'Servant' on Apple TV+: M. Night Shyamalan's weird thriller is finally here

Is that a real baby? Why is that nanny a creep? Is that Ron Weasley? You have questions. We have the answers.

On Thursday morning, November 28, the latest project involving twisty manipulator M. Night Shyamalan, Servant, debuts on Apple TV+ with three half-hour episodes. The executive producer teased this week on Twitter, “Let the questions begin.” But what questions, exactly?

Here’s what to know about Servant.

What is the plot of Servant?

Written by Tony Basgallop, this story begins with a young couple in Philadelphia — a favorite location of Shyamalan as he grew up in the suburbs surrounding the city — who are dealing with the aftermath of losing their infant, Jericho, in a strange way. This couple, you see, are using a lifelike doll.

“We lost Jericho when he was 13 weeks; Dorothy took it hard. This is the only thing that brought her back,” says Toby Kebbell, who plays Sean Turner, the husband in this story.

Toby Kebbell plays Sean Turner, who's going through a lot right now.
Toby Kebbell plays Sean Turner, who's going through a lot right now.

Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) “makes big, wild choices early in the show to convince the audience that, yes, this woman would pretend her toy baby is real,” writes Ben Travers of IndieWire.

Nell Tiger Free in Servant
She seems normal, right?

The couple hire a Wisconsin-born live-in nanny named Leanne Grayson (Nell Tiger Free) to watch the doll that Dorothy thinks is an actual baby. The doll is expectedly creepy.

“She’s gone, you can put the doll down now,” Mr. Turner says to Leanne, who is seen in the trailer being strange around it — holding it a little too closely — and acting mysteriously in the house, which is the sole setting for the series.

What time does Servant air on Apple TV+?

Apple officially only releases the air date of episodes and not the time, but typically — and this has been the case with The Mandalorian on Disney’s rival streaming service — new episodes hit the app at 3 a.m. Eastern, which would be midnight in Apple’s hometown of Cupertino, California.

While the first three episodes are dropping on a Thursday, Episodes 4-10 will be released on Fridays.

What does M. Night Shyamalan do in Servant?

M. Night Shyamalan directed Episode 1 (the pilot) and Episode 9. He is also the executive producer.

About Episode 9: “It will be the anchor episode for the whole series … directing nine was really, really special,” Shyamalan said in an interview with Uproxx.

“The ninth episode is particularly well-executed, with framings so precise your eyes crawl the edges, looking for more than you’re allowed to see — or want to, really,” writes Travers in that IndieWire review.

So, about Jericho.
So, about Jericho...

How many episodes and seasons of Servant will there be?

Shyamalan has said he has plans for up to 60 episodes, so Servant could theoretically run for six seasons if each season is 10 episodes.

What is the Servant Season 2 release date?

Servant will get a second season.

We will see the 11th episode “in one year. That’s the hope,” he told Uproxx.

Why are Servant episodes only 30 minutes?

Why are episodes of Servant so short? Each episode runs just 30 minutes, and Shyamalan has said he thinks it’s better for the story — and better for binging.

“The format of the half-hour thriller, this kind of new format, has really … I think it’s the reason that I could do the show. If it was an hour, I’m not sure. It would be like a half a movie,” he told Screenrant.

He continued: “The play format allows us to [do it] all in one location. I think the fact that it’s 30 minutes and it’s all in one location are tied together.”

“The half-hour format is perfect for a taut marathon viewing session,” observed Travers for IndieWire.

Lauren Ambrose plays Dorothy Turner, who shows signs of mental recovery after losing her infant son when it was replaced with a doll.
Lauren Ambrose plays Dorothy Turner, who shows signs of mental recovery after losing her infant son when it was replaced with a doll.

Shyamalan seems to think that breaking a longer story into shorter chapters makes for a better experience than a longer movie.

“One in a million people could sit down and watch a four or four and a half hour movie and enjoy it, but almost everyone can sit down and binge-watch. Right? Because I think it’s the compartmentalization of the story.

“I want you to spend a few days thinking about episodes,” Shyamalan continued.” Then it’s gone. And, especially in suspense, especially when we’re doing the ingredients, I want you to really think about the ingredients rather than binge it.”

Is Rupert Grint, aka Ron Weasley, in Servant?

The 31-year-old British actor who famously portrayed Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films plays Julian Pearce in Servant, Dorothy Turner’s younger brother. Like Sean Turner, he realizes that Jericho is a doll and speaks with Sean about it.

Rupert Grint plays Julian Pearce, Dorothy's younger brother. Here, he is asking if the nanny is cool with the fact that the "baby" she has been hired to look after is actually a doll.
Rupert Grint plays Julian Pearce, Dorothy's younger brother. Here, he is asking if the nanny is cool with the fact that the "baby" she has been hired to look after is actually a doll.

And like Shyamalan, he shares an appreciation that there are a few days between episodes. (Apple doesn’t drop the entire season at one time like Netflix.)

“Also, as there are days between each episode, it gives you the chance to have a conversation and discussion as it unfolds, but with a film, you can only do that at the end,” Grint told Forbes. “We filmed it in sequence, in the order that the audience will see it play out, which is kind of a new thing for me.”

How do I watch Apple TV+?

The easiest way is to use the standalone mobile app, but if you have an Apple TV box, you can also watch it that way. The official company boilerplate for the new services goes like this: “Apple TV+ is now available in over 100 countries and regions on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, and other platforms, including online at tv.apple.com, for just $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. Press assets and show info can be found here: https://apple.com/tvpr.”