Severance: The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design
March 12, 2022 6:06 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Irving and Dylan confront Burt about his lies. Mark and Helly discover a strange new department.

"Inexplicable goats"—Erin Qualey's 5-star recap for Vulture

"Distribution supply is eight minutes, round trip."—Ms. Casey

"Mark, would you help me hang the kelp? "—Ricken
posted by bcwinters (70 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I absolutely loved how the trite, meaningless "insights" from the self help book were treated like they were deep, sophisticated wisdom in the world of the severed floor, which presumably has never seen any philosophy before that wasn't in the handbook.
posted by simonw at 7:04 AM on March 12 [20 favorites]


This episode was perfection. Am still gathering my thoughts, but OMG goats? And the lights? At this point I would not be even a little surprised if there were a literal actual minotaur making an appearance in the hallways, I love it, I love it, I love it, it's all so weird and great.
posted by mochapickle at 7:36 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


That painting, or perhaps those paintings is more accurate. One where O&D is slaughtering MDR and another where the ID cards are switched. And not just goats, baby goats, baby goats who bleat like human babies cry. WTF?
posted by Stanczyk at 7:41 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


Right? Seriously WTF.

And Mark trying to soften his eyes as directed for Helly's return, but looking completely deranged.

Also the very last moment when Burt introduces Irving and Dylan to the production floor, so hilarious. Dylan looks terrified, while Irving is a thousand percent delighted.

In the painting, are those cell phones glowing or were they badges?
posted by mochapickle at 7:52 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Badges. They even mention it when they look at the opposite one at O&D.
posted by Stanczyk at 7:54 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Much oddness and hilarity up at the birthing cabins.

"Mark! Say a secret, quickly! The fetus is drawn to clear air! Purging secrets can create a soul void that speeds the labour!"

"Okay, and... we want that?"

Devon, about to go into labour, decides to go for a walk in the middle of the night to get a coffee. Where was she planning to go exactly? Seemed like the visit to the birthing chateau was unplanned.

The conversation with the other pregnant woman oscillated between pleasant and uncomfortable. Devon asking "You rich?" The nervous laugh in response, and the other woman's glance out the window to see if Devon has accomplices who are about to rob the place.
posted by good in a vacuum at 8:09 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Ah, thanks.

The baby goats! Baby goats really do sound a lot like like baby humans, and it's alarming even out of context, particularly in a dark office corridor. Shivers.
posted by mochapickle at 8:09 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


...literal actual minotaur...
Yes, there must be at least one reference here; I'm just not sure which. Writers seem to love labyrinths.

...Mark trying to soften his eyes as directed...
I had to laugh at myself when I realized I was doing the same.

I always ask myself, "Why does this show appeal to you?" In this case, it's the sheer uniquity. Kind of the same as The Leftovers.
posted by kingless at 9:00 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


While I appreciated the weirdness of the episode, and LOLed at several of the things mentioned up thread, I'm also getting slightly impatient with the series was a whole. The rabbit hole to plot payoff ratio isn't looking good.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:37 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


Only Christopher Walken could deliver those lines and still convincingly make it be the character flirting.

Magic.
posted by Faintdreams at 2:14 PM on March 12 [16 favorites]


I liked Adam Scott's face change in the elevator when he left the building, and upon return. There was some digital manipulation going on there, but probably just a bit of artistry to show transitioning between Outie/ Innie worlds.

Which also makes me question the - conscious, I think - decision for the title animation to be very obviously low-grade animation.

Judd (guard on the outside) calls Mike S "Mr. Scott." Coincidence? Coincidence.

I do like Mark and Devon's sibling relationship.

I'm still very intrigued by the ... uneven... apparent application of surveillance inside the building. They're all being surveilled, all the time.

I'm guessing Cobel deliberately placed Hal'sRicken's self help book for MDR to find.

