Review: ‘Severance’ is an intense, mind-bending sci-fi thriller

Plank Article Oliver Leinberger ’23

On Feb. 18, 2022, the intense sci-fi thriller “Severance” aired its first episode on Apple TV+. The show’s season finale was released on April 8, and was created, written, and produced by Dan Erikson and directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle.

The show follows Mark (Adam Scott) who has agreed to undergo a process called “severance” so that he can work for Lumon Industries, a powerful yet mysterious corporation. Severance is a medical procedure that splits his memory in such a way that his work and home personas cannot share any memories.

Conflict begins when Mark’s home persona meets his workplace best friend Peter “Petey” Kilmer (Yul Vazquez) for the first time outside of work. Petey has unsevered his own mind, and warns Mark about the dangers of Lumon and their secret plans. 

As a result, Mark’s home persona, known as an “outie,” starts the journey to discover the real secrets behind Lumon and what his work persona, his “innie,” does for eight hours each day. At the same time, Mark’s innie – along with his co-workers Helly (Britt Lower), Irving (John Turturro), and Dylan (Zach Cherry) – also happens to be gradually discovering more secrets about Lumon Industries and the truth behind their work. 

From now until the end, this review will feature spoilers.  

The tense environment and feeling of discomfort continues to amplify as Mark and the rest of his coworkers discover more about Lumon and their jobs. There are numerous plot twists and shocking surprises, like discovering that Mark’s innie’s manager Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette) is Mark’s outie’s neighbor and his sister’s nanny Mrs. Selvig. Not only that, Mark’s innie’s therapist Ms. Casey (Dichen Lachman) is revealed to be Mark’s outie’s supposedly dead wife. 

I think the most interesting character is Helly. In the beginning of the show, Mark’s innie is informed that his best friend Petey has passed away and left Lumon. Helly becomes the new worker for the MDR (microdata refinement) department. Helly’s innie is reluctant to work at Lumon and instantly wants to leave, and we watch as she goes from constantly attempting to escape to accepting her job and finding more about its secrets. I think that Dan Erikson wrote Helly as a live example of the audience’s feelings. Both Helly and the viewers are curious yet cautious about what Lumon does, and simultaneously discover more about what Lumon is really hiding. 

There are, however, a couple parts of this show that haven’t been fully explained nor illustrated clearly. For example, Irving’s (John Turturro) innie periodically experiences hallucinations about this thick black goo as it menacingly creeps into the office and devours his desk. Additionally, both Harmony Cobel and the supervisor Seth Milchick (Tramell Tillman) work at Lumon Industries, but their minds are not severed. These are both really interesting yet foggy concepts that definitely add to the show’s mysterious vibes, so I hope these aspects make their way into the second season to be further explained.

The directing by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle is another strong part of this show’s excellence, especially during the season finale. One of the secrets revealed at Lumon Industries is the secret ability Lumon has to activate one’s work mind when they are at home. In the last episode, Dylan finds a way to do this, and we get to watch Mark, Helly, and Irving experience life outside the office for the first time. They attempt to tell everyone about the dangers of Lumon and all that they have discovered. The episode constantly changes the point of view between the three innies, and then the season ends with an intense cliffhanger that sets up the second season perfectly.

With all of this being said, I don’t have any complaints. If you’re looking for a good captivating show, I definitely recommend going to Apple TV+ and watching “Severance.” The entire cast and crew created a 10 out of 10 wonderful mind-bending show that is definitely worth watching.