Severance — an allegory of corporate culture

Michael Abberton
5 min readApr 17, 2022

Spoiler-free zone — The SF thriller hit from Apple TV+ that should be a must-watch for anyone with an office job.

Severance (Apple TV+) From L-R — Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, John Turturro and Britt Lower

Severance (Apple TV+, 2022) is a science fiction thriller series that should be a must watch for every corporate employee. Brought to life by excellent design, writing, performance and direction, this nail-biting thriller exposes the hypocrisy and truth behind the facade of the HR and wellbeing buzzwords of the offices only COVID has helped most people escape. Similar to the way Squid Game (Netflix, 2021) exposed the excesses of social inequality, this show holds the world of HR up to the light. It stands as an indictment of 21st century business culture and depicts a world without trade unions — where people sell themselves into wage slavery.

Severance in the show is a surgical procedure that ‘severs’ work from home life, permanently. The Outside person or ‘outie’ commutes to work every day, changes into anonymous work clothes and steps into an elevator. Eight hours later, they come to consciousness in the elevator on the way up, where they change again, and comute home, having no recollection of what they did or who they met whilst at work. They have no idea even what job they are doing. Nor do they care. Severance is sold to them as being the ultimate in work/life balance, as they are able, as far as they are aware, to live without working.

The Inside person, or ‘innie’ comes to consciousness in the elevator on the way down. They have no idea who they are outside the office, no recollection of family, school, college, friends or hobbies. They may develop work relationships with colleagues but their work friends at the water cooler or drinking corporate branded coffee also have no idea — indeed no existence — outside the office. This is brought into stark reality when one leaves or is transferred — as they simply cease to exist, as if they died. Illness similarly is not remembered, so if an innie takes sick leave, they simply arrive as they do every day with no knowledge that they have been absent for that time.

The job they do appears to be utterly meaningless, sorting numbers on a computer screen with no rationale, but the process oddly provides feelings of fear or pleasure. Productivity is rewarded with corporate gifts or strictly- controlled themed…

Michael Abberton

Tomahawk thrower, writer, trade unionist, Japanese speaker and all around good guy.