Each week Terry and Joe review the latest episode of Apple TV’s Servant S2, alternating between our respective sites.
Spoilers follow for Episode 2.04 “2:00”
Episode 2.04 “2:00”: With a new guest in the house, Dorothy resorts to bold tactics to get what she wants.
Well, Terry, last week we speculated where we thought the events of “Pizza” would lead and the reveal is…the Turners’ attic. Apparently when I said that I thought Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) would be locked up in either her old bedroom or the basement, I was lacking imagination because we have broken into new territory!
Behold, the previously unseen attic of the Turner brownstone, which is basically the backstage of a theatrical production of Sunset Boulevard. Mannequins! Dresses! A miniature piano! Christmas lights! If I hadn’t spent the entirety of “2:00”s runtime worried that Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) was about to brutally murder Leanne, I might have laughed at how “teetering on campiness” this attic locale is.
But Servant is not, and never has, a silly show and 2.04 is a horror show, principally because it confirms that one of our leads is a straight-up sociopath.
I don’t say this with sarcasm or glibness because obviously Dorothy has gone through incredible trauma and repression. She’s been actively gaslit by her father, her brother Julian (Rupert Grint) and her husband Sean (Toby Kebbell). With all of that said, however, her decision to abduct, imprison and repeatedly torture her former nanny borders on unforgivable, especially as the 2:00 am attacks escalate from bending hands to choking to burying alive.
But let’s go back to the beginning because “2:00” is basically a 2.5 person play in a single location wherein each minute interaction slowly turns the screw just a little tighter.
In many ways, this is the perfect follow-up to Dorothy putting her feet down and “handling” things last week. “2:00” literally begins with the lady of the house stomping down the hall to collect Leanne’s meal: tomato soup (a nice callback to S1).
The interplay between the two women is fascinating. Dorothy orders Sean to stay away from their charge because he’s too easily manipulated and he’s “not as strong” as he thinks. Meanwhile every night, like literal clockwork, the aggrieved mother awakens to berate Leanne with a singular question: “Where is Jericho?”
Although Dorothy may believe that she’s simply using a practised journalistic technique of sticking with one simple question, what she’s actually doing is exacting psychological and physical torture on Leanne, who copes with the trauma by erecting physical barriers against her captor, including Angela the mannequin and, later, a series of chests.
I say that this is an episode of 2.5 people because not only is Sean caught in the middle, but he’s also only half there. Early in the episode he nearly knocks over a bottle of wine because his lack of sense has rendered him clumsy – it’s as if his injury has resulted in a phantom limb. Like always Sean accepts the bossy behaviour of his domineering wife, even as he sneakily searches for a key to access the attic in order to offer Leanne some creature comforts (showers, different food, even an explanation – as though that excuses Dorothy’s ruthless behaviour).
The reality is that Sean (and to a lesser extent Julian, Natalie and Dorothy’s father) is responsible for this outcome. Because of this kid-glove treatment (under the presumptive and demeaning belief that they’re “protecting” Dorothy because she would “punish” herself worse than anyone else) Sean has wound up with a hostage situation. And, more than ever before, as Dorothy’s 2:00 attacks escalate, it becomes increasingly difficult to forgive Sean for maintaining the ruse. A charcuterie board doesn’t begin to make up for what is happening here, particularly by episode’s end when Dorothy has become homicidal (horror movie POV and all) and buried her adversary alive because “nothing is too far.”
It’s…a lot, Terry.
I’ll admit that I had to pause the episode at the climax, when Sean is cradling a sobbing Leanne in the basement. For me, this was the point of no return: now that someone has been literally buried alive, Sean (and by extension Servant) can’t persist with the lie without compromising their narrative integrity. How can we ever forgive Dorothy or root for the Turners again if this event is simply swept under the rug?
So I’m glad that the episode seemingly ends with Dorothy acknowledging that 2:00 o’clock – when “my body remembers something my mind forgot” – is when, six months ago, she realized that Jericho died. Now we can move forward…
Terry: what is your take on how the torture played out? After all of our talk about the house, particularly the basement, falling apart, did you appreciate how the basement came into play here? Do you have a read on the return of Sean’s senses, especially considering how it contributed to Leanne’s rescue? And finally, I know you’re keen to discuss the episode’s red and blue colour scheme so unpack that for me.
While I’m in complete agreement with you, Joe, I will say that I don’t think Sean is being presumptive about what Dorothy would do if she really knew what happened to Jericho. Back in the first episode of the season, Sean and Dorothy had probably the most candid conversation in the entire series and Dorothy literally said she would kill herself to be with her kid if she discovered he was dead. In her usual way, she says she’d strangle herself with an overpriced belt…but when she says this and the camera pans back to Sean’s face, there are tears staining his cheeks and a look of such immeasurable grief painted on his face.
