Severance Show Explanation Episode 1

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I cannot remember the last I took a deep dive into a series – abandoning movies left and right along my way – in order to plumb the depths of a show. Maybe the last deep dive was Devs? (Or Deus?) Obviously Dark. But regardless, that is what is happening today. But first, what is Severance? And why exactly is it worth the ongoing hassle of deep-diving?

Come on. That is cinematic gold. The premise is gold. The acting is gold. The art direction is gold. And after watching episode one? Episode one is gold. Literally took three minutes to get hooked on the series… and then, after that, I realized the show didn’t drop all at once! We have to wait until April 8th for the conclusion of the series?!? So, here’s what we are going to do… week by week we will discuss each episode and the twists and turns that it brings. It’ll be a communal act of peace, love, and blissful frolicking across the technicolor rainbows of AppleTV.

Severance Episode 1 – “Good News About Hell” explanation

The movie opens with Mark, sitting in his car, and crying. But on his way into the building, there is a moment when Mark’s vision telescopes, and it’s obvious he has forgotten whatever it was that he was crying about. The tissues in his pocket? He must have something of a cold. And as he and his coworkers begin arriving, it becomes clear that Petey has gone AWOL. Petey, Mark’s best friend at work, and the department chief. And then who is up to replace him? Mark gets tapped by Peggy to become the new micro-data department chief. His first job as department chief? To onboard his own replacement. Which brings us full circle back to the very beginning of the show, which opened with Helly laying prostrate on the table.

Five questions. He asks her five questions. And the questions get to a simple truth… has Helly’s long term non-personal life memories remained in tact? And has all of her personal life memories been wiped? And she scored a perfect five out of five. Congratulations Helly! You get to stay trapped in this hellscape!! (Note: interesting name choice for the character “Helly.” Curious what it might forebode.) It is intriguing that we watch this scene two different times. To what end? To what purpose? I think maybe the first time we watch Helly arrive there on the table we identify with her, lost, and confused. But as we learn more, we transfer from the narration window of Helly, to Mark. And, as we begin to learn more about Mark, we identify with him instead.

“My mother used to say, there was good news and bad news about hell. The good news is, that hell is just the product of a human, morbid imagination. The bad news is, whatever humans can imagine they can usually create.”

Eventually, we watch, similarly to Mark’s original arrival, he sheds his memories of the place, and heads home. And as we do, we learn that Mark lost his wife, who used to be a Russian literature teacher. We also learn that Mark was a teacher himself. That night, after the “party” at his sister’s house, he stays the night, and notices a man standing in the yard. Turns out, the man is Petey, the AWOL manager of Mark’s floor. But obviously, Petey doesn’t have any recognition of this man. We learn from Petey that he was able to bypass the severance procedure that he had undergone, “with the help of others.” It turns out that Petey is under the impression that someone by the name of Grainer is after him. Petey needs to make certain that everything he has learned, and knows, will remain known. “And that if something happens to him, the things he knows, stay known… preferably by a friend.”

“We used to wonder what kind of people we were on the outside, what kind of choices we had made to arrive here. I used to think it would take a monster to put us here…”

Severance Show Explanation Episode 1 - let's investigate the ins and outs of this show about a corporation with unchecked power.

Thoughts on Severance Episode 1

The actors, the sets, the acting… all are really brilliantly played out in this sort of 80’s corporate throwback mindjob of a show. But it’s the premise of the show that does all of the heavy lifting itself. What if we figured out how to create the perfect employee? An employee that works with no impacts from their personal life. Newly widowed? No problem, the employee has no idea of his own struggles outside of the corporate walls. The show is insightful solely because it takes a very a pervasive reality (at work we expect you to knuckle down, set aside personal problems, and get your work done) and notches it up. Science and tech continues to expand dramatically every single day. It isn’t farfetched that one day this procedure could be possible.

Another really intriguing bi-product of the show’s premise is that it investigates the gaping maw of corporate immorality. Have you watched the show Dopesick? A show about a corporation that enslaves large swaths of the planet to opioid addiction, all to pad the company’s profit numbers. This is fact. These things are history. It would be really easy to recite other reality based documentaries and shows about corporations just being horrifically evil. Which brings us to my first guess as to the point, the meaning, of Severance.

Ideas on the Meaning of Severance

Unchecked corporate greed. Full stop. What does it look like when a corporation can get away with literally anything that it thinks will pad the bottom line? This time, instead of looking at the consumer impacts to just such a business, this show is looking at the employees trapped in this sort of hellscape. They can’t leave. They can’t call for help or file complaints. (Or none that would be required to be listened to anyway.) This sort of company would be able to do absolutely anything they want to their employees. And in order to make certain they are getting away with it? They’d also monitor their employees in the outside world as well. Which is what they are doing to Mark… his next door neighbor, Mrs. Selvig… turns out to be, is Cobel, his evil boss at Lumon.

Severance Show Explanation Episode 1 - let's investigate the ins and outs of this show about a corporation with unchecked power.

Guess on Where Severance is Going

You might want to skip this part of my write-up. Though it’s completely based on conjecture, I might be accidentally correct, and could possibly spoil the show for you. But I think it’s pretty clear on where, at least, the next few episodes will be going. We will follow Mark as he follows a circuitous and labyrinthine path to learn what Petey knows. First it will require Petey offering his bona fides, to prove that Petey and Mark were friends at Lumon Industries. About the only way that I can think that Petey will be able to do that will be to tell Mark about scars that he has received on his body? The mental barrier blocks any other sort of knowledge transfer. Unless! Maybe Petey has a way to temporarily overcome the severance, and he shares that with Mark?? And Mark goes as his outtie self to work? That would be pretty cool. Definitely, this is going to happen. 100% guaranteed, but maybe won’t be how Mark initially believes what Petey is saying. And once Mark learns what Petey knows, Petey will be killed or captured. And then it will be Mark’s job to take up the mantle to overthrow Lumon. Right? Hey! Future self? Am I close?!?

But one thing that I am super clear about… this is going to be a fantastic ride no matter where Severance goes. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

THiNC. Severance Episode Discussion List:

No.TitleOriginal release date 
1“Good News About Hell”February 18, 2022
2“Half Loop”February 18, 2022
3“In Perpetuity”February 25, 2022
4“The You You Are”March 4, 2022
5“The Grim Barbarity Of Optics and Design”March 11, 2022
6“Hide and Seek”March 18, 2022
7“Defiant Jazz”March 25, 2022
8“What’s for Dinner?”April 1, 2022
9“The We We Are”April 8, 2022

Edited by: CY