Agreed CHeeseDigestsAll, I'm also disappointed with the pacing for a 9 episode season, albeit with a second season already attached.
posted by porpoise at 6:21 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


As I've discussed in other fanfare threads, it's an error with these shows to pin your hopes on the mystery box. The box generates the plot, but if you don't enjoy it minute by minute, don't waste your time on these things. The mystery box will always be a disappointment -- and even in those rare cases where it's great, it will be ruined by the need for further seasons, replacing the first mystery box with second and third ad-hoc boxes of increasing lameness (see Westworld). But in SF the MacGuffin is an idea or twist, something you ideally enter into in a sort of suspension-of-skepticism, allowing it to pull you through while, of course, the real appeal is the feelings along the way: the moment Gumm opens the paper that says "Soft-drink stand," not the inevitably failed resolution a hundred pages later. Seeing Turturro and Walken engaged in restrained flirtation in the midst of some dystopian mind trap is all the payment I need to keep watching.
posted by chortly at 7:28 PM on March 12 [32 favorites]


This was, I think, the best episode by far, but it couldn't have existed without the others. Oh man, oh man. The baby goats, the dude feeding them, Christopher Walken getting some GREAT lines in...oh man.

> Judd (guard on the outside) calls Mike S "Mr. Scott." Coincidence? Coincidence.

Hm, pretty sure he said Mr. Scout - the innie's name is Mark S, and the outtie's name is ... well, Mr. Scout ... and his full name (I presume) is Mark Scout.

As far as the self-help book goes, from what I remember, Cobel and Milchick were discussing it, when some emergency (probably Helly-related) happened, and so they left it there on the seat purely by accident. I'm pretty sure they've forgotten about it, but that was sloppy of them, considering how controlled everything is on the severed floor.
posted by destructive cactus at 8:20 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


I am absolutely loving this series. Is the pacing kind of slow? Possibly, but the first ep had a scene of Mark just walking down a hallway for 20 seconds, which is an eternity in filmmaking time, so I trust the filmmakers.

I’m blown away with the choices of camera angles. The choice to film in basically a large, white, over-illuminated box is bold and not so easy to keep interesting. A lot of the framing inside Lumon is jarring and yet visually reiterates the idea - the feeling - of severance; of being severed.

And, yes the flirting between Irv and Burt! So well done by both actors. How do you deliver lines about larvas and still emotionally convey such romantic joy!?
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:50 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


Irving met Burt when he was sent to Ms Casey after his first (on-screen) encounter with the goop. This time, once he snaps out of it, he immediately says he needs to go to see O&D. Does he think it's connected to Burt somehow? Or that Burt is a grounding, safe influence and if he goes too long without seeing him, the goop shows up?

Also, when MDR sees (what Burt says was the entire) O&D department in the hallway, they're carrying around eggs that have been smashed. Is all of Lumon some kind of horrific farm operation? (Petey ended up in a greenhouse after he fled, too.)
posted by minsies at 6:55 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Also, when MDR sees (what Burt says was the entire) O&D department in the hallway, they're carrying around eggs that have been smashed. Is all of Lumon some kind of horrific farm operation?

I guess that’s to be determined, but as someone who once had to DO the egg drop challenge as a new part-time employee at a call center so I could ’bond with the team’, I am so digging the clear-eyed depiction of Lovecraftian horror that is all of corporate “culture building.”

Or that Burt is a grounding, safe influence and if he goes too long without seeing him, the goop shows up?

My read was that Burt is an ACTUAL source of grounding and comfort as opposed to Miss Casey’s weirdness, and as much as Irv is the paradigm of a Company Man, he instinctually feels the difference.

So far, this seems to be a tight, well-crafted story as opposed to, say, Lost, which at some point seemed to be a group of writers trying to create a cohesive narrative out of a bunch of pictures cut out of different magazines. And Ben Stiller is turning out to be a remarkable and gifted director. I’m still 100% invested.
posted by Silvery Fish at 7:56 AM on March 13 [10 favorites]


For the change in the elevator, I’m pretty sure they’re just adjusting the lens focal length—it has a dramatic influence on a face.
posted by sleeping bear at 8:42 AM on March 13 [18 favorites]


Love that observation from Silvery Fish about keeping things visually interesting when filming in a big sterile box. This whole thing does feel like an showcase of cinematography, it's really glorious to look at.
posted by simonw at 9:05 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


