This article will contain full spoilers for Servant Season 2, Episode 5. Click here for our coverage of the previous episode.
After the deep dive into horror that “2:00” took, it’s a sigh of relief to see the following episode strike the perfect tonal balance Servant achieves when at its best. Directed by Lisa Brühlmann, “Cake” is the best episode of season 2 yet, switching up the perspective by focusing itself mostly on Leanne (Nell Tiger Free).
As the episode begins, Leanne is practicing a pitch of herself in the mirror, where she says her special skill is baking cakes. When she notices the door to the attic ajar, she comes downstairs to find an unusually amicable Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) making pancakes. She proclaims that Leanne will get to have special free hours every day to walk around, changing her strategy from her cruelty last episode.
Dorothy takes this strategy even further by inviting Toby (Tony Revolori) to have breakfast with her. Toby seems to have been fed a complete mistruth by Dorothy. He’s under the impression that the Turners “rescued” Leanne from her cult “captors”. Hilariously, he compares her alleged situation to when he fell out with some friends in high school who were doing cocaine. Leanne, however, is having none of it, and retreats to the attic as soon as possible. She finds some kind of solace in writing down a cake recipe. Its hard not to feel for Leanne. Regardless of her cult ties, she’s a victim here, through and through.
Meanwhile, Sean (Toby Kebbell) and Dorothy have to deal with a new issue. Someone using Sean’s account has sent a package to the house containing two items: a small plastic baby and a ransom note, saying that if they bring $200,000 to the mall food court at a specific time, they will get Jericho back. Sensing this is the execution of the plan he and Julian (Rupert Grint) devised, he meets with him. Only then, he finds out that Julian is not behind this. From there, the ever-deepening mysteries of Servant increase that much more.
Dorothy, of course, is eager to immediately pay the ransom. With Julian monitoring the hand-off via iPad, they set off. For good measure, Julian has private investigator Roscoe (Phillip James Brannon) follow them. Before we get into the meat of the mall sequence, let’s talk about Leanne more. Dorothy has allowed her to have Toby over to help make a cake. She talks about how her mother used to make her do pageants. In these pageants, she had to have a special skill. Hers was making a cake, specifically king cake. She talks of the cruelty her mother put her under, and laments that her mother purposely would find the piece of the king cake with the tiny plastic baby in it.
To rub salt in the wound, she would make Leanne proclaim that her mother is the special one. When asked where her mother is, Leanne simply responds that she is burning. This scene offers quite a bit of insight into Leanne. The lighting remains dark, emphasizing the shadows on Leanne’s face as she recounts her troubled history. She grew up in an abusive household. Likely, the cult took her in as she searched for purpose. And, one can surmise as she pulls out the plastic tiny baby from earlier, she is responsible for the “ransom” demand. She is aware of what’s happening to her and wants Dorothy to pay. It remains to be seen whether or not she’ll return to the cult, as she’s discovering her independence.
Back to the handoff. Reminiscent of episode 3 of this season’s pizza delivery sequence, the monitoring of Dorothy and Sean takes on a found footage quality. At first, nothing is happening. Julian correctly guesses that Leanne is the one who sent the ransom note, sending her up to her room. However, as the Turners begin to walk away from the food court, someone snatches their phone. That “someone” is none other than Leanne’s “uncle” George (Boris McGiver), the horrifying cult figure we haven’t seen in quite some time. It’s terrifying to see him in the flesh once again, with an unbelievable amount of dark energy that seems to follow the character. His malice jumps out of the pixelated phone screen.
Julian is away for all of this, but once there’s a ring at the doorbell, he comes face-to-face with Sean, Dorothy, and George. George demands to see Leanne. Leanne, upstairs, is eating her cake – trying desperately to find the baby. But something else is happening. The Christmas lights hung up behind her begin to flicker and shatter one by one, the intensity building up until it reaches an explosive crescendo that only ends with Leanne finds the plastic baby in one of the pieces. Leanne is special. Her manipulation of the lights is eerie, biblical almost. And with that, Servant changes forever as the supernatural is essentially confirmed.
I don’t know where Servant goes from here. All I know is that Leanne is central to the storyline, and her powers are likely to be as well. Making that explicit shift into that narrative territory is difficult, but Brühlmann wins us over with an episode that represents the best Servant has to offer by this point. It’s not because of the visual flash that many episodes have had in spades. It’s merely because all the storylines are coming to a head, coalescing in something that’s impossible not to be thirlled by. This is a story that’s getting bigger by the moment. The Turners are appearing to be kites in a hurricane that they could’ve avoided stepping into. There’s no going back. Although I’m not sure I’d even want to. – James Preston Poole
Episode Rating: 10/10
Season Rating (So Far): 8.8/10
Servant is available to stream on Apple TV+.