Writing my review of this TV series is not easy. Even though I really enjoyed it and am thrilled to share the discovery of this wonderful series with you, I have to admit I am struggling to find the right words to describe it that can do it justice. On the surface it comes across as a tale of a couple dealing with a recent family tragedy, who gets an unexpected surprise when their new maid arrives. The atmosphere is tense, and dark, and the expectation of something macabre or supernatural is ever present and hanging in the air. But this is no ordinary tale of horror as its characters are an interesting bunch of people and the series often feels more like a psychological thriller with complex characters, well balanced with a generous dose of subtle but hilarious dark humour.
M Night Shyamalan produced this series and his trademark style and mood is evident. In fact he directed several of the episodes while his daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan also had a hand in directing a few episodes. He also appears in a brief cameo on the very first episode as the delivery man for a parcel sent to the home of the couple, which is a rather Hitchcockian habit of his. The creative and unusual camera work that prevails throughout the two season is a refreshing style for a TV series. Like David Cronenberg and Hitchcock, this style elevates otherwise mundane scenes into something much more involving and a feeling of anticipation.
Much of the whole drama unfolds within the confines of the house where the couple lives and despite this restriction, we never ever feel suffocated. The script is a delightful barrage of verbal crossfire between the characters and constantly entertaining to watch. Performances from the key cast members were uniformly superb. Lauren Ambrose whom many may recognise and remember fondly as young Claire in the ground breaking HBO series Six Feet Under, is great as the young mother struggling to balance her life between as work as a TV news reporter, and a mother to her new born baby. Rupert Grint whom we all loved so much as the mousey Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series, plays her fouled mouth brother who strangely is often in the house mixed up with the mystery. It is a little unsettling to see Rupert play an adult and one that is so unlikeable and profane but I have to admit his character here grows on you and he is really good in it. Toby Kebbell who plays the husband is perhaps the least familiar face of the lot but he manages to provide the perfect balance of calm in the mix with his logical style of dealing with the on-going crisis. Finally, there is Nell Tiger Free who takes on the pivotal title role. As the strange “servant” employed by the family, she projects the perfect composure of someone who is pure and innocent, and yet gives you a sense that she is not all that we see. So, the series is very much a four persons play as they run around trying to figure out what is happening to the family that has been brought about by the arrival of the “servant”. They are supported by a host of colourful and memorable supporting characters.
There are currently two season available, each season having 10 episodes with a running time of just about 30 minutes. This makes it extremely easy to binge watch as I did over a week. The main draw back of such a series is how it concludes each season. Season One ended with a cliff hanger which is just continued into the opening act of Season Two. So if you haven’t watch this series before , you have the benefit of watching both seasons without the need to wait one whole year in between. I was worried that Season Two would also end in a cliff hanger and that we have to wait another year to get the answers to all the mystery surrounding the series. Fortunately the story line in Season Two provided a logical pause while providing much of the answers to the story. That is a relief for me as I hate investing so much time in a series only to have to deal with an open ended scenario. Season 2 ends with some level of closure but it also leaves enough unresolved matters to provide an excuse for a third season. I am not complaining and look forward to more next year.
This series has restored my faith in M Night Shyamalan who had not been having a consistent track record of success after hitting his peak early in his career with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. With his recent Split and Glass, and now Servant, it would appear he had found his mojo again.