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Series / Severance (2022)

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"Every time you find yourself here, it's because you chose to come back."

"Hello, my name is Mark S., and I have, of my own free accord, elected to undergo the procedure known as 'severance'…"

Severance is a 2022 sci-fi Psychological Thriller series created by Dan Erickson and executive produced and directed by Ben Stiller. Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Zach Cherry, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and Patricia Arquette star.

The series follows employees of the Lumon Corporation, who undergo an experimental surgery that separates their memories on their worksite (called the "severed floor") from their normal lives. The series explores the drastic unintended consequences of the arrangement, as one severed employee, Mark Scout (Scott), gradually begins to discover the existence of a vast web of conspiracy from both sides of the division.

The series premiered on Apple TV+ on February 18, 2022. Watch the trailer here. As of April 6, 2022, the series has been renewed for a second season with an expected release sometime in 2024.

Not to be confused with the British horror-comedy film of the same name.


  • Actor Allusion: Irving mentions Ambrose Eagan, one of Lumon's previous CEOs, and notes that he's considered the black sheep of the Eagan clan. John Turturro previously played Ambrose Monk in Monk, who, while not necessarily a black sheep, definitely had his grievances against his titular brother.
  • Alien Geometries: The Severed floor of the Lumon offices really comes off this way (though it's hard to tell if there's really something going on with the building or if it's just related to how the innies perceive it), with long, empty white hallways that seem to stretch on into nothingness, giant offices that hardly contain anything but a few desks, and enough room for a giant museum containing an accurate life-sized replica of the Lumon founder's house inside of it. The odd, sterile atmosphere of the floor only adds to it.
  • Allegorical Character: The severed employees can be thought of as representing how employees at companies like Lumon are often expected to compartmentalize their real-life issues while at work.
  • Alternate Identity Amnesia: Severed employees are incapable of remembering anything about themselves and their lives outside of Lumon when they are at work and vice versa.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's never explained just exactly what the work the Innies are doing actually is. All that is shown is that it's some sort of data processing that entails getting rid of "scary" numbers, and that there is a quota to fulfill. Beyond that, it's a complete mystery, even to the Innies themselves, who actually theorize what precisely they're doing. This becomes even more muddled once we see the other departments, which are even more confusing.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Even discounting the presence of Schizo Tech like the computers in the Severed floor and the Severance implant, the world outside the office has some notable tech inconsistencies: Mark owns a modern smartphone but several other characters are shown using 2000s-era flip phones while cars look stuck in the 80s and 90s. Dan Erickson claimed this was done to convey that just like the Innies, the town itself is "unmoored from time".
  • And Starring: "With John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and Patricia Arquette"
  • Artistic Title: The opening features copies of Innie and Outie Mark going through abstract and strange situations at Lumon, like a bunch of people pouring out of a mug, or the chair that Outie Mark is sitting on melting, to convey the strangeness and alienation of the show's premise of people having a separate identity and memories when they are at work. Shots of black ink in places it shouldn't be also appear throughout the intro, representing the psychological mystery and conspiracy the cast uncovers.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: The severed floor at Lumon is ominously stark in its appearance, with smooth, white walls, a lack of windows, and simplistic decoration and technology.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Irving looks around his outie's home, he notices a bunch of military medals, suggesting that he's a Shell-Shocked Veteran. However, when he finds a footlocker filled with Navy artifacts, it's labeled "Dad," making it ambiguous as to whether the medals were his or not.
  • Batter Up!: Reghabi kills Graner from behind with a baseball bat.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: Invoked and in name only. The Eagans seem to have a plan to microchip the whole world, and view the innies as happy and contented workers. This is far from the truth, and it's ambiguous whether they realize it or just don't care either way.
  • Betty and Veronica: Zig-zagged. The impulsive, sarcastic and rebellious Helly is Mark's Veronica. The gentle, highly professional and sweet (albeit slightly odd) Ms. Casey is his Betty. Except Mark's subtle attraction and attachment to Ms. Casey is actually a side effect of his outie's history with her – she's his allegedly dead wife.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: The severed offices are very maze-like in their design, with tons of long, twisting hallways and a large variety of rooms and areas, some more mysterious than others. The innies are discouraged from fraternizing with other departments and prohibited from making maps of the hallways.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Devon and Ricken have a very nice house, and Ricken is a New Age self-help guru who follows all sorts of out-there ideas like hosting dinner parties where no one eats.
  • Bread and Circuses: The office equivalent. Employees are given meaningless trinkets to mark work progress, including Chinese finger traps, erasers (when they have no pencils), and the mysterious waffle parties.
  • Break the Believer: Irv starts out as a staunch follower of Kier. He slowly begins to justify rules infractions as he realizes that the current policies aren't necessarily in step with Kier's original teachings. He ultimately decides to abandon the system entirely and assist in breaking it down after realizing he will lose Burt forever.
