Watch Of The Week: Severance

The best kind of science fiction sometimes feels set about 10 minutes in the future, and so it is with Severance, an extremely creepy, slow-moving, but instantly engrossing series. Produced by Ben Stiller, the project features a stellar cast in a show about memory that proves appropriately hard to forget.

The title refers to a procedure practised by corporate giant Lumon Industries in which employees sever their memories of what transpires at work from what happens outside, and vice versa, theoretically bringing new meaning to the phrase “worklife balance.”

Yet when a member of the team suddenly leaves and a newcomer arrives, it upsets the chemistry within the office, triggering thoughts about what really might be motivating the practice – and what the company might actually be doing that its robotic, happy-talking top brass appear eager to avoid. Answers don’t come quickly, but the scenario becomes utterly fascinating, with Adam Scott as Mark Scout, the low-key new leader of the team, and Britt Lower as Helly, the new arrival who asks way too many questions.

 

All told, it’s enough to make even those pining for the office appreciate Zoom calls. As for the cast, as mentioned earlier, Lumon’s personnel roster includes John Turturro, Christopher Walken and Patricia Arquette. For Mark, the severed memories have served a particular purpose, allowing him to create distance between work and the pain he was experiencing after the loss of his wife.

Scott turns out to be the perfect Everyman, but the cast is uniformly good. Why the others would agree to this Faustian bargain is only one of the breadcrumbs that Severance takes its time sprinkling in a series that leaves plenty of runway for more at the end of its nine episodes.

Created by Dan Erickson, there’s a certain quality to some of the quirkier aspects of the series, such as Arquette’s monotone-voiced boss informing Mark that “A handshake is available upon request,” the walks down impossibly long hallways or the odd obsession with melon balls at the awkward company celebrations. 

“Severance” won’t be for everyone, but those drawn into its antiseptic, maze-like workspace won’t be able to get enough of its provocative implications about messing around with the brain and memories, a la the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Light escapism it isn’t. But until the show’s fictional technology becomes a reality, a series like Severance is just the sort of cerebral concept to help take one’s mind off the daily grind of working 9 to 5.

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Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

Bolu

About Author / Boluwatife Adesina

Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

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