For the change in the elevator, I’m pretty sure they’re just adjusting the lens focal length

It’s a tiny, tiny, tiny dolly zoom. Seriously, I’ve never seen one done on such a small scale, just enough for your brain to go, “woah, that was distressing - what happened there?”

simonw - I watch each episode at least two additional times just for the cinematography. They break all the rules. All of them. Rule of thirds? Pfffft! Set that one as a vertical 1/8th. The next one a horizontal(!!) 1/5th. Use a standard lens when you’re shooting this conversation at an angle so the ceiling tile lines are straight but switch to a fisheye on the 90 degree shot so the lines curve up at the ends. It’s a constant series of these little decisions that continue to make those bland interiors unnerving and off-balance.
posted by Silvery Fish at 9:21 AM on March 13 [35 favorites]


Not sure if I've said how much I love the intro. It's a little long but it's great.

I love the reverence for Ricken's book, funniest thing so far.

This show sometimes starts to say interesting things about its premise, the work/life dichotomy, but then it backs off and goes to fart around doing not much.

I'm not bright: is "Helly" supposed to be like "Heller", i.e. as a nod to the Lumon guy being like Milo Minderbinder corporate absurdity?
posted by fleacircus at 1:33 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


fleacircus - yes, that intro is amazing!

then it backs off and goes to fart around doing not much.

Can you give me an example? I haven’t found anything that felt unnecessary to me. Interested to hear your take.

And I hadn’t thought too much on the names, but I like your theory.
posted by Silvery Fish at 2:05 PM on March 13


I really liked the change in Mark's face in the elevator, yes a little digital manipulation, but mostly Adam Scott altering his expression. Destructive cactus, the security guard called him "Mr Scout".

I like kingless' analogy with The Leftovers. That started off in season 1 by sticking relatively close to the book, but in seasons 2 & 3, it was all "well, you've stuck with us through that weirdness, so we know you're along for the ride. Buckle up, it's going to get real weird now ..."

So yes, Severance is weird as hell, but I am enjoying this show and the performances of every actor in it so much that I don't even care if all the threads of the story are explained or resolved.
posted by essexjan at 2:29 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]


Can you give me an example?

I think my problem is that I'm interested in the theme of, "Innie vs outie/work self vs the 'life' self mindfuckery", but I am less interested in the theme of, "Corporate dystopia". So, I want the show to be about Helly and Pete, but it's mainly not about them and is always veering away from or underutilizing them, IMO. And while the main focus is Mark, who is having the central innie vs outie conflict, he is pretty inert. Mark scenes are where momentum goes to die. And there's a bunch of scenes which are only purely about the corporate dystopia. So my example is *waves generally at entire show*.
posted by fleacircus at 3:50 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


but I am less interested in the theme of, "Corporate dystopia"

Ah! Well then, I understand why it’s frustrating for you. As I see it from where we are right now, the innie/outie thing is another angle through which to show the extent of the dystopia. But we’re only half way.

And to echo another post - I like Mark and Devon’s sibling relationship too. Feels real. I can’t figure out why she married Ricken, tho. He seems to embody the nonsense that Devon seems so clear-sighted about elsewhere.
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:28 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


And to echo another post - I like Mark and Devon’s sibling relationship too. Feels real. I can’t figure out why she married Ricken, tho. He seems to embody the nonsense that Devon seems so clear-sighted about elsewhere.

This is the only false note to me as well - Devon seems pretty cool, and I can't really believe that she tolerates Ricken.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:55 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


So is the other woman Devon talks to in the "fancy" birthing cabin severed? In an earlier episode someone mentions that someone's 'innie' got pregnant and the woman she talked to knew she had had 2 kids previously but reacted oddly when she asked if she was rich.

Even if she isn't the same woman mentioned before an interestingly dark use for the tech could be for rich people to be able to avoid the unpleasant parts of life. Outie carries the baby up until labor starts and then they do a severed switch and 'innie' personality is the one who actually has to go though labor and delivery. Which gets really dark when you think about it because that means 'innie' personality's only existence is constant labor and delivery.
posted by Captain_Science at 9:07 AM on March 14 [15 favorites]


We know nothing about Mark and Devon's childhood.

