Severance isn't a show about quitting your job, it's about burning it down

Severance isn’t a show about quitting your job, it’s about burning it down

1. Take a moment to add up the things you’ve given up for a paycheck. Ever had to miss a birthday? A wedding? Have you ever had to leave a loved one who is grieving or sick simply because you couldn’t afford to choose them over the job? Has it ever felt like a choice?

2. dismissal, the Apple TV Plus show created by Dan Erickson follows the employees of the Micro-Data Refinement division of the fictional Lumon Industries. No one knows what that means, not even the workers, who simply parse a matrix of numbers and remove the numbers that “seem scary.” Their work is top secret and they have all gone through a procedure known as ‘dismissal’, their minds split in two. Their work itself has no knowledge of their lives once they are out. This means that their working characters – called ‘innies’ in common parlance – are in fact new people, who only know life within Lumon. One workday transitions into the next, with just an elevator ride to separate them.

3. Now think about all the times you’ve ordered coffee from Starbucks with words you wouldn’t otherwise use. The times you called a work of art “content” or “intellectual property.” The life hacks for going through as many podcasts or books as possible. Every time you’ve promised to “cycle back” in a conversation. Who taught you that?

Mark is sitting at his desk in a still from Severance

Photo: Apple TV

4. Mark Scout (Adam Scott) grieves. His “outie” – the Mark that exists outside of Lumon – lost his wife, Gemma, in an accident. Resignation, he explains to those who ask for it, is one way to deal with that loss. It’s eight o’clock when he doesn’t have to think about Gemma or anything. Some argue with him, saying the practice is exploitative; experts on TV beat the merits of the proceedings back and forth. It all wears him out. He gets what he needs from his layoff, and his life outside of Lumon is basically empty.

5. Workplaces and their idiosyncrasies, their trivial psychological distortions, have always been part of our pop culture landscape. Art shapes culture, but so does work, and with a stronger hand. It is therefore natural for them to intersect: in comedies and proceedings at work, where the tension between life on and off the clock forms the conflict that fuels stories. Usually there is disturbingly little space between the two. And increasingly, the characters in these stories are miserable.

6. In the world of severance pay, Kier Eagan reigns supreme. The founder of Lumon, Kier, is the inspiration for the Employee Handbook (the only literature allowed on site), which doubles as a propagandistic hagiography. His life inspires the few works of art on the walls, which were created in-house by a team called Optics and Design. One of the recreational activities that the Micro-Data Refinement (MDR) team can undertake is a trip to the Hall of Perpetuity, a wax museum that celebrates Kier and his ancestors who guided Lumon through American history. The lobby is adorned with his words, “The remembered man does not perish.” It’s a cruel joke when he’s in charge of the people who work for his company, people who can’t remember who they are. Maybe this is by design. Not to remind employees how to think about their business leaders, but how those who represent the company think about them.

Cobell is sitting at her desk with Milchek behind her

Photo: Apple TV Plus

7. They are talking about the Great Surrender. In the wake of a status-quo-shifting pandemic, debates unfold in the national media, where no one can agree on whether the lesson of the past two years is that work is broken, whether workers are, and in what ways. . If the labor debate is unclear in abstracto, take a closer look and find out in the details, where unions are formed among the employees of one of the world’s largest corporations and companies are beginning to give up even the semblance of interest in worker safety. as the pandemic continues. The bosses of the world call this ‘back to normal’. However, that normal just seems to be one where no one was asking questions.

8. The trick to severance pay‘s metaphor is that there really is none. It just provides a logical explanation for the things we do to ourselves – and that do to us – every day when we go to work. We didn’t start our lives talking to each other like that, we didn’t always look forward to junior office parties, we didn’t believe in magnates and robber barons. These are learned behaviors, but if you adopt them? You’re going to go far, boy.

9. The Book of Genesis presents work resulting from the fallen nature of mankind. In the story of Eden, the earth, originally created as a self-sufficient paradise, is cursed in judgment for original sin. The first men are condemned: by the sweat of your brow, God says to them, you will earn your bread. It’s a passage better known for how it ends: “To dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” So, we were born to work and then die. This is a tragedy. Some seem to think otherwise.

10. On the penultimate episode of severance payMark and his three reports in Micro-Data Refinement—reformed corporate shill Irving (John Turturro), profane workhorse Dylan (Zach Cherry) and rebellious new hire Helly (Britt Lower)—have become disaffected, fueled in season one. through other things, Dylan learns that Lumon can turn on their severed personas outside of the workplace when supervisor Seth Milchick (Tramell Tillman) interrogates him at his outie’s house. As a result, Dylan learns that he has a child outside of Lumon, and for the first time everything Lumon takes from him becomes a reality.

Severance's innies curled up and held Dylan back

Photo: Apple TV Plus

11. It takes a lot of effort to quit a job. Most do it when work becomes impossible rather than unsustainable, because life under a capitalist system offers fewer opportunities to disadvantaged people and the number of people who can consider themselves privileged decreases. When poverty and shelter are at stake, people don’t stop to consider their options. This is the hardest part about organizing a workplace – because even with a common adversary in a company that has tremendous power over the lives of its employees, inequality is not evenly distributed. Some are expected to endure more humiliations than others, and those lucky enough to be protected must be convinced to put their jobs on the line for those who aren’t. No one will join the fray unless it is made personal.

12. You can watch severance pay on Apple TV Plus, the streaming service of one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, one that regularly announces new products on a stage streamed live to thousands of adoring fans who know the founders’ autobiography by heart. The modern business exists not just to provide a service or product, but to grow. Indefinitely and with no discernible target, such as cancer. This streaming service is the latest extension of a company that is running out of room to grow, one that is moving from just production devices to production reasons to keep users on it. Entertainment services are now like insurance companies, collecting a monthly fee in exchange for the guarantee that you can watch something whenever you feel like it. Maybe you’ll do that on a box you bought from the same company, after you’ve also clocked out of a job at a company they own. And it’s fine, because who has the time, the energy, to express the nagging sense of how? wrong this is.

13. In the season finale, Dylan becomes the agent through which the MDR team carries out a thrilling heist on the lives of their outies. He hacks into the Severance control room and uses the switchboard Milchick used on him to wake up his colleagues in the middle of their Outie’s life. It’s an attempt to let them know how miserable they all are, with the added pressure of not knowing how long Dylan—who has to stretch through the barricaded room to keep the switches on—will be able to keep the innies on the outside. He is eventually discovered, and as Milchick tries to bribe him with perks when he breaks in, Dylan yells at him what he really wants: “I want to remember when my damn child was born!” Here, severance pay feels the least like a satire.

14. Again, severance pay is not really a metaphor. There is no need for the business scope it describes, because we already submit to it every day. It’s not like we had a choice.