Review: ‘Severance’ season one exhibits new plot concept

Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

By Clay Thompson | Reporter

When I decided to make the most of my free trial of Apple TV+ after reviewing “CODA” for the Oscars, I never thought I would end up liking a show as much as I did with “Severance.” The majority of the show is directed by Ben Stiller — an actor I have no strong feelings about — and led byParks and Recreation” acting veteran Adam Scott. It was a mixture I had no idea would work out so amazingly.

First of all, it was the premise of the show that actually got me to watch it. Four workers choose to have a surgery that completely separates their personal memories from their work memories. Meaning they can only remember their personal life outside of their job, and only their work life inside their job at a very shady corporation called Lumon.

Scott plays the main character, Mark, whose personal and work-self eventually stumble upon secrets about their work that cannot be forgotten. This storyline is so unique to me, as the debate on how to have the perfect work-life balance is tested in this low, sci-fi concept of separating memories.

Next, the general feel, cinematography, editing, set design and score of the show all work together masterfully to create a truly split view of the world of “Severance.

With the set of the offices, the work personas of the characters are so twisted, monochromatic and maze-like, it really emphasizes the theme of a confusing and crushing nature of typical bureaucracy. It also enacts feelings in the viewer of the workspace being similar to some sort of maze for lab rats to crawl through.

The cinematography is usually never static and switches constantly, tying into the premise of split memories that works so well with the show and characters. The score is low, mysterious and almost twinkling, like a piano sting when something mysterious has occurred in a much older television show, which meshes terrifically with the mystery and thriller aspect the show pulls off.

The mystery is perhaps the greatest thing about the show to me. As the show progresses, characters, and the audience by extension, are given more and more clues. These are mostly about the identities of the characters between their severed personalities, but most of the suspense and drama stems from the state of their severance.

Will Mark ever find out about what he really does at work? Why did he take the job? What kinds of lives do his co-workers have outside of work? These are just a few of the non-spoiler questions the audience has, and it was so much fun piecing together the puzzle of not only the characters’ lives but also the nature of their work and the company in charge of them.

The acting is stellar of course, as Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Dichen Lachman and especially Patricia Arquette provide wonderful performances. I give a special shoutout to Scott for being able to play almost two different characters with such subtlety and ease. He portrays both his personal and work-self with such slight differences, such as posture and facial expression, it honestly felt like a masterclass in acting.

If there is one thing I have always hated Apple for, it’s charging a ridiculous price for people to use Apple TV+ with such a low content volume in its library. It’s because of that so many people will miss out on this show.

Please hear me out: Get a free trial, or pay for one month of Apple TV+, because this show has been the best show of the year so far, and with a season two already confirmed, it would be criminal to miss out on such a gem of streaming television.