Severance Season 1 (2022) Review

Great performances, a captivating storyline, and beautiful cinematography help drive a slow moving series with odd beats.

Severance is an American psychological thriller series distributed by Apple TV+, encompassing thematic elements of science fiction and mystery. The series was created by Dan Erickson and directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle. The series revolves around Mark Scout [Adam Scott] who works at Lumon’s Macrodata Refinement division with his team Dylan [Zach Cherry], Helly [Britt Lower], and Irving [John Turturro].

The Macrodata Refinement division at Lumon Industries in Severance (2022) (dist. Apple TV)

Although the timeline is unspecified, Severance largely takes place in a dystopian workplace environment at Lumon Industries, where workers can choose to undergo the eponymous severance medical procedure. This procedure allows employees to have a work self (referred to as an “innie”) who has no recollection of their life outside of the corporation where they live their lives as “outies”. Slowly, the team begin to unravel the mysteries of the repressive company, culminating in a tense season one finale. The cast manages to switch personas seamlessly which is a credit to their skill as performers.

Severance is one of the many despotic workplace series at the moment, such as WeCrashed [2022], also from Apple TV, and The Dropout [2022] from Hulu. The emergence of these shows at present, all cohesive with one another in their depiction of unpleasant work environments, seems to be a blossoming form of mimesis, reflecting a cultural shift affected by the rise of corporate sovereignty. Fears over the ascendancy of big tech companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon are astute too, given our dependency, and also ironic considering the nature of streaming platform distribution.

Patricia Arquette as Harmony Cobel in Severance (2022) (dist. Apple TV)

The cinematography of Severance is magnificent for a streaming series. The scenes are rich in symmetry and tonal subtleties, echoing technology almost everywhere. There’s a biomechanical aspect to the series where the narrative emphasises industrial reliance, to the point where part of the corporation is embedded into the human brain – a not so subtle metaphor. From the opening sequence, the viewer is inundated strong imagery, the loss of autonomy and the gain of disquietude.

Although I’m not an avid watcher of thriller series, the sci-fi elements of the series really reeled me in. The composition excels and there’s a peppering of black comedy in there too. The only bugbear I have is that the story is very slow moving, which is par for the course of building suspense, however, I do wonder if it misses a few beats at points. Nevertheless, Severance manages to stay captivating and is absolutely worth watching if you haven’t already.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Final rating: 8/10

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