Severance: Good News About Hell
February 19, 2022 10:42 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Mark leads a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives. When a mysterious colleague appears outside of work, it begins a journey to discover the truth about their jobs.

Amazon Prime, Apple TV.
posted by porpoise (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've been looking forward to this without really knowing what to expect. I liked it. It's creepy without being too creepy. That scene with him crying in his car before he went into the office really got to me.

I knew the neighbor was going to be his boss as soon as he spoke to her but I don't think they even really tried to hide that.
posted by bondcliff at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

I love the building the company was filmed in--I even stopped by today to show it to a friend. You're not allowed to go into the area where the receptionist sat, so I was jealous that they filmed there. I liked that the pattern of that carpet was echoed in other parts of the set design.

The show was really, really interesting and I loved how it captures so much of work life (oh god, or is it just my work life???).
posted by armacy at 4:46 PM on February 19, 2022 [10 favorites]

Only finished the first episode and I'm liking it so far.

Fan of Adam Scott since 'Party Down,' 'Parks and Rec,' and thought his cameos in 'NTSF:SD:SUV' and 'Children's Hospital' were complete hoots.

Very nice to see him in something more serious. Similar for Dichen Lachman, but from her 'Dollhouse' days. Liking her character in 'Animal Kingdom' after being a bit exploited in 'Altered Carbon.'

I am emphatically not a fan of Ben Stiller as an actor (he's a director here, don't know how many episodes he directs), but I'm keeping an open mind. Always open for More Walken and I'll never say no to Patricia Arquette.

William Gibson (probably) wasn't the first, but I always found the idea of a neural cutout/ meatpuppet (in the context of sex work, but/ so this is an opportunity to explore the concept of corporate work in contrast, especially in the current context of "the great resignation" - quote/ unquote) to be fascinating and I'm hopefully optimistic that this might explore the concept a bit more than just superficially.

I also really hope this doesn't turn into the weaksauce that the high(er) concept 'Devs' turned out to be.
posted by porpoise at 5:15 PM on February 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

I’m really thrown about the time this takes place in. It’s fun. Probably it’s modern day but also there’s a lot of odd vintage things.

Opening scene I immediately didn’t think that the as of then unnamed Helly was from the 70s or whatever time period the building and clothes suggested. Language? Makeup and hair? I’m not sure.

But then we see Mark in his vintage car. “Huh, ok, this is taking place a few decades back.”

…wait, did he stick a cell phone in the drawer? Stop screwing with me Ben Stiller, what was that?

Oh, an flatscreen monitor! And then and old fashion clock! Everyone must just drive an old car in case the anyone looks outside while on the clock. He’ll just swap it out at the end of the day.

… nope, and the neighbors have vintage cars. Ok, but it is a cell phone, right? And his sister has a vintage car. Huh.

And we don’t see his tv! C’mon, Ben Stiller!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:18 PM on February 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

The retro-tech aesthetic and questions of duality reminds me of the 2017's Counterpart, one of my favorite recent shows with a fascinating premise of the entire world being split into two parallel yet interacting universes that slowly diverge over time. It's also reminiscent of Legion's indeterminant time period, which let the show really play with the fashion, technology and aesthetics.

The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex is an amazing site for filming and totally sells the weird isolated corporate world where everyone works for the same company. It's amazing that it was left to decay for so long. If the Lumon corporation has a competitor later in the series, I hope they are based in the IBM Watson Research Center in Yorktown, another architectural delight in the middle of nowhere from the heyday of corporate research labs.

The short dolly-zoom in the elevator as the characters transition is a wonderful bit of filming that suddenly changes the feel of the character and the environment, without anything obviously changing. The actors also do an excellent job of being two different people, something that J.K. Simmons absolutely excelled at in Counterpart (as did Maslany in Orphan Black).

And what's the betting pool for the sort of macrodata they are refining, as well as if "Mrs. Selvig" and the rest of the higher-ups are also severed?
posted by autopilot at 10:01 AM on February 20, 2022 [9 favorites]

'Counterpart' was amazing, pity that it fizzled out. Regardless, it's still worth watching. J.K. Simmons and Olivia Williams were amazing. iirc, surprisingly good job by Harry Lloyd.

