Adam Scott's Humanity Hangs In Severance
Adam Scott's Humanity Hangs In Severance

Adam Scott’s Humanity Hangs In Severance

Adam Scott is an American actor, comedian, producer, and podcaster. When he was nominated for the Critics’ Choice Television Award twice for his role as Ben Wyatt in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, he is widely recognized. On the small screen, he’s played Derek Huff in Step Brothers and Johnny Meyer in The Aviator. His other credits include Henry Pollard on Starz’s Party Down and Ed Mackenzie on HBO’s Big Little Lies. When Severance premiered on Apple TV+, he landed the lead role.

Severance, Apple TV+’s darkly funny, hugely imaginative corporate-thriller series, is all about swagger in that long tracking shot at the beginning of the first episode.

The camera follows Adam Scott’s Mark as he makes his way through the white, featureless fluorescent halls of Lumon Industries. Moreover, the floor on which he works appears to have very few actual workspaces and instead appears to be composed almost entirely of those endless, labyrinthine corridors.

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Mark, who appears to be a genuinely nice and unassuming guy, lacks the aforementioned swagger. Rather, Severance (and its creator Dan Erickson, and director Ben Stiller) confidently declares: We’re going somewhere, somewhere specific, and stylized. The slow-burn start is all about that. Although we may take some time to get there, your patience will be rewarded if you stick with us.

To many, the show’s slow pace will be a deal-breaker, as swagger and self-indulgence are a delicate line to walk. With such a richly imagined and singular world, I was eager to jump into this series and am glad I did, as the weirdness just keeps increasing.

In the Macro data Refinement division of Lumon, Mark is one of four employees. Along with Irving (John Turturro), Dylan (Zach Cherry), and Helly (Britt Lower), Lumon’s oddball, quasi-religious corporate culture has its fair share of eccentric characters: a self-righteous desk jockey (Zach Cherry), a sarcastic executive assistant (Zach Cherry), and a newcomer who puts the “hostile” in hostile. When they first meet, she whips an intercom at Mark’s forehead.

The fact that she has no memory of her work at Lumon when she is not at Lumon is understandable. Helly, like all of Mark’s team members, has had their brains surgically altered such that, for security concerns, they have no memory of their lives outside Lumon when they are at work or home. Mark and his crew of long-time employees now fully accept this. If you’re Helly, who can’t remember ever agreeing to work.

Putting the “human” Back Into HR

That’s the big idea behind it all: It is impossible to know the “genuine” Mark, Irving, Dylan, and Helly who sit behind those cumbersome console computers all day long executing an enigmatic chore with numbers. They have been robbed of the myriad experiences that shape and define a life. Even though they’re referred to as “innies,” these people have their own thoughts, feelings, and desires outside the workplace. A ban on “innies” and “outies” communicating is in place, though.

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For eight hours a day, Mark’s “outie” self will be Mark, who is a very depressed man who happily accepted the procedure to terminate his employment after losing an important person in his life. On a Lumon elevator in the first episode, we see “outie” Mark transform into “innie” Mark as he descends to his sub-basement office. The screen’s aspect ratio widens, and his expression shifts from low-level sorrow to… a perfect, joyful absence. There’s a quiet buzzing sound.