Ricken might be many things, but one thing he does seem to be is earnestly honest.

That in itself can be very attractive to someone who didn't grow up around it.

That Ricken cares about Devon and her well-being is evident.

Sometimes that's more than enough for a successful relationship.
posted by Faintdreams at 9:10 AM on March 14 [17 favorites]


Which gets really dark when you think about it because that means 'innie' personality's only existence is constant labor and delivery.

Jaw dropping. That is astonishing and so good. Wow.

Second watches are so fun because it just shows how everything in this series is so deliberate. Like, back in the pilot episode, Mark makes a big deal about Mrs. Selvig putting out her trash and recycling at the same time and taking over his spot. He explains to her repeatedly that these things go out separately. On first watch, it's just a conversation about a character being frustrated with his neighbor, but on second watch, it seems like more. Is it an early hint that Mark is severed (does things at separate times) while Selvig isn't (she does everything at once). Is it telling us that Selvig doesn't care about rules at work as well?

When I was looking for the trash/recycling scene in the pilot, there's this great shot at 26:44. It's a single shot of an intersection of blank white hallway, but the corner makes it look almost like a perfectly split screen right down the middle. Helly is striding toward the stairwell in her first attempt to leave and Mark is standing still with his back to the wall. In the left half of the screen, Helly is determined to leave. In the right half, Mark is resigned to staying.

It's just lovely when the setup of a shot has so much to say about the characters and their mindset, and I'll be looking for this more.

So yes, happily rewatching. I love this thread and seeing how everyone's experiencing this!
posted by mochapickle at 10:10 AM on March 14 [12 favorites]


Sometimes that's more than enough for a successful relationship.

All excellent points, and yes, more than enough.

To make this work for me, I’ve put together a back-story for D and R — that they met in grad school, it was a solid, caring relationship of equal intellect and emotional intelligence, but R’s failure to be seen as a genius has caused the breakdown of a sense of self we see here. Ergo, D’s slight impatience at some of the wackier R ideas, and yet still genuinely caring toward him as well.

All of this is unsupported by the series to date, but it keeps me liking both of them. :)
posted by Silvery Fish at 11:46 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


This series has been making me think. There were times in my working life when I would have taken the Severance deal. Would have worked better than alcohol.
posted by night_train at 1:08 PM on March 14 [6 favorites]


Is this the first episode where the idea that all the characters could be psychology experiment subjects is made explicit? I've been getting that vibe for awhile, either testing the Severance procedure or just testing extremes. But this episode has a line from Harmony talking about "I'm trying something new with Casey" which made it sound much more explicit, although whether she's running an experiment on Casey or Casey's patients isn't so clear yet.

I am enjoying episode more than the last. The key thing for me is that everything is just so well executed. Gorgeous set design and cinematography. Tight writing. Very tight mystery box. I agree the reveal isn't the point of this kind of show, as long as they keep the story focused on just one or two interesting aspects of the Severance concept it will work.

I was hoping they'd contain this to a one-off series and was worried that they still had 4 more episodes to go; I think this could wrap up in 2. But I see now there's a second season already approved, too, and I sure just hope this doesn't get dumb as the writers start laying down threads they can pull later.

This episode had me focussed on just how amazing the casting is. Watching Walken and Turturro play off each other is pure pleasure. Same with Zach Cherry (Dylan) and Britt Lower (Helly). Patricia Arquette is a damn legendary actor of course, so it's no surprise she's great. Dichen Lachman (Casey) and Tramell Tillman (Milchick) are new to me but also bring a whole lot to the show. And then tying it all together, Adam Scott, who has a lot more nuance than I ever imagined in him. I liked the comment mochapickle made in the last discussion about how he is the "bleakest, most darkly depressed possible version of Tom Cruise". I'll add to that an even more striking combination of goofy looking and movie star handsome.
posted by Nelson at 5:35 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


And then tying it all together, Adam Scott, who has a lot more nuance than I ever imagined in him.