  • Bungled Suicide: At the end of "The You You Are", Helly, realizing that she will likely never be freed from her job, attempts to hang herself with an extension cord in the elevator. However, the cord fails to strangle Helly's outie to death, and she is soon rescued and given medical attention.
  • Cardboard Box of Unemployment: Milchick helps carrying out Cobel's cardboard box when she gets fired from Lumon.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • One of the few fire extinguishers we ever see hangs in front of the stairwell. It is later used to smash the stairwell door.
    • When we first see Mark walk all the way from the elevator to his workstation, he discovers a paper tissue in his pocket and throws it into a small metal trashbin along the way. Later Helly picks up the same trashbin on her way to the elevator to use as a stool for hanging herself.
  • Chekhov's Party: Early on, Harmony mentions an Eagan Family Gala that she's been invited to. This event becomes a very important setting in the finale.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Dylan is shown to be adept at tying knots early on in the show, when he uses his belt to effectively secure the door to the conference room and locks Burt in. The skill proves useful in the Season 1 finale when he does the same to keep Milchick from entering the security room as he engages the overtime contingency.
  • Church of Happyology: At least on the severed floor, the worship of Kier seems to emulate this.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • The penultimate episode ends just as Dylan activates the overtime contingency for the other three, allowing their innies to wake up in the real world.
    • The finale ends with Mr. Milchick tackling Dylan off the overtime contingency machine, putting the outies back in control once more.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The different departments on the severed floor have differently colored access cards; Macrodata Refinement has blue ones, Optics and Design has green ones, and higher level management has black ones.
    • The four tempers (and the bins that MDR sort numbers into) are each associated with one of the four colors: red, yellow, green, blue.
  • Color Motif:
    • Blue and green are the two colors most associated with Lumon. The office is decked out in various shades of green; the Lumon-sponsored houses where Mark lives are blue; Cobel normally wears a blue suit, and Helly's clothes are often green and blue; Macrodata Refinement and Optics & Design have blue and green access cards, respectively; the first severance chip had blue and green lighs; Helena Eagan wears a blue and green dress and blue and green earrings at the Eagan Family Gala, etc.
    • Red, by contrast, is associated with the outside world: Outie Mark wears red in the intro, The You You Are has a red cover, and the elevator that takes Casey up has a red light. Outie Mark has a fish tank in his apartment divided into two sides containing respectively a red and blue betta fish to represent his split psyche. Further, when Dylan gets a glimpse of his life outside and his son, the lights are red when he attacks Milchick for keeping his son's name from him.
  • Company Town: Lumon is stated to "own half the town" early on. Later it's revealed the town itself is named "Kier", after Lumon's founder. Little details like license plates imply that Lumon might even control the entire state.
  • Comically Small Bribe:
    • Milchick offers Dylan a coffee cozy in exchange for ending the overtime contingency that is allowing Mark, Helly, and Irv's innies to access the outside world. Milchick soon ups his bribe offer to information about Dylan's children, which actually seems to tempt him briefly.
    • The rewards that Lumon offers for quality work are all small treats and merit badges that you might expect to be handed out in grade school. Even worse, many of them offer no benefit for having multiple versions. For example, Dylan has a large collection of identical finger traps, something you can really only play with one at a time.
  • Convenient Photograph: Subverted in the season 1 finale. When Ricken tells Mark that he found a photo with Mark's wife in it and tries to find it on him, he gets interrupted by some other matter which prevents outie Mark from discovering that his wife is still alive.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Whatever Lumon, Inc. is up to, it's so bad/controversial/ominous that employees aren't allowed to remember what they do there. (The public is concerned enough about it to protest it with fliers.) Part of their plan is to implant everyone with the severance chip.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The severed floor seems to function as one of these all on its own. Contrast melon parties, group photos, and bright blue Chinese finger traps with a written word message scanner (that can even identify any kind of symbols through one's own stomach lining), the terrifying, will-breaking experience that is the break room, and everyone's complete lack of knowledge as to what exactly they're actually doing as they work, all topped with a thin veneer of corporate cheer. Eeep.
  • Cult: It's ambiguous whether Lumon is an actual cult or merely a Corporate Conspiracy with the trappings of one, but its charismatic leadership, the way employees (even unsevered ones) revere the Eagan Family, and the way the corporate literature given to severed employees utilizes aphorisms and quotes by the company's founder in an almost biblical (one could say indoctrinating) manner definitely make it seem like one. The Waffle Party Dance scene and the company's plan to eventually fit everyone in the world with the severance chips also add to the ominous cult-like atmosphere.
