Severance: Half Loop
February 20, 2022 10:35 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

The team train new hire Helly on macrodata refinement. Mark takes a day off to meet with a mysterious former colleague
posted by porpoise (39 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Whatever the Break Room is, I can't imagine it being more horrifying than the teambuilding exercise with the ball.

Did it seem like home-Mark's hands were shaking? I'm guessing neurological damage could be a long-term side effect of the implant.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:59 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]

I'm finding the whole concept of this delightfully disturbing, especially as they keep digging deeper into the implications. I especially liked the bit in the stairwell where she kept deciding to go back in again.

You're effectively enslaved by your own outer self here. It's really grim.

Also the melon cart was so unappealing. But I do kind of want a waffle party.

My theory: that Keir person with the giant wall sized sculpture of their head is being kept alive as a head in a jar somewhere, with the help of the activity on the severed floor.
posted by simonw at 5:52 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]

Watched Ep 1 and 2 this evening. Feels a little like Lost to me so far. I know something is going on, but I don't know what.
posted by COD at 7:27 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]

The 'Compliance' handbooks. That's oldschool - bound copies of compliance = enormous budget to reprint books, or more likely, the regulations/ standards do not revision - and all that that implies.

(though there was mention of new set of 'tomes' being updated occasionally)

Which could partially explain some of the anachronistic tech used within the facility, and the Keir person set in stone is archetypal sci-fi/ spec(ulative)-fi material.


I'm wondering if the shaky hands are less neurological damage and more neurological rerouting around the implant and impending implant failure? It seemed to have been triggered by the first date asking about the possibility of an inside girlfriend (budding feelings for Helly*).

*Britt Lower was deadpan hilarious in 'Future Man'
posted by porpoise at 7:51 PM on February 20

Mark got hit in the head in the conference room in the first episode; that could explain some ... unraveling.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:57 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]

One thing I don't get is how have he and his neighbor not discussed that they both work on the severed floor? Also did they show her watching his house when his friend moved in? Perhaps she's not actually severed.
posted by bondcliff at 6:50 AM on February 21

My theory is that neither The office manager nor the creepy compliance /security dude are severed.

Which has all kinds of implications.
posted by Faintdreams at 9:15 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]

Also am very interested to know what the 'Outie' version of overachiveing guy is like.

At one point he flat out says that the work productivity gifts /perks are simply worthless and gaining them is more about what they represent which.. wtf ?

And .. Marks plaque.. what's so special about it "Oh that's just something they gave him?" But. Why ?

I hope we get to see the Outie Lives of everyone.

The numbers feeing 'bad' actually looked quite horrible to experience?

Also. Mark said during team building that he has worked at company for 2 years. At the non-dinner, dinner party (his Outie) he said 5 years..

Finally that "Wellness meeting" will haunt me for a while..

Mostly because I know that the deduction of otherwise meaningless points would otherwise work on me as a compliance trick..
posted by Faintdreams at 9:24 AM on February 21 [10 favorites]

Agreed - my read on it is that management are not severed, and are monitoring the Outie version of the employees.

Overachieving guy getting "worthless awards" - and being proud of them - speaks to neurological manipulation, they've been altered in some way to be savants and their Mazlov's hierarchy has been scrambled up.

(Or could just be a snide swipe at corporate swag/ pizza-lunches-instead-of-raises/ etc.)

The "feel the numbers" thing could also support that. And good catch Faintdreams - the time discrepancy between Innie and Outie time tracking could also support neurological reprogramming/ memory manipulation.

The most surface-creepy part for me was the psychologist (Lachlan) reinforcing Neurotic guy into thinking that his Outie is a successful and happy person (good dancer, graceful swimmer, etc.), which is more evidence that the Innies are being mindfucked in some way.

I really want to see Neurotic guy's Outie life.

In addition to Mark trying to cover for Helly, Mark was pretending to enjoy the ball party thing (in contrast to Overachieving guy apparently enjoying ernestly) and hiding the old group photos (for evidence later that the group was different at one point in time?) shows that his Innie control is cracking.

But Petey - how did he manage to get out, without... being lobotomized or something?
posted by porpoise at 9:48 AM on February 21

Are outside Arquette and inside Arquette the same person? It wouldn't make sense that they take all that care to stagger entrance and exit, and then place two severed people next to each outer on the outside? Also, outside Arquette says "come by the shop, I'll give you a bath bomb" so unless she's working two jobs it seems they are different people? Twins?
posted by boogieboy at 12:18 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty convinced that Innie and Outie Arquette are the same and un-severed, and Outie Arquette is keeping tabs on Mark with a well prepared cover. Probably keeping tabs on all of the severed Outies.
posted by porpoise at 1:03 PM on February 21 [11 favorites]

I'm torn on whether she knows or is severed herself. I'm hoping not, it would just be more interesting if she was just two seperate weirdos in and out. However, seems way more likely she is not severed and is keeping tabs in some way. Certainly the 70s looking dude is not severed.

