Each week Terry and Joe review the latest episode of Apple TV’s Servant S2, alternating between our respective sites.
Spoilers follow for Episode 2.08 “Loveshack”
Episode 2.08 “Loveshack”: Dorothy and Sean get a hopeful sign. Leanne and Julian get to know each other better.
Terry, I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to process this latest episode of Servant.
Oh wait, no, that’s just Uncle George (Boris McGiver), unravelling in anticipation of murdering/sacrificing Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), as prescribed by the note delivered in the fun box delivered in the last episode.
“Loveshack” is…a lot. We’ve got another darkly comedic beat as George cranks The B-52’s iconic titular song on a boombox before bashing his head repeatedly against the wall. We have the cathartic/uncomfortable moment when Julian (Rupert Grint) cries through sex with Leanne. And we have the baffling development when Roscoe (Phillip James Brannon) attempts to delay Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean (Toby Kebbell) in the backyard at George’s behest.
There’s an undeniable Hitchcockian ticking clock element to the episode, as if “Loveshack” was made up entirely of those agonizing moments when you’re waiting for something to happen. It’s noticeable not just on the soundtrack, which features a literal clock, but also the dialogue, like when Dorothy describes to George the burly stock of her delivery man en route with the Betamax player (I legitimately guffawed so loudly at that comedic exchange that I had to pause the episode just to text you).
This anticipation of a momentous event extends to most of the tense conversations that make up the episode. Nearly all of “Loveshack” is comprised of characters sneaking off to quiet quarters in anticipation of what’s to come.
In the snowy backyard, Dorothy attempts to reassure Sean that she’s “got this under control”, but she’s floored by Sean’s admission that he hired Roscoe to look into Leanne without telling her. George, meanwhile, is painting images on the walls in transparent liquid, collecting effigies for a bonfire in the basement and bashing his head against the bedroom wall.
Then there’s Julian, who embarks on his own investigation, printing up news reports about the fire that claimed Leanne’s parents on Nov 23, 2007 in Medicine Bridge, WI. Initially his ease at discovering this information frustrated me, but at different points in the episode both Julian and Roscoe remind us that last season they discovered the burnt husk of the farm house where Stephen and Laura Grayson perished.
While the slowly building tension is incredibly compelling, I was impressed with Servant’s continued dedication to fleshing out Leanne’s backstory. In “Espresso”, we learned of the vengeful way that Leanne’s mother refused to let her “win” the trophy at the center of the kin cake. Here, it’s confirmed that the emotional abuse was accompanied by physical abuse as Laura Grayson can be seen harming her daughter in both pieces of archival footage: Julian’s newspaper reports and Dorothy’s News 8 child beauty pageant story.
Tellingly, when Julian shows her his research, Leanne observes (of Laura): “Look at how she’s holding me; like she wants to drop me. Dorothy would never do that to Jericho.”
This confirmation of Laura’s bad behaviour is another piece of the puzzle that comprises Leanne’s “bad mother” trilogy: her abusive birth mother was followed by May, the manipulative cult leader and now Dorothy, the woman whose behaviour Leanne has judged so harshly because she had Dorothy on a pedestal as a “perfect mother.”
It’s intriguing that throughout the episode, there’s a recurring bit about the ramifications of repression, which is encapsulated in Julian’s line “When you pretend a terrible thing didn’t happen, it eats your insides.” This follows his confession that he blames himself in part for Jericho’s death because Dorothy called to ask for his help, but Julian was too busy getting high to come to her aid. Leanne counters by confessing that she inadvertently set the fire that killed her parents (she was attempting to destroy her mother’s favourite dress on the stove). It’s confirmation that none of these characters are innocent and, considering the unexpected results of Sean and Julian’s ruse, all of these characters deserve punishment and salvation in equal measure.
Terry, I’m curious what you made of Leanne’s backstory and how it intersects with the new rules we learn about the cult? Speaking of which, were you shocked by Roscoe’s admission that he’s acting on George’s orders now? And were you, like me, on pins and needles waiting for some terrible thing to happen all episode?
