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Severance (not the Danny Dyer movie)


JohnC
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We finished this last night. I didn't realise the last one was the last one, so couldn't wait to get the next one on, only to find that that was it! Fuck!

 

It's one of those high concepts that manages to raise a whole bunch of interesting philosophical questions. It got me thinking about how my work persona is subtly different my home one. About the feeling of feeling trapped in a job even though you're technically free to leave at any time. About how people's personalities change based on their experiences.

 

With regard to that plot itself:

Spoiler

I agree that the work itself feels like conditioning rather than anything important. It made me think about how a cult leader, or someone who wanted to start a new religion - an L Ron Hubbard type - would have trouble in today's cynical world. Sure, you could recruit plenty of true believers like Cobel and Milcheck but that's not enough to start something massive like Christianity. So it seems like they're taking the corporate route - encoraging people volunteer to become more pliable by taking a job at Lumon. I'm not sure how you scale that up, though. Each character is at different stages of being brainwashed. Judging by how Mark became entranced by his brother-in-law's book, he's clearly almost there. Same with Dylan. Helly is the reverse of most characters - her outie was born into the cult, so conditioned from birth. The pure natural version of Helly is much more independent, as she remembers nothing of her childhood conditioning.

 

I expect next season to take place in quite a compressed timescale, like the season 1 finale. Mark's outie has lots to discuss with his sister, and then obviously will want to track down his wife. But what about his innie? Dylan is potentially 'trapped' though I assume his family would start asking questions pretty quickly. Helly is an interesting one. On the surface we want her innie to 'win' and take over, but you've got to feel sorry for someone brought up in a cult.

 

I like how Lumon isn't all-powerful. There don't seem to be that many true believers who will do the dirty work, as evidenced by the lax security. They're fighting a PR battle. If word gets out, they're in deep shit. I don't think they've done anything overtly illegal have they? The only violence has been perpetrated by innies (biting, attempted hanging) and the only person who's died was their security guard, killed by an ex-employee. Oh, and Peter, who you could also say was killed by the same person.

 

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55 minutes ago, Pob said:
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Spoiler

Mark's outie has lots to discuss with his sister, and then obviously will want to track down his wife.

 

 

 

Spoiler

Mark's outie, and his sister, don't know anything about his wife still being alive. Only Mark's innie knows that.

 

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1 hour ago, deKay said:

 

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Mark's outie, and his sister, don't know anything about his wife still being alive. Only Mark's innie knows that.

 

Spoiler

Eh? The last thing his innie did was shout 'she's alive!' to his sister.

 

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2 hours ago, Pob said:

We finished this last night. I didn't realise the last one was the last one, so couldn't wait to get the next one on, only to find that that was it! Fuck!

 

It's one of those high concepts that manages to raise a whole bunch of interesting philosophical questions. It got me thinking about how my work persona is subtly different my home one. About the feeling of feeling trapped in a job even though you're technically free to leave at any time. About how people's personalities change based on their experiences.

 

With regard to that plot itself:

  Reveal hidden contents

I agree that the work itself feels like conditioning rather than anything important. It made me think about how a cult leader, or someone who wanted to start a new religion - an L Ron Hubbard type - would have trouble in today's cynical world. Sure, you could recruit plenty of true believers like Cobel and Milcheck but that's not enough to start something massive like Christianity. So it seems like they're taking the corporate route - encoraging people volunteer to become more pliable by taking a job at Lumon. I'm not sure how you scale that up, though. Each character is at different stages of being brainwashed. Judging by how Mark became entranced by his brother-in-law's book, he's clearly almost there. Same with Dylan. Helly is the reverse of most characters - her outie was born into the cult, so conditioned from birth. The pure natural version of Helly is much more independent, as she remembers nothing of her childhood conditioning.

 

I expect next season to take place in quite a compressed timescale, like the season 1 finale. Mark's outie has lots to discuss with his sister, and then obviously will want to track down his wife. But what about his innie? Dylan is potentially 'trapped' though I assume his family would start asking questions pretty quickly. Helly is an interesting one. On the surface we want her innie to 'win' and take over, but you've got to feel sorry for someone brought up in a cult.

