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Severance (2022–) Season 1

IMDB link
Running time: less than 1 hour / episode
Created by Dan Erickson
Starring Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, Britt Lower

Severance is a mystery/drama/science fiction show on Apple TV+ that has been getting some praise (at the time of writing, 8.7/10 on IMDB, 83 from critics and 8.4 from audiences on Metacritic), so I decided to check the first season out. I must say that this is one of those rare occasions where I am neither with the critics nor the regular viewers — I did not enjoy Severance. It does have some things going for it — a stellar cast, some great ideas — but I think the execution (mainly the writing) was sorely lacking, and the characters were not at all interesting. The mystery aspect is revealed only slightly during the course of the season, and the pacing is at times glacial. But let us get into the details.

I am deeply disappointed, since I think Severance had much potential. I do like the main idea/setting — “severing” the worker from the person outside of work, so that neither possesses the other’s memories. Of course, it is used in the show to poke at capitalism, corporate culture, said corporate culture becoming a religion, etc., which are great ideas for a show like this, but sadly, it does not go very deep in any regard. I suppose I should mention that there is some humor as well, but most of it did not land for me. I really think the season’s 9 episodes could have been condensed into about 3 (or even a movie) and it would have made the whole thing better, definitely easier to sit through, and more enjoyable. When so little happens, and when you care so little about the little that does happen, it starts get painful after a while to watch the snail that is the show slowly slime its way towards the finish line. I did finish the whole season to see if there was going to be anything to merit the high regard the show has, but I was groaning after the halfway mark. Yes, I was somewhat on board around episode 5, so the show does do something right. But if I could go back in time to tell myself to skip the whole thing, since it just masquerades as intelligent TV and ultimately amounts to nothing meaningful, I would.

Two departments meet in the wild, which is fairly outlandish, apparently

The cast, as stated, is quite good, but even though they have John Turturro, Patricia Arquette, and Christopher Walken in supporting roles, the characters were mostly uninteresting and not that likable either. When one does not care about the characters they spend so much time with, given the nature of TV, it is a real problem. I will grant you, though, that this subjective, and I might be one of the few who feel this way. I do not blame any of the actors for this: the fault lies in the writing and direction. I think Adam Scott did great as the lead, but again, I just did not care very much about what (little) happened to him. Tramel Tillman was quite good in his role as well, but his character was not given much to do or really any background. I think Turturro and Arquette tried quite hard, but I just did not get much out of their characters. Walken was just sleepwalking through this role, which was still decent acting given his talents, but nothing more than that. Again, the blame lies mainly in the script and direction.

Adam Scott is quite good as Mark, but he was unable to make me care

The show has too many little inconsistencies and illogicalities for someone like me to overlook. I do not generally watch shows like this (not that many of them exist) for the emotional soap opera aspect, so failure in the mystery and science fiction department is quite detrimental. Why is the security at the company so pathetic, essentially being ran by 2 people? They act very concerned about our main cast of characters starting to question the status quo of their essential slavery at the company, but do very little very slowly about it. How is a former severed person able to exist on the show for so long, explaining things to our hopeless and hapless main character, without really explaining anything in the end? Why is a big mystery character introduced and just forgotten about soon after? And so on. The show does not reward the viewer who has patiently waited for answers for 9 very slow-moving episodes. Mysteries are thrown at the poor viewer, and a few things do get some more substance along the way, but overall very little is resolved by the end of season 1. The show does end in a cliffhanger, of course, and maybe the next season will unravel some of the things. For those who keep watching, I hope Severance actually has a thought-out plan, unlike Lost (2004-2010), which was famously winging it. While Lost was far from perfect, at least it was more interesting and entertaining than the dull affair that is Severance.

“Hello, I’m Goat-Man. You might see me again later in season 2, or you might not. Don’t ask about the goats. Bye now.”

Let us get on to some of the mysteries, that might or might not get explained later. What does the company (Lumen) actually do? The viewer is only given the impression that it is something bad — why else would they treat their employees so badly, and care so much about the severance procedure? Why the hell are the people at macro division playing around with numbers on computers, putting “scary numbers” into boxes? Unless I missed something while daydreaming about more pleasant things, nothing is revealed about that. I really doubt there can be a good explanation for that, but maybe, just maybe, there is one. What was the deal with the goats? Is it just some metaphor? Is this all some weird social experiment? Is Lumen worshipping Satan? Will it all be resolved later, and will it make sense? Do I still care?

You might get some ideas what can happen when two young attractive people meet, and your ideas might be subverted for a time
“Oh my god, you were able to bypass the company firewall?”

Severance was something I bravely sat through with the vain hope of it maybe giving me something back for the effort in the end. It did not. While there are some good things about Severance — the ideas and the cast — I really do not understand the wide acclaim it has garnered. Maybe I am just too dumb for it. Or maybe it’s too dumb for me. You may decide, dear reader. I did not give this review very much effort, which is only fair, since the show, I feel, did not deliver either. I most likely will not give Severance another shot, at least not if I am not being threatened with being shot. If I had had many shots while watching, I might have managed to fool myself into thinking Severance had any real merit. Let us end on a positive note, however; I think the title sequence is brilliant.

A well deserved break keeps a man sane for a while

Rating: 4.0 / 10

Times I had seen this show prior to this viewing: 0

Would I want to rewatch this show/season? Unless I hear spectacular things about season 2, I will not be returning to this dystopia — and almost nothing would compel me to rewatch season 1

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