  • Cult of Personality: Kier Eagan, Lumon's founder, seems to be something of a godlike figure for the severed workers. The employee handbook is formatted like a Bible and filled with his quotes. It's also the only book that the severed workers are allowed to read. The severed floor is adorned with artwork depicting him, and at one point Ms. Cobel thanks him the same way one would thank God. She even has a shrine to him in her home to which she prays. There is even a hymn to the "chosen one Kier", which Ms. Cobel sings in an eerily cult-member-like manner, right before dispensing office discipline.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Innie Mark is injured a couple of times at work; outie Mark is given mundane explanations as to where the injuries came from and compensated with gift certificates to keep him from asking too many questions.
  • Deadly Euphemism:
    • "Retirement". If the outie chooses to retire, their innie stops getting activated for work and thus effectively ceases to exist.
    • The "Break Room". It's not for taking a break, it's where the innies are taken and their will is broken if they misbehave. Though the innie is not killed, it could be viewed as a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Discriminate and Switch: Burt and Irving's budding romance is looked down upon, but only because employees shouldn't fraternize with each other, especially not ones who work for different departments.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The severance implant being placed in Helly's brain in the second episode looks a lot like a sonogram of an IUD being inserted.
  • Double Consciousness: The severed employees wrestle with the conflict between their "innie" and "outie" selves which have no recollection of each other.
  • Eerily Out-of-Place Object: Ricken's book; although a relatively mundane object by itself, the appearance of something that's not a part of Lumon's highly controlled, sterile work environment is deeply intriguing to the innies.
  • Enemy Within: It applies to all of the characters to some extent, since they chose to be severed and thus condemned their innies to a meaningless and joyless existence of drudgery. Helly is the biggest example, as it seems as though her natural stubbornness makes her refuse to accept her fate as an innie as her outie refuses to accept her innie's resignation for any reason. This sparks a war between the two sides of her personality. The stakes get raised even higher when her true motivations for becoming severed are revealed: her real identity is Helena Eagan, heiress to Lumon, and she is working on the severed floor as part of a PR stunt to prove the safety and effectiveness of severance, so her outie is completely committed to the job even as her innie plots the downfall of the company she was born and raised to run someday.
  • Epileptic Trees: In-universe, The Innies, having no concrete idea of what their job actually accomplishes, theorize wildly about what exactly they're doing. Dylan theorizes that they actually live in the post-apocalypse, and that the numbers they're crunching control drones that are terraforming the ocean floor for undersea habitation, while Irving thinks they're simply censoring bad words in movies.
  • The Evils of Free Will: The severance procedure leaves employees with almost no ability to protest work policies. Even questioning them is strongly discouraged.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the season finale, Innie Mark tells Devon how he's Mark's "innie" and then asks why "my boss is here." A confused Devon gets him to talk about how she's dressed, and realizes that Cobel and next-door neighbor Mrs. Selvig are the same person... and she just gave Selvig her infant daughter to watch...
  • Family Business: Every single one of Lumon's CEOs has been a member of the Eagan family.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Lumon wants to project an image of indestructible rulership... but the truth is the entire place is a dog-and-pony show. There's not even anyone in the security office. The MDR group manages to plan their escape with virtually no intervention, with the fact that it took Graner several minutes to actually notice Helly's suicide attempt is itself damning, especially considering her outie's real importance. Without severance making it so nobody really knows what they're doing, the company would be an absolute mess.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The way severance is handled for the employees: Not only do they only perform extremely mind-numbing tasks all day, but they literally never get a reprieve, since from their perspective they return to work immediately after they left.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The MDR innies. At the start of Season 1, Mark, Dylan, and Irving all prefer to focus on their work and comply with Lumon, distancing themselves from Helly's attempts at rebellion, as well as each other. However, after they each undergo various torments at the hands of the company (such as Irving losing Burt and Dylan finding out about his son, they begin to work together, eventually collaborating on a temporary escape plan in the season finale.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: At the end of season 1 episode 7, Mark lists his late wife's various qualities while taping her photo together. He ends the list by saying: "I loved all these things about her... equally", echoing the words spoken by Ms. Casey in wellness sessions. An astute viewer can thus realize that Ms. Casey is Mark's wife several seconds before we are shown photographic proof of that fact.
  • Foolish Husband, Responsible Wife: Mark's snarky, intelligent sister Devon is married to the kind-hearted ditz Ricken, though he has odd moments of Hidden Depths where he shows himself to be surprisingly perceptive.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • As Helly's outie is going through the severance process, Milchick mentions how excited they are to have her. This seems to just be him schmoozing or referencing her résumé, but it's actually because she's the CEO's daughter and heir to the Lumon throne. Her video response to her innie's recorded resignation request is also much harsher than one would expect, but makes perfect sense considering she's an Eagan, her dad runs Lumon, and she very much needs her severance to go well for propaganda purposes.
    • Milchick spends a lot of time photographing the MDR department, especially their happier moments. These photos eventually end up used as propaganda to promote severance at the Eagan Family Gala.
