IN A WORLD FULL OF STREAMING SERVICES, NETFLIX, DISNEY+ AND AMAZON PRIME VIDEO are still reigning as kings.

This is because they already had some of the most beloved TV series in the world, as well as some of the more popular, well actual property, such as Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, Stranger Things and more. The competition has never been more fierce as it is now though, with streaming services such as Peacock, Paramount+, HBO Max and of course; Apple TV+ coming into the fray. Apple TV+ has always been a subscription service that has lagged behind the competition for the most part. This is due to the overwhelming popularity of their competitors, and the lack of any content that would entice viewers to purchase the subscription. Though, that seems to be changing now especially due to some really fantastic TV series that Apple has been creating. It’s still not enough to match the popularity of Netflix and Disney, but they’re enough to start something new and give this subscription service a chance to battle it out. Severance seems like the first true step in the right direction for Apple TV+, a sci-fi series that tackles some hard-hitting subjects.

SEVERANCE SYNOPSIS:

Severance is an American psychological thriller, that focuses a lot on the character of Mark Scout. At first glance, Mark seems like your average office worker who leads a team of people that are highly devoted to their job. However, upon further inspection, you come to realize that the job that he’s working at is much more sinister and malicious than it looked from far away. That’s the main plot of the series, a mysterious and sinister technological based company essentially manipulates its employees by surgically separating their work memories from their regular life memories. However, as Mark dives deeper into this conspiracy and starts to figure out what is truly going on, things start to change for him in ways that he will never be able to fix. This is a story of how the working class is exploited often by large organizations who employ them. It is also a story about how some of the more sinister companies treat their workers, as well as the state of consumerism overall and how it is affecting people who work jobs that revolve around creating products. It is a series that showcases a nihilistic approach to consumerism, corporate greed, uncovering conspiracies and a harrowing sense of anxiety.

A REVIEW OF SEVERANCE

Severance is a series that combines many different aspects of filmmaking, yet it also stretches itself out to 9 episodes to compensate for its television format. This is a binge worthy series though, it’s something that you can watch in less than two to three sittings. This is due to the way the story unfolds, it moves at a breakneck pace, jumping from one moment to another as the characters are truly being thrown into the grinder from one instance to the next. It focuses very heavily on the themes and ideologies that are portrayed, as well as the symbolism that the creator Dan Erickson was trying to portray.

the story

The story of Severance is a disjointed, often times confusing and highly reliant on the sheer shock value of the events that are occurring. It follows the character ruthlessly, showcasing Mark’s journey from one end of the letterbox to the entire different side of the company he’s working for. Mark essentially has almost no memory of his work, and he will most likely not have it due to the surgical implant that went into his nervous system that prevents him from having any memories of it. He knows that he has a purpose to serve within Lumon Industries, yet he doesn’t know exactly what his purpose is.

The narrative starts out slow, introducing you to the character and his story, then helping you dive deeper into the character’s life and finally pushing you into the meat of it all. The conspiracy aspects don’t show up too deeply until the latter half of the series, and for the starting few episodes you are mainly focused on one of the most affectionate character dramas that you will watch on any subscription-based video service, not just Apply TV+. This show exudes style, it focuses heavily on its sci-fi aesthetic and the highly technological world that is showcased here. It’s no surprise that this show uses the technology heavily, especially since the main character is working at a technological based company. They show that this is a world that relies heavily on information, which makes memory one of the most essential tools that any person has at their disposal. You see, memory is a form of record keeping that is untraceable and untouchable, whereas any other form of record keeping can be used against the company itself. This is why Lumon Industries chooses to remove their employees’ work memories.

The series is also extremely funny, every single joke in this series lands to perfection. It is a dark comedy series though, so a lot of the moments that we laugh at shouldn’t really be laughed at, yet there’s presented in such an exaggerated way that there is no way you cannot laugh at it. It’s also because of the ac ors who portray some of the characters here, the comedic timing is spot on and makes each of these moments feel earned and well developed. The cornerstone of this story is the way it unfolds. It keeps most of the relevant information to itself, slowly showcasing how disturbing this world that Mark inhabits can be. Surveillance is the main motivation of why the company does what it does. The company is a huge part of this story, so having them being such a sinister entity makes for one of the most atmospheric settings to ever be showcased on TV. It’s not even just that either, it’s also a series that demands attention from its production design.

