Each week Terry and Joe review the latest episode of Apple TV’s Servant S4, alternating between our respective sites.
Spoilers follow for Episode 4.07 “Myth”
Episode 4.07 “Myth”: Dorothy discovers a connection with Leanne. Uncle George shares information with the Turners.
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I’ve scoured the internet, Terry, but from all accounts Liam Tegler Corr’s Significant Form: Symbol and Allegory in Western Art is a fictitious work created by writers Henry Chaisson and Ishana Night Shyamalan. Still, its passages on “Fall from Grace / Exile / Lucifer” and, yes, “The Faustian Bargain” are all pretty commonplace concepts.
I raise the fact because “Myth” is an episode firmly caught up in the debate between what is real and what is fake; what is real-life and what is story; and what has been seen and what is imagined.
It’s the Mythbusters episode of Servant because it explodes what we know – or have seen – on the show, causing us to reevaluate everything we have witnessed over 37 episodes of the series. And then, in the end, it circles back on itself like an ouroboros, confirming that this was all just myth (hence the title), and depositing us right back where we started.
“Myth” takes place the day after the events of “Zoo” and briefly seems like it will be a Julian (Rupert Grint)-centric episode. He’s searching the house by night, discovering the aforementioned book in Sean’s office as members of Leanne (Nell Tiger Free)’s cult stand in the alley on the security cameras. Initially this seems like he might have been swayed by what he witnessed at Jericho’s party, but it’s not until the next day when he loses his ability to speak after Leanne bites his lip and tells him he “talks too much” that Julian seeks Sean (Toby Kebbell) out to plot.
Turns out they don’t need to do much because Roscoe (Phillip James Brannon) has delivered a special guest: Uncle George (Boris McIver), who is there to apologize and explain everything.
The fact that Uncle George spins a yarn that seemingly explains every mysterious occurrence involving Leanne throughout the show’s history is wild, to say the least. It’s happening at the same time as Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) digs up her own dirt on the girl’s past, confirming Leanne’s yearly tradition of observing Dorothy on the anniversary of her mother’s death. This would appear to corroborate the details of Uncle George’s story: Leanne was a grieving girl who mistook Dorothy’s kindness for a surrogate mother replacement and when Jericho died, she used the newborn baby of a conveniently dead woman who had OD’d to sneak into the Turner’s lives.
It could explain everything, Terry, although the details, including Us-like tunnels built under Spruce Street from the 19th century, begin to add up in an increasingly far-fetched way as the episode progresses. At one point, Uncle George – ever the showman – tells Sean and Julian, with a glint in his eye, that the most simple, obvious explanation is often the correct one. And Terry…the simplest explanation is still magic/supernatural (!), not a confluence of random events and masterful long-cons executed over years!
The ruse, however, works. The Turners sit down for a dinner, cooked by Dorothy (her mother’s old recipe) and brazenly offend Leanne without a care. They believe Uncle George’s story, so they aren’t afraid of the nanny’s wrath anymore. They’re confident that everything they have questioned, investigated, speculated, poked and prodded (for more than a year) can simply be waved away by this man that they should know by now not to trust.
And we’re left with his final scenes: the strategic framing on McIver’s face by director Shyamalan to force us to see and hear the change in tone in Uncle George’s voice when he dismisses a tearful Roscoe, followed by George’s self-flagellation as punishment for lying to them.
But Terry, I’ll turn it over to you: did you fall for any of the explanations in Uncle George’s story? What did you think of the cut-aways that “confirmed” the details, such as Leanne sprinkling splinters in Sean’s sheets? Were you surprised to hear Bev is (allegedly) still alive and recovering in hospital from her snakebites? Finally, how do you think this episode contributes to the build-up to the finale?
I’ve watched this episode twice now, Joe. Once before you had watched it and then once more just now so that I could take notes and really try to delve into the details.
On first watch, I felt goosebumps move along my arms as Uncle George spoke and found myself rethinking everything we saw. I wanted to message you with my surprise because “Myth” felt like such an important episode that completely changed what we had watched up to this point. “We all search for meaning in dark things,” Uncle George calmly states and it’s a phrase that gets to the core of Servant’s narrative and meta-narrative.
