Severance is a new Apple TV thriller series starring Adam Scott, Britt Lower, and Patricia Arquette. The show follows a group of people who agree to undergo a procedure that splits their memories between their work and home lives. Ben Stiller directed the first three episodes and serves as an executive producer.

The tone of Severance

Perhaps the strongest thing about Severance is its tone. Marked by empty spaces and symmetry, the cinematography is highly stylized and deliberate. It somehow feels both beautiful and uneasy. There’s a clinical nature that brings out the characters’ isolated feelings. This is especially true in the scenes that take place at the company. It looks like a familiar (albeit strangely, and aesthetically pleasing, retro) office space, but the way it’s shot makes everything feel just a bit off.

The visual language works perfectly with the dialogue. There’s a lot of corporate gibberish speak, which both satirizes today’s tech culture and gives the show an absurdist, faintly futuristic feel. Though the show is serious at its core, there’s a dry humor that permeates — and almost adds to the show’s overall bleakness, in a way. 

The scariest things can be found in the sleek, the orderly, the seemingly perfect. It’s a bit reminiscent of Midsommer and its “so cheerful and bright it’s unnerving” feel, except it’s a corporate cult instead of a nature one.

The Themes Of Severance

Severance tackles several themes in a smart, unique way. One is the human instinct for connection. Even though the characters don’t remember their friends and families at work after going through the procedure, their fellow co-workers become pseudo friends and families while at the company. 

The theme of identity is also prominent. Who are you if there are two versions of yourself? What if those two versions contradict one another? How much of your personality is fixed, and how much is determined by your circumstances?

Grief is also a huge factor. For instance, the main character, Mark, decides to go through the procedure to forget about his wife who died for the majority of the day. Though many people on the outside don’t understand and judge him, it’s the only way he can cope and go on. This begs the question: how far would you go to stop hurting

Who Will Enjoy It

Severance is a smart, compelling thriller. The pacing can feel a bit slow at times, but if you’re a fan of intriguing, understated drama and slow-burn mystery, you’re sure to be a fan. Likewise, fans of Adam Scott will delight in seeing him go against type in a darker project.

Severance premieres on Apple TV on February 18th. You can watch the trailer below: 

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