 

I like how Lumon isn't all-powerful. There don't seem to be that many true believers who will do the dirty work, as evidenced by the lax security. They're fighting a PR battle. If word gets out, they're in deep shit. I don't think they've done anything overtly illegal have they? The only violence has been perpetrated by innies (biting, attempted hanging) and the only person who's died was their security guard, killed by an ex-employee. Oh, and Peter, who you could also say was killed by the same person.

 


Yes it’s interesting, I find myself thinking about ‘what if this was my entire existence?’ quite often in work now. Mainly during meetings! :sherlock:
 

Of course what’s also interesting is how much wfh has pushed those work personalities under the noses of those who live with our outies…

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28 minutes ago, Pob said:
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Eh? The last thing his innie did was shout 'she's alive!' to his sister.

 


Yes. But

 

Spoiler

Who was alive? Because his sister would take that to mean his niece.

 

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It completely altered my perception of reality for a while. This is a reddit post I rattled out after bingeing the entire thing in one go

 

Spoiler

Apologies if this has already been discussed in this subreddit, I've only joined today! But this throwaway line in episode two, when a slightly drunk Mark is baiting the Whole Mind Collective protesters, has really stuck with me throughout the entire series, and I'm interested as to whether it has for anyone else.

 

One interpretation of human consciousness (the workings of which, according to an incredible book I'm currently reading, are pretty much a complete mystery) is that in every instant we're essentially being born anew; presented with an environment to sample, interpret, predict and then influence with an action; passing the subsequently influenced and changed environment on to the next 'instance' of ourselves to repeat the same steps with the new information we've created. The psychologist Ulric Neisser wrote a fascinating book called Cognition and Reality in which he identified this constant perceptual cycle our consciousness goes through.

 

But this line in Severance made me realise that each new 'instance' of ourselves is performing these same four actions within an environment over which they had no control in creating, nor the opportunity to agree to exist in.

 

I, as I exist in this instant, didn't agree to be sat here writing a rambling post on reddit. I just find myself doing so, as a result of decisions I wasn't involved in, and I've accepted that I need to continue to do so. And I, as I exist when I'm poring over logfiles to write an incident report at 3pm on a beautiful spring day instead of walking by the sea and looking at how lovely the clouds are, didn't choose the career in IT that put me there - in a way I am continuously springing into existence as the equivalent of a fresh 'innie', already having had those decisions made for me, and having to interpret my environment, make a decision, and pass the whole surprise on to the next version of me that is about to spring into existence.

 

I'm not really sure if I'm doing a good job at articulating what this line, and the subsequent exploration of similar themes by the show, has made me think about. But what I'm trying to express, I think, is that it's really made me question whether this is somehow one of the central horrors of being a self-aware consciousness. Because I have memories of making the decisions that have created the environment I find myself in, I have convinced myself that I'm a single, consistent consciousness travelling forwards through time. But those were decisions made without consultation of me as I exist in this moment. So am I a captive of those decisions? And are we, subconsciously or otherwise, constantly trying to come to terms with this captivity throughout our lives?

 

I don't know if I'm asking a specific question with this post, I just wanted to see if this particular line, or the show in general, has sent anyone else down a similar line of thinking. If nothing else, I'm absolutely fucking thrilled that a TV programme has made me question this sort of thing. It's a superb concept, magnificently delivered, and I think it's going to be a true cultural touchstone.

 

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15 minutes ago, deKay said:


Yes. But

 

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Who was alive? Because his sister would take that to mean his niece.

 

Maybe, but it’d be a bit rum (and Lost-like) if that line didn’t go anywhere at the start of the next season. 

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Oh bollocks, I forgot the line was in the title of the post.  It was "Are you captive right now?", in response to the protestors telling him that innies were being held captive against their will. He follows it up with something else about the decisions that led them to be stood on that particular street corner, I think.

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I looked up the real exterior location mentioned in the article before, so see how real it was and how much was matte or CG extension. Turns out it's all real, and the entrance is actually a short side of the building. It's an immense looking place.

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In the first season of the Drone Racing League, they had a course inside the building, and it's a level in the DRL game. It really is a massive place.

That one's a bit 'potato-cam', but it's 360 degrees, so you can drag it around and get a good (if low-res) look at the place.

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  • 1 month later...