    • In the perpetuity wing, Helly holds a long glance at the statue of Jame Eagan, current Lumon CEO, and learns the history of Myrtle Eagan, the company's first female CEO. She turns out to be Helena Eagan, Jame's daughter, and is likely on track to inherit the position one day and follow in Myrtle's footsteps. In the second episode, her outie also stared at the giant basrelief of Kier in the foyer with as much reverence as Milchick.
    • In the first episode, Mark tells Helly that Lumon is planning an expansion of the severed floor, which she then asks if she's a part of. In the season finale, we learn her outie is partly responsible for the company's move to take severance worldwide.
    • Talking about the break room, Helly and Dylan muse over the voices they hear while having to apologize. Dylan hears a crying baby (his own) and Helly hears an angry old man (her father). Alternatively, they could just be hearing the actual baby goats on the floor, and interpreting it differently based on their subconscious biases.
    • In the first episode, Cobel tells Helly: "Weaponizing office equipment on your first day. You are gonna be fun." Helly continues stirring things up, indeed.
    • When talking about the Break Room, Dylan advises Helly to think about something she's actually sorry about to make things easier, specifically citing an imagined slight by his Outie. When Helly learns that her Outie is Helena Eagen, who is complicit in her father's plan to Sever the entire world, she repeats the apology into the bathroom mirror with complete sincerity.
    • One of the questions on Helly's survey is "What is Mr. Eagan's favorite breakfast?" As all of the questions except one are about her personal life, this suggests a connection to "Mr. Eagan." It is later revealed that the 'Mr. Eagan' referred to is none other than Kier Eagan, the company founder, and Helly is actually Helena Eagan, daughter of the current CEO and his direct descendant.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The list of musical genres Helly gets to choose from in "Defiant Jazz."
  • Genre-Busting: The show combines elements of science fiction, psychological thriller, workplace comedy, and black comedy.
  • Identity Breakdown: Petey manages to reintegrate himself, but the experience of having two identities and sets of memories at once causes him to experience "reintegration sickness" which eventually kills him.
  • If You Can Read This:
    • Ricken's book includes a paragraph that's entirely composed of a Long List of professions, with only the most tenuous link to the topic at hand. It seems to be there as padding, both for Ricken and the person who created the prop.
    • The news article about the severed employee lawsuit states that his work injury rendered his index finger "ornamental", and it lists the various kinds of buttons he now fears to press.
  • Imagined Innuendo: Dylan assumes Mark and Helly's "baby goats" story is code for them having had sex.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Helly begins to expect that her outie is not receiving her resignation requests and ends up threatening to maim herself with a paper cutter unless she's allowed to record a video message for her outie. Subverted in that her outie has been receiving her requests, she just doesn't care.
  • Innocently Insensitive: In his retirement video, Burt's outie blithely comments on how strange it is that he doesn't know anything about his innie coworkers and that all memory of them will be completely inaccessible to him in the future. He doesn't apparently realize that lingering on this ugly truth will make his innie's farewell very awkward.
  • Internal Reveal: The very premise of the show sets up tons of these:
    • Mark's innie gets reveal after reveal in the finale. He finds out that Cobel is aware of his outie, that the messianic figure he's been drawing inspiration from is his brother-in-law, and that his (presumed) deceased wife is actually Ms. Casey.
    • Mark's sister Devon also gets a big one: her lactation consultant is actually Mark's boss, getting close to her as a way to keep tabs on him.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Lumon seems to be actively encouraging distrust between the various departments, going so far as to create folklore about atrocities committed by other departments in days of yore.
  • Irony:
    • Helly is the most outspoken in her criticism about Lumon and the severance procedure, trying to find multiple ways to leave. Her outie is revealed to be the daughter of the current Lumon CEO, who underwent the severance procedure in order to drum up public support for it.
    • Irving is, initially, the most loyal to his job and Lumon, and has even memorized the company handbook. Outside of work, he appears to be building a case against Lumon, following anti-severance lawsuits and trying to track down severed employees outside of work.
    • Outtie Mark tolerates Ricken only because of Devon; it's an Open Secret that he finds him pretentious. However, when Ricken's book ends up with innie Mark, innie Mark — and the other innies — actually come to love and idolize Ricken, using his book as a sort of manual for escape.
  • Ironic Echo: After one too many instances of rebellion, Helly R is sent to the "Break Room" where she is forced to repeat a mantra about how guilty she is, how sorry she feels, and how grateful she is for Lumon's guidance endlessly until a lie detector believes she truly means it. It takes over 1000 forced recitations for it to "stick". In the final episode of season 1, when she learns that she is in fact Helena Eagan, the heir of the Keir empire and future CEO of Lumon, and that she convinced her father, the current CEO, as a child that the entire world should be severed, she begins to recite the mantra to herself - leaving out the "grateful to Lumon" part - to a mirror.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Apparently averted in the season 1 finale with Irv, who uses his overtime contingency time to track down the outie of his colleague Burt, for whom he had developed feelings. When he sees that Burt's outie is apparently happily married, he does briefly hesitate, but then knocks on the door as the episode ends.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The severed characters are implanted with a chip that makes them unable to remember their workday when they are home and their home lives when they are at work.
