How ‘Servant’ Fits Into M. Night Shyamalan’s Filmography

/Film | 1/20/2020 | Joshua Meyer
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One of the most high-profile filmmakers associated with the streaming service Apple TV+ since its launch last November has been M. Night Shyamalan. Promotional images for Servant, which released its tense season finale on Friday, prominently featured the words, “From M. Night Shyamalan” over the title. Shyamalan directed the show’s pilot and serves as one of its executive producers, much like he did with Fox’s Wayward Pines.

The plot of Servant revolves around a suspicious nanny who enters the life of a Philadelphia couple. Here, as with Wayward Pines, Shyamalan has taken a step back from writing duties. Showrunner Tony Basgallop wrote all ten episodes of Servant’s first season. Yet there are aspects of the show that feel very much of a piece with Shyamalan’s overall body of work as a writer-director. It’s another atmospheric dip into psychological horror where the choice of setting, the familiar preoccupation with belief and delusion, a newer tendency toward exploitation tactics, and less salubrious aspects like accusations of plagiarism (Servant is now the subject of a lawsuit) all draw a line to previous moments in his career.

Spoilers - Servant - Follow

Spoilers for Servant follow.

In its first season, Servant also employed other filmmakers turned TV directors like Nimrod Antal (Vacancy, Predators) and John Dahl (Rounders, Joy Ride). So it’s not as though Shyamalan is the only director responsible for bringing this show to life. However, Servant does feel like an appropriate offshoot of the Shyamalan brand. It’s a twisty thriller and the setting is Pennsylvania, where he grew up and where he has shot and set most of his films. Moreover, that Pennsylvania setting is extremely contained. The show rarely ventures outside a single townhouse, and even when it does, it’s usually just a short trip to the street outside where cars sit parallel-parked.

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