As possibly the last person in North America who has not seen Parks & Rec, he is new to me — and he is so good. The look of panic and need when he rushed to lift Helly’s body in the elevator and that heartbreaking shift in tone when he said the baby shouldn’t have to deal with the “emotional baggage” that would come with giving her his dead wife’s (middle) name gutted me.

Mochapickle, I’m so happy for this thread too, and reading all of your reactions and theories! I rarely watch media any more, but this thing has me captivated.
posted by Silvery Fish at 5:54 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Silvery Fish he's in The Good Place at all, as a delightfully different character.
posted by simonw at 8:39 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Strongly seconding Scott in 'The Good Place' - but only if you're already familiar with him.

In addition to 'Parks and Rec,' if you enjoyed that, you might also enjoy 'Party Down,' which Scott is also in. I thought that he was forgettable in 'Ghosted,' but there wasn't much material to work with.
posted by porpoise at 9:53 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


I'm not bright: is "Helly" supposed to be like "Heller", i.e. as a nod to the Lumon guy being like Milo Minderbinder corporate absurdity?

Hmm, I thought her full name was Helena, but now I don't know why I thought that.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:09 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I am also wondering why we have never seen a photo of Mark's wife, and if it's perhaps because she is one of the severed employees that lives at Lumon.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:29 PM on March 14 [7 favorites]


This series has been making me think. There were times in my working life when I would have taken the Severance deal.

Yeah, I had similar thoughts. For me, many years ago, it would have made my work life much easier and more productive, being able to work without having to stop myself from thinking constantly about my personal issues.

On the other hand, my "outie" life would have been awful. Nothing but time to sit and wallow in pain and depression, without work life to provide some structure and social interaction.
posted by good in a vacuum at 10:31 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


I guess I would have wanted the Eternal Sunshine deal, rather than the Severance one.
posted by good in a vacuum at 10:34 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


Hmm, I thought her full name was Helena, but now I don't know why I thought that.

I remember it being in the show. It must have been either episode 2, where we see her side of the "onboarding", or when her outie is exchanging video messages with her innie. I am pretty sure I didn't make it up because I remember saying to myself "Of, of course, I was wondering what Helly is short for".
posted by dfan at 4:35 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


I thought her full name was Helena, but now I don't know why I thought that.

I remember “Helena” also, tho I don’t remember from where. “Helley R.” ==> Heller is a brilliant observation.

As is that we haven’t seen a picture of the deceased wife.
posted by Silvery Fish at 5:14 AM on March 15


"The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design" is such a wonderful title for an episode, too. Poetry.
posted by simonw at 5:17 AM on March 15 [5 favorites]


I thought her full name was Helena, but now I don't know why I thought that.

In the 3rd episode when Cobel has the meeting with Natalie and the board, she says "Is this about Helena?"
posted by bcwinters at 6:25 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


Ricken is truly an author for the TED Talk culture
A society with festering workers cannot flourish, just as a man with rotting toes cannot skip.
A good person will follow the rules. A great person will follow himself.
Bullies are nothing but Bull and Lies.
At the center of "Industry" is "Dust."
They cannot crucify you if your hand is in a fist.
I looked briefly and couldn't find a web simulator / game of the Lumon numbers task. That'd be a fun little project.
posted by Nelson at 6:39 AM on March 15 [12 favorites]


And of course they can still crucify you if your hand’s in a fist. It just takes more force and breaks more bones.
posted by mochapickle at 6:41 AM on March 15


I looked briefly and couldn't find a web simulator / game of the Lumon numbers task. That'd be a fun little project.

Oh my gosh, it would!!

And the Ricken aphorisms??? Just pitch perfect. I really want to see the ones that the screenwriter discarded.
posted by Silvery Fish at 6:42 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


I looked briefly and couldn't find a web simulator / game of the Lumon numbers task. That'd be a fun little project.

