Apple TV+’s ‘Severance’ revolves around the mysterious Lumon Industries in New York City where a “severance” programme is implemented. It is used to surgically divide memories of employees between their work and personal lives, however, when a mysterious worker shows up outside of work, the employees start figuring out the truth about their company’s misdoings.
Episode 4 recap: “The You You Are”
Helly is back in the Break Room, reciting the apology to Seth Milchik, who lets her leave after she repeats it over a thousand times. Meanwhile Mark’s outie does not pick up Petey’s ringing phone and hides it as he notices numerous missed calls from the same number.
To add to the rising tension, Helly discovers the floor map that Mark had chanced upon in the previous episode. This ignites an intense discussion among the team that ends with Mark chucking the map out of an office window.
After Burt (Christopher Walken) — the severed member of the Optics & Design Department — invites the Macro Data Refinement team to visit his neck of the woods, Irving decides to do so. The duo talks about Lumon’s culture and the Eagan family philosophy.
While at O&D, Irving discovers the book Mark’s brother-in-law Ricken (Michael Chernus) gave him but was confiscated by Mrs. Selvig and sent to Lumon. The book was accidentally left there by Milchik during Helly’s attempted escape. Mark takes it and says he’ll return it to management but keeps it instead.
Meanwhile, Harmony Cobel is under a lot of pressure from the company’s board to take care of Petey’s death that receives a lot of media attention, putting Lumon at risk. She attends the funeral as Mrs. Selvig and runs into Mark, who also decides to attend after receiving news of it.
The two converse about Petey and Mark gets introduced to his ex-wife and daughter, June. Mark gets extremely sad at the proceedings and leaves to clear his mind next to a tree in the middle of nowhere and Mrs. Selvig calmly removes the severance chip from Petey’s body before he is cremated.
Back at work, Helly threatens to chop her fingers off using a paper cutter unless she is allowed to record a video for her outie requesting a resignation. Harmony agrees but Helly is disappointed when she receives a video rejecting that request.
Looking at Mark’s troubled condition, Harmony has the wellness counsellor, Ms. Casey (Dichen Lachman) perform a wellness check on him. She asks him to sculpt his emotional state and he forms a tree — it is the same one his outie visited in longing of his late wife post the funeral.
Dylan discover Ricken’s book on the severed floor hidden in Mark’s files and starts going through it. Elsewhere, Helly, frustrated with being stuck inside Lumon, smuggles an extension cord into the elevator and hangs herself in the shaft as the camera cuts to black.
Episode 5 recap: “The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design”
The fifth episode begins by revealing that Helly survived her suicide attempt and returns to work after recovering for three days. She has no choice but to continue at Lumon as her outie just does not want to quit.
At work, Harmony asks Casey to shadow Helly and keep an eye on her every move. Meanwhile, Mark starts to read Ricken’s book, which houses strong anti-establishment sentiments. His outie then has to travel to a medical cabin where Devon and Ricken are staying owing to the former’s delivery date coming close.
As they prepare for the baby’s arrival, Mark confesses to his sister that he believes Lumon is up to no good. The next day Irving again hallucinates black slime and decides to visit Burt to feel better.
Mark asks him to print a copy of directions to O&D so they can come find him should the need arise. However, the printer shells out a painting showing O&D employees viciously murdering the MDR (Macro Data Refinement) employees.
It is revealed that Milchick is responsible for this incident to stop Irving’s interactions with Burt. Furthermore, Harmony instructs Mr. Graner to find the person responsible for hacking Petey’s severance chip.
Dylan and Irving then meet Burt about this and during their conversation Burt claims that he lied about the number of employees in O&D because the MDR department is thought of as untrustworthy.
Mark, troubled with the events around him, distracts Casey and takes Helly for a walk. He expresses his regret over her situation and shares the map Petey made with her. She shows no interest in opening up to him until the duo stumbled upon a strange department which has an employee feeding baby goats — this convinces her to help Mark recreate the map.
Dylan and Irving walk Burt back to O&D where Dylan discovers another version of the massacre painting. This one depicts the MDR employees massacring the O&D people.
As Burt introduces Irving and Dylan to his colleagues, Mark and Helly wonder what the goat department has to do with their job. In a twist of events, these developments are all being observed by Harmony who seems pleased with them.
- These two episodes, unlike the previous three, have been directed by Aoife McArdle who does well to add on to the suspenseful atmosphere created by Ben Stiller.
- The unique relationship between Burt and Irving is a highlight of the show. It swings between subtle attraction and sinister secrecy that create a brilliant sub-plot.
- Harmony Cobel’s antics are genius. She creates an illusion of freedom for her employees by allowing them to chance upon new areas and form new friendships without them realising how deeply trapped they are.
- The narrative has shifted into overdrive and despite answering previous questions, it spins new webs of deceit that has taken the intensity up a notch.
- However, these mysteries feel tedious to follow at times. The suspense is almost painful and though it may pay off in the end, it doesn’t really provide any periodic closure.
- The show is building itself up for a stellar crescendo which it needs to deliver on as the final episodes air.