Editorial Notebook

Why you should watch Severance

Over spring break while procrastinating on an essay, a friend recommended that I watch Severance on Apple TV+. At first, I was skeptical—I had few expectations as to how well an Apple TV+ original series could pan out. However, after watching the first season—all in the same day, sad to say—I was quite honestly impressed. Let’s talk about Severance.

Severance, which came out in 2022, is a science fiction thriller series following a group of people working at Lumon Industries, a dystopian megacorporation in the same vein as Amazon. They have all been “severed," meaning that their memories of their lives are blocked when at work, and their memories of work are blocked everywhere else. Showing us the lives of the characters both at work and outside of it, the two sides of the characters’ lives gradually become less and less “severed” as they attempt to discover what really happens at their mysterious company.

One of the most captivating aspects of this series was its direction, done by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle. Every camera angle and scene is meticulously composed, with shots so symmetric and perfectly lined up that they look almost 3D rendered. Oftentimes, a camera will follow a character through winding hallways for what seems like minutes on end, while maintaining the same crisp visual language found in the rest of the show. Several of the show’s more surreal scenes use this incredible attention to detail to purposefully disorient the audience, resulting in what are my personal favorite moments of the series.

The show is carried by the strength of its actors. Adam Scott is a wonderfully likable lead who plays off Britt Lower’s snarkier character exceptionally well. In fact, all of the Lumon coworkers have surprisingly good camaraderie with each other, despite the grim premise. My personal favorite actor would have to be Tramell Tillman, who plays the supervisor of the main group. He gives an eerily cheerful performance while subtly working against the protagonists at every turn with a sickeningly calm facade. His character is a type that is both common to see in critiques of the American workplace such as this one and shockingly fresh, in the kind of way that will send chills down your spine.

I did have higher hopes for the show’s core message. Now, I’m not saying that the script is dull or even bad. It is clear that Dan Erickson, the creator of the show, has a very strong grasp on what makes a good mystery, slowly building the tension throughout the season to an exalting climax. However, the show also tackles several more sophisticated themes, including dehumanization through bureaucracy, self-expression through art, and dealing with grief. In prioritizing the stakes of the narrative, these themes weren’t given as much payoff in the conclusion as I had hoped. It’s important to note that a second season of Severance will be released late this year or early next year, so a further discussion on any of these topics is likely to come.

Ultimately, my favorite thing about the show is the scenes depicting the huge, terrifyingly grim Lumon Industries building which was filmed in New Jersey. It’s always nice to see NJ get the love it deserves.