Severance presents a strange environment in which the viewer is confronted with the same claustrophobic paranoia just as each of the protagonists.
So, here is a company called Lumon that hires people for a project, the details of which remain a mystery throughout the first season. But, there's a weird caveat to Lumon's hiring process. It offers the candidates a sci-fi tech that allows the company to separate an employee's memories of their personal life from the memories from their office – hence the "severance".
If a candidate accepts their terms and conditions, the company commences to implant a device inside their brain.
Once an employee enters the Lumon compound, they change out of every personal effect and put on those presumably provided by Lumon: a watch, a pair of shoes, and etc. The employees are even given two ID cards; one to be used outside of work and another for the actual office.
After changing into their office outfits, the employee has to go through an elevator.
When the elevator starts running a strange electromagnetic wave hits them and their personal self, which is given the weird name of an "Outie", is forgotten, and the office self, the "Innie", is activated.
Surely, this was creepy enough – a person having two different identities and one is never sure what the other does.
The office personality doesn't know if they are married, if they have kids or anything at all for that matter. The Outie doesn't know what their Innie does at work. Hell, the employees don't even know if they are acquainted with each other outside of the office.
However, what makes Severance truly creepy – something that will crawl under the viewer's skin – is the office itself, where most of the scenes take place obviously.
The whole office interior is blinding white. The never-ending labyrinthine passages, the elevator, the office rooms numb one's senses to the point of a deafening silent scream. The characters move and talk like androids, and they seriously compete among themselves to reach a week's target – and for what? A waffle party as a sign of appreciation!
The employees' eager waiting for a new supply of notebooks, different departments being kept separate from each other, the janitor Mr Milchick and his suppressed intimidation create a surrealistic paranoia that is enough to give one nightmares.
Patricia Arquett's mid-tier boss, Harmony Cobel, is another source of pure absurdity that eats into Lumon's employees.
All the horror is derived from the cultish ambience of Lumon, centring mainly on its creator Kier Eagan and a scripture-like employee handbook that is written in the fashion of the Bible.
Severance cruelly resembles the postmodern life of us – the psychological severance of a corporate employee's personal and work selves, the official reprimand or punishment to keep employees working efficiently.
The weirdness of Lumon employees' lives all soon become entwined into the mystery of what the show is all about.
The eerie feelings from watching each of the nine episodes of the first season tends to linger. They do not go away easily.
Ben Stiller's direction of the brilliantly bold show created by Dan Erickson is absolutely perfect. It stars Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, and Britt Lower. Apple just finished airing the first season on Apple TV+. The show has already been confirmed for a 10-episode second season. Hopefully, the next instalment will unravel more of the mysteries of Lumon and its creator Kier Eagan.