“Loveshack” hit me in waves of alternating uncomfortableness and dread, Joe. When we were discussing episode 5 (“Cake”), you asked what Leanne’s intentions were with Tobe (Tony Revolori) when she brought him to the attic. I think “Loveshack” is confirmation that she was planning to sleep with him.
Episode 8 continues Leanne’s journey from a meek child to an adult, culminating in sex with Julian. This scene was deeply uncomfortable to watch, considering the age differences in the characters but the reality is that it is simply another way for Leanne to act out against the authoritarian rules that have been pressed on her her entire life.
You mention the physical abuse and the emotional abuse with the Graysons and it’s clear that tradition of trauma continued when she met Aunt May and Uncle George. “I’m not supposed to listen to music. They say it’s a dark temptation,” Leanne tells Julian. “But I don’t understand that. This feels like light to me.” Then, later, while addressing the fire, she mentions that May and George tell her that God was working through her and that terrible things happen for a reason. Finally, while she kisses Julian, she tells her that she’s not supposed to do that, either. “They say anything that feels good is dangerous.”
In between it all, Leanne has come to a conclusion: “I think that if that’s ‘God’…then I don’t want anything to do with Him.”
That feels like a significant statement, given everything we’ve learned of Leanne and her “guardians.” It also feels like the heart of the conflict this season with Leanne; an understanding that those in power might not have her best interest at heart. That they are, instead, using her as the titular servant. So while we have been exploring her maturation this season into an unruly teenager, we’re also seeing her growth into an autonomous being. And that’s both exciting and worrisome.
Her childhood has been heartbreak after heartbreak and what does all that negativity do to a person with immense power? Our easy and simple comparison would be the tragedy of Carrie, who was raised under the same kind of intense religious devotion and physical/emotional abuse. In a subtle way, “Loveshack” references Carrie with bursts of flames, both as she’s talking about the fire that killed her family and also near the climax when a candle is knocked over and briefly starts a fire
This last image may take on even more significance when accompanied by Leanne’s statement “everybody lies to me”. All this to say, I’m curious to see where Leanne’s journey goes in the next episode because “Loveshack” feels like the culmination of her journey towards adulthood.
While this is all happening, we have Roscoe trying to sequester Sean and Dorothy as George prepares for his ritualistic murder. While the above discussion of Leanne & Julian’s coupling was uncomfortable, this is the “dread” that permeated the rest of the episode.
You’re absolutely right, Joe, about being on pins and needles. On reflection, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot happened in “Loveshack”, but its focus on the ritualistic preparations and Roscoe’s odd behavior made it feel like violence and horror could happen at any minute. What a reversal from the more madcap “Marino”!
Yes, I was shocked to learn that Roscoe was working on behalf of George, but the way it unfolded was also intensely surprising. The shot of Roscoe getting a glass of water for Dorothy while George opens the door to the basement should have clued me in. But given Roscoe’s horrific hypnosis sequence and the resulting trauma, I was so afraid of what would happen if Roscoe interrupted George that I wasn’t thinking this was all planned.
I desperately want to know more about Roscoe’s interaction with the cult now more than ever, even though he sort of gives a quick answer as to why he answered George’s call. “You know I’m a rational man,” he tells Sean. “Something’s happening to me. Things are changing. They’re shifting for the better.”
He then finishes by telling Sean, “they’re not like us. They’re special.” That Sean can trust them.
And obviously we get a scene of Sean pulling away his bandages to see new flesh growing with the salve was placed. But I have to wonder, Joe…who are the villains in this? Are Aunt May and Uncle George angels? Do they actually have everyone’s best interests at heart? And, if so, is Leanne potentially evil? Or is it the reverse? What are your thoughts on this?
Heavy questions aside, I must know if the constant shots of the mannequin stand-in for Leanne’s mother made you worried it would move at some point? Did George’s threat that “she” will come for Leanne get your pulse raising when he said that the “she” is not May? Who is he talking about?? And did Leanne cause the car accident in the final shot of the episode?
