M. Night Shyamalan Knew Servant’s Structure Put It At Risk Of An Early End

With “Servant,” Shyamalan was able to do a soft rebound after drawing very mixed reviews for his previous project, the superhero trilogy conclusion “Glass.” That movie has its defenders, but for longtime Shyamalan fans — and especially those who enjoyed the two previous installments, “Unbreakable” and “Split” — the reception to “Glass” was merely the latest dip in a career full of epic highs and lows. That said, Shyamalan has continued making idiosyncratic films like “Old” and the upcoming “Knock at the Cabin.” (Though it’s come at the risk of self-financing his projects. But when it works at the box office, it pays off.)

Of course, when you’re making a show produced by Apple, you’ve to face the specter of prospective cancellation. “Servant” represented a structural departure for Shyamalan as, unlike films, the story is told over multiple seasons. He had to think like a showrunner, not just a director. It has experimented with episode length too — with some less than 30 minutes long, “Servant” was among the new breed of streaming TV dramas to shake up the traditional one-hour format.

“Servant” plays its mystery close to the chest — set in Shyamalan’s go-to filming locale, Philadelphia, the show began with the Turners hiring a nanny to care for their inanimate reborn doll, only for a real unexplained baby to suddenly materialize with said nanny –  and while some viewers may have tired of the lack of answers early on, enough of them kept tuning in to ensure the series would not end prematurely. Season 4 of “Servant” is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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