There's this thing, made by Redditor iam-robin
posted by bcwinters at 7:02 AM on March 15 [9 favorites]


Thanks, that thing is exactly what I had in mind! Also of course there's a reddit for the show. I browsed it and brought back the best post there: a comparison of Edward Hopper paintings and Severance cinematography.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


bcwinters, Nelson - those are both great finds! And thanks for scouring Reddit so we don’t have to. ;)
posted by Silvery Fish at 8:22 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Porpoise - “ I'm still very intrigued by the ... uneven... apparent application of surveillance inside the building. They're all being surveilled, all the time.”

I had wondered if some of the supposed lapses in surveillance were intentional: to observe whether the innies would begin to manifest signs of emergent behaviour - monitoring for breakthroughs within or out of whichever system in they’ve found themselves test subjects, (cognitive?) cogs, components of an attempt at modeling intelligence insofar as it suits the Lumen creators’ goals, pick your nightmare fueled-theory. In Lumen (which Petey and others sketched/mapped out as eerily resembling a cross-section of a human brain, the aerial view of Lumen HQ in the intro resembles a brain, numerous nods and parallels have been covered earlier). (For the first time? Has this happened before?)

We’re shown the near-ubiquitous cameras, the knowledge and /selective/ use of said camera surveillance by the higher-ups we’ve seen (or at least those referred to solely by surname: Ms Cobel, Mr Milchik, and so forth). Ms Cobel seems to have an interest in purposely not attending to the surveillance results - or being notably selective about what she chooses to dismiss. (Granted, they’ve all got a lot on with the mysteriously important new hire Helly attempting escape, finger-chopping, and suicide.) She says she’s ‘trying something new’ (paraphrase) with Ms Casey, the latter up till now who’s seemed eerily - benighted of soul, algorithm-driven (template-like Wellness sessions, May I perform a hug?), procedurally robotic verging on ELIZA. I almost thought she was a sort of AI backup - like Lumen’s version of the shipboard EMT or something. In this episode Ms Casey seems almost - childlike. I hate to use the word, but something of a blank slate in the way Bert and Irving (sigh!) are like two people discovering a attraction or love or a kindred spirit for the first time in all their recalled lives. The goes and gets the notepads after Mark ‘spills’ coffee on them. Management are trying to keep Bert and Irv apart (so they do watch the rows of monitors after all), but after a split second’s hesitation she tells them where to find one another. It’s almost as if she’s discovering these new and touching impulses of compassion for the first time ever, full stop, without fully comprehending why or what they are, yet. Perhaps Cobel let her loose to see how’s she’d develop with a few unforeseen variables in the mix?

Note: When Helly and Mark are lost in the series of corridors which eventually lead to the goat room (or however their perception filter/blinders led them to interpret that set of data), this is the first set of Lumen corridors I can recall which are completely dark with no sense forward - even the tunnel to the Break Room had a foreboarding dim light and sense of *there* there and a door up above - whereas in Helly and Mark’s maze, the lights are controlled by motion sensor with each consecutive archway only lighting up once someone takes a step forward. It almost seemed to me as of there wasn’t a set floorplan in that region of severance at all, but as if the corridors themselves were being procedurally generated step by step until the Goat Room was reached, intentionally or otherwise.

*(Of note : I’m quite tired and haven’t the chance to rewatch, but I could swear Helly is the one to take the steps forward and trigger the next lit arch direction every time. This could speak to her character, or I could be mistaken, although the bit about her headstrong character continues to hold true. Whatever the hell Helena/Jelly’s deal is! And whatever it is, it’s a joy and enigma to watch, but I digress. Sort of hope that along with a few other discordant notes regarding Mark they aren’t about to drop a Sixth Sense twist on us regarding Mark, unless it’s incredibly artfully done.)

The emergent behaviour/selective action taken on the results of panopticon-type surveillance -on some occasions the higher-ups (who knows what the Control-like squeaky-staticky speakerphone Board is communicating, really) could hold true regardless of whether any of the theories about the purpose of the show’s innies vs outies obtain.