The aesthetics of this show and filming in the old Bell Labs building is a coup.
posted by porpoise at 10:27 AM on February 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Off to a great start. The mundane retro office aesthetics with sinister undertones reminds me a bit of the game Control, minus the Lovecraftian horror. At a few points I felt something approaching anxiety, but there were some laugh-out-loud moments too.

I'm assuming there's an in-world explanation for the dated tech. From an interview with Dan Erickson, the showrunner:
"It all comes back to Kier Eagan, who is the founder of the company, and basically this idea that everything they're doing is to fulfill this vision that he had, that he wanted to enact," Erickson said. "And so it all comes back to this weird quasi-religious, quasi-cult like reverence that everyone has for the late founder of the company."
So presumably Kier had a vision for this bureaucratic hellscape back in 80's and they've been trying to adhere to it as closely as possible ever since, right down to the monochrome CRTs. Changing anything might break the magic.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:09 PM on February 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

We haven't seen the tech elsewhere in the office, only on the severed floor, and it seems likely that the Action Office retro styling may be a (mental?) facade projected onto something else entirely. Although that doesn't explain the vintage cars and lack of mobile phones.

Oh, another parallel is Counterpart's "Management" communication machines and the mysterious "board", which will not be participating in the thread today.
posted by autopilot at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

The boss has different memories of her mother on the inside and the outside. hmm
posted by joeyh at 5:38 PM on February 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh, another parallel is Counterpart's "Management" communication machines and the mysterious "board", which will not be participating in the thread today.

An obvious parallel there, but by name alone I thought of Control's board which is a concept that probably doesn't fit here. But who knows!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:45 PM on February 20, 2022

Kinda love it aesthetically. I felt like it should have involved Helly more in the "RL" part of things, and the narrative signalling of that is not good for me somehow. Like that makes me think it's going to hold its card too much and waste time. The reveals for Irv and Arquette were not very interesting (except as joeyh noted).
posted by fleacircus at 7:01 PM on February 20, 2022

One episode in and loving this so far! The aesthetic, the off-feeling, the no dinner party, Adam Scott looking so small on that little bed! Where is this set? I like the Scandi looking houses.
posted by ellieBOA at 5:53 AM on February 23, 2022

This really hooked me, but reading these comments make me realize I should probably rewatch.
posted by jeoc at 5:54 AM on February 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

+1 to Better off Ted, which was an absolutely savage satire of corporate malfeasance lightly disguised as a light half hour sitcom.
posted by simonw at 6:11 AM on February 23, 2022 [13 favorites]

Reminds me of a lot of recent shows written by men who were born in and/or have retro-nostalgia for the 70s and grew up reading PKD. Counterpart and Legion, but also the overlooked but beautiful Maniac and Tales from the Loop. A somewhat well-explored aesthetic at this point, but pleasant to watch. I hope this one has the courage to break through its slightly cloistered feel, despite the big building.
posted by chortly at 11:04 PM on February 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

God, that "dinner" party.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:01 AM on March 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

Of course his pet is a goldfish. Rather on the nose.
posted by Monochrome at 10:10 PM on March 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is giving me huge Portal and The Stanley Parable vibes. Something about the windows full of light, where you actually can't see anything.

If there's a big yellow line with its own theme song, or the promise of cake, I would be out of there so fast...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:07 PM on March 31, 2022 [3 favorites]

I was also feeling the "Counterpart" vibes, here. This is some definite corporate dystopia going on, here. But wow the outside world is also kinda fucked up, so, uh, yeah.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:23 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Pleased to find out it was a Bell building. I worked at Bell-Northern Research (in Ontario, Canada) in the 1980's, and was getting *such* a familiar vibe.
posted by Mogur at 1:17 PM on April 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Getting a real Lil Friendys [previously] vibe here!
posted by RGD at 3:02 PM on April 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Just getting to this and liking it so far. I grew up in North Jersey and half the adults I knew, including most of my family, worked for ATT/Jersey Bell/Bell Labs/Western Electric so that suburban office park esthetic really hit home.
posted by octothorpe at 4:54 AM on July 29, 2022

Mrs. Example and I just started watching this, and it's impressively creepy so far. I remarked that it's like David Lynch's Office Space.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

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