Fantastic show! Finished it last night (much to my dismay!). I first heard about Severance in a playthrough of The Stanley Parable with the game's creator, where it was brought up that Severance had been inspired by The Stanley Parable - and if you go to Wikipedia for Severance that's actually true, along with the Backrooms creepypasta, Dilbert and The Truman Show. Then the other week I listened to a podcast that Ben Stiller was on (Stiller directed much of Severance), and everyone on the podcast was banging on about how good it was. Thankfully the host was only a few episodes in so there weren't any spoilers. So that pushed me over to giving this a shot.

 

The concept is amazing! It's slow-paced but the cinematography, set design, the intrigue and great score never lets you get bored. It's like a full series episode of Black Mirror and I like that its also a sort of office comedy as well. The combination of SCP vibes and exploration of the real-world affects of severance works so well. The innies parts remind me of Lost in that compelling mystery box sense. It wouldn't work either without the excellent acting, there are so many up close shots of their faces and its often a look or micro-expression that tell the story underneath the office pleasantaries of what they're actually saying.

 

Full season spoilers ahead:

 

Spoiler

The acting is even more impressive for cast members like Adam Scott, who has to play two different versions of Mark.

 

The concept of Severance is genius. It has so much scope for mysteries and exploration of why someone would do this and severeance's implications. The concept of condemning a version of yourself to a life of working hell is wickedly nightmarish, and I love it. I think they did a good job of giving the office segments some fun elements and humour to balance out the extremely depressing and dark scenario the Innies are in.

 

The final episode where the Innies get to discover the real world and their other halves for the first time was terrifying and thrilling! Now the door is open for Innies to start interacting with the real world and even communicate with their other halves. Or reintegrate - I can forsee a future arc where Mark or someone else reintergrates but has to act as though they're severed whilst uncovering Lumen's secrets in the office.  I also love howthe idea of severance and its uses is expanded on with the wife of the senator. The ability to have two lives in one character makes for such interesting possibilities. I wonder who Mark's wife is now in real life? What other characters could we meet that have two completely different lives, or even three?

 

You do have to suspend disbelief at times in the finer details of the world-building, like the laughable security and how the Innies haven't all gone insane from their hellish existence before the show even starts, but they are minor nitpicks. 

 

There were some great defiances of expectations in the show. I thought Helly's arc was great, how you think she's been kidnapped in Episode 1 and then its revealed she chose this for herself - and then getting the other side of her story in Episode 2. Then even when she tries to kill herself her other half doesn't give a shit. Absolutely brutal. Also, you think Mark has chosen severance to help him forget his wife, and although that's partly it, in the last episode we find out he actually wanted to create a version of himself without the pain of that loss. That's a cool twist on his motivations.

 

I'm actually quite surprised (and impressed) that in the first season they covered so much ground. It would have been easy to drag out the story with Innies only picking up minor victories and only teasing at the edges of the mysteries. Instead by the end of season 1 so much has happened. We have full on rebellion against the system, Innies jumping into their Outies selves, mysterious other departments, Outy Mark becoming complicit in the rebellion. I don't envy the writers for season 2, what might be most difficult will be reigning in the Innies to keep some semblance of order for them to continue the office plot threads. Maybe new characters from other departments could help in this, and presumably they'll need a new security chief (and better security in general!).

 

There are still a lot of compelling mysteries left though. What is Mark's wife doing now and why was she severed? Irving's outy seems to have been researching Lumen employees. In the office there is tons to explore - departments we've glimpsed on the map, the ominous down elevator that Mark's wife goes down (and why does outy Irving know about it?), what their work in the office is all about, why its all a maze. So many questions.

 

Very excited for Season 2. So many possibilities for where it could go, and I love the characters we have in season 1 and I want to see how they get on. Highly recommend this show, it can be a slow burn but its definitely worth it! 

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Here's a couple of insightful interviews I've found with the show's creator, Dan Erickson, about Severance's creation and ideas.

 

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/severance-creator-dan-erickson-finale-interview

 

https://www.indiewire.com/2022/06/severance-creator-interview-ben-stiller-memes-1234730184/

 

https://www.creativescreenwriting.com/dan-erickson-talks-work-life-balance-in-severance/

 

One thing I didn't mention in my writeup but which is touched on in these interviews is the emotional core of the series. I think they made a really smart choice to focus on the humanity of the situation and it helps make Severance much more relatable and engaging than the just a simple puzzle box thriller.  

