Severance: The You You Are
March 4, 2022 10:01 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Irving finds an intriguing book at work. Helly aggressively pursues a meeting with her Outie. Mark attends a funeral with Ms. Selvig.
posted by thedward (37 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, that was nice and dark.

My thoughts:
  • So, I assume the severed memories are stored on the chip?
  • So, that's why they call it the break room
  • Ms. Casey is kind of terrifying
  • Burt & Irving are adorable (much like Bert & Ernie)
  • Mark's reaction to his outie brother in law's book. Hah!
  • I think that isn't the last time Mark and June see each other
  • Helly's outie is COLD!
  • And so is she

posted by thedward at 10:14 PM on March 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'd be a bit surprised if that's the last we see of Helly. Plus her outie's attitude just makes me more curious about what her whole... deal... is.

We know a total of five or six severed employees, and it occurred to me that I'd be interested in most of their outies' lives, and whether their decision to become severed is always as tragic as Mark's. I'm still a bit stuck on how anyone could convince themselves that this was a good idea, but I suspect that's just part of the disbelief I'm supposed to suspend.

I'd bet $20 that Irving's outie has a completely different accent than his innie.
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:33 PM on March 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

(Just in my head but) totally called Burt and Irving!
posted by ellieBOA at 2:27 AM on March 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wow, Helly's last scene gives me the absolute heeby jeebies. She's going to hit the floor button just in time for her Outie to hang, right?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:50 AM on March 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

More that her outie will come back into existence hanging - whether she dies or not isn't relevant, since Helly wants to cease existence either through their shared body dying or her outie getting the point. Except that I suspect her being in the office is important enough for her outie that she's not going to get the point.
posted by Grangousier at 10:12 AM on March 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

This episode got Beyond Dark.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:09 PM on March 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

The candle in Mark's wellness session was the one from his wife's box of stuff.

Grim grim grim.
posted by minsies at 6:36 PM on March 5, 2022 [18 favorites]

Trust me, he needs it.
posted by armacy at 7:03 PM on March 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

This gets darker and more intriguing every week. I love it.
posted by essexjan at 8:53 AM on March 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

I haven't seen this mentioned on Twitter or here (tho I only skimmed the previous episode comments). I'm convinced Helley is a plant from the company.

In a previous episode, we saw from her POV her early attempt at escaping.

When she got in the stairwell ("outside"), she said to the company guy, "I must really not like it in there." And he said, "I'm really proud of you for doing this." If she signed up as some sort of spy / infiltrator, it explains her outside persona refusing to stop working there.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:18 AM on March 6, 2022 [7 favorites]

Ah, I see now Jeremias brought up Helly as infiltrator in an earlier thread.

There's a line in the beginning of Ep2 that keeps nagging me: During the scene in the hallway when Helly first "awakens" in severed space, Milchick says "When we heard you were coming here it was like a miracle. It's amazing what you're doing".

posted by NorthernLite at 9:32 AM on March 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

So what is going on in Optics & Design? They do art decorations for the hallways, but also have a massive factory floor with rows and rows of modern devices? The markings above the rows might be the same as the "boxes" in the software that the Macrodata people put the scary numbers into, although I didn't pause it to verify.

After the first time we saw it, I guessed that it was "Break" as in snap, not as in rest. Wonder how many times they have all ended up there, since they clearly remember it and even keep score.

And does anyone have a collection of quotes from the handbook? Some of them were hilarious, like "thou shalt not reproduce my works in miniature", and some were just bizarre, like the extended "First Edition" quote from Burt.
posted by autopilot at 9:48 AM on March 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

So I mean, Selvig is a rogue op. She's not doing this under company impetus, the implication is that she believes severance is breakable and/or breaking and is gathering evidence independently for a theory the company refuses to entertain. I guess the big twist could be that Selvig is white hat and Helly is black hat

