The Pitch: In Apple TV+’s new drama Severance, the enigmatic Lumon Corporation has figured out an innovative way for its employees to achieve that elusive work-life balance we all strive for: some employees can choose to undergo “severance,” a procedure that effectively bifurcates your memories between the office and the parking lot, so you don’t even have to remember the tedium of your workplace.
Take the elevator down to your floor at Lumon headquarters, and you basically become a different person — an “Innie” — whose life extends only to the confines of Lumon’s abstract, minimalist office decor and strangely insular corporate culture.
For Mark (Adam Scott), the decision to sever was easy, especially after the tragic death of his wife left him looking for a temporary escape from his everyday misery. However, “Innie” Mark knows nothing of this, concerned chiefly with getting his department to meet its quarterly quota for their tedious office work (the purpose of which remains a mystery even to them) and helping their newest colleague, Helly (Britt Lower), adjust to life on the inside.
But the more Helly strains against the confines of the corporate hamster wheel she’s been figuratively tied to, it leads Mark and her office mates — Lumon diehard Irving (John Turturro) and office slacker Dylan (Zach Cherry) — to start questioning the very nature of Lumon’s work, and even start looking for ways out under the nose of their imperious manager Cobel (Patricia Arquette).
And on the outside, a chance encounter with Innie Mark’s old officemate (Yul Vazquez), now “reincorporated” and on the run, gives “Outie” Mark reason to doubt the good intentions of Lumon’s scheme to streamline our work-life balance.
Lumon Party: High-concept genre tales about the drudgery of office culture are nothing new: It’s the premise of practically every other Black Mirror episode, as well as shows like Syfy‘s short-lived Corporate and films like Being John Malkovich. Heck, Amazon’s Homecoming traffics in similar material about corporate experiments with memory and the nature of self.
But creator Dan Erickson’s show takes these familiar elements and executes them with eerie, unsettling style, finding erstwhile moments of surreal office humor that dovetail into dark sci-fi thriller territory before you can say “casual Fridays.”