I think the show is implicitly laying down the stakes: Dorothy has so much invested in the idea of being a mother that she’d rather die than live without Jericho.
Obviously this does not justify the psychopathic means she uses to try to get to some sort of answer. But I will also posit that the show might be doing a bit of bait-and-switch. Servant is a series about resurrections, plagues, supernatural cults and the like. Yes, Dorothy has been on this destructive trajectory from the beginning of the series…but I do wonder if there’s something supernatural tied to her 2:00 AM violent attacks. You mentioned I’ve been obsessed with the color choices and I’d like to go down a rabbit hole of supposition.
This season has been obsessed with blues and reds. I mentioned this two weeks ago when we talked about “Spaceman” and the sequence where Julian was dressed in muted blues while Dorothy was cradled in the fetal position. In direct opposition to Julian’s blues was an ostentatious red staircase newel. M. Night Shyamalan superbly directed this episode and so the use of reds make perfect sense. All the way back in The Sixth Sense, he’s used pops of red to indicate, in his own words on the DVD release, “anything in the real world that has been tainted by the other world.” It’s a visual indicator of when the supernatural/spiritual world and the real world are about to collide.
The color red has been chasing Dorothy all season, but it was specifically the staircase scene in “Spaceman” and the entirety of this episode that it really started to click for me. Early on in “2:00” we get a scene where Dorothy sits in the kitchen, about to be served a fried egg. She’s coiffed in black and blues but standing directly in front of her is a bright red pepper grinder. And as she leaves the house, she walks past the same red newel from “Spaceman.”
Later, when she’s returning from work, she passes the builders who are leaving for the night, but there’s another burst of red in the otherwise drab colors walking past her on the stairs. The motif continues: red wine at dinner contrasting with her blue outfit; another dinner with Julian and Sean with a red cheese grater sitting in the middle of the table.
But when she wakes up in the middle of the night the first time and storms up to hold Leanne’s hand in hers before she starts to add pressure, she’s dressed in all red. And she looks like a demon possessed each night as she stalks from her bed to torture Leanne.
The first morning after the initial attack, she’s dressed in red and walks up to Leanne’s room to feed her a single egg (“You’d spoil her if I let you,” she admonishes Sean when he tried to sneak two eggs in) but she seems completely oblivious to the previous night’s events. When we reach the climax of the episode where Dorothy has literally buried Leanne alive, she’s dressed in blue pyjamas with red emphasis. As if she’s now been taken over and the red is now a part of her.
It’s as if she’s being controlled or possessed and the use of blues and reds are a clue.
I’d say that I’m reading too far into this…except that the color scheme is one M. Night has used before and I think you’re right: If this is the real Dorothy, this is a step too far. I don’t know if we could ever forgive her for what she’s done…unless it wasn’t her.
To take it further…what if there were supernatural elements that caused her original 2:00 AM realization that she left Jericho in the car? What if this has been a perfectly executed ruse (think of the rituals in Hereditary) to jigsaw puzzle this situation from the beginning. That Jericho’s death was caused by some supernatural being; the same being that made Leanne’s unassuming application stand out; the same being that is now pushing the Turners to their breaking point.
I told you it was a rabbit hole…
Back in the real world, I did love the arrival of the builders from a thematic perspective. In the first Dorothy/Sean conversation of the episode, she compares her techniques to the way people deal with drug addiction. You break them down to build them back up. Cue the builders: “See? We’re fixing everything!” she shouts as she leaves and we’re treated to a scene of the builders literally breaking down pieces of the basement’s floor in order to build it back up. It’s such a fun little thematic metaphor for a show filled with metaphors.
I didn’t get to the return of Sean’s senses mostly because I think it’s something that deserves a bit more space and I’ve already gone down some bizarre tangents.
I’m curious, in particular, if you think Sean’s reasoned out why he lost his senses and if that’s why he gave Leanne back her Bible? To follow through with that, I’m curious about your thoughts on whether Leanne gave him back his senses as a form of self-preservation or if that was purely coincidental? You also mentioned that this was a 2.5 person drama…so what did you think of Julian and his role as the “comic relief” and, possibly, the voice of reason this episode?
Before I address your questions, I do want to credit you to zeroing in on the colours. I legit hadn’t noticed all of that (I’ve been trying to decode Dorothy’s floral print work clothes and whether her current slate of news stories have any bearing on the narrative).
I’m curious about your suggestion that Dorothy has been possessed. Obviously there’s “Him” – the being that Roscoe witnesses the Church praying to during his hypnosis session back in the second episode of the season – so we know at the very minimum that there’s some malevolent entity lurking about.
