and confesses to liking the power she wields. Free has taken Leanne from shy and timid to powerful and dangerous as everything comes full circle in Servant Season 4 Episode 4.
Strangely, this episode was about everyone remembering who and what they once were. Dorothy’s life before Jericho was about control and perception. It was also about the love she and Sean once had. She relinquished so much of that control when she failed to grieve Jericho. She gave up even more of it when she let Leanne into her house. It wasn’t her fault. Dorothy suffered from a psychotic break, and Leanne didn’t know how deadly she would become. Leanne was told her whole life how special but scary she was. When she broke from the church, it was initially to save her life. Now, it’s about more than survival. It’s about family and power.
The two women are on a crash course with each other, and God help anyone who squares off behind them. But at least Sean and Dorothy are mending their broken relationship. Whether the nurses are more than they appear, their influence in the house is positive. They also are persistent and intuitive. It won’t be long before they question what happened to Jericho 1.0 if they don’t know already.
It’s Halloween in Philly, and the holiday which encourages adults to indulge in their darkest fantasies provides Leanne with the push she needs to go hunting. While the streets are littered with toilet paper, and kids are running amok, Sean returns to his roots. He is doting on Dorothy. A ladder and many giant spiders later, their brownstone is the picture of suburban spookiness. All of his acts of service are wearing Dorothy down. She remembers who they were as a couple before life intruded. It’s lovely how Sean cares for her. Toby Kebbell has grown Sean as a character. Once just a side player, he is instrumental in putting his family back together and making things right. Kebbell has had to play the subtle straight man to the other robust characters, but that patience and sacrifice have paid off. What was once almost a forgotten family member is now strong and resolute.
Before he can fix things, Sean must come to grips with his role in this mess. Ever practical and a consummate compartmentalizer, Julian has noticed that Sean’s career is skyrocketing. He points out to Sean that Leanne probably had a hand in that. He also rightly deduces that Dorothy will never forgive him until they hop off Leanne’s bandwagon. Then, in a shocking moment of clarity, Sean realizes sacrifices must be made.
Bev and Bobbie set Leanne down a risky, if wonderfully designed, path. Her scary doll costume is exactly what everyone who has ever wanted to be pretty but disturbing on Halloween dreamed of. Leanne is dressing for battle one corset and bit of makeup at a time. Meanwhile, Dorothy is prodding at the blank spot in her memory. Dorothy is going to remember soon. What happens when she does?
Out on the street, Leanne stalks the block with her costumed park kids harassing everyone she suspects. Like a Maenad who sows seeds of madness and debauchery, those who worship Leanne are going mad. Her newest edict that sin is fun is especially perilous for this group that is just as unhinged as the church. Although the park people do not do anything to hurt anyone, the same can not be said for Leanne. Leaning hard into horror, Servant Season 4 Episode 4 breaks a kid’s arm in a bone-crunching, gory moment. She’s out of control, and something has to give.
Julian and Sean know there is something very wrong with Leanne. Sean is now willing to do whatever it takes to get her out. We don’t know if Julian is on board with this yet, but he knows things can’t continue this way. Leanne has sway over men who view her romantically. Julian and poor sweet Tobe follow her like a puppy. When push comes to shove, will Julian pick her side over Dorothy’s? Fear has its limits. It allows captors to be caught, cults to collapse, and abusive relationships to end. It is a motivator but only for a time. Julian is too afraid of losing his nephew and sister again to act right now. That might change soon, though.
As Halloween winds down, Leanne stalks the streets like an apex predator looking for her next meal. As she intimidates a little girl, electricity pops, and lights flash. There can be no doubt now. Leanne is supernatural, she is something other than human, and everyone is in trouble. Uncle George tells Roscoe there are people in place in the Turner’s life who can help. Time is running out for someone. Will Leanne succeed and destroy the world, or will what started as a very personal story about a grieving family become an epic victory of good over evil?
Our beautiful adult dollhouse Servant, looks and feels like a twisted game we all willingly play. Every voyeuristic slide of the camera from one room to another reminds us we are visitors in this house. We are at the mercy of Leanne’s desires and Dorothy’s determination now more than ever. That’s the deal we make with prestige television. In a rare bit of meta genius, Servant Season 4 Episode 4 reminds us we all pay a price to watch the show. Some are participants, and others are just watchers content to let the action happen around them. Like M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock At The Cabin, based on the novel by Paul Tremblay, we all become part of the story whether we like it or not. How you choose to let it affect you is sometimes not up to you.
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- I’m confused about how time works in Servant. There are a few concrete dates we know about. The rest is a little murky, but things don’t work linearly in Servant. We know at least part of Season 3 took place in September because a close-up of Dorothy’s phone had the date September 3rd on it. If four months have passed since the accident, how is it only Halloween?
- The giant spider decorations seem like a poor choice, given the insect infestation that has plagued their brownstone. I don’t think they should give Leanne any ideas.
- Speaking of ideas, considering how Jericho died, it’s pretty sick to put Jericho 2.0 in a lobster boiling in a pot costume.
- Another news story details massive property damage in the city. Leanne’s evil is spreading.
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.