Long term I'm hoping for some Archive 81 podcast/X-files/SCP type shit to be going on at the company. Hope it's not just your bog standard corpo abuse.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:05 PM on February 21

I don't think Ms Cobel or Mr Milchik are severed, and that she is keeping an eye on Adam. This is a really intriguing series, and the basement where people are doing boring but sinister tasks reminds me of Enlightenment with Nora Dern.

I'm very intrigued by this show and I'm interested in seeing how the relationship between the two 'company men', Turturro and Walken, plays out too.
posted by essexjan at 1:13 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

Also. Mark said during team building that he has worked at company for 2 years. At the non-dinner, dinner party (his Outie) he said 5 years
Maybe there are other floors, and other roles these people serve on them on days when the elevator does not go down to the floor we've seen.
posted by joeyh at 2:20 PM on February 21

There's no way Innie Arquette is severed. If she were, she wouldn't be able to tell Mark a story about something her mom used to say (that is then confirmed to be likely accurate).
posted by prefpara at 2:46 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]

Also. Mark said during team building that he has worked at company for 2 years. At the non-dinner, dinner party (his Outie) he said 5 years

My guess is that their sense of time while working is all out of whack, given that they are basically trapped there.
posted by bondcliff at 2:48 PM on February 21

The numbers-feel-bad thing reminded me a little of the psychic protagonist in PKD's Time Out of Joint endlessly playing "Where Will The Little Green Man Be Next?".
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 3:45 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]

Oooh prefpara - excellent point! If Innie Arquette was severed, she definitely wouldn't recall anything of her Outie life history.
posted by porpoise at 4:49 PM on February 21

And thanks essexjan for dropping 'Enlightenment!' Big fan of Laura Dern, and it's got the Wilson that I don't mind... and Jason Mantzoukas! Gonna have to check it out.
posted by porpoise at 4:54 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Ok, I just rewatched both episodes. I caught a lot more in episode 1 on the re-watch.

What was with he weird not-dinner party? They made a point to mention they couldn't have a meal-based gathering, so I was expecting there were food shortages only to see Mark go back to his sister's house and have a huge sandwich.

As others pointed out, his innie boss said her mother was an atheist, outie boss said her mother was a Catholic. She's also watching Mark's house, and mentioned her shop, so there's no way she's severed. Also, she has a different name on the inside and the outside, where Mark is still Mark S.

I liked how in the second episode they showed Helly's experience on the other side of the stairwell. So basically their outie always chooses to go back to work because they don't realize how terrible it is there. Then the innie workers just kind of shrug because, hey, this is the job and sometimes there are waffles and melon!

I'll be interested to find out how Mark got his cube.

Some of the shots feel like Wes Anderson but with a creepy vibe and a cold-war pallet.

There's a lot of good stuff to freeze frame on. The checklist! I expect soon there will be a site that has all of these things in screen shots.

Is Irving's hallucinations just him dozing and dreaming or is there an issue with the implants? Or is that part of whatever they're doing to the employees?

I didn't quite get the thing with Irving and Burt, when Burt mentioned he had new binders coming and Irving said "That's all I'll be thinking about", it got awkward.

I'm getting an Aperture Labs vibe from the show.

The vending machine, the coffee. Everything is so perfect and bland.

What's a good place to go for reviews? I used to use the AV Club for stuff like this because I liked the lists of random observations they'd have at the end of the review.
posted by bondcliff at 6:59 AM on February 22 [4 favorites]

I'm really liking this so far, it's like the corporate satire of a George Saunders story mixed with There is no Antimemetics Division.

I like how the two stories that the office manager told our protagonist about her mother are completely contradictory -- in the first one the mother is an atheist and in the second she's a devout Catholic.
posted by whir at 7:19 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

I like how the two stories that the office manager told our protagonist about her mother are completely contradictory

It's a good test of whether he has reintegrated.
posted by prefpara at 8:36 AM on February 22 [6 favorites]

I kind of liked the use of intuition to interpret data. Those two elements seem so contradictory and yet here they are being conditioned to use the one on the other, which I can't imagine can actually produce anything useful.

When I first saw that Mark had the shakes my immediate thought was it might be caused by his alcoholism but now you all have me wondering if it's related to the implant.

I am also loving this show and want rabbit holes about it to dwell in.
posted by Stanczyk at 9:30 AM on February 22

I just watched the first two episodes. I'm finding it intriguing, but wish it was weirder. Can David Lynch direct?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:17 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]

I don’t think Arquette’s character is severed based on the fact that she told a story about something her mother said when they were in the Severed floor.