The world itself is part of the whole narrative, and that is what pushes the whole storyline forward. There is nothing more exciting in a TV series than to unravel a mysterious world that you don’t know much about, but are terrified of nonetheless. Severance’s world is by far the most intriguing part about this show, which is saying a lot because this series does not miss a single beat. The episodes which were directed by Ben Stiller were absolutely mind-blowing in particular. They were such a welcome addition to the episodes which were directed by Aoife McArdle which focused more on the higher value moments in the series. The creators had a true vision here for this world, drowning in corporate colors and amoeba lights, which ended up being one of the most solid combinations in the series.

CHARACTERS

The other most important thing to unravel here in Severance is its main character. Mark is just as mysterious as the world around him, but not for any malicious or sinister underlying reasons. It’s rather due to the fact that he has no memories of things that he should definitely know about. The company uses its employees as a scapegoat for most of its sinister activities, and since they have no memory of it, it’s as if they never did anything morally conflicting at all.

The fun of it all isn’t when Mark is oblivious to his situation. Rather, the true fun parts of unravelling Mark’s character begin when he slowly begins to unravel his own stories by himself. When he begins to fall into the rabbit hole that is Lumon Industries, he realizes that there’s way more to find here than the eye can see. However, it’s not until the latter half of the season that we realize Mark himself, and the impact he has had while working at Lumon. It’s a devoted series that doesn’t overly focus on one aspect of the world, but rather grabs all focal points and mashes them together into a symphony of weird, horrifying and genuinely shocking moments. It’s not disturbing by any means, it’s just a paranoia inducing series that totally pushes the envelope for something unique and voyeuristic. Another reason why some of the characters felt so genuinely fantastic here is the fabulous acting by some of TV’s most prominent personalities. Parks and Recreation’s very own Adam Scott stars as the lead character Mark Scout, and boy oh boy does he blend into this character smoother than butter. The concept of the actor just vanishes while you watch this series, you recognize Scott only as Mark, and that is the sign of some of the most vigorous acting that I could personally think of. It’s such a dramatic performance too, portraying one of the very darkest comedy sequences that should genuinely not be laughed at with such charisma that you can’t help but laugh.

VISUALS

In terms of the visuals, there’s a lot to unpack here. In a science fiction dystopian setting, it’s very important that the visuals tell a story of their own. It’s safe to say that Severance checks all the boxes here, the visuals tell a story, the visuals make sure that this is a highly stylized world and they also ensure that you know exactly what kind of dystopian landscape Mark inhabits. This world is the main antagonist in the series, and its influence can be felt throughout every location that Mark goes to. It reminds you a lot of Mr. Robot, a series set in the regular world but heavily perverted due to the protagonist’s views. However, here it’s flipped around, and the protagonist feels perverted as he lives in this voyeuristic world.

As such, the series is drowning in color and design. The production design is bafflingly amazing, every piece of set and furniture in the series definitely belongs in this dystopian recreation of the world. The camera angles are waiting here covered ranging from some of the most deranged and chaotic angles which can be found in films such as Darren Aronofsky’s, to some of the more articulate and moody camera angles that you will find in a Fincher film. All in all though, this is a series That is bristling with personality due to an extensive investment in the production design.

VERDICT

In a nutshell, if you ask me to describe the way that Severance as a series makes me feel, it would be as follows. I feel extremely paranoid about the way the world will start surveilling people as the age of technology grows more conscious. The anxiousness of the way these systems will become more and more controlling is also a harrowing thought that seldom crosses our minds regularly. The most profound way that this series has made me feel as a viewer is the way it affects your mind. It throws you in the darkest pit of emotion and forces you to confront it. Another way it makes you feel things is by making you laugh alongside the main character, not always at them, but rather the ridiculousness of the situation that they’ve found themselves in.

There isn’t much to say about Severance other than the fact that it’s a series that challenges its audience. It pushes you to question things around, question the level of technology that you surround yourself with and genuinely come to terms with how this era of surveillance will change the world forever. Technology can be the most helpful tool in the future of mankind, it can be something that revolutionizes industries and it gives us immense freedom to do what we do best, create. However, the technology begins to interfere in human life, the more harm it could do if it reaches worldwide success. Severance is essentially asking “is there a future for humanity?” if we do not begin to understand common principles of humanity such as privacy, equality, human rights and the current condition of the working class.

About the Author: Sara Hope

Sara Hope

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