The Turners are obviously searching for meaning in the midst of a horrific accident. They experienced the worst thing a family can experience and they were willing to grasp at anything to make sense of the horror. If that meant magical happenstance and mystical powers, it’s worth it. At least their baby was still alive. Uncle George leans into that, laying out a perfectly rational explanation for everything they’ve been through.
It also works from a metatextual perspective, since we have spent over 150 pages by now dissecting all of the religious imagery and the supernatural layers, discussing a multitude of theories regarding what’s happening in the Brownstone. Here, 37 episodes in, Uncle George just pops that thought balloon, and director Ishana Night Shyamalan attempts to convince us by showing scenes and sequences from the last three seasons to back up George’s evidence.
I loved these moments, from Leanne sprinkling splinters in the bed to Julian marching through the house like a madman, clanging a pot and yelling “baby! Baby!” into the night.
It briefly fooled me because last week I compared the imagery of Bev inflating to that of a snake bite. And here we have Uncle George calmly using that as an explanation for what happened to her, as if Ishana and her co-writer Henry knew what I was going to say and used it against me.
So, yes, Joe, I did briefly fall for what George was selling. Because it sounded so calm and logical. It made me feel like I fooled myself and the previous dozens and dozens of pages of analysis was for nothing.
But the snake comment was also the one detail that ultimately rang completely hollow to me, because why would an animal tamer bring a poisonous snake to a child’s birthday party?!
What I do love about the way Uncle George laid out the vast conspiracy theory of Leanne and Jericho was the way in which he incorporated bits and pieces of truth. I truly believe that Leanne was obsessed with Dorothy, for instance. Uncle George shows the tunnels that live just under their feet, for another. Dorothy separately corroborates some of the details, such as Leanne’s obsession with seeing Dorothy on the anniversary of Leanne’s mother’s death: April 17th.
Just this episode, we revisit the news footage of Dorothy at the pageant and, in the background, we see Leanne’s mother being incredibly mean to her. In a subtle but powerful moment, Dorothy also finds a photograph of Leanne as a baby, being held by her mother…and her mother’s hand is forcing Leanne’s face into a smile, her fingers stretched in the corners of Leanne’s mouth in an approximation of a grin. Leanne’s homelife was terrible. And it didn’t improve as a member of the Church of Lesser Saints.
So, as I’ve mentioned before, it’d make sense that Leanne would be infatuated with the Turners: TV’s power couple. It’d make even more sense that, if Leanne were to see the medical responders carrying out Jericho’s dead body, she’d want to do something to restore this “perfect family.”
After the episode ended, I sat there wondering to myself, “why now?” Why, four episodes from the end of the series, did Servant decide to unravel the mystery and try to rationalize the wounds and the loss of taste and the vanishing baby?
My initial reaction was that this was too late in the series to try and pull the rug out from under us, only to very quickly reverse course and show that Uncle George was lying. But, again, Uncle George lays it out for us as he self-flagellates (side note: this was very painful to watch. McIver completely sells the pain in ways that had me cringing with each swing; a very different experience from Bev’s dancing and swinging from last week). “I have sinned with my lies,“ he says. “Through my deceit. I have put this family in grave danger.”
The way the Turners’ dinner transitions into this sequence is perfect. Dorothy is content in the knowledge that Leanne is just an obsessed little girl. Julian and Sean are content that everything they’ve experienced is simply conjecture and paranoia. So they are all three on the road to getting back to the way things were, pre-Leanne.
And Leanne is not happy with that. “You should all be very careful,” she tells them as she storms off. That, coupled with Uncle George’s ominous “I have put this family in grave danger” comment signifies that the storm clouds Julian sees in the sky at the start of the episode are only going to get darker.
Implied violence is in the air now, Joe.
But back to you. I’m curious if you had any other readings of this lore-drenched episode that I might have missed? Also, even with its cataclysmic feel, “Myth” also manages to be a funny episode. What did you think of Julian’s little written asides this episode and Sean’s discussion of ways to harm Leanne? Do you think we’ve seen the last of Roscoe? What do you make of the cruel way George let him go? And would you eat a cupcake with the face of your mortal enemy?
Oh yes, I would gladly eat a cupcake with my enemy on it. I identified far too quickly with that one kid who gleefully bit into his teacher’s face.
