[Apple TV+] Severance: journey to the end of office hell

Perfect success in the genre coveted by all platforms for a few years, intelligent SF, Severance is certainly the best one can look at at the moment, as long as one tastes the complex pleasures offered by a “high concept” such as, here, the total dissociation between work and leisure.

Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Christopher Walken, John Turturro – Copyright Apple TV+

And if Severance (“rupture” in English, but the word is also systematically used when referring to the dismissal, the departure of an employee, which is important…) was quite simply the best TV series of (real) science fiction that we have seen since… we search, we search, but we do not find? Why ? Well first of all because the concept it proposes is both almost conceivable – the separation of the memory of volunteers into two distinct elements, one relating to the working day, the other to the rest of the existence: when we talk about the balance between work and leisure, isn’t that a kind of (nightmarish) ideal? And then we can easily imagine the profit that the hyper-capitalist society in which we live in can derive from it: employees whose professional efficiency will not be limited by interactions or even simple thoughts relating to their family life, love, etc. . And guaranteed confidentiality regarding company secrets…

Severance PosterOf course, it’s not enough to have a brilliant idea to make great cinema, you also need great writing – and that’s the case with Severancesince we will not observe any drop in tension during the 9 impeccable episodes of this first season – allowing the to accompany step by step in their quest for the truth a group of 4 employees in charge of MacroData Technology (whatever that is means…): these protagonists “dissociated” from the story will face, voluntarily or not, terrible revelations about their own existence, but also about the dark designs of Lumon Industries, the all-powerful company that deprived them of half of their existence.

We have known that since the 1970s that the “best” classic SF is that which offers relevant questions – most of the time political – on current social models, and which, by extrapolating from our way of life, highlights them. highlight the shortcomings, and also the risks: as such, the series of Dan Ericksonscreenwriter and rookie showrunner (!), produced and partially directed by Ben Stillerwhose well-known taste for the absurd, both funny and frightening, is perfectly in line with the logic of a 1984. The cult of great tech entrepreneurs (the Steve Jobs model), the concern of some GAFAs to create a protected universe / cut off from the world for their employees and their business, the mind-numbing and infantilizing rituals of corporate management, the goodwill that we all manifest in turn when it comes to submitting to humiliating diktats, and a thousand other things in our 2022 life… it’s all there. And yes, we laugh a lot watching Severance, but little by little, a feeling of absolute horror penetrates us, each episode seeming to sink us even more into a modern version of Hell. While accumulating both revelations and doubts likely to make us sink into acute paranoia (and often justified…), Severance takes care to develop our empathy with the protagonists, by asking many relevant questions about the nature of identity (what really makes us the people we are?).

Adam Scottan actor often considered as “second class” finds here for the first time a (double) role where his ambiguity and his pusillanimity are perfectly exploited, Britt Lower – TV actress – is revealed there, but it is, unsurprisingly, the shock trio formed by Patricia Arquette, John Turturro and Christopher Walken which regularly elevates the series to the heights: the delicate love story between Irving and Burt offers, in this respect, the most perfect emotional moments in the midst of a story that could have fallen on the wrong side of the “all-concept “.

But maybe, for once, we should also celebrate the “production design” and the artistic direction: the opposition between the dark wintry world of the small town where the “outies” (exters in French) live and the labyrinths The inhuman light of Lumon’s offices, where the “innies” (inters) are imprisoned, is simply stunning, and fully contributes to the total emotional immersion of the viewer.

With a fearsome final episode ending on an unbearable cliffhanger, Severance immediately earned the right to continue into a second season. We just wonder how to manage to wait a year…

Eric Debarnot

US TV series by Dan Erickson
Starring: Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, Britt Lower, John Turturro, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken
Genre: Science fiction, drama, comedy, politics
9 episodes of 40 to 60 minutes posted online (Apple TV+) from February to April 2022

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