The balance of your home and work life is one that’s been preached to most people. It took on a whole new meaning as a lot of workers were forced to work from home because of the pandemic. If only there was a perfect solution in sight? Severance explores the literal question as it explores this theme and many more in this thought-provoking thriller. If you don’t have AppleTV+ then you need to get it to watch this fantastic show.
Severance season 1 is available only on AppleTV+.
Story: Welcome to Lumon
Severance focuses on workers at a mysterious corporation who go under the severance producers. They get a chip implanted in their brain that separates their home and work memories. This means basically two people exist in one. At first, it seems pretty cool that you wouldn’t be able to think about work. The stress of job isn’t a burden on you. But then, the show brilliantly peels back layers to show the moral implications and dilemmas of this situation. There’s moments where I had to pause to just think about it. Of how the workers are treated and what they’re going through each day. How their only purpose in the eyes of Lumon is to solely work. There’s plenty of instances that’ll get your mind working and really to try to break down this show. It doesn’t feel contrived or forced by any means.
Severance came out in weekly fashion, but I got on the bandwagon just after the season finale. I’m very fortunate that I just got to jump immediately into the next episode instead of waiting a week. Each episode just pulls you in and sinks its teeth into you. To see the mythology bloom, the characters interact, and a good cliffhanger at the end makes it immediately binge worthy. You’ll want to decompress everything that you just saw, but want to continue on for more answers.
Characters & Performances: MDR Department
It’s hard to single out a specific person in this cast because everyone is fantastic. There’s so much depth in their performances that it’s still sticking with me after watching it. Adam Scott plays Mark who goes under the severance porgram to distract himself from the tragic loss of his wife. If there was any doubt that Adam Scott could do drama, Severance is proof that he excels in both comedy and drama. We’ve seen him in more dramatic works, but usually in a supporting role like Big Little Lies. Here, he commands the main stage as kind of a dual role with Mark.
We see two sides of him: his home life and his work life. At home, the pain of seeing him grieve over his wife is a gut punch. It’s like seeing someone in a frozen state of heartbreak. Then seeing that grief removed when he arrives at work feels like a 180. It never feels over the top and has a natural transition to it.
The other workers in his department are spectacular. Zach Cherry, Britt Lower, and John Turturro all bring their A game. All of them have incredible chemistry and whenever they’re together, that’s some of the best scenes in the show. Seeing interact as the story progresses is thrilling. Special kudos to Zach Cherry who’s outstanding. You might have seen in movies like Shang Chi and the Legend of the Tend Rings in small bits, but to see him in a leading role is great. Hopefully, more opportunities come for him because he’s shown that he’s capable of leading.
Cinematography & Sound: A Labyrinth Workplace
The visual language is memorizing and draws you in. The cinematographers, Jessica Lee Gagné does a phenomenal job on creating the mystery of Lumen. The severed floor feels more like a labyrinth that goes on forever. Each location featured from the MDR Department to the Break Room all feel unique in its approach. This is the magic that Jessica provides as each place visited becomes engrained in your brain.
It’s not only the locations that Jessica excels in, but the perspectives from the characters. There’s a wide variety of shots and techniques used that perfectly makes us understand the emotions we’re seeing. Probably the most iconic shot of the season is the “severed shot.” It’s the moment when an outie shifts conscious to an innie and vice-versa. It’s so simple, but very chilling in a way that gets underneath your skin.
Not only are the visuals ingrained in my mind, but so is the music. There’s such an ominous tone to it, but somehow it’s become an earworm. The haunting theme of a simple piano playing becomes the motif of the show. It represents that feeling in the back of your brain that senses something is wrong, yet it’s so elegant.
Editing & Pacing: Creative Cuts
The first five episodes are really good as the show brilliantly lays out the world and characters. We see the formation of the arcs that will be going forward as we empathize with the main cast. However, looking back at those episodes made me realize how much heavy lifting they had to do. Going back on a rewatch, I feel like the first three episodes are little too long with the run time clocking in at just under an hour.
Granted, I understand why they had to do it for the story and building the foundation for the show. But, it might drive some new viewers away. It would be a shame because starting with episode 6, you’ll be glued to your tv. The plot goes from 0 to 100 as reveals start happening and the characters gain forward momentum. It concludes with one of the best finales I’ve seen in awhile. My heart rate was high and it got to the point where I was literally on the edge of my seat.