  • Lie Detector: A lie detector is used in the "break room" to gauge the sincerity of employees as they recite the words of penance. Dylan claims to have beaten it by thinking about something he's actually sorry for, rather than whatever work infraction landed him in the break room.
  • Loving Details: After tearing up his dead wife's photograph, Marks puts it together while listing all the things he loved about her:
    "My wife was allergic to nutmeg. And when she sneezed, she always sneezed twice. My wife liked other people's dogs. My wife thought cardigans looked ridiculous. I loved all these things about her... equally."
  • Man Bites Man: In episode 7, Dylan has a freakout during the musical dance experience and attacks Milchick, biting his arm.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Mark expounds on the elevator's "code detectors" at great length, which can supposedly detect any form of written word, letter, or number, even partial symbols, even through your stomach lining. It's suggested the stairwell is equipped with these, too. However we never see any actual proof they work, as each time Helly tries to smuggle a message out, she's either talked out of it by Mark, or we see Milchick speaking into his radio beforehand, and the extensive surveillance means the alarms could have simply been triggered manually. Even with the stairwell incident, it's possible the alarm was triggered by Helly shattering the door window with a fire extinguisher, rather than setting off a "code detector" with the note.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • After she learns that it's because of her outie wanting to please her father that more people will be severed, Helly recites the break room apology in the bathroom mirror.
    • Mark's outie, when describing the list of ways he loved his late wife, says that he "loves all of them equally"— the exact same phrase that Ms. Casey uses during the wellness sessions. Ms. Casey is his wife.
  • Meaningful Name: Helly's innie definitely feels like she's in hell.
  • MegaCorp: Judging by discussions and logos, Lumon Industries seems to manufacture everything from medical equipment to food and technology. It's also stated to have existed since the late 1800s.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Any communication with the Board is done this way, with their liaison Natalie being the only one who can hear from them or talk with them directly. Harmony, who is the unfortunate recipient of one of these Board meetings, is only able to judge what they might actually be saying through the static that a box on her desk emits.
  • Mundane Luxury: The perks that Lumon offers for meeting performance targets include Chinese finger traps, "music dance experiences", and waffle parties. These are the only enrichment that the innies have outside of their work, and they (especially Dylan) take them seriously. Though, when we see what comes after the waffle party, it's anything but mundane.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Mark's brother-in-law's book is read via a completely serious-sounding voiceover, no matter how corny or blatantly incorrect the passages are. It makes sense, as since innie-Mark is literally not allowed to read any other book than the Lumon handbook, an incredibly corny self-help book is inspiring literature to him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Devon realizing she handed her baby to Ms. Cobel, and Cobel has left. Luckily baby Eleanor turns out to be just fine.
  • Neuro-Vault: Effectively the result of severance. An innie has no recollection at all of who they are outside work, and vice versa, meaning that the innie has no consciousness of the time their outie spends outside Lumon between leaving and entering, so their entire existence is an endless cycle of work at the office.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: When Mark meets Petey's helper Reghabi and asks who she is, she answers "Come with me." and leads him to her lab for some exposition.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Cobel, while snooping on Mark's outie, takes the book that Ricken left Mark and brings it to Lumon; Milchick then leaves the book in an area accessible to the innies. The book ends up being a catalyst for Mark to question Lumon and the work that he is doing.
    • Milchick, when investigating a relatively mild and ultimately harmless infraction, uses the overtime contingency to interrogate Dylan's innie outside of work hours. This serves to both let the innies know about the overtime contingency, and give Dylan a glimpse of his outie's family which motivates him to betray Lumon.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The supposed violent uprising that both Macrodata Refinement and Optics and Design accuse each other of perpetrating. We see paintings of the bloodbath, but little info is provided. It's implied to be a fictional story invented to discourage fraternization between departments.
    • When trying to discourage Helly from further insubordination, Mark tells her she doesn't want Graner to "use the bad soap". She responds, "There's bad soap?" He does not elaborate. He also mentions Milchick's methods of esopheagal/intestinal extraction of smuggled notes.
    • When Mark finds Ricken's book at the office with a written dedication to him, he and his co-workers are puzzled. Irving suspects it might be a Secret Test of Character, same as with the "spicy candy".
    • Mark's attempt to return to teaching after losing his wife was apparently a disaster, but we're never given any details as to what exactly happened.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Rickon's self-help book is a corny, clichéd mess filled with empty platitudes. In the world of the Severed Floor, however, where no one has read any book besides the company handbook, it becomes a borderline revolutionary manual.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Helly kisses Mark on the night that the overtime contingency plan is enacted, just in case they don't come back.
