For everyone who watches a new TV show, there are probably a few others who take a "wait and see" approach. Who knows if that new buzzy show will end well? Who knows if it won't get canceled after just one season?
Well, the good news I come to share with you today is that I just finished the first amazing season of a new show that recently concluded on Apple TV Plus.
This new show has crossed the line to become one of the only shows I'm going to talk about for a while (right next to Atlanta, Better Call Saul and Formula 1: Drive to Survive). It's such a great TV show, in fact, that I plan to rewatch it all again.
You know those finales that make you wonder "oh, what the heck did I just see?" A show that demands a closer inspection, and searching online for fan theories? Well, Apple TV Plus' Severance is just that kind of show.
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Get hooked on Severance, and do it now
Severance may sit in a few categories — sci-fi, psychological thriller and dark comedy — but it's ultimately relatable in a very modern way. The series focuses on a team of Macrodata Refiners (which doesn't really need to be explained) headed by Mark S. (amazingly played by Adam Scott). Mark's team is comprised of the argumentative Dylan G. (Zach Cherry), the wistful Irving B. (John Turturro) and new hire Helly R. (Britt Lower).
What they do in Macrodata Refinement isn't as interesting as how they got there, as they work at a company called Lumon Industries, which has created a wild surgical procedure known as "severance" — which basically splits your consciousness in half.
You get this procedure, theoretically, because part of you (called your "outie") gets to live a life where they never think of work, as all those memories aren't retained. Your "innie" meanwhile, is basically living a hellish existence where their work day restarts the second they clock out. It's like what if cloning were done to send part of you off to a factory.
Severance explores all of this with both a dark sense of humor, humanity and a fantastic sense of mystery. It's the ultimate dark sci-fi take on the work-life balance issues that plague many. As I raved when I first wrote about Severance, this is the best new show. Period.
But if that wasn't weird enough, Mark S. and his peers soon realize that there's a lot going on at Lumon they're not privy to. Their boss Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette)— she oversees "the severed floor" — is also severed for some reason (or is she?), and we soon meet the fine folks at the Optics and Design division, including Burt Goodman (Christopher Walken). We follow both Mark's innie and outie as everything gets more confusing, and some answers arise.
It's best to think of Severance as an even darker and more chilling version of Black Mirror, one with deeper roots in the characters, as we stay with them for a whole season. That said, Severance Season 2 has been announced, so go into the show expecting the start of a wonderfully unnerving story.
Severance almost feels binge-proof — but it isn't
Talking about Severance with my friend Gabe, I asked him if he thought the show was hard to binge. He was a bit confused, until I explained that I've seen a few shows over the years that don't lend themselves to marathons.
These are typically shows that do better when you can take that week or less between episodes to ponder what you just saw. Often, a show this heavy and heady — like The Wire — needs time to sit.
Gabe easily explained that I'm overthinking it, by reminding me of the one trick Severance has up its sleeve: its bonkers endings. "If every episode didn’t end on an insane cliffhanger," he noted, "I would think differently."
Severance is the latest big win for Apple TV Plus
Severance is such a good show, and so stark and weird and odd, that it makes me think of Apple TV Plus in a new light. The service, best known for the whimsy of coach Ted Lasso, the musical chicanery of Schmigadoon! and the dramatics of The Morning Show, finally has a serious dark drama that feels like a delightful surprise.
While we expect Severance season 2 to arrive in 2023 at the earliest, its mere existence on Apple TV Plus gives me reason to think Apple will continue to surprise me. Lately, Netflix mostly (with the exception of Old Enough!) feels predictable. You've got Netflix's brand of Originals — which all have a certain same-ness about them — and the licensed stuff.
And then with Severance, you've got a show that I never would have bet would be on Apple TV Plus. And that's not just because the Macrodata Refinement team doesn't use Macs.
In good Netflix news? Well, it looks like The Crown prequels on Netflix may be happening, as new reports say a fistful of stories are in the works.