IThe ongoing discourse around aspirational work-life balance has exploded in the past few years, the pandemic has led to a re-evaluation of work and seeping into mainstream discourse. As we are constantly reminded: we all have the same 24 hours to work hard, earn money and work hard to earn more money later. The pandemic has put pressure on livelihoods, the time being outside of work has only become fueled by employment concerns. Ben Stiller’s new show, Severance, asks whether the division of the brain would provide a solution to this dilemma. Moreso, is the lived experience of complete separation between life and work a dream or a nightmare?
The Apple TV+ show from the mind of Dan Erickson revolves around a team of data inputers — Mark (Adam Scott), Irving (John Turturro) and Dylan (Zach Cherry) — working on an office floor. All employees at Lumon Industries have gone through a different process: the input of a brain chip that divides the working self (eneys) from the outside world self (the outside). As they enter the elevator each morning and exit each evening, they switch between ini and outi states, each with no concept of what the other is up to or getting on with their lives. What is he doing. It embodies an impenetrable work-life limit. But when new arrival Haley (Britt Lower) rejects life as a dead-minded worker, the workforce begins to reevaluate the true nature of their work-life relationship.
On a bad workday, the idea of being able to turn off work mode sounds like heaven, but Severance uncovers how this hard-split can become hellish for Ini trapped in an endless workday. The central quartet of Innies spend their days in an office room devoid of daylight, on donkey-numb chairs. The perks of corporate hard work are the norm and inspiration comes in the form of mundane perks like Lumon-branded erasers, finger traps, and the promise of a waffle party (it has to be seen to be believed!) if they’ve had a successful quarter. The incentives are as exhausting as the endless white corridors of the building that resembles a rat maze.
Severance displays familiarity—office romance, a distaste for the higher-ups, brutally minimal office cubicles (there’s some incredible set design)—to ground its subtle insights into corporate culture. But in the framework of this workplace, Haley’s frustrations and tears begin to appear with a message from Mark’s already cut coworker Patty (Yul Vasquez). Petty is trying to warn Mar of the insidious intentions behind the sinister biotech corporation he works for.
Scott’s performance is magic here, essentially sporting two completely different personalities who are slowly merging into one man, who is the best he’s ever known. Inside Lumone, they all bow to the revered Keir Egan, whose demands for subordination are enforced by Ms. Kobel (Patricia Arquette) and Mr. Milchik (Tramell Tillman).
Unbearable, Kobel and Milchik pivot from agreeable to unforgiving with frightening pace. Along with the pair, some employees also maintain this status quo, such as Irving who is so steadfast to the rules that he has memorized company policy and leads new recruits around the office with the shrewd understanding of a museum guide. goes.
Unions are impossible, rules are laws, and interdepartmental friendships are forbidden. The latter is put to the test when the relationship between Irving and Burt (Christopher Walken) progresses to something else: a budding office romance in which both employees are ready to give up their code of conduct. As we learn more about each employee through watercooler small talk, it becomes clear that dissection has taken place as a coping mechanism for some of them. For example, Mark agreed to the procedure after losing his wife. The specifics of the show are two-fold: This relationship with work frees one half of himself but imprisons the other.
As rebellion bubbles up inside the walls of Lumon, as if making the office’s coffee, the show turns into shaky territory. There’s a keen wit to this complex, Kaufman-like storytelling that refuses to spoon-feed easy answers to any interwoven plot points. For example, what direction these heroes are working – by sorting encoded lines of data into anonymous files based on their emotional response – is unknown, but a gut feeling says it is malicious. Severance depicts what an emotionally mundane office life can be like and in doing so portrays Lumon in the same glossy, crack-covered exterior that coats our real-world corporate culture.
Though conceptualized five years ago, this inspiring, distinctive show comes with a sting at a strange time. In our current environment, the workplace has undergone substantial changes in the pandemic and Severance realizes that the work-life balance is unsustainable. The show, unsurprisingly, feels like a reaction to the fact that our bedrooms now double as offices and the boundary between work and home has shrunk indefinitely. Severance believes that dreaming of a different work-life balance can actually be a nightmare.
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Reference from lwlies.com