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'Severance' Season 1 may be done, but we still have questions
While there have been some answers along the way, Season 1 has left us with plenty of burning questions.
We don't have an actual timeline as far an air date goes, but from a need-it-now perspective, it's going to be a long, long wait until Season 2 of Severance hits our screens. Until then the Apple TV+ show has given fans lots of food for thought with each new episode of the sci-fi thriller that's been released.
The first season of the slightly dystopian series introduced viewers to a mysterious company called Lumon that requires certain employees to practice the concept of "severance," in which people voluntarily choose to have their work lives mentally severed from their home lives. In a sense, this creates the ultimate "work-life" balance, as neither their work personas (aka their "innies") or their out-of-office personas ("outies") know anything about each other or what the other does. And neither remembers anything.
Instead, people's minds go through a mental shift while riding the elevators to their basement offices, with their innies emerging by the time they hit their floor, with no time seeming to have passed since they were last at the office. (Somewhat like the shifts between Steven Grant and Marc Spector over on Marvel's Moon Knight.) In fact, they don't even recall sleeping.
However, things start to change over the course of the first season, as Helly (Britt Lower), a new refiner is added to the Macrodata Refinement team. Meanwhile, newly-promoted team leader, Mark, (Adam Scott) or at least his outie, runs into his former co-worker and best friend, Pete (Yul Vazquez). Pete reveals that not only have both his selves "reintegrated" with each other, granting him memories of working with Mark at Lumon, but he's also begun mapping the maze-like floor they worked on, something that is prohibited as different departments are not supposed to have contact with each other. Suddenly all is not as it seems, as each new development that follows only spins off into further questions.
While there have been some answers along the way, Season 1 has left us with plenty of burning questions. For instance...
Why has Cobel taken such an interest in Mark?
From the beginning, we've seen that Cobel (Patricia Arquette) has taken a special interest in Mark. Whether it's posing as his next-door neighbor Mrs. Selvig and secretly breaking into his house, or guiding his sister Devon (Jen Tullock) through the intricacies of breastfeeding post-childbirth. But why is she so focused on him? Why isn't she infiltrating the lives of his other co-workers. Why is he different from Irving (John Turturro), Dylan (Zach), or Helly?
The most likely reason is Gemma, Mark's wife, who we now know is actually alive and working part-time on the same floor as him, under the name of Ms. Casey (Dichen Lachman). Perhaps Cobel is monitoring Mark to see if his love for Gemma might suddenly spark a memory in either his innie or his outie, since his grief at her "death" is part of what drove him to get severed, thus causing both selves to reintegrate. Or perhaps, both Mark and Gemma are now part of a wider experiment testing if innies are able to remember the real connections and feelings their outie selves might share. Only one thing is certain, Cobel's "independent research" into Mark's life seems to come with a non-Lumon motive.
Who is Ms. Casey?
So far, it seems like she might indeed be Gemma. After all, Milchick (Tramell Tillman) did say that death cannot touch anyone while they work at Lumon. The only slight difference between Ms. Casey and the severed workers the show has introduced so far, is that she's currently part-time. If indeed, this is Gemma's innie (as it seems to be), perhaps her part-time nature is connected to the accident that seemingly claimed her life, making her time as an innie an attempt to help her mind rest while her body continues to recover. This could also be why she's sent back for "further testing" when it appears that she's been struggling.
What does Lumon do?
You'd think working at Lumon might help answer this question, but as all the severed workers still with the company in Season 1 will tell you: no one is sure what they do, or what higher purpose their jobs seem to fulfill. All they know is that they're required to continue doing these mysterious, almost-mindless tasks, while still being expected to hit certain quotas. But what is the point of all these tasks? And how do they serve the company as a whole? Why is there even a whole department for the care and raising of baby goats?
Well, one reason could be that the company is preparing to bring Kier (Marc Geller) back from the dead, perhaps after having kept his consciousness alive for decades now. This would explain their unusually strong devotion to his teachings and words and the fact that they recreated his entire house right down to the last detail, and no one is permitted to sit on his bed (except in very specific circumstances). While it's not clear why they might want to bring Kier back, it could explain why they're testing Gemma's existence as an innie at work despite her having died. She might be the prototype for Kier's eventual resurrection.
Who is the board and what do they do?
One season later and we're no closer to understanding who all the members of the board that supposedly sets all the directives for the workers at Lumon are. Instead, all we know is that they exist and that they don't believe that reintegration is possible. And that they communicate through an intermediary. It's interesting, because not only does this mean that the board does not have as much contact with severed workers as Cobel and Milchick do on a daily basis, but it also implies that they're not really monitoring everything that's happening on their floor that closely.
Of course, there might not even be a full board. Instead, it might really just be Kier's consciousness without a physical form, having found some other way to communicate. This would explain the use of an intermediary and why the board never seems to speak out loud on the speaker except for that one time (though that was still a singular man's voice), letting Cobel or someone else speak for them instead.
Will Burt and Irving find happiness?
One of the biggest delights of Severance's first season was the tenderly blossoming relationship between senior-most data refiner Irving and head of the Optics and Design department Burt (Christopher Walken). Watching both men navigate Lumon's many rules against romantic fraternisation, while also bonding over their shared love for Lumon founder Kier Egan, presents the ultimate question: Will they be able to overcome all the obstacles in their path to ultimately find happiness with each other?
Right now the answer feels a bit cloudy. Not only has Burt now retired from Lumon — though not before giving an emotional speech aimed at Irving — but his outie seems to be in a relationship with another man, much to Irving's immense heartbreak. Still, the duo deserves all the chances they can get at their happily ever after. Their connection was strong and potent right from the start, leaving many a fan wondering if maybe their outies were actually together as a couple on the outside. Which is probably why Milchick must have worked so hard to keep them separated and away from each other.
All nine episodes of Severance are now available to stream on Apple TV+.