It’s been said before, but Mark seems much more emotionally /real/ and genuine and awake in his Lumon/Innie life than in the bizarre uncanny-valley Truman Show waking nightmare of his Outie life, which is a bit too artificial, too staged, empty streets and an empty town and a massively empty neighbourhood with 1 next-door neighbour who’s a Lumon plant, the every-so-slightly off and often near-scripted interactions with the few family and acquaintances he encounters. His frequent memory lapses; prompting. (I like Devon and Rickey are exasperatingly fun comic relief, but we can’t speculate to what degree they might be in on any supposed conspiratorical machinations - or if they were coerced, etc).
posted by rallumer at 8:29 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


(Apologies for all the typos/ syntactic fritz; my sleep was approx as restorative as Mark’s, last night. How many times has Christopher Walken winked at Irving this season? What the hell is/was Dylan like in Un-Severed form? And the particular inflection of Ms Casey after she finds Mark and Helly on their ‘mental health walk’ (after being told they were going on a quest for pen caps) and confesses - this is the word for it - that she was glad they were both unhurt. ‘I’m glad. I was…scared. …I forgive you’ - I don’t know what to make of this. It’s something.) Psyched that you guys are watching it too. :) I admit to being somewhat disappointed that most of my fave professional critics had already got the full series’ screeners in their mittens…
posted by rallumer at 9:15 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


but after a split second’s hesitation she tells them where to find one another. It’s almost as if she’s discovering these new and touching impulses of compassion for the first time ever, full stop, without fully comprehending why or what they are, yet.

Yes, this was lovely and unexpected, as was her “I was scared.”

I’m enjoying these shifts; still trying to figure out who the experiment is being done on (“The Work” - which is rarely actually done - appears to be just another parameter of the experiment) versus who is part of the team that is doing the experimenting. This is so much fun. :)
posted by Silvery Fish at 10:36 AM on March 15


I could swear Helly is the one to take the steps forward and trigger the next lit arch direction every time.

She is, she’s marching ahead and Mark’s following.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:22 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Uh. Just had a realization.

Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World also has a map that looks like a brain and deals with someone who is split between two different realities.

(I read that book every few years. Probably time to do it again!)
posted by minsies at 3:31 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Small thoughts: One thing it's reminding me of - in spirit as much as anything else - is a book called Smallcreep's Day, which is a picaresque, surreal story of a man exploring the factory he works in; For some reason I've been assuming that Helly's outie is the eldest daughter (or even the current head) of the family that own the company - she's the boss. I've not thought to match up their name with her initial, but she could be, y'know, married; I've also been assuming that at one point we get an episode of all these events from her outie's point of view, which will make them make a lot more sense; Though I don't know if it would be beneficial for the lovechild of The Office and The Prisoner to make more sense; Has anyone done a deep dive into the symbolism of the names?
posted by Grangousier at 3:45 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Rewatching the earlier episodes and realized the painting that Burt and Irv admire outside of Wellness has a goat in human clothes recoiling from the messianic figure. Additional ungulate foreshadowing?
posted by autopilot at 4:40 PM on March 15 [6 favorites]


I am also wondering why we have never seen a photo of Mark's wife, and if it's perhaps because she is one of the severed employees that lives at Lumon.

In a previous episode he looked at a tree with a ribbon just off the road - my theory is she died in a wreck there and he punishes himself for it while not severed, and imagines his severed existence as a break from the constant self-flagellation. His outtie alcohol abuse also functionally mirrors his severance when viewed through this lens.
posted by grokus at 5:43 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


It's wild to me that this show is on Apple TV+ given the ways that interesting parallels could be drawn between Lumon and Apple. Carefully designed gargantuan headquarters, all-encompassing corporate worldview (the "Apple ecosystem"), dramatic innovations that permit blurring of the division between work and life, hagiographic attitude toward founder (Steve Jobs/Keir Eagan). They have had several amazing series in only a couple of years of operation, and appear to have pretty wide creative leeway.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:49 AM on March 16 [10 favorites]


Fair warning - that subreddit has a major spoiler in it.
posted by prefpara at 12:30 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the warning, prefpara! I'd been thinking of wandering over there but I'm glad I didn't.
posted by mochapickle at 1:36 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Fair warning - that subreddit has a major spoiler in it.

