You will never think of work-life balance the same way… EVER, seeing the first episodes of this eerie psychological sci fi drama. Dan Erickson came up with the idea hating his own job. He, along with directors Ben Stiller and Aoife Mccardle create a curious environment with an even more curious premise.
Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) stars as Mark, a deadpan, low level management office worker. He certainly knows how to leave the office at work, mainly because he allowed his brain to be “severed” to completely separate any memory of work when at home and vice versa.
We first see Mark in the parking lot outside the office building, sobbing uncontrollably. He’s taken this job to relieve the pain after his wife died, It’s a pain he can’t escape, but will he be able to escape this?
When Mark enters work, all memory of life outside the huge, Lumon Industries building is gone. The “innie” is the work persona and the “outie” is whoever he is before and after hours. All the “outie” knows about work is to show up.
Mark works in a barren, cavernous space with three other employees whose entire job is looking at numbers on a computer screen and somehow “refining” it. In other words they have no idea what they’re doing, or why. Numbers float into groups. It’s Ben Stiller’s rather loud statement about the uselessness of office work.
For those of us who haven’t been back to an office for two years because of COVID, the views of the harsh florescent blue lit hallways, security badges, cubicles and break rooms are anything but comforting to him or to anyone. And who is that Lenin-looking profile in a bas relief on the wall in the lobby? What did he have to do with it?
The first episode begins with an unconscious young woman waking up, lying face down, on a conference room table. Played with outstanding grit by Britt Lower, she’s Helly B., a new employee who has just gone through the brain procedure. Mark is assigned to get her indoctrinated. But she just refuses to get with the program. Tramell Tillman as Milchick tries to keep everything positive with a big smile.
John Turturro is Irving, the by-the-book older member of Mark’s team who talks softly, but may not be all that trustworthy. Zach Cherry, as Dylan, plays the suck-up company man who will do whatever it takes to meet performance goals is delighted when he receives a little recognition in the form of little prizes, cartoon caricatures and some snacks. They seem to stay somewhat childlike.
boss, Harmony Cobel. There is a veiled, threatening tone in everything she says and does with a cold stare and speaking with a deliberately slow cadence. When she appears where we least expect her in the second episode, all antennas go up. Looks like there may be a lot more from her.
And then Christopher Walken shows up as employee, Burt, who talks of upgrading the tech end of operations.
“Severance” does a fine job creating a huge, sterile, company office space made to feel as if the walls are closing in on the employees. Everyone, except Helly, has a cap on their emotions. The other characters seem complacent to follow the Lumon handbook. Is there any way to clock out of this bizarre work/life split? Only time and more episodes will tell.
Apple TV+ Episodic
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