Oh I definitely think that we can assume a causal connection between the brief attic fire, George’s startled escape from the Turner household and his untimely demise via vehicular homicide. It makes even more sense with your Carrie analogy, Terry: after all, what did Carrie White do to her controlling, religious mother at the end of that tale?
I can’t help but wonder if George thought he would get away with this sacrificial murder because he hadn’t interacted with the person that Leanne has become (aside from their brief encounter last episode).
If we consider that he hasn’t seen her all season (which is a few weeks in the period of the show), he isn’t aware of who – or is it what – she’s become. He wouldn’t have been expecting meek, docile Leanne to fight him. And when he sees what she’s now capable of doing, and that she is prepared to wield her powers against him, he’s terrified. If we weren’t afraid of what Leanne can do before, his reaction – and perhaps his death – is a pretty clear answer.
While I’ll confess that I never feared the mannequin would move, I did find Leanne’s explanation about it being a proxy for her mother fascinating. It’s clearly also a stand-in for Dorothy, since she has been dressing it up in Dorothy’s clothes all season. There’s a fascinating project to be had for someone with the time to go back through these episodes and chronicle all of the mannequin’s permutations throughout the season. Considering how Leanne has transformed the attic into a kind of home of her own, it’s disarming that she would also introduce this spectre of abuse into her surroundings.
I most strongly remember it in “2:00” when Leanne hid from Dorothy behind it. I say fascinating because Leanne used a proxy of her abusive biological mother as a barrier against Dorothy, her abusive new “adopted” mother. The irony is that Dorothy faces off against a mirror image of herself (because the mannequin is wearing her clothes) while that the proxy of Laura Grayson once again does nothing to prevent harm befalling her daughter. And all of this is occurring in and around objects that once belonged to Julian and Dorothy’s own mother. All this to say: Servant has moms on the brain.
Which is why I can’t even speculate about the identity of the mysterious “she”. Terry, who could be worse or more threatening than May? And we touched on Leanne and Julian’s coupling, but given that she nearly seduced Tobe, do you think she used her powers here? And what happens next: Betamax delivery?
I started to wonder, Joe, as I was writing back to you initially that maybe Leanne is using her powers to slightly seduce Tobe/Julian. Granted, Tobe probably wouldn’t need much convincing since he’s been pretty fond of her from the beginning.
But Julian’s scene escalated so quickly that I am curious if there’s something else going on. It also makes me read his crying during sex in a different way. We know that Leanne is very interested in taking people’s pain away (it’s the whole reason she brought Jericho back to begin with). And her role in a household seems to be one of peace; helping out the Marino family for instance, and maybe keeping at bay the horror the father would eventually mete out in her absence.
So…was his crying actually a response to her taking away his pain, if for only a brief moment?
He’d spent most of the conversation with Leanne admitting to his own atrocities that led to Jericho’s death. When he played the voicemail of Dorothy begging her brother Ju-Ju to come, it became obvious that he’s continued to torture himself since that moment. The fact he hasn’t deleted the message and his constant anxious behavior when he’s with Dorothy and Sean shows that he’s just as stuck as the Turners are; reliving the past mistakes, over and over. Maybe Leanne was being kind in taking away his pain.
Going from this scene to the ending, I was struck once again at the score by Trevor Gureckis. He has been churning out oppressive, moody and subtle scores each episode that heighten the tension and underscore the threats. But what he did at the end of this episode brought a geeky smile to my face.
As the music builds from George mentioning that “she” is coming to his untimely demise (?), it finally hits the credits and we hear those bells and childlike music that opens each episode. Except it’s distorted and under industrial noise and bombast. It’s discordant and subtle. But it is another reminder of how fantastic the music is.
We’re two episodes from the end of season 2, Joe. And I have to think the Betamax delivery will happen…if not this next episode, then the finale. And I’m as insanely curious about what’s on that tape as I am to discover who the “she” actually is. Maybe we’ll learn more next week when we’re back at Gayly Dreadful for some tantalizing “Goose.”
Servant airs Fridays on Apple TV