  • Once More, with Clarity: We first see Helly's orientation from her perspective, with no idea what's going on. Later, we see it from the perspective of the Lumon employees and her own outie and get the whole story.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: A variation. The innies do not know their last names and are only addressed by their first name and last initial. Only Mark's outie's last name (Scout) is known for most of the series; Dylan, Burt, and Irving's last names of George, Goodman, and Bailiff are revealed in a Freeze-Frame Bonus in the season finale, and Helly's last name turns out to not begin with "R" at all, and is in fact Eagan.
  • Overworked Sleep: Irving tends to nod off at his desk and dream of black goop slowly coating his cubicle. His outie seems to spend most of his time painting almost exclusively with black paint, probably at the expense of his sleep.
  • Panopticon of Surveillance: This essentially describes how the severed floor is run. Every department's employees obediently perform their assigned tasks because they fear the backlash of upper management, but we eventually learn that Cobel, Milchick, and Graner are the only authority figures keeping watch. Additionally, the departments are completely separated from each other and conditioned to fear and despise one another, resulting in an inherent distrust between departments despite everyone being stuck in the same "prison." Macrodata Refinement eventually figures this out after they sneak into the empty security office:
    Dylan: So no one is in there? That's lax as fuck.
    Mark: Maybe it's enough that we think we're constantly being watched.
    Helly: It's too bad nobody told you guys that everything here is bullshit.
  • Peace & Love Incorporated: Lumon tries its best to come off this way, mainly to its innie/severed floor employees. Case in point: waffle parties, and the giant freaking museum on the severed floor, dedicated entirely to portraying the entire Eagan family in as wonderful a light as possible for the benefit of making the employees more content to work for them.
  • Perspective Flip: The You Wake Up in a Room scene in the pilot is shown first from Helly's and then from Mark's perspective.
  • Pet the Dog: When Cobel realizes the overtime contingency has been activated and rushes off to try to foil it, she first makes sure baby Eleanor is safe.
  • Precious Photo: Outie Mark keeps a photograph of his deceased wife on his shelf. In a fit of intoxication, he tears it to pieces in front of Alexa to demonstrate that he is through with the past, but once sober, he pieces it back together.
  • Production Throwback: The shot of Mark dragging along a balloon made of other Marks in the intro is a recreation of Extraweg's art piece "Past", which showed a nameless woman doing the same to copies of herself.
  • Propaganda Machine: Lumon is adept at weaponizing this both inside and outside of the severed floor. Inside, employees are encouraged to view the CEO as a deity and create strange lore about departments attacking each other for the sake of keeping the workers separated. Outside, their spokesmen are shown easily twisting the words of their critics to make any opponent seem delusional or anti-science. As the finale reveals, Helly herself is a long-term propaganda strategy to fully legalize severance and propel Helena to a CEO position.
  • Punny Name: Severed workers go to the Break Room to stop working... and have their will broken.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: While there seems to be the option for someone to quit, it turns out it never really happens. At one point, Helly wants to quit, even threatening to cut off her own fingers with a paper slicer to be let go. She's then shown a video of her outie bluntly telling her, "you are not a person," that she chose this and chooses to stay and "resignation denied."
  • Retro Universe: Though it seems fairly modern on the surface, it is shown both inside and outside the severed floor that characters still actively use old, clunky computers and tape decks, and Petey is shown using an old flip phone for the majority of his communication, although modern smartphones do seem to exist as well.
  • Room 101: The Break Room, where employees are sent if they violate Lumon rules. There, they are forced to state their remorse until the lie detector determines they are telling the truth. However long that takes. Apparently, they are even willing to commit some manner of corporal punishment for those who are particularly flagrant in their rule-breaking. Mark is taken to the Break Room after a particularly defiant act, and later on we see his outtie contemplating his knuckles which are very red, though waved off as a workplace accident.
  • Schizo Tech: The technology on the severed floor, most prominently the bulky monitors, aesthetically looks like it could come from the 70s and 80s, but it's clear that it has functionality far beyond the computers existing at those times.
  • Serious Business: Dylan is very proud of the baubles he receives for his work performance.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Cobel has an altar for the deceased Lumon founder, Kier Eagan, in her home.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Mark gets one from his date after the concert with Petey's daughter.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Severed employees are monitored and scanned in minute detail so that nothing about their innie lives is revealed to the outside world. When Mark finds Helly trying to smuggle messages out, he informs her that there are text scanners that will read whatever she wrote — even coded or obfuscated — and that if she swallowed anything, it's best to let the company know when she did so that Milchick will know which end the probe should go into.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Everyone who works in Macrodata Refinement is male, except Helly.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Harmony realizes that Mark's innie is in control when he refers to her as Ms. Cobel, not Mrs. Selvig (as she only goes by Cobel at work, and Selvig at home).
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: Working for Lumon on a severed floor appears to hold serious detrimental effects for the employee, beyond mandatory work events like melon parties, the surreal windowless environment, and the hard limit on what can and cannot be remembered at work.
