Severance, the Apple TV+ hit that has the backing of Ben Stiller while being unlike anything Stiller has ever done (maybe, vaguely, The Cable Guy?), is one of those shows that will likely go down in history as having a near-perfect first season.
The TV-reviewing machine that is Vulture
certainly thinks so—it gave the first two episodes four stars, and the next six five stars, and the level of fawning over this series is well-deserved. (Its season finale premieres tomorrow, and yes, the show is getting a second season.)
Who knows if the show will hold up beyond that? (I mean, just consider the NBC show Heroes
, which lots of people liked … until the second season
.) But by playing with the constant tension of work-life balance, turning it into almost a source of terror, it makes for both a well-timed show and an extremely nerve-wracking one. For everyone nervous about going back into an office during the pandemic fadeout of 2022, Severance
captures your nerves about the endeavor.
Severance, with the workplace comedy veteran Adam Scott at its center, is a reminder that workplace culture used to be a lot more “cult” like. A good example of what I mean is IBM, which Thomas Watson, Sr. created in his image.
Digging in a little bit further, the examples always threatened to get a little bit weirder. One of the weirdest, highlighted by Ars Technica in 2014
, was a songbook titled Songs of the IBM
, built at the behest of Thomas Watson Sr. starting in the late 1920s.
Severance plays into this style effectively, maybe not building a songbook (it prefers corporate-curated record collections), but by creating a culture where the cult-like nature of the leadership feels like it permeates everything, even though the employees don’t fully understand it. It’s tense, it’s disorienting, and it feels like it crosses a deep ethical line.