We haven't been shown any real totalitarian, global control or surveillance from Lumon outside the office. The implication of 'company housing' hangs there, and we're initially led to think that Selvig is an extension of Lumon. But what was Petey actually running from? Why did he say he couldn't go home? What did he tell his family? His family doesn't act as if they think Lumon had anything to do with his death, they just seem mildly annoyed that there is a Lumon person at the funeral. His action were paranoid, but not at all cautious. His situation doesn't really add up for me right now
posted by anazgnos at 1:23 PM on March 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

I don't think anyone is a spy in the company, I do think that Hellly's Outie is either a Lumon exec or a Actual Lumon generational family member though.
posted by Faintdreams at 6:18 AM on March 8, 2022 [7 favorites]

I'd bet $20 that Irving's outie has a completely different accent than his innie.

I love John Turturro as innie Irving, but I have this sinking feeling that his outie is closeted. And Burt and Irving are going to be so sad.
posted by gladly at 7:19 PM on March 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

I love John Turturro as innie Irving, but I have this sinking feeling that his outie is closeted. And Burt and Irving are going to be so sad.

I feel like this show would go for a more subtle knife in the heart. One day Irving is missing from O&D, and when Burt inquires about it, he's told without explanation that Irving is no longer employed at Lumon, presumably because their flirting has come to the attention of management. Later, their outies encounter each other in passing—just a brief interaction between strangers, maybe at the grocery store—and each leaves the interaction feeling some vague, undefinable feeling of loss, evident only in the expression on their faces. And they never see each other again.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:36 PM on March 8, 2022 [10 favorites]

Or the opposite: In real life, Burt and Irving are cheerfully, cozily partnered and have been for years. Burt has been working for Lumon for years but Irving was "hired older" so perhaps they discussed Irving working there -- maybe working at the same place meant spending more time together, even as strangers. On the outside, Irving feels a vague, unshakable sense of betrayal and can't understand why.

I just watched all four episodes this past week and I'm enjoying this so much. Everything's a little offkilter. The bluish cast on everything. The names being slightly off the standard (people named Jame and Rebeck?). The strangeness of when everything takes place -- there's 80s hatchbacks and modern cellphones (and this week's reference to robot tests online), the 90s Lumon housing, the midcentury vibe.

Archer does that, too, down to the office carpeting. And for both, quite literally, what happens on the itchy green carpet stays on the itchy green carpet.

Lumon is really just the next step in awful work environments. You're supposed to leave your home life at the door. You're expected to work very hard and devotedly to complete tasks toward a goal that is fully abstract and disconnected from you, and not ask too many questions. Reprimands are formal and emotionally painful but no actual blood is ever extracted. Rules and missions are spoken with reverence. Managers seem terrifying but they themselves are terrorized by those above them and they also have an obstructed view.

I think maybe I missed something but I'm confused about Selvig's outside life and what Mark thinks of it. They're both in Lumon housing, but Selvig says she owns a retail shop. Wouldn't Mark wonder why a non-Lumon employee lives in Lumon housing?

Adam Scott seems like he's playing the bleakest, most darkly depressed possible version of Tom Cruise and it seems more deliberate the more I watch.

I think the Macro Data Refinement department is connected to the severance brainplugs somehow. They look for and find errant thoughts of the severed, which trains the mainframe to find them on a larger scale.
posted by mochapickle at 8:21 AM on March 9, 2022 [10 favorites]

This article points out that the number-sorting screen includes the acronyms WO, FR, DR, and MA, which corresponds to Eagan's four tempers (Woe, Frolic, Dread, Malice).

My best working theory thus far: the chip is the product. Mark, Helly, Burt, and Dylan are beta testers. The "data refinement" they do calibrates their own chips, or perhaps provides test data on its performance. The office is a controlled environment, which is why it's designed like a superficial model of a stereotypical office.

What does the chip do? Two possibilites. One is that it functions as a kind of mood stabilizer. This is why Mark, Burt, and Dylan are so blase about their situation. The chip helps one accept the malaise and tedium of modern working life. The memory cordoning is simply part of the experimental design: the data Lumon collects needs to be completely isolated from outside factors.

