Every day Mark. S (Adam Scott) wakes up in an elevator on the way to his office with no memories from his outside life. At the end of the day, he doesn’t get to leave. Not really. Instead, his outside self – his outtie – takes over.
At some point, Mark’s outtie decided to receive the surgical procedure known as severance, a disturbing and ethically questionable process that divides your work life and your personal life via a chip in your brain – the ultimate work/life balance.
For the ‘outties’, they get to (literally) switch off from their workday and act like it never happened. It’s what everyone dreams of, right? A life consisting only of free time, one where you can’t take your work home with you, even if you really wanted to.
But the workers on the severed floor of Lumon Industries – the innies – got the short end of the stick. Their entire life is contained within the walls of the office – they don’t know if they have families, what their hobbies are, their own likes and dislikes.
We begin the show with Helly. R’s orientation to the Macro Data Refinement (MDR) department, a small team made up of four severed employees. Isolated from other departments, Mark and Helly, alongside their fellow refiners Dylan and Irving, spend their day in a windowless office completing repetitive and mind-numbing tasks, the only rewards for their hard work being finger traps and rubbers.
From the moment she joined the team, innie Helly starts trying to find a way out but it’s not as simple as just quitting. Brainwashed by their company and its deified founder Kier Egan, the others try to keep her in line but, as they discover more about Lumon, they start to ask questions themselves.
Created by Dan Erickson, and directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle, Severance is one of the most exciting shows to come out of Apple TV+. The dystopian-esque future explores the apathy of office life and delves into the lengths that companies might want to go to in order to control their employees.
The retro-futuristic aesthetic, comprised of chunky computers and really old cars, carries on the trend of sci-fi shows meshing nostalgia with uncomfortable technological advancements. The combination makes it all feel like it could actually happen (I mean, Elon Musk is working on some weird Neuralink brain chip so maybe severance is on the cards).
Each and every cast member acts their butt off, and we are able to see their talents showcased in different ways as the story progresses. Seeing Adam Scott take on a dramatic role and execute it perfectly proves that he is more than just his comedic ventures.
It’s the other actors, however, that make it truly captivating. The phenomenal John Turturro was in peak form, every second he was on the screen felt like they belonged to him. The relatively unknown Tramell Tillman is similarly astounding as MCR’s supervisor Milchick and was genuinely menacing at times (especially during the office dance party in episode seven).
The show is overflowing with religious references. Handbook passages are quoted like the Bible, renaissance paintings depict the messages in Lumon’s teachings, and the employees talk about founder Keir’s presence like he’s some omnipresent ruler.
The 9 episode season was released on a week-by-week basis and sustained the tension and mystery from the first minute all the way to the last. They rounded it out with a genuinely remarkable finale. Every inch of the 40 minutes was tense and exciting. Even though there were some elements I had seen coming, it still managed to keep me utterly enthralled (I spend most of the episode with my jaw on the floor).
The show has been incredibly well-received by critics and with its last three episodes all scoring none point zero and over on IMDB, and the finale getting a whopping none point eight, it’s clear the public agrees.
Many of the questions the show raised throughout remain unanswered. Luckily it has already been renewed for a second season – is it bad that part of me wishes I could be severed until it returns?
Image credit: Esquire.