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M. Night Shyamalan and the 'Servant' cast tease the ending of the Apple TV+ series

Servant's fourth and final season promises answers, but not at the expense of the story.

By Matthew Jackson
Nell Tiger Free in "Servant," premiering January 13, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Since its premiere in 2019, Servant has maintained a certain intimate tension to its mysterious, often surprising story of one family's supernatural journey. The eerie drama, created by Tony Basgallop and overseen by executive producer and director M. Night Shyamalan, has thrived on its ability to give the audience just enough clarity to keep the mystery going while never giving up all of its secrets, often spiderwebbing the narrative out into fruitful subplots along the way.

But when it came time to craft the final season, premiering this week on Apple TV+, Shyamalan and the writers room had once major goal: Strip away everything but the right ending.

"When we were doing the writers room [for Season 4] I was able to say, 'That's not our story,'" Shyamalan, whose next movie Knock at the Cabin premieres on Feb. 3, told SYFY WIRE. "So if a writer came up with an idea that was like, 'Wow, this is great,' and I was like, 'That's amazing. That's not our story. Stay right on path here. We are going from this point to this point because we know what the emotional architecture is.' That kind of clarity allows you to aim everyone's resources towards these four people and where they need to go. And so hopefully, like all the genre that I love so much, we go through darkness too, and you may not make it out in the way you thought, you may not make it out at all, but there's a sense of necessity to having to go towards the thing that's scaring you the most."

In the case of Servant's fourth and final season, the thing that's scaring the Turner family more than anything else just might be the truth. The show began back in Season 1 with the story of a mysterious nanny named Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) who somehow mysteriously brought Dororthy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean (Toby Kebbell) Turner's baby boy Jericho back from the dead. But the miracle came at a terrifying cost. As Dorothy, Sean, and Dorothy's brother Julian (Rupert Grint) adjusted to the strange new reality of their lives, dark forces seemed to muster around Leanne, whether she wanted them there or not. Now, as Season 4 dawns, Leanne's power just keeps growing, leaving the family at yet another critical crossroads in which they must face finally admitting the truth of everything that's happened to each other.

"These are two parts of the story, the Leanne mythology, and then this family that is refusing to have a conversation, that's refusing to deal with the realities of what's happened to them and doing anything to avoid that," Shyamalan said. "And the ramifications of what that means when you behave like that with supernatural overtones."

But avoiding that conversation will only work for so long. As Season 4 begins, Dorothy has just returned from the hospital after suffering a horrifying fall from the Turners' stair landing at the end of Season 3, while Sean continues to juggle his life as a celebrity chef with the needs of his family, and Julian's relationship with Leanne is just as twisted as it was when we last left them. For Leanne herself, that means contending with her new and growing powers, but also continuing to grapple with her place in the Turner family, no matter how strange that dynamic might get.

"I think that it was super important that, yeah, we did dive into the truth behind Leanne and the mythology of her, or maybe just the discovery of her," Free told SYFY WIRE. "But also the reason why we care so much about her is her role that she plays in this family. Without the family, there would be no story. It's very, very important that it makes sense, marrying up to why she's there, why she's with this family, and why it's this time. It's not just this person's story at all. It's her in relation to these people. It was just important to keep that balance and to not let one storyline overtake the other, I think."

RELATED: Watch the trailer for Knock at the Cabin

Trailers for the final season have promised to deliver "the truth" about Leanne's strange nature at least, which certainly puts Free in a spotlight position for the last round of episodes, but as she pointed out, the focus is just as strong on her co-stars. For Ambrose, who came into the new season playing a grievously injured woman, Season 4 was about finding the balance between Dorothy's physical pain, and how far she was willing to go for her family. 

"I was figuring out the scenes, which really was quite luxurious. I ended up spending a lot of time in beds and chairs, and everyone had to come to me, and most of my work was on one set. It was very, very, very comfortable," Ambrose explained. "Then it was great to explore this painful recovery and to add the stakes of agonizing physical pain in every movement, to when she needed to act, when she needed to help her child, or do something important. So as an actor, that was pretty fun."

For Kebbell, who's spent much of the last three seasons guarding his wife from the terrible secret of what really happened to her son while also balancing Leanne's strange nature, Season 4 represented a major reckoning for Sean, who must finally face everything he's been pushing down for the sake of his family and his career.

"I think the whole point for Sean throughout the show was that he was showing his gratitude to his wife for pushing him, for promoting him, for believing in him," Kebbell said. "That's keeping him deciding to tell this lie, to keep this thing together. I think the transition after Season 3 -- believing that [Leanne] possibly could be something special, that she was changing, manipulating our world -- I think Season 4, it's where Sean realizes that ultimately he has to tell her the truth and be heard, no matter what that takes."

And, speaking of Leanne manipulating the world around her, Servant's Season 4 trailers promise to explore that impact in ways the show never has before. For Shyamalan, that means exploring a somewhat expanded view of the show's mythology, while never losing sight of the four figures at the center of the story. 

"I love telling giant stories through a limited point of view," Shyamalan said. "That has always worked for me. I think it's my belief in the idea of incompleteness in storytelling, that you don't put every color in, you don't finish the painting, the audience finishes the painting. You require them to be part of the artistry. And it's in that beautiful dance. I know you're filling in X, Y, Z, and that makes it so beautiful. And so limiting your point of view about something very big and spectacular causes you to think about it and fill in the emotions of it."

Season 4 of Servant premieres on Friday on Apple TV+. 

Excited for more of M. Night Shyamalan's scares? Knock at the Cabin hits theaters on Feb. 3.