REVIEW: ‘Severance’ Season 1 – The Darker Side of Internal Office Culture

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Severance - But Why Tho

Working in an office environment is very unique, and if you’ve been in any profession which is deemed a desk job, then you’ll likely know what I mean. The inner office politics, the company culture, the small perks, and incentives, a lot of these things are an experience that you share only with those you work with. There can be a bond that exists between you and your coworkers because, in reality, it’s entirely situational. This shared history accounts for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Severance, Apple TV+’s newest series, decided to run with an entirely different office concept by exploring the darker and more peculiar side of office culture.

The series, created by Dan Erickson and directed by Ben Stiller, Aoife McArdle, introduces us to a world in which employees who choose to work for a particular department of Lumon Industries must undergo a procedure to divide their consciousness known as “Severance”. Once you undergo this surgery, your life is split in two, without either side being known to the other, or without access to their memories, thoughts, or feelings.

Effectively, you head into work, and a second later you’re already leaving without any awareness of what you just did. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The sheer notion of not carrying around that stress of the job, worrying about inter-office squabbles, or any looming deadlines, is almost too good to be true because it is.

There’s a catch.  While the primary version of you doesn’t have to experience the workday, there is an alternative, or a secondary version of yourself, that ONLY experiences the workplace. Whereas your primary gets to go home and rest, sleep, have fun, and enjoy the weekend, your secondary never, ever leaves the office. There is no rest, no escape. There are only the people you work with, and the work. Day in, and day out. Trapped.

When the full weight of that state of being hits home, you finally get the sense of how immensely dark this show is. Even within the first episode, it displays the complexity of the ethics at play through the introduction of Helli (Britt Lower) a brand new employee to the Lumon family. She has no memory of herself outside of the conference table she just woke up on. Her every instinct tells her to run, but once she crosses that threshold her “outee” (your outside self) takes control and turns her around to walk right in.

Not everyone experiences this level of trauma, as Mark (Adam Scott) a 2 year veteran of Lumon Industries appears to have quite the flair for the job, with his chipper approach to completing the task at hand and engaging with his colleagues. Scott is perfect in this role as he taps into a version of Ben Wyatt mixed with Leslie Knope for his “inee” (inside self), but his “outee” by contrast is the polar opposite. On the outside, Mark is a man in mourning and living a solitary, and painful existence which gives you the implied reasoning why he underwent the severance process.

There’s so much more to the show than simply the dichotomy of the character development we see from both sides of the threshold. The plot itself encapsulates so well the aspect of corporate culture as the employees boast about the small tokens they’ve achieved after reaching quota ranging from mugs, to finger traps and waffle parties.

As asinine it appears in the show, the satirical reflection is not far from the mark, and speaking from experience that forced fun mentality that is meant to lift morale, and suspends stress is common practice. From the small gifts to inter-office social gatherings for special events, Severance nailed it. Not only is spot on though, but the showrunners also found a way to make the incentives so obviously unsuitable, and cheap that it causes you to take notice of the level of exploitation at play. These alter-ego-severed employees are fundamentally children, without knowing what exists in the outside world the knick-knacks they earn hold value to them serving as a special item.

It’s so visceral at times. The show has this unique ability to not only capture your attention by inviting you to figure out the puzzle, but it’s also creepy as hell. The soundtrack makes heavy use of high-pitched piano music, which for me set my back teeth on edge the entire time. It’s utilized so damn well and as the plot grows, the tension mounts and the question of what’s behind it all feels increasingly heavier and more menacing.

Once you watch Severance you’ll never look at your office the same way again. It’s such a damn good show, and it’s one of those series that once you’ve watched you immediately recommend it to friends and family with extreme enthusiasm. Boasting a superb cast from Adam Scott, John Turturro, Patricia Arquette, and Christopher Walken. It’s an uncomfortable, unsettling, and beyond eerie watch, with a finale, you won’t want to miss.

Severance Season 1 episodes 1 through 6 are available now exclusively on Apple TV+ with a new episode coming Friday.


Severance Season 1
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Once you watch Severance you’ll never look at your office the same way again. It’s such a damn good show, and it’s one of those series that once you’ve watched you immediately recommend it to friends and family with extreme enthusiasm. Boasting a superb cast from Adam Scott, John Turturro, Patricia Arquette, and Christopher Walken. It’s an uncomfortable, unsettling, and beyond eerie watch, with a finale, you won’t want to miss.