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Severance - The You You Are/The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design - Review

 

 CAUTION: I will be SPOILING nearly every plot twist here. Don't read until you've watched the first five episodes of Severance. 

     Full Disclosure: I have already seen the entirety of season one of Apple TV+'s new sci-fi/fantasy/ thriller series, Severance, thanks to Apple TV+ providing advance access, so I will do my best to not accidently reveal anything that hasn't been aired yet. 

     
The You You Are 

 We started in the break room. Helly has recited the compunction statement over a thousand times, yet really doesn't know what it means. We then hear an angry voice, but Dylan had heard a baby cry. Were they from the undiscovered department Petey mentioned in the previous episode, or are they from the Optics and Design's undiscovered room hidden behind their office space? 

Helly decides to get creative getting to her Outie. Watching her descend into the elevator was very disconcerting. We all know what is coming to her for this transgression. Suicide here will not solve her issue. Of course, we also learned Petey died from reintegration sickness, but they call it "unknown." We know better.

Cobel's drill scene with Petey's corpse went on longer than expected. One wonders if Petey is the first to try reintegration or just the first who got caught? Mark then met June and Nine, Petey's ex-wife and daughter. They express distain for Lumon (hard to not). Using Metallica's "Enter Sandman" was an interesting choice since the lyrics might be very telling as to the effects of severance. Mark should hope that Petey's phone doesn't have a tracking device on it. 

One wonders if Outie Mark will come into contact with Cobel at some point after watching her with that drill. One wonders why there is a clay tree. Is that Outie Mark's way of communicating with Innie Mark? Outie Mark seemed to be affected by the tree that killed Gwen. The relationship between Burt and Irving is fascinating and has lots bubbled up under the surface. We can tell it will be explored more later in the season. 

We are getting some clues as to what Lumon actually does. Why does Optics and Design have so many people? They must be severed. The inclusion of Ricken's book was very fascinating. I am sure Cobel will get blame for bringing it in the first place. Milchick will notice it missing eventually. The fact that it was inscribed to Mark will probably come as important later on. How will this contraband tome affect the Macrodata team? 

 The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design 


 The painting Irving found in the xerox machine this episode is meant to drive a wedge between Burt and Irving. Interesting that he didn't tell Cobel about it first. Of course, the fact that they find an identical painting that claims to depict the Macrodata Refinement department, while the first claimed to depict the Optics and Design department was a clever way of showing that the whole thing is a ploy to divide the departments further. They mentioned that Macrodata think Optics and Design staged a coup while Optics think Macrodata has parasites. 

The paintings really don't depict either department's true job. This makes one wonder why Lumon would want such a distinction to be made between the two departments? And what does each department do, exactly? The baby goats make for a good guess, but I am thinking that might just be a distraction, a piece of corporate satire built upon an exaggerated truth. I guess we need dramatic tension to come from somewhere on this series.

The behavior of Ms. Casey ((Dichen Lachman) in the episode seemed to contradict what we'd seen before where she seemed very cold and robotic before, but now seemed genuinely confused by Mark and Helly. Perhaps Ms. Casey is the subject of an experiment by Lumon instead of her being the control portion of the experiment when she's observing Helly. Perhaps that is what Lumon really does is data mine emotion and gives the data to the macrodata department for refinement? 

 The reoccurrence of Irving's black ooze dreams could be some sort of metaphorical key that the line between him and his Outie part are not as separated as they want to believe. Helly does seem to want to murder her Outie for creating this awful permanent environment for her to be trapped in. I, for one, cannot totally blame her. It is clear that the Outie Helly probably knows what she is doing, which is why she doesn't quit when she returns to consciousness. Maybe she is higher up than Cobel on the corporate ladder than we assume? I wouldn't put it past her. 

 Outie Mark then visits Devon (Jen Tullock) and Ricken (Michael Chernus) in their birthing cabin and hangs some kelp for some reason. Mark then finds out about the book Ricken left for him that Cobel stole. Ricken is a narcissist who mentions this to falsely help his baby but doesn't realize that he actually is. It is interesting to note how much thought the contents of The You You Are is giving to the Innies. 

 It seems Cobel's obsession with Petey's head chip was to have evidence of reintegration to the Board. She will not actually present this to the Board since she claims that she wants to present everything at once. I am not believing this story and think she has ulterior motivations. I think she realizes that Lumon contains an oppressed workforce that is about to demand liberation, even though the company itself presents a false layer of permission and consent. 

 At the end of this episode, we are left pondering what exactly is Lumon's grand design? What are the baby goats? Are Lumon's intentions for humanity for the greater good? Are they trying to make people happier, or just find another excuse to oppress certain regions of the mind? The answer might be both.

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