WHERE Streaming on Apple TV+
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The Apple TV+ series "Severance" follows workers at a corporation called Lumon Industries, where the primary condition of employment is that you must agree to a surgical procedure that separates your work and home lives.
That means each day, when employees show up to the office, their out-of-office self disappears in favor of their at-work identity. Any memory made outside of Lumon is summarily wiped out, between the approximate hours of 9 and 5.
That ranges from whatever you might have done over the weekend to your most cherished experiences. Forget about remembering that you have a family or friends.
Similarly, after clocking out at the end of the day, whatever went on at work disappears.
Adam Scott stars as Mark, working for Lumon in the division of "macrodata refinement." His fellow podmates are Irving (John Turturro), Dylan (Zach Cherry) and new hire Helly (Britt Lower), who comes to immediately regret acquiescing to the severance.
The first two episodes of the nine-episode series, created by Dan Erickson (with six episodes directed by Ben Stiller), are streaming now, with one of the remaining episodes released weekly on Fridays through April 8.
MY SAY Anyone longing for a return to the office after nearly two years of working at home might reconsider those feelings after "Severance."
Whether it's seen as a dark satire of an impersonal corporate hellscape, in which the workers become literal office drones, or the harrowing story of the extent to which people will go to run from past trauma, one thing is for sure: It does not make that old commute to work and the 9-to-5 schedule look like anything less than torture.
Lumon Industries stands as a triumph of production design. Soaring images reveal perfectly laid out, symmetrical spaces. Long tracking shots through endless white hallways culminate in bland windowless rooms, where nothing is so clear as the utter insignificance of the people on-screen in the face of whatever it is they're doing.
A viewing of the first three episodes offers no answers when it comes to that question: the main characters sit in front of ancient computers all day, watching numbers dance around the screen.
They are overseen by Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette), a sinister figure who speaks in riddles and is prone to hurling her mug at employees. When the workers so much as briefly nod off at their cubicles, they're sent for surreal punishment.
This is, in other words, a series that's predicated on evoking a mood as much as developing a plot. It combines the paranoia of a '70s thriller with the dehumanizing vastness of Stanley Kubrick's visionary stories of characters becoming overwhelmed by the environmental forces engulfing them.
It's intriguing, and worthwhile for audiences in search of something genuinely different. Whether that can be sustained over the course of an entire series of television remains an open question.
BOTTOM LINE There are certainly no other TV series around quite like "Severance" at the moment.