Now Streaming: SEVERANCE, Chilly Scenes of Emotional Winter

Adam Scott, Britt Lower, John Turturro, Christopher Walken and Patricia Arquette star in a series from Ben Stiller for Apple TV+.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)
Now Streaming: SEVERANCE, Chilly Scenes of Emotional Winter

What's going on down there? If you know, please tell me.

The first two episodes of the nine-episode series premiere globally today on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will premiere every Friday. I've watched all nine episodes.

The battle for balance between work and home life has been waged on many frontiers, especially as modern technology began to erase communication boundaries around the turn of the century.

Oh, if only I could just turn off my phone/tablet/laptop and be done with email forever!

Created by Dan Erickson, Severance proposes that a mysterious company, known as Lumon, has made it possible for prospective employees to divide their home and work lives surgically, with the implantation of a device that separates their memories permanently. The first two episodes, written by Dan Erickson and directed by Ben Stiller, dramatizes the arrival of a new employee, Helly (Britt Lower), who fights ferociously against her new job, to the perplexity of her new boss, Mark (Adam Scott).

As Helly experiences a day that can be best described as 'Orientation Day From Hell,' Mark must learn a thing or two himself, as he has only ascended recently to his supervisory position. He operates under the watchful eye of his boss, Milchick (Tramell Tillman), as well as his wary co-workers, Dylan (Zach Cherry) and Irving (John Turturro).

In turn, Milchick must report to his fierce-looking boss (Patricia Arquette), and she must report to her bosses, referred to collectively as The Board, who remain unseen. Also figuring into the story are more characters shrouded in mystery, including fellow workers Burt (Christopher Walken) and Ms. Cherry (Dichen Lachman), and a security officer who looms large and often.

Ben Stiller directed the first three and the final three episodes, with Aoife McArdle helming the middle three episodes; the continuity in style is important because much of the series is reliant upon maintaining a chilly temperate, both inside the Lumon facility and outside in the snowy winter climes. Inside the facility, the production design and settings suggest a minimalist, futuristic vision that is entirely lacking in warm colors.

It appears that the employees spend much of their time walking briskly through the unadorned, narrow hallways, which supports the idea that they are living in an atypically cold Hell. The work that they do looks like the kind of data entry jobs that most of us dread, performed upon official equipment that looks like it was rescued from an IBM furniture dump.

Employees are told that their work is important, yet they have no idea what it is that they are actually doing. The series' premise is good and intriguing, but the question quickly arises: what then?

Having watched all nine episodes, I believe this is a case of a series that will benefit from weekly viewing, rather than binging all the episodes at once. Watching weekly allows the mysteries to build. Severance is not a series that I was desperate to watch in order to see how certain story points were resolved.

Instead, the lure of Severance is watching actors I enjoy figuring out how to fight their way out of a paper box that grows more mysterious, and possibly even completely inscrutable, as time passes.

Now Streaming covers international and indie genre films and TV shows that are available on legal streaming services.

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Adam ScottApple TV+Britt LowerChristopher WalkenHollywoodJohn TurturroPatricia Arquette

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