Another, more grim possibility is that Lumon is developing a visionary new model for the work/life relationship. They envision a future where people voluntarily choose to undergo severance so that their outies effectively never have to work again, while their innies become passive and accepting slaves.

In either case, the chip is still experimental. Something went wrong with Petey's chip. Something once went very, very wrong with someone's chip in Optics & Design, which was the disemboweling event Dylan was referring to.

I'd guess Helly was one of the engineers who helped design (or redesign) it. She's so confident in her work that she's taken the extraordinary step of agreeing to be one of the test subjects. It's not going well.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2022 [19 favorites]

mochapickle: "I think maybe I missed something but I'm confused about Selvig's outside life and what Mark thinks of it. They're both in Lumon housing, but Selvig says she owns a retail shop. Wouldn't Mark wonder why a non-Lumon employee lives in Lumon housing? "

Was it ever established that that’s Lumon housing? I remember Mark’s offhand remark that the subdivision never really filled up, or something, but nothing else.

I don’t know if we’ve met anyone else who even lives on that block. It does make me wonder where the other outies live, whether they’ve all got a non-severed Lumon employee spying on them, and so on.
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:07 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Was it ever established that that’s Lumon housing?

Haha, now I'm not sure! I went back and checked episode 2: Mark's date asks if he loves in Lumon housing and he says he lives in something creek and it happens to be subsidized by Lumon, so I think I assumed that meant it belonged to Lumon. But I'm not sure if it's Lumon or if they just have a housing allowance. But like, that whole situation is so weird, right? Half the town apparently works at Lumon but the neighborhood seems completely empty. And with all the precautions they make to stagger schedules, it seems like Lumon employees would talk amongst themselves as neighbors and quickly know which ones were severed, as apparently severing status isn't kept secret.

dephlogisticated, such a great comment! And I think it makes perfect sense that they're calibrating their own chips. The severing isn't to protect the secrecy of the project but instead it protects the test subjects from emotional contamination of outside thoughts.

Do you think Mark, Helly, Irving, and Dylan might have been selected specifically because each of their specific dispositions correlate/align more closely to each of those four temperaments? Mark is Woe as he's kind of sleepwalking through life from grief and loss. Dylan is Frolic (lots of joking around, the subversive bingo games at the perpetuity exhibit, random musings about living under the sea). That would leave Dread and Malice for Irving and Helly, although which one's which would kind of depend on whether Helly's a spy.

Like, if their typical brain patterns create pathways that make each of those temperaments more... primary... to them, then it'd be easier for each to isolate their other three more secondary temperaments when doing their data sorting on that itchy green carpet.

ALSO ALSO ALSO, confusion point: When I was looking for Mark's housing conversation with his date in episode two, I rewatched Helly's pre-sever video. Milchick tells her that her work personage would wake up in a few hours on the seventh floor, but she herself (her outer self) would find herself on the elevator. I'd been under the impression that their work floor was in a basement. Is it really on the seventh floor?
posted by mochapickle at 6:12 AM on March 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

Milchick tells her that her work personage would wake up in a few hours on the seventh floor, but she herself (her outer self) would find herself on the elevator. I'd been under the impression that their work floor was in a basement. Is it really on the seventh floor?

He says "SVR'd" or "severed" floor, not seventh. I checked it on this transcript.
posted by bcwinters at 8:26 AM on March 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

This show makes reminds me of internal family systems (IFS) therapy, defense mechanisms, and how reintegration after an excessively long period of separation (at least in this world) can have lethal consequences. The innies seem subconsciously aware of their outies (Mark constructing the clay tree that may have been the same tree his wife crashed into) and it seems like there may be some element of their outie's experiences that influence the kind of sound they hear in the break room (crying baby, murmurs of a man's voice) despite the drastic measures they have taken.
Also I like how each of the characters are transgressing in their own way.
I think it's weird that the elevators have such advanced character/symbol readers but not enough cameras/other sensors to detect that employees are wandering off.
The Lumon office looks kinda similar to Apple Park.
Came here to note that the candle in the wellness session was the same candle as the one in Mark's wife's box of belongings but minsies beat me to it :)
posted by gemutlichkeit at 6:57 PM on March 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

I think it's weird that the elevators have such advanced character/symbol readers but not enough cameras/other sensors to detect that employees are wandering off.