Even if you don’t believe that Dorothy is fully possessed, it is clear that she’s not entirely cognizant of what she’s been doing at night. Sean makes repeated references to the dark circles under her eyes and whether she’s been sleeping throughout the episode and she seems uncertain, as though she has no memory whatsoever of what’s been happening. Is this just another dissociative episode, like what happened when Jericho first passed? Possibly…but Dorothy clearing isn’t fully in command of all of her faculties.
As for your question about the Bible and Sean’s senses…I think of the former as more of an olive branch from Sean, a way to lessen Leanne’s suffering as she is put on trial. The senses, however, cut straight back to the season one episode “Cricket” which confirmed that Leanne’s presence has healing/restorative abilities.
We never got confirmation about why Sean’s senses disappeared in S1 (in hindsight I wonder if Leanne was drawing on his health to help maintain Jericho), but clearly her presence, and his proximity, is what helps to bring them back (Sidebar: I did chuckle at Sean’s enthusiasm for wine the minute his tastebuds return; it’s like the first thing he does is hit that wine cellar).
When his hand wound awakens him on that final night, though, I have my suspicions about whether Leanne was strategically bringing Sean back. This is confirmed when, after he cleans her up and brings her back to the attic at episode’s end, she asks if his hand hurts and enquires if “what’s why you found me.” If his hand hadn’t woken him at that fateful time, who knows what fate would have befallen Leanne in that basement grave?
Turning to Julian, he didn’t make a huge impression on me here. When Julian isn’t front and center, he tends to slide into this comedic relief/sounding board. Obviously there’s some irony in Julian asking if he can play the “rough cop” given what we’re seeing Dorothy – the presumed “good cop” – do each night. But Terry, am I mistaken in believing that Julian attempts to drug Dorothy before that final night? If so, I guess this would lend your argument that Dorothy isn’t to blame even more credit since she would have been completely knocked out.
I wonder, too, if you had any insight into how Dorothy and Leanne’s faces are continually lit in half-shadow or halved by the camera framing. It really does position them as two sides – of the same coin or on opposite sides, perhaps?
And then there’s Leanne’s obscure/vague references which make me wonder how much she understands of what is happening. In addition to her questioning of Sean at episode’s end, she flatly acknowledges that Jericho is dead (something she never admitted in S1) and, most significantly, she builds on the statement she made to Sean on the phone at the end of the last episode: “Why haven’t you told her? It has to be one of you.”
That line (emphasis mine) feels significant Terry, because even when somnambulist Dorothy is racing down the hall after Leanne tries to escape out of the front door, Leanne still doesn’t say the truth. Yes, she says they kept Jericho “warm and happy and safe, safe from you!” but she doesn’t say that Jericho is dead or that Dorothy killed him.
This isn’t just Leanne refusing to get involved in the Dorothy’s business, Terry. There’s something about who gets to speak the truth here…
Joe, I also laughed that Sean’s first decision after getting his sense of taste restored is to rush for the wine. It felt a bit too real for 2020 where COVID has stripped a lot of people of their sense of taste and smell. I do want to dwell on the Bible and his returning senses. The reason I question whether he’s starting to figure out her magical abilities is that earlier in the season he discovers her Bible and focuses on two things: his name written in the margins of the book and the fact it’s written in the section about leprosy and other bodily ills.
This combined with the image of Leanne praying once she gets the Bible back and Sean’s resulting ability to taste shows that she’s actively exerting the force on him. I always took his loss of senses in season one as a vindictive attack by Leanne. She began Servant enamored with him and the moment she realizes he’s not the person she thought he was, she writes his name in the book and begins taking away his senses. So I do think she’s purposefully doing it, this time as a reward for him showing her kindness by returning her Bible.
Your thoughts that the “it has to be one of you” feels significant resonants with me, too. Because I think you could take this last episode as a form of self-flagellation on Leanne’s part to try and force Dorothy to revisit the inciting incident (Jericho’s death). We’re given multiple shots through season one and two of the cult members self-harming in the name of religion and it almost seems as if their thoughts are that through pain you’ll find your reward.
It makes me wonder if this whole torturous affair is either part of the cult’s (or Leanne’s) plan to push Dorothy to some form of self-realization. The fact the assaults happen at 2:00 AM. The fact Dorothy seems oblivious to her nightly rendezvous. I don’t know, but they feel related to the self-inflicted form of ritualization we’ve come to expect.
As usual, Joe, Servant continues to slyly introduce wrinkles to the narrative and allows the mind to reel at the implications. Next week, we’re hitting the midpoint of the season and I love that we’re still picking apart the mysteries. I have no idea where we’re going from here, though I have a suspicion Uncle George (Boris McGiver) might be showing his face again soon.
We’ll find out next week when we go back to Gayly Dreadful for some delicious “Cake.”
Servant airs Fridays on Apple TV