February 24, 2022

CABLE | Taking 'Severance' – Splitting Work/life Balance

"Am I dead?"
Adam Scott Britt Lower Dan Erickson Ben Stiller | Severance Apple TV+
Endeavor Content / Red Hour Films
Created by Dan Erickson, Severance is surreal workplace thriller series about the extremes of work/life balance set in a sort of near-future corporate office environment playing with our sense of individualism and the separate worlds we create in both our professional and personal lives. It really stretches the idea of how company employees are viewed purely as commodities or cogs devoid of their own humanity.

Primarily directed by Ben Stiller (Irish filmmaker Aoife McArdle helms the middle three episodes), the central lo-meets-sci-fi premise around dividing memories and technology proves to be a fascinating setup allowing the main characters to be their own antagonists. Imagine having no knowledge of who you are outside of the office ("outies") when you're there and no idea what you do for work at home. This idea is then mined to exploit some unnerving corporate conspiracy elements very impressively.

Starring Adam Scott, Britt Lower, John Turturro, and Patricia Arquette as office drones at a vaguely generic but seemingly very evil, Amazon-like corporate conglomerate called Lumon Industries, the way Erickson and Stiller carefully unfold the tension to slowly reveal the nature of the workers' (lack of) memories leading to more mysteriously criminal elements of the corporation's motives make it a truly captivating viewing experience full of satisfying thrills.

How Severance moves to layer its deadpan commentary on corporate drama complements the beautifully rendered stark visual design from cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagné. Its spatial division splits the characters' sense of self through technology to searingly satirize late-stage capitalism sublimely. The severing of the employees, who literally have no life outside of their work, proves powerful as satire and even potent as a thriller.

Severance's nine-episode first season is available to stream weekly on Apple TV+.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Polygon / Vogue

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