I also wonder if another level of the implant is that some part of their brain can see the data but they can only externally process it as a feeling, so it appears jumbled.
posted by interogative mood at 7:28 PM on February 22 [5 favorites]

Mark said during team building that he has worked at company for 2 years. At the non-dinner, dinner party (his Outie) he said 5 years

Outie Mark lost his wife two years ago. I’m guessing that’s when he severed. So Outie has worked at Lumon for five years, but he’s only been severed for two.
posted by gladly at 8:42 PM on February 22 [12 favorites]

I also wonder if another level of the implant is that some part of their brain can see the data but they can only externally process it as a feeling, so it appears jumbled.

Something so horrific that what they're actually doing has to be hidden from them. Perhaps inspired by remote drone operators?
posted by Grangousier at 5:07 AM on February 23 [6 favorites]

Am loving this show so much - was worried because the UI within AppleTV+ seemed to indicate that this is only a 3-episode series and was wondering how they would wrap it all in one more episode.

However, apparently it is a 9-episode series, but... the anguish of waiting for the next episode to drop now outweighs a short series... I shoulda waited for it to complete, to satisfy watching on my terms (typically 2-3 episodes in one go).
posted by rozcakj at 7:24 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

"The numbers feeing 'bad' actually looked quite horrible to experience?"

My own mind keeps coming back to how vaugue and visceral this sounds.. so what if.. what if the data that the severance crew is 'sanitising' is related to improving the severance process?

What if they are actually processing thier own brain output ?

The severe cognitive dissonance between their Innie and Outie would probably 'feel bad' in a similar way.. right?
posted by Faintdreams at 3:07 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]

I was pondering if the severing provides some sort of subconscious savant power and they are actually working on breaking cryptographic data, and since it expires it may be something like financial data / corporate espionage.

Either way it's kind of horrific and being an Innie would be like being in hell - no break from work, even falling asleep for two minutes is punished, and aside from melon & waffles all the benefit accrues to the Outie.
posted by Marticus at 3:51 PM on February 23

I think the data is a McGuffin and I don't know that we'll ever find out what it is for. I did love the various theories though. "Irving thinks we're removing swears from movies."
posted by bondcliff at 4:00 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]

The numbers-feel-bad thing reminded me a little of the psychic protagonist in PKD's Time Out of Joint endlessly playing "Where Will The Little Green Man Be Next?".

I was thinking the same. But then again, there are only 5 basic science fiction stories, and one of them is Time Out of Joint.

Though so far this is a lot closer to The Truman Show than Gravity's Rainbow...
posted by chortly at 11:17 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]

The Break Room vs the Wellness Room. The Wellness part seems like the Forer Effect—it’s personal but generic.

Suppose Mark’s boss/neighbor is severed, but both identities are spying on him. That’s probably not the case, but it’s interesting to think about.
posted by Monochrome at 11:20 PM on March 18

I kind of had a feeling going in that they were going to play on the double meaning of “break” there. Curious how they handled it in translation.

This show… this show seems pretty promising! I fully understand why I saw someone on Twitter comment that they look forward to, and dread, each new episode in equal amounts
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:40 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]

Cool show. Bits feel like Brazil and Seconds.

No wonder Mark looked hungover. His outie seems to drink continuously.

I'm not sure if the tasks are relevant so much as the madness of the innie daily grind.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:37 PM on March 30

You're effectively enslaved by your own outer self here. It's really grim.

As someone who would happily never work a day in my life if I didn't need to, the idea of being trapped in work forever is horrifying. It reminds me a lot of the Black Mirror episode where they take a copy of your consciousness, spin it up in a virtual environment, and force it to essentially be your enslaved assistant without the real you really understanding what's going on.

My current theories so far:
- all the rigid procedures, rules, awards, and hyper-controlled environment is the result of Lumon's experience/study showing that the workies need this to stay relatively sane.
- the "macro-data refinement" they're doing is actually something else but the microchip alters their conscious perception of what they're seeing. Their subconscious is reacting to what their eyes are actually seeing, giving the emotional response. Whatever it is, it's clearly so sensitive that even the severed workies can't consciously view it. (On preview I see some of you are also guessing this).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:04 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]

Mark said at the not-dinner party that he’d worked there “about two years.”
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:33 PM on April 10

They're moderating Facebook images.
posted by straight at 2:44 PM on April 10 [5 favorites]

Yeah, so in retrospect and suspicious memory, this was super fun and the cringey-ness was insulated enough by the absurd that this was more fun than painful.
posted by porpoise at 12:40 AM on July 1

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