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Severance is the sci-fi full package: Watch it!
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Severance is the sci-fi full package: Watch it!

Realms reviews Ben Stiller's Severance, from Apple TV+
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Image provided by Apple TV+

Hello and Welcome to Realms Reviews!

Realms is a fantasy and sci-fi newsletter. My name is Zach, the writer and narrator of this publication. I consume tons of sci-fi and fantasy media that I think everyone should know about. In these two genres, I’ll be reviewing books, video games, podcasts, films, and TV shows.

And here’s what I offer with my reviews:

  • A short, spoiler-free summary

  • My take and thoughts

  • Whether or not it’s worth your time 

  • Notable quotes or moments. 

  • And finally, I’ll give it a rating 

Speaking of…I’m stealing my scoring system from fighting video games. From best to worst, it goes: Z, S, A, B, C, D. 

  • Z means whatever I reviewed is the absolute best of its kind and will leave you wishing you had more.

  • S is for media that is excellent, but not quite earth shattering. 

  • A is for very good. Something that is worth your time. 

  • B is good. Just good. 

  • C is best summed up as “Meh” - it will make no difference in your life and is probably worth skipping.

  • D is a definite no. Skip it. Avoid it. 

That said, this rating system is subjective. Any of my reviews should be taken with a grain of salt and also be the subject of your own consumption and consideration.  

Today, we’re reviewing a sci-fi series that is near and dear to my heart: Severance. I’m reviewing it because production on season two started recently and I had the chance to rewatch season one. 

yes, ben stiller is the director!

Not only is Severance a story about corporate evil and what we sacrifice when we work a 9-5, but it’s also a psychological thriller that touches on themes of love, consciousness, and the dangers of technology. 

It’s one of those full package shows that gives you a bit of everything and does it well. 

The Premise

A company called Lumin has created a technology that splits your mind into two distinct personalities. One, the “outie” is the original person who gets to go about living their lives as they please. As soon as they enter the workplace, however, they switch to the other personality, their “innie.” Completely separate people inhabiting the same body. The severance procedure  operates in such a way where the innie has no access to their outie’s memories, but is a full adult capable of doing work that is “important and mysterious.”

Lumin is at the center of Severance’s narrative. It’s the ugly elephant-octopus in the room, so gargantuan and reaching that it touches everyone’s life in the show, and often for worse. 

Our main character, Mark Scout—the outie—and Mark S—the innie, are both played by Parks & Rec’s Adam Scott. He works for Lumon to escape his wife’s death, via severance, while at home he remains an aimless alcoholic. Sidenote: I originally hated that this show had the “dead wife” plot element—it’s so damn common—but it actually works really well with this show. 

The wider cast of characters include a number of actors you will probably recognize and some you don’t. There’s Particia Arquette—who I loved in Boyhood, John Turturro—of The Batman, recently, and of course The Big Lebowski, and also Christopher Walken. This cast is fantastic, heightening the weirdness and delivering powerful performances that are really astounding. 

My Take

While slow, at first, Severance draws you in with some familiar elements and then drops you in the weird. Every episode maintains a delicate balance of solving and introducing new mysteries. It’s like being on a trickle feeder that keeps you watching. The writing is great, with unique dialogue and character beats that stand out when compared to many TV shows on a similar budget and with a comparable caliber of actors. 

 What really grounds the world, though, is the amount of detailed storytelling that goes on outside the scenes and dialogue. The camera work is lovely, consistent, and efficient. There’s no shaky-cam for no reason. There are a lot of unique angles and intelligent cuts between them. The set and world design only enhance the immersion in the show. Everything is symmetrical and strange, from the Lumon main office building to the Lumon-provided housing the characters live in. The town of Kier, where our characters live and puzzle out their existences, features muted colors and a world that seems locked in an eternal winter. In contrast, the severance wing, where the “innies” work, is full of bright colors that look straight out of the 70s as a sort of weird mid-century modern nightmare. 

This show is the full package, from writing to casting to design; all of it serves the story and the show. 

My Rating

I rarely review things not worth anyone’s time (looking at you live-action Avatar the Last Airbender). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I give Severance a score of “S”.

It truly is the best of its kind and anyone who’s a fan of sci-fi should watch Severance right now. It’s only on Apple TV+, though, so if you don’t have it, use a free trial to binge it. 

Thank you for reading my Severance review!

Share, like, or subscribe if you like this review. You’ll get another one next month. 

Next week, look out for the final entry in the cult thriller story, Adam’s Apple. 

Read Adam's Apple Part I

Read Adam's Apple Part II

Until next time, Realm Walkers, I’m Zach and you’re reading realms.

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Realms.
Realms Podcast
Escape the real world for a better one. Realms produces original sci-fi and fantasy short stories and reviews - releasing once a month. Follow this podcast to get updates or subscribe at zacharyroush.substack.com to get episodes directly in your inbox.