Servant’s final season was emotional, horrifying, and heartbreaking all in one. Apple TV+ wrapped up the twisted and disturbing Alfred Hitchcock-like M. Night Shyamalan story, one of the first Apple TV+ original series, in a way that seemed rushed yet also satisfying.
The story begins when a married couple enlists the help of a young woman named Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) to care for their infant son. As revealed in previous seasons, however, Jericho sadly perished after being accidentally left in the car on a hot night. His mother Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose), stricken and catatonic with grief, was given a lifelike doll to help her cope, a radical new form of therapy. But she eventually repressed the memory of her son’s death altogether, believing the doll to be a real baby. Then, something weird happened. When Leanne entered their lives, the doll became real.
Through a series of supernatural happenings, a twisted story of cults, and the acceptance by Dorothy’s husband Sean (Toby Kebbell) that Leanne, while powerful, did not actually bring Jericho back to life, the third season ended with tragedy. An awful “accident,” coincidentally just as Dorothy was trying to disappear in the middle of the night with Jericho, left the woman temporarily immobile. Leanne had even more leverage now, and she was ready to use it.
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Season 4 begins with Leanne smugly enjoying Dorothy’s predicament and the control it gives her over the woman. A mystical being or just a troubled young woman (or both), it’s obvious Leanne just wants Dorothy and Jericho all to herself. They’re a symbol of the family, and mother figure, she wished she had.
While Leanne is still being hunted by The Church of Lesser Saints, she is protected by her strange powers and the homeless defectors who worship her as their new leader. But Leanne can’t trust anyone. A neighbor, a woman going for a jog down the street, or a friendly passer-by could all be, and probably are, cult members in disguise.
The paranoia increasingly drives Leanne to do horrifying things like willing birds to attack enemies, creating a bed bug infestation, and even brutally attacking an innocent young boy and breaking his arm because she believes him to be “one of them.” As Leanne confesses to the mother-like mannequin in her bedroom, the power is consuming her. But she also kind of likes it. For the first time, viewers begin to wonder if Leanne might be the manifestation of evil, not the cult to which she once belonged.
When two elderly caregivers Bobbie (Barbara Kingsley) and Bev (Denny Dillon) move in to care for Dorothy, Leanne’s anger deepens. Of course, one of them, it turns out, is a member of the cult who tries to kill Leanne. Julian saves her in the nick of time, but a desperate Dorothy and Sean, finally seeing eye to eye again, recognize how dangerous Leanne is and try to hatch a plan to get rid of her. That’s easier said than done.
While fans have long known that Leanne participated in a child beauty pageant Dorothy had covered for the news channel years prior, Dorothy finally sees it with her own eyes. The creepy Uncle George (Boris McGiver) delivers some harrowing truths to Sean and Julian (Rupert Grint) that prompts Dorothy to check her old tapes. As she grabs tape after tape, Dorothy spots Leanne in the background of every segment on the same day each year: the day her mother perished in a fire.
It’s a chilling discovery that only intensifies Dorothy’s desire to be rid of Leanne once and for all. But Dorothy also feels a sense of motherly empathy, perhaps even flattery that Leanne had done so much for Dorothy. Leanne is dangerous, but deep down, she’s just a troubled, lonely young woman. So much so that she ingratiated herself with Dorothy with a trap-door baby trick and a strange new bambino.
Following a second failed attempt at killing Leanne, this time by Uncle George who winds up dead himself, Leanne commits her most heinous act and almost kills both Sean and Julian. Now, she can be alone with Dorothy and Jericho the way, according to Leanne, it should be.
The over-arching question throughout the entire series has been: when will Dorothy snap out of it and remember what really happened to Jericho? That moment finally comes in the penultimate episode.
The reaction is just as fans imagined. Dorothy is at first confused, but the sincerity in Sean and Julian’s confessions causes the memories to come flooding back. Dorothy screams, cries, and falls to the ground. In one fell swoop, she needs to decide if she’s going to deal with her grief or hope for a second chance with “her son” through Leanne.
The most surprising part of the finale is not that Dorothy finally allows herself to grieve, but that she wants to forgive and help Leanne. She reassures the young woman that she is worthy and loved, isn’t responsible for her parents’ death, and deserves to be happy.
But it’s too late. Leanne realizes she’ll never get what she wants. She spreads gasoline throughout the Turner home and lights a match that symbolically falls right beside the doll baby on the couch. She sings, dances, and listens to music in the attic while anxiously waiting for the flames to rise high enough to encapsulate her. They do, and the scene is tragic, explosive, and cathartic, especially since the assumption is that the toddler posing as Jericho was still in the house as well.
The twists, however, keep coming. In the aftermath of the blaze and the suspicious absence of a body, Dorothy learns something shocking about Officer Reyes. Dorothy now remembers the compassionate female officer who shared kind words with her on the day of Jericho’s death. She also returned to the Turner home a second time in an earlier season to search for Leanne. As it turns out, Officer Reyes is actually a member of The Church of Lesser Saints. She wants Dorothy to know that she, and the others, are there for her.
But Dorothy and Sean have no intention of moving back into their home. They’re ready to focus on one another, to finally process the death of their son, and move forward. Their lack of empathy for the toddler they had been raising for several months, and who presumably died in the blaze along with Leanne, however, is one glaring issue the finale fails to acknowledge.
Meanwhile, Julian tries to recover from everything by grabbing a coffee back in town when Officer Reyes approaches him. She reveals who she is and reminds him of the time Leanne restarted his heart when it stopped beating due to a drug overdose. It was for a purpose, she says, for him to do something meaningful with his second chance.
The skeptical Julian blows her off, but when he turns around, he sees the reflection of the painting of a dove across the street in the store window, two wings appearing on either side of him. Either Julian will become indoctrinated, or The Church of Lesser Saints will forever harass him until he does. And he knows it. The family might be free and clear of Leanne, but they can’t escape the cult’s grasp.
At its core, Servant was about love, loss, obsession, preying on the vulnerable, and the importance of dealing with grief. In many ways, Leanne and Dorothy were more alike than they realized. Neither dealt with their grief in a healthy way and, out of desperation, it brought them together in a toxic, dangerous pairing. In the final moments, they were both finally set free, even if it wasn’t in the way they intended.