 

 

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@Alan Stock the one thing I’m not worried about is season 2 maintaining the quality of the first. The show is just bursting with ideas and confidence - these guys know what they’re doing, no doubt about it. So glad you enjoyed it! Honestly, it’s the best thing on TV I’ve seen all year - and I watched all of GoT in Jan-Feb!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally got round to watching this and fuck me it was brilliant. It was so good it managed to keep the wife off her phone for once.

 

As always other posters have written far more eloquently than I can, so I won't bother trying to elaborate but I did want to solve a bit of a thread mystery that seemed to go unanswered.

 

@deKay Re: others knowing Mark was talking about his wife at the end, he was carrying the picture of them when he was running in shouting, so presumably his sister will understand he meant his wife.

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2 hours ago, BabelRich said:

Re: others knowing Mark was talking about his wife at the end, he was carrying the picture of them when he was running in shouting, so presumably his sister will understand he meant his wife.

 

I don't think so, but we'll see!

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I've been theorising about where Severance might go since I got a friend into it and we've been discussing it. Some thoughts:

Spoiler

I think Mark's wife is probably in a coma or similar in the testing floor, having been rescued by the company from the car crash. Then they Sever her for experimentation but her outie self is brain dead or similar. That would be pretty cool and create an interesting dilemma for Mark.

 

Very curious as to how Irving knows about the testing floor. Is it his outie self that has seen it, or maybe his innie self who has been memory wiped or something. Its plausable his outie self has at some point been inside the facility through his detective work, or maybe he worked there. Very curious to see what outie Irving has been up to.

 

Helly's outburst at the gala will surely be covered up/explained by the company, so I don't see that going anywhere. I do think Mark has got the message across to his sister though, so I expect in Season 2 they will be teaming up and maybe communicating with innie Mark to get answers. Mark could even get unsevered and go undercover in the facility (or find a way to stop going 'innie' to go poke around), I'm sure that will happen at some point with one of the characters and can't wait!

 

We still don't really know anything about outie Dylan. I'm curious as to why he got severed in the first place, maybe because he just hates working? Outy Dylan seemed on board with the whole thing when Milcheck visited so he presumably thinks everything's hunky dory.

 

I'm not quite sure how, or if they should, go back to the standard office life after the climax of season 1. Cobek has promised they will suffer, but the show would definitely be very different without the office segments and the sneaking around. The problem is how to do that without making it too contrived. Memory wipes? Forced to work against their will, under threat of retirement or harm to outie lives?

 

Based on interviews it sounds like they might explore more uses of Severance going forward, like the lady who goes Severed for pregnancies. Applications like using it for soldiers etc were mentioned, and I really hope they delve into this. I know Irving's dad was in the military, but was Irving as well? Maybe he was an early military experiment with Severence?

 

Anyway, just the tip of the iceberg in terms of theories but the idea has so much scope for where they could take it. I just hope they get the balance right.

 

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Jesus. So good. This is the first programme since Twin Peaks to make me want to take notes and start drawing crazy diagrams. 
 
Seems to me that one thing they’ll have to work carefully around is 

 

Spoiler

why would Helena go back below now the PR exercise is done?  The easiest way for them to control Helly is simply to stop her existence.  I guess it’ll be something like Helena choosing to go and investigate things down there, but that strikes me as a particular headache for the writers.


Anyway - previously had Apple TV free for a year and watched literally nought, and now they have this AND Ted Lasso to draw me back for at least one perfect, binge-filled month per year.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've got a whole pile of TV shows backed up to watch, so a flip of a coin (literally) put Severance at the top of the pile. I started it yesterday and finished it about an hour ago (being off work with a broken ankle has some benefits...).

 

As has already been mentioned, it gave an almost immediate Control vibe, with a dash of SCP via the whole liminal spaces concept. Add to that an absolutely horrifying central concept which sounds both tempting and terrifying at the same time.

 

I'll not write up a big long TL;DR post, because I think a lot has already been said coveing it already, but there are a couple of things I want to mention...