Regarding Julian: these references will be lost on you, Terry, but there are two fantastic episodes of TV that immediately came to mind when Julian stopped talking. Both examples highlight characters who are unable to speak and must rely on the written word to communicate: one is Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (“Hush”) and the other is Evil (“S is for Silence”).
The result of both episodes, and this one, is some pretty inspired comedy. The idea should be inherently limiting, but – like all good disability representation – when it’s done well, the results wind up being exactly the opposite (if anything, shows become more creatively free and play outside of the same familiar sandbox).
In this case, it allows Grint and Kebbell to flex their comedic chops, especially as the pair entertain increasingly ridiculous explanations of what kind of mythical creature Leanne could be (werewolf and vampire figure highly, which…come on, guys).
Servant has never struggled to balance its drama, its mythology and its comedy, but this kind of interplay, however brief, is pretty riotous and playful. It’s also welcome in an episode that otherwise feels deadly serious.
As for Roscoe, I’m unsure. This could be a natural exit point for the character, who has been used as a pawn multiple times over the life of the series. If he truly is disillusioned with Uncle George and his newfound faith, Roscoe could simply disappear. It’s unclear whether George was bestowing upon him a kindness – to effectively set him free of all of this drama – or if Roscoe had served his purpose and since George no longer needs him, the older man simply broke his spirit and cast him off.
Judging by George’s tone, it’s probably safe to assume, however, that he wasn’t being very gentle with the dismissal.
Of course, we’ve never had a clear idea of what Roscoe was doing with the CLS. All we know is that his faith caused him to repeatedly betray the Turners and, while Dorothy and Sean aren’t exempt from criticism, we don’t really know Roscoe, either. I, for one, don’t personally have a lot of sympathy for him, so if this was a cruel dismissal, then so be it.
Is this the end of the road for him, though? I don’t know. Servant has never used its supporting cast in a conventional way; outside of the central foursome, it’s rarely clear who will appear in any given episode. I could just as easily see Roscoe reappearing in the climax to play a vital role as I could see disappear forever.
What about you, Terry: will Roscoe return? Who else can you imagine making a dramatic return in the final episodes? And, finally, do you really think Sean’s Gourmet Gauntlet behaviour would make him go viral as opposed to getting cancelled for being a huge prick?
Oh I absolutely believe Sean’s behavior would make him go viral. People to this day use Gordon Ramsey’s “Idiot sandwich” gif.
Would he also be canceled for it? Sure, Twitter would have its field day debating his performance. But I also do think that it’s interesting that the episode that finally addresses the Faustian Bargain, confirming that Sean has been giving into his evil impulses on the show.
Servant’s focus on food has had an intriguing trajectory over the course of four seasons and we’ve really seen Sean go from a person who lovingly and painstakingly creates a masterpiece of food to someone who barely cooks.
In fact, in this episode, it’s Dorothy that cooks the big meal. Instead, he’s punching down on cooks who are hoping to make it as big as him in the culinary world. For someone who grew up on the streets and, it was discovered in season three, was saved by cooking, the fact Sean is now destroying other chefs’ dreams sure is a subtle reminder that those cinematic deals with the devil are a spiraling path to destruction. If anything, I’m glad that Servant is finally addressing the deal Sean’s made for fame. We’ve talked about it in a number of our recaps, particularly over the last two seasons.
As far as returning characters, I actually could almost see Roscoe return to exact vengeance on Uncle George. This is a man who has been pulled into the mystery through no fault of his own, first working as a paid private investigator for Julian and Sean before getting inducted into the cult and pulled in that direction. The way he was cut down and left with questions unanswered after he destroyed his life (for something he either believed in or was brainwashed into believing) was vicious. I could see him popping back in to…well, pop Uncle George’s head.
As for other characters…Aunt May (Alison Elliott)’s name is mentioned again this episode and while we haven’t seen her since “Spaceman”, so it’d be a nice family reunion if she returned for the carnage.
We have just a few more episodes and while Servant is finally starting to tie the pieces together, I feel like there’s a lot more to tackle. I’m expecting violence and vengeance to be on the menu soon…maybe next week when we return to Gayly Dreadful for Episode 8.
Servant airs Fridays on Apple TV