TV Review: Severance (Season 1, 2022)

A psychological thriller/sci-fi series released onto Apple TV+, Severance is directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle, across nine episodes. Mark S (Adam Scott) works at the megacorporation Lumon, on the Severed Floor, where a chip implanted in his head separates his memories inside and outside the office; his “outie” has no memories of what he does at work, and his “innie” knows nothing of his outside life. Mark works in the Macrdodata Refinement department alongside Irving B (John Turturro) and Dylan G (Zach Cherry), who are soon joined by new hire, Helly R (Britt Lower). Under the watchful eye of Harmoney Cobel (Patricia Arquette), her floor manager Mr Milchick (Tramell Tillman), and head of security Mr Graner (Michael Cumpsty), Mark begins to question his role at Lumon, and seeks answers to those questions.

+ all of the cast are fantastic, with my personal standout being Tillman as Milchick. His over the top cheeriness is bordering on sinister, and you get the sense he could strangle the life out anyone with a smile on his face. Lower has some specific scenes where she very effectively switches between a range of emotions as she learns how the ‘innie’ life works on the Severed Floor
+ the setting of the series inside Lumon is incredibly off-putting. The long, empty hallways invoke ‘The Backrooms’, as well as that feeling of the first time you find the hidden room in Portal. The Severed Floor seems intentionally unclear as to what level of technology is available, with both 70s-80s style computers and futuristic sensors for contraband
+ the musical score throughout the series is subtly terrifying, with four simple piano notes able to induce a horrible feeling of dread. The sound design is also great, with a high pitched buzz as the characters transition between their memories, and often a deep drone as they stare down empty hallways. There is even a tone that can make a set of numbers look terrifying
+ the story is full of twists and turns that (aside from one late episode moment) never feel out of the blue. Things get hinted at or referenced off hand which come back down the track in surprising ways, and sometimes things will be revealed almost as soon as you get the question in your head. Though not enough to classify this as a dark comedy, there are a few moments where you can’t help but laugh, either at the absurdity or the impending doom
+ in a rare switch up to how I usually feel when I finish these shows, there are unanswered questions that have me excited to know more, rather than disappointed. Compare to the midway point of Wayward Pines (aka, where I lost any interest I had because that twist was so garbage) and this is a new favourite

> I have mentioned in several video game reviews about that feeling of ‘breaking’ the game and ending up somewhere that you aren’t meant to be; every moment on the Severed Floor of Lumon felt like that

Should you watch this show: Absolutely, yes. I don’t think I have been so invested in every episode of a TV series in a very long time. There is nothing about this show that makes me not recommend it.

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