 

Spoiler
  1. What is Cobel's goal? She seemed to be actively chasing down the people involved in reintegration, but doing so off the books. Does this tie into the shrine she has in her home and the person whose hospital ID tag she has? That person shares her name and had a birth date of 1944, so probably a parent. Perhaps someone she has lost to Severance in some form. Just to throw this out there, Christopher Walken was born in 1943, so would be about the right age, but that also opens up a whole bunch of other questions and is probably waay off track.
    Also, why does she live next door to Mark? She seems to be keeping a very close eye on him, but for what reason? What special role does he play in the wider picture?
  2. On Petey's map, what is the "Coil of doom" that emerges from the Perpetuity Wing? And what, for that matter, is the Perpetuity Wing? Perhaps somewhere where people such as Ms. Casey reside when not active perhaps? There are also a bunch of other strange things on there too, including wiring diagram symbols, a head wearing with a crown with the phrase "We're here because we're not all there", and a stick figure with a bunch of arrows emerging from it's head. How and when did Petey figure all this out? He must have done some extensive exploring of the facility.

 

I'm really looking forward to where this all leads, but it appears it might be a while before the next season lands.

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About point 2

 

Spoiler

Can’t remember Coil of Doom, but the Perpetuity Wing is the kind of museum area with the whole house and other artefacts. 

 

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Regarding your thoughts

Spoiler

One route they could go down is to have Petey flashbacks. That would be an interesting way to go. His storyline we only have the tip of in season 1. Many questions remain about why he gets reintegrated, what he managed to get up to in his spying, etc. Also we still don't know why Helly's predecessor got fired do we? Or did she just retire, I forget. I feel like she is significant because her name pops up a few times and innie Mark seems a bit preoccupied with what happened to her. Anyway, looking forward to seeing more of the facility and its inhabitants next season.

 

Ps do you think there really was a bloody rampage in the facility or is it all just a mind game by the management to keep the department's fearing each other?

 

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9 hours ago, Alan Stock said:

Regarding your thoughts

  Reveal hidden contents

One route they could go down is to have Petey flashbacks. That would be an interesting way to go. His storyline we only have the tip of in season 1. Many questions remain about why he gets reintegrated, what he managed to get up to in his spying, etc. Also we still don't know why Helly's predecessor got fired do we? Or did she just retire, I forget. I feel like she is significant because her name pops up a few times and innie Mark seems a bit preoccupied with what happened to her. Anyway, looking forward to seeing more of the facility and its inhabitants next season.

 

Ps do you think there really was a bloody rampage in the facility or is it all just a mind game by the management to keep the department's fearing each other?

 

 

Spoiler

I think I'd honestly prefer it if they don't attempt to expand on stuff like Helly's predecessor. If I remember correctly they mention that out of the blue she just never came back to work, which works perfectly as a device to remind you that through no fault of their own, without any involvement in the decision, the innies can just finish work one day, step into the lift, and cease to exist forevermore.

 

It heightens the tension & horror of their situation, and is an effective metaphor for the fragility of our own finite existence of which some of us devote so much to office work. I think any sort of expansion on that, where we find out in a dramatic flashback that she was investigating Lumen and got caught or whatever, might ruin it.

 

(I'm not suggesting this is what you're looking for btw, just thinking aloud!)

 

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Spoiler

Another example of that is the goats - I don't want to know what they're doing with them, I don't want some sort of biological research station to be uncovered in series 3 where it turns out Lumen are extracting glands from goats to create the severance devices, it works perfectly on its own as a bizarre, unsettling Lynchian scene where an inexplicably angry man is nurturing baby goats in an underground meeting room.

 

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I agree, we don't necessarily need answers to those things and they serve as examples of the weird and sinister backdrop of life down there. However:

Spoiler

Lots of fans were obsessed with the goats and kept asking the writer about it. He indicated they will be explained at some point. I wonder that given the goats head mask in the Lumen religious stuff whether they are used in some sort of religious ceremony/sacrifice.

 

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Oh, that's a shame. Well at least based on the series so far, I'm pretty confident it'll be a 'good' reveal.

 

Basically after watching the absolutely incredible The Leftovers recently I don't give a shit about explanations of stuff like that any more!

 

"I have no idea what's going on.."

"Me neither. Fuck it."

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