Are you struggling to balance your work life with your personal one? Maybe if someone comes to you offering a technological solution for it, you should take a minute to assess the situation, at least based on the new lo-fi sci-fi thriller series called Severance. Headlined by contributions from showrunner Dan Erickson and director Ben Stiller, the title references the procedure one goes through to separate their work and personal lives. That's what our main character Mark Scout (Adam Scott) has decided to do previously as he welcomes in a new employee Helly (Britt Lower) to the team working at the basement level at the headquarters of Lumon, a cryptic tech company. The team also features Irving/''Irv'' (John Turturro) and Dylan (Zach Cherry) whilst they are all supervised by Harmony (Patricia Arquette) and Mr. Milchick (Tramell Tillman).
This first season plays both like an investigative exploration and a character piece, the latter moving in two parallel lines as we follow Mark in the outside world and the severed team inside Lumon. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is that Erickson and co. don't go the easy route and separate the worlds tonally. That risk then actually pays off as the environment gets more and more tense with each episode. Conundrums which are there to be solved don't get rushed immediately and that is why you get valuable time with the characters. The cast takes advantage of that commitment, everyone bringing solid B-plus to A-minus effort, mostly because the show doesn't forget to add humour and oddities for them to explore in the midst of all the mysteries and detailed aesthetic choices.
In that aesthetic sphere, the show really excels when it comes to Jessica Lee Gagné's cinematography and Jeremy Hindle's production design which compliment each other perfectly right from the very first few frames. ''Severed'' spheres are clinical, composed and feature rather outstanding camera movement that captures the suffocating nature of the interiors inside Lumon, while the outside world is warmer, though yet a bit uninviting so you'd understand why someone would want to do the procedure.
Eventually when these worlds collide and the darker side of this technology rears its head, storylines are woven together so well that it's easy to see why the filmmakers would put all their chips on that explosion. Unfortunately the season finale therefore suffers since it doesn't quite find required symmetry with the first episode, leaving its characters singing a very awkward note and hoping for season two to save us all when this severed world certainly doesn't need a cliffhanger to be intriguing. Until then, let's enjoy the waffle parties, shall we?
Smileys: Tone, production design, cinematography, atmosphere
Frowneys: Some issues with ending
By reading this, you've earned yourself a nice song-and-dance break.