  • Split-Personality Merge: Petey had his severance reversed, but the sudden integration of his innie and outie memories causes him physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Split-Personality Switch Trigger: The elevators switch people between their outie and innie selves.
  • Standard Office Setting: Subverted all to hell. Hallways at Lumon seem to go on for miles, there are no windows, and the work being done is indecipherable at best. Visiting the break room is actually a euphemism for being tortured for office misdemeanors.
  • Stealing the Credit: When Eleanor gets lost, Mark finds her first, but one of Ricken's self-help buddies rushes past him to pick her up and claim credit for finding her.
  • Stout Strength: Dylan has a lot of extra meat on his bones, but is convinced that his outie works out; he backs this up by easily overpowering the much more muscular looking Milchick, as well as withstanding the strain of holding two levers intended to be held by two different people in order to enable the overtime contingency for his colleagues.
  • Stress Vomit: After Graner's messy death, Reghabi warns Mark not to vomit on the lab floor because of the DNA traces. He can hold it, but only up to the alley in front of the lab.
  • Stylistic Suck: Rickon's self-help book The You You Are is filled with generic aphorisms and pseudo-profound ramblings like "the center of industry is 'dust.'" The innies, however, have never had any life outside of doing office work for Lumon, so they find it inspirational.
  • Suicide Attack: Even after threatening to maim herself, Helly's outie rejects her innie's resignation request. So innie Helly decides to hang herself— even doing it on the way up the elevator to ensure that outie Helly is the one who experiences it.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Mr. Graner is abruptly bludgeoned to death at the beginning of episode seven.
  • Taken During the Ending: Helly gets tackled and dragged offstage at the end of Season 1 in the middle of the Eagan gala. This also happens more metaphorically to Mark and Irving, as Dylan is freeing their Innies, and when Mr. Milchick tackles him, their "outies" are allowed to take over again and the innies go back into essential hibernation.
  • This Is the Part Where...: When Helly resigns and is ready to leave, she drops this final statement to Mark:
    "Well, boss. I guess this is the part where I should tell you to go to hell. Except you're already here."
  • Tomato in the Mirror: When Helly learns that her outie is part of the Eagan Family.
  • Two-Keyed Lock: The overtime contingency device is secured with two spatially separated switches that have to be turned and held in place for the entire time of operation.
  • 2 + Torture = 5: Whenever a severed Lumon employee like Helly attempts to communicate with their outie or commit a serious offense against Lumon's rules, they are sent to the break room and forced to read the compunction statement: "Forgive me for the harm I have caused this world. None may atone for my actions but me, and only in me shall their stain live on. I am thankful to have been caught, my fall cut short by those with wizened hands. All I can be is sorry, and that is all I am." They are hooked up to a lie detector test as they read it and are not allowed to leave until they sincerely believe these words.
  • Unnaturally Looping Location: When she attempts to leave the building after awakening on the severed floor, the innie version of Helly is confronted with one of these, winding up back in the hallway she came from as soon as she goes through the door. Though really, it only seems that way to her. It's just that whenever she leaves, the regular version of Helly simply comes back to consciousness and goes back through the door, putting her right back where she started and making it seem to the innie Helly as though nothing has changed.
  • Unseen No More: Although dead, Mark's wife is never shown, not even in pictures, until the end of "Defiant Jazz," which reveals a picture of her... and it's Ms. Casey.
  • Unusual Euphemism: An interesting one as for most of the first season, it doesn't sound like one at all. With all the mundane "rewards" that the MDR department can earn such as Chinese finger traps and melon bars, the Waffle Party that Dylan is so interested in sounds like just another mundane reward to earn. And there is in fact a waffle dinner attached to it. And then immediately after the waffle dinner is a burlesque dance/orgy with people dressed in paper-mache masks representing the four "Tempers" that Kier Eagan defeated.
  • Vertigo Effect: Every time someone switches from innie to outie and vice versa, we get a short dolly zoom.
  • Visual Pun:
    • The computer terminals used by the Macro Data Refinement team have no "escape" key.
    • On at least two occasions, Helly is framed in a way that obscures the last letter in the words "Hello" and "Helly", turning them into "Hell".
  • Voiceover Letter: Whenever Mark reads from Ricken's book, the voiceover is provided by Ricken himself.
  • Welcome Episode: We are introduced to the severed floor of Lumon through Helly waking up at Lumon with her memories of life outside of work temporarily erased (as is the case for all the employees) and being shown how things work by the other employees.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Hide and Seek" reveals that the innies can be woken up outside of Lumon, resulting in Dylan learning about his outie's life.
    • "Defiant Jazz" sees Dylan have a total breakdown at work over the revelation that he has a son and will never be allowed to know anything more about him. Irving learns that Burt is retiring and finally loses his loyalty to Lumon. And, it's finally revealed that Mark's dead wife is the very much alive Ms. Casey.