Do we know that these character/symbol detectors actually exist, or are innies just told this as a deterrent? Helly raises this question with Mark around the scene where she writes on her forearms.

So perhaps it is possible to pass messages from the severed floor to the outside. Most of the innies are just too compliant/complacent/scared to try.
posted by good in a vacuum at 8:01 PM on March 10, 2022

Helly got caught with a note in the second episode and Mark took the fall for her. The elevator halted, there were red alarm lights, and senior management arrived immediately. So it really does work.

My guess is that it doesn't have anything to do with physical symbol reading. Their severance chip probably identifies a particular, very specific pattern of subversive brain activity and transmits that to some sort of alarm system.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the production floor behind Optics is fully there to monitor these particular four people.
posted by mochapickle at 8:26 AM on March 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

That’s a good point mochapickle, I forgot about that red alert that Helly set off. I guess I was thinking too hard about how such a detection system would work, which I realize is silly given the premise of the show.
posted by good in a vacuum at 11:28 AM on March 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

(Maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't there a shot of someone hitting an alarm button before that alarm went off?)
posted by nobody at 8:26 AM on March 12, 2022

Just checked, and no.
posted by mochapickle at 8:53 AM on March 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

I’m going to laugh out loud if Mark converts from Kier-ism to Ricken-ism. Anything could be a religion to these innies!
posted by Monochrome at 10:27 AM on March 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

We’ve been catching up on this, watching one episode each evening, and I gotta say, this show makes it hard to not just keep going
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:07 AM on March 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

I'm still not sure about the symbol detector either. There's hasnt been a time that she has tried that was actually secret. She either tries right in front of someone or someone calls her out before she can try.

I'm am so loving this one and recommending it to all my weird friends. So good and creepy and weird!
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:03 AM on April 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

A less-interesting but very plausible explanation is that after Helly had the "I must really not like it in there," moment, they convinced her that the persona that controls her body at work is an artificial construct of her mind, a sort of imaginary or dream person, that remembers no past or future and isn't really a person. Quitting the job would be like refusing to go to sleep because you might have an unpleasant dream that you don't remember.

And she'd believe it because she wants to believe it and not feel guilty. And so when she gets that video she can either face the fact that she was complicit in torturing a real person—a version of herself—or double-down on that being an errant figment of her mind rather than a real person, one that needs to be dealt with firmly lest it harm her.
posted by straight at 4:06 PM on April 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Writers: Look, the lyrics to "Enter Sandman" are just so perfect, but it would be way too trite and clichéd.

Other writers: Maybe a slow cover version with sad piano?

Still other writers: No, we got this. Hold my beer.
posted by straight at 4:11 PM on April 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

But seriously, I thought that video was great and a great way to get that song in there.
posted by straight at 4:12 PM on April 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

I wonder if that video is either faked or else outside-Helly is attempting to infiltrate. With the episode beginning with her arm bandaged from the broken window and the content warning about self harm, I was expecting her to try carving a message to her outie into her skin. The paper-cutter threat was pretty fucking hardcore. Later, I was expecting Helly to just throw the noose around her neck and get ready for hanging and push the button as a more direct way of communicating with and threatening her outie, but she just went straight to it. Clearly, Helly has (had?) no fucks to give.

I'm loving the way they're doing the elevator doors cutting to elevator doors to focus on the experiences of innies as they exit and return. Like, no, it's just one long slog.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:05 AM on April 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

My guess is that the video of Helly's "outie" is faked. If not and she's in on it why would they be so careful about not letting Helly take messages outside physically on her body yet the video messages from her are OK? I don't think the "outie" is getting to see the videos or that she received the request to resign
posted by hazyjane at 7:08 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Adam Scott's look and voice remind me so much of Alan Alda.
posted by rikschell at 5:31 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

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