I would also strongly advise avoiding IMDb pages for this show; there was definitely a casting/character spoiler there a few days ago and I haven't been back to see if it has been removed.
posted by bcwinters at 4:10 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


What if the goat room is designed to be a curiosity-terminating room? You come across it after wandering too far away from your department and are so weirded out by it that you think welp that’s enough exploring for today and head straight back to your office, never to speak of it again. Who would even believe you?
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:17 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]


Helly didn’t experience Mark and Graner stopping her suicide attempt. Helena was brought to the severed floor and saw Mark. When Helena sees Mark Scout on the outside she might recognize him as someone who helped her. While Mark Scout will have no clue how his innie Mark S. saved her.
posted by Monochrome at 8:18 AM on March 21


So I am catching up slowly, but was Ricken's book ghost-written by Jack Handey?

There's not a lot of daylight between "Bullies are made up of Bull and lies" and "I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can see us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:15 PM on April 5 [10 favorites]


I so completely understood Bert working on his joke. He has this idea that's funny, that would be a sweet compliment for his friend, but realizes it requires way, way too much inside knowledge to make sense. I recognized that feeling, pacing in the conference room before he goes in, trying to figure out how to frame it. "Well, just imagine if you guys had larvae that replaced you, if you had a pouch..." And Walken totally gets that energy of sheepishly saying the punchline when you feel like you've gone on way longer setting it up than it's worth.
posted by straight at 8:40 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


And then finally the joke bombs but the sweetness to Irving lands intact.
posted by straight at 8:46 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I'm just at this episode now, and slowly catching up. (And I haven't read the previous threads but I will right after this) So maybe this has already been discussed but one thing I'm noticing is how much the inside/office world borrows from basic existential thought.

For instance, the MDR crew's response to their situation mimic typical coping mechanism/distractions for denying a meaningless existence: Dylan is focused on acquiring things ("fingertraps"), while Irving is focused on supporting and defending an overtly religious "larger meaning." Mark just buries himself in trying to be good at his job and get along. And Helly embodies the existentialist, faces what Camus called the first question, which is suicide. I find it telling that Mark, at the end of this, basically tells Helly that she has to more or less make her own meaning out of the situation to survive.

There are other things, too -- the way the group feels mistrust of other groups, and has complicated backstories about how terrible the other groups are. How the "board" is represented as never speaking or responding except through interlocutors. How the "world" is largely confusing and full of the unknown. It feels very much like The problems of the office are a microcosm of the world we actually live in.
posted by heyitsgogi at 2:49 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


It's wild to me that this show is on Apple TV+

It is very weird - I noticed this as well with "Upload" over on Amazon Prime Video - delicious even.
posted by rozcakj at 1:02 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I'm wildly behind on this show, but I woke up this morning with a thought, and I'm going to place it here and see where it goes.
Burt and Irving : Bert and Earnie
Mr Graner: Sam the Eagle
Dylan: Oscar the Grouch
Harmony Coble: Miss Piggy
Helly R: Elmo
Mark: Kermit
Petey: Fozzie Bear


Can't figure out miss Casey or Milchick, but i haven't watched muppets in a long time. maybe it's just some kind of subtle dark joke the writers have about "hey the severed are sort like puppets", but I'm going with it for now.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:48 AM on April 23 [3 favorites]


Anyone else notice how so many of the "perks" are symbolic?

The fingertraps = the employees have, to a certain extent, trapped themselves in their situation.

The erasers = severance has erased large parts of their lives.

The caricature portraits = they've been infantilized by their environment (and have only cartoonish ideas about their outside lives).

I'm not sure what to make of the melons and the eggs, but there seems to be a theme of round foods.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:57 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Even if she isn't the same woman mentioned before an interestingly dark use for the tech could be for rich people to be able to avoid the unpleasant parts of life.

Twilight sedation is already a thing. Patients don't remember the procedure even though they are awake enough to respond to commands. The horror of severance appears to be endowing that sedated person with memory of all the other twilight sessions, and only those sessions.
posted by pwnguin at 11:53 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


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