    • In the Season 1 finale, "The We We Are," Mark's innie learns about his outie's life and his dead wife, and reveals to his sister that she's actually alive and he knows her at work immediately before his outie wakes up. Meanwhile, Helly is revealed to be Helena Eagan, daughter of Lumon CEO Jame Eagan, who underwent severance as a PR tactic to prove its safety. She speaks at the board meeting, and, before she's "switched off," calls out Lumon's treatment of the innies in front of its board and corporate donors.
  • Wham Line:
    • "I am a person, you are not. I make the decisions, you do not." Spoken by Helly's Outie as a response to her attempts to leave the company. Also heavy foreshadowing about said Outie having an agenda for keeping Innie Helly trapped in the company.
    • "Daddy?" Spoken by Dylan's son, after innie Dylan is woken up by Milchick to find out where he hid the card he stole from Optics and Design.
    • "Yes." Spoken by one of the members of the Board, proving that they are in fact real.
    • "Let's burn this place to the ground." Spoken by Irving after he learns that Burt is "retiring."
    • "My wife was allergic to nutmeg. And when she sneezed, she always sneezed twice. My wife liked other people's dogs. My wife thought cardigans looked ridiculous. I loved all these things about her equally." The line serves as Five-Second Foreshadowing that Mark's dead wife is actually Ms. Casey, who during her therapy sessions with Lumon employees would ask the employees to appreciate all of the facts stated about them equally.
    • "Thank you, Mrs. Cobel." Innie Mark has been pretending to be his own outie, but this tips off Cobel — because outie Mark only knows her as Mrs. Selvig — that the innies have taken over.
    • "She's alive!" Screamed by Mark's innie at Devon when he realizes his "dead" wife is Ms. Casey, right before his outie wakes up and the season ends.
  • Wham Shot:
    • A few times in the first episode, Mark calls his neighbor Mrs. Selvig. When he finally gets to talk to her in person, it's revealed that she's his boss, Mrs. Cobel.
    • While replacing the department pictures on the desk that contain Petey with ones that contain Helly instead, Mark gets to his own and discovers a hand-drawn map of Lumon's severed floor inside, created by Petey.
    • While at work at a wellness check, Mark is instructed to shape how he's feeling using clay. He sculpts a tree— one that we have just seen his outie visit and is the site of his wife's fatal accident, thus indicating that outies and innies aren't so separate after all.
    • Irving peeks behind a hidden door and sees that the Optics and Design division actually employs about ten people, not just two as everyone has been led to believe.
    • The revelation that the severance chips can be activated remotely outside of the severed floor, and that certain members of Lumon conduct business outside of the office.
    • "Defiant Jazz" ends with a shot of a photo of Mark's late wife Gemma: it's Ms. Casey.
    • Irving's outie self paints as a hobby. However, the only thing he paints is a scene from deep within the severed floor, indicating that something is bleeding through his chip.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: The severed employees' purpose is left deliberately vague. The members of the Macrodata Refinement division spend their days scrolling through walls of random numbers and sorting some of them into boxes based on whether the numbers feel "scary" or other feelings that we don't hear about. The files are eventually completed, but we never find out (at least in season one) what purpose it serves. The Optics & Design division's purpose seems clear at first (making tote bags and company-produced propaganda artwork), but they also 3D-print random objects like watering cans and hatchets for unknown purposes, and also curate the company's artwork. Mark and Helly wander the hallways and encounter a man bottle-feeding baby goats, which only raises further questions.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Kier (the city's) location is deliberately kept ambiguous. Cars' license plates are marked with Kier Eagan's face and the slogan "Remedium Hominibus" (Cure for Man), and freeze-framing on newspaper articles shows that Kier is given the non-existent state abbreviation "PE".
  • White Shirt of Death: Downplayed. Milchick always wears a white shirt, and he's the only one who suffers a bloody injury in season one.
  • White Void Room: Downplayed. Although not actually a void, as it's just a regular (if bizarrely laid-out) office with partitions, the severed floor is intentionally all-white, and some of the staff wear white, to reflect the endlessness of their jobs.
  • Wimp Fight: Although Milchick is a rather large man, when he's tackled by the short and round Dylan, he can only scream pitifully for help. After realizing that he's been bitten, he whines that Dylan "broke the skin" and then flees the room in outrage.
  • Wrong Line of Work: Despite her outie volunteering for the job, innie Helly is immediately uncomfortable in her position with Lumon. She repeatedly tries to quit, but to no avail. It is implied by Mark and Dylan's reactions that this is common to all the innies, although her threat to cut her fingers off and her attempted suicide seem to be beyond the typical.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: How Helly (and by extension, all severed Lumon employees) are introduced to Lumon. They wake up in a room with no memories, and need to receive an explanation of how severance works.

…A handshake is available upon request.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Severance


Memories of the wife

Mark is reminiscent of the things he loves about his dead wife.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / LovingDetails

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