As I continue my journey watching as much Apple TV+ content as I can during my free one month subscription, one show that I knew I had to check out was Severance. Receiving critical acclaim and nothing but favorable reviews since it was first released, I knew very little about the premise of this show despite all the positive buzz. So walking in with little to no knowledge, you can imagine how shocked I was by how thrilling and creative the story was. Starring Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, Britt Lower, Tramell Tillman John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and Patricia Arquette, Severance is a science fiction psychological thriller television series that really pushes the boundaries of exploring moral ethics. This is definitely one of the creepier shows I’ve watched, but in the best way possible.

[Please note there are spoilers in this review; read at your own discretion]

Mark S. working at Lumon

Filled with an ever present eerie atmosphere (the piano score is insanely effective) and a compelling mystery at its core, Severance is one of those shows that gets you hooked right off the bat. Not only did I finish the entire show in less than two days, I immediately had to look up when the second season was coming out because I loved it that much. I’ve been looking around for an innovative and refreshing show for a while and thankfully, Severance is exactly that. I loved the whole idea of the show exploring supposed “work life balance” by splitting employees into two separate entities, and I’m so amazed by the showrunners for creating such a creative concept. But what I’m even more amazed by is that they managed to execute it so well – a lot of films and shows that I’ve watched recently tended to fail in developing as thoughtful of a story as Severance.

With a total of nine episodes and each running for about an hour long, this definitely isn’t the type of show you need to rush and binge (don’t mind me). In my opinion, this first season was given an appropriate amount of time to fully flesh out the characters and main story that will surely be carried over into the second season. There’s a lot going on in each episode, so there’s constantly new information to take in and new pieces of the puzzle to determine. If anything, I think it’s best to approach this show slowly and thoughtfully so you can fully enjoy and appreciate the complexity behind the show’s mystery.

Mark S. and Helly R. about to leave Lumon through the elevator

And that’s what Severance really excels at: building its mystery. I remember after watching the very first episode, I had absolutely zero idea as to what was going on. The show tends to reveal information and memories quite slowly, so you do need to be a bit patient if you want to understand what’s going on. But despite the little bit of info I was given, I had this inkling feeling that Lumon was a terrible and dangerous company and that something very bad was going to happen. What’s funny is, that’s more or less how you feel for the rest of the show. While we witness more and more of Lumon’s bad deeds as the story progresses, you never really understand what is the “big bad thing” that Lumon is doing. So while the audience grows to hate Lumon and continues to root for the protagonists, there remains this shroud of mystery about…well, everything, and that’s what kept me so entertained and interested in the story.

My favourite thing about Severance though is definitely how thought-provoking it is. As I’ve watched the show, it’s really made me think about the questions being asked and whether or not I agree. Is severance morally and ethically wrong? Can I understand Mark S’ (played by Scott) perspective? What are present world issues about work life balance? I love how the show itself explores the morality behind the procedure and how different people have vastly different opinions on the matter. Because I’m sure that’s exactly how it’d be in real life – with anything controversial, you will always have your avid supporters and your avid protestors. But I appreciate how it forces you to think about the issue yourself and whether or not you can understand why the severed employees did what they did.

Mark S. discovering Ricken's book while at Lumon

Although the writing and concept of Severance is already amazing on its own, I definitely think its made even better thanks to the performances of the cast. I felt Adam Scott was a fantastic lead playing the protagonist of Mark S., perfectly capturing all the little subtleties to his character as he repeatedly swapped back and forth between his “innie” and his “outie”. Since we only really get to follow Mark in his day to day life, it was really interesting getting to see the small differences between his two entities which I thought Scott portrayed perfectly. But what I liked the most about his performance was how convincingly he displayed his character’s growing suspicions (on both ends really). Honestly, that goes to all the actors playing characters in the Macrodata Refinement division though, because I loved seeing their growing rebellious nature as they slowly learned what was going on.

But on the other hand, I really have to share my praise for Patricia Arquette and Tramell Tillman who play Lumon employee’s Ms. Cobel and Milchick. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is about their performances, but they were absolutely terrifying despite the sort of disturbingly calm and relaxed personas they put forth. Even though their roles in the company still feel rather ambiguous (given we know absolutely nothing about Lumon), it’s impressive how they manage to appear so menacing and dangerous. I felt so uncomfortable watching Milchick conduct the Break Room punishments, and just seeing Cobel on screen made me anxious and nervous. That just goes to show you how good of an antagonist they both are though.

The Macrodata Refinement division at Lumon

Overall, I was kind of shocked by how heavy hitting Severance was. There’s certainly some heavy topics being discussed (as expected), but I wasn’t prepared for some of the disturbing imagery that was shown. I didn’t realize that the show would reach the extremes of having the audience witness Helly R. trying to commit suicide by hanging herself in the elevator, but I do think it was at that point that it made me realize how deeply serious the themes being discussed are. It was at that moment that it really hit me just how traumatizing and depressing it would be to have another half of yourself that was only ever at work. Severance does such an excellent job at voicing these issues in a meaningful way, and it’s so impressive to me that they managed to create such a great story that you grow to become fully invested in. It becomes clear that the wellbeing of these characters are at stake, and if you’re like me, you become increasingly worried that well, there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it. It’s these disturbing realizations that make you understand how impactful this show actually is. For all this praise, I can’t give Severance a rating of anything below 9.5/10. I love how suspenseful it is, but also how complex it is in telling the story. With such a great combination of writing, storytelling, directing, and acting, this is surely one that you can’t miss out on. And with season one ending on such a cliffhanger, you’re bound to find me watching season two as soon as it releases.

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