Season 1, Apple TV+
★★★★½ Watched May, 2020
My thoughts on the first season (10 episodes) Apple TV+ exclusive streaming drama series.
Extremely well shot, presented, acted, and directed story of a well-established couple who tragically lost their first newborn. We meet them in the aftermath of trying to climb back out of the psychological hole they found themselves in with a help of a strangely ubiquitous wife’s brother. The wife, a local TV field reporter, completely lost it, so her husband (stay-at-home chef) and her brother try to keep an illusion by pretending the lifelike doll, she excepted as her baby, is real. And then they hire a young nanny, so she can return to work and hopefully to a normal life. The nanny has no issues with the situation and plays along without even batting an eye, which creeps out the husband and the brother. But then, by the end of the first episode, something happens that starts to unravel in a suspenseful and seemingly supernatural way.
The tension builds slowly and gradually and the way the story is told, especially through visual means, keeps us guessing if the situation is just creepy or are some supernatural forces at play. The majority of the scenes are set inside the house, which adds to the feeling of unease to the point of claustrophobia. I love the cooking aspect and how the food and its preparation are integrated into the storyline. For a change, the husband is not a computer geek. On the other hand, the scenes with the wife and her postpartum issues (breastfeeding/pumping, mastitis, depression), brought back memories of my wife and the first months after the birth of my two sons.
Although M. Night Shyamalan is the producer, who only directed the first and the ninth episode, he sets the tone that is on par with his best work in the past. Namely the excellent The 6th Sense (1999), which I re-watched not long ago and holds up to this day. There is a lot left unsaid and unexplained for quite a long time, which only adds to the suspense building in our heads, while the mind is trying to imagine what the big secret everyone seems to tap dance around is.
The main cast is equally excellent and filled with more or less familiar faces. The emotionally detached wife Dorothy is played by Lauren Ambros, most known for her role as the youngest child of the Fisher family in one of the top drama series of all time Six Feet Under (2001-2005). Toby Kebbell (the overprotective husband Sean) stuck in my mind most from the 3rd episode of The Entire History of You of the 1st season of the cult series Black Mirror (2011-), even though he has done plenty of supporting work for cinema as well as TV. Perhaps the most recognized is pragmatical brother Julian, portrayed by Rupert Grint from the Harry Potter franchise. I admit I thought creepy nanny Leanne, played by Nell Tiger Free was a complete unknown, but then I found out she was Cersei’s daughter from the Game of Thrones series. What a difference a hair color and a few years make in a young actress’ appearance!
The season satisfyingly wraps up the initial premise, but there is an open ending, which sets up season 2. Apple greenlights it just before the premiere of season 1. Furthermore, Shyamalan said the plan is to do 60 half-hour episodes (6 seasons), so hopefully, there is enough there to sustain the suspense.
P.S. I have to mention a tasteful product placement, which is the use of FaceTime as an important part of the plot, but done in a very matter-of-fact manner. Apple proved here they are all about class also when it comes to self-advertising.