If we learned one thing from the Severance finale, it’s that the series really wants us in for the long run.
The ninth and final episode of Severance’s first season revealed a plethora of information about the outside world, not only to the audience but to Mark, Helly, and Irv’s innies as well. As Dylan barely holds on to the override switches that keep the innies in the outside world, Severance finally gives us the big reveals we’ve been waiting for all season.
While we had already seen a small bit of Irv’s life—his paintings of the hallway Ms. Casey disappeared down—we were finally given a bit of context for it. Alongside the dozens of paintings in his basement, Irv’s outie had hidden information about Lumon’s severed employees, including the address of Burt G., who he quickly sets off to find despite the fact that he should have no idea how to travel from point A to point B. Despite not really knowing how to drive, Irv manages to figure out his outie’s car and make it all the way to Burt’s house, where he sees that he’s happily married to another man. Unfortunately for Irv, by the time he finally gets up the courage to go knock on Burt’s door, he is snapped back to being his outie. It is also through him that we are finally aware of an even broader scope of Lumon’s influence, as the town where the entire story takes place is named after Keir Eagan, the company’s founder.
In regards to Helly, the hints of her outie being at least somewhat shady finally came to fruition with it being revealed that her outie’s real name is Helena Eagan. The daughter of Lumon’s current CEO Jame Eagan, Helena went under the severance procedure to document life as a severed worker and use her experience to advocate for pro-severance legislation. In finally seeing an outside view of the Lumon, it’s clear that the company’s cult-like teachings are not just for the workers on the severed floor to keep them compliant. Helly watches as her outie speaks about how she had to recite the same nine principles that are the foundation of Lumon’s corporate culture every night before bed as a child. When Helly speaks to Jame, it is clear that he has long been indoctrinated into the cult of his own family’s design. He tells Helly that everyone in the world will “all be Keir’s children” because of Helena’s decision to sever herself, which is a welcome expansion to the exploration of the real world consequences of being a severed worker. Before she’s cut off from the outside world, Helly takes the stage as Helena and reveals herself as her innie in an attempt to take Lumon down once and for all. Before Natalie (Ms. Cobel’s secractary) tackles her to the ground, Helly tells everyone in the room that the severed employees are tortured at Lumon. Regardless of Natalie taking her down, Helly would have been stopped by the timing of Dylan being forced to let go of the switches in the security office.
At the end of the day, the innie’s and their short-lived journey off the severed floor was cut off by Outie-Mark’s slip ups, though it’s not really his fault that Cobel decided to obsess over him and deeply embed herself into both sides of his life. When Innie-Mark slips up and refers to her as “Ms. Cobel” instead of “Mrs. Selvig,” she immediately knows what’s happening and rushes back to Lumon, despite her recent firing. (Though we’ve seen again and again that Cobel is one of Keir’s fiercest devotees outside of the Eagan family, there is still no true explanation for why she is so deeply invested in the company.) Regardless, Cobel manages to contact Milchick and send him after Dylan, which leads to the end of the MDR outing into the real world. Cobel’s revelation also dominoes to Innie-Mark’s finding out that Ms. Casey is Outie-Mark’s presumed-dead wife. Much like Irv and Helly, Innie-Mark is able to make a huge move with this information right before Milchick stops Dylan, and as the episode closes, all three of them are presumably launched back to their outie personas with no knowledge of what happened.
To put it simply, Severence is lucky that it was renewed for a second season the day before the season finale aired. As intriguing as the entire season was, and as much as I will be eagerly awaiting the second season, it was almost painfully obvious that Severance was written to be more than one season long. Sure, the finale felt like a finale, but every thread it sealed off gave way to two more that are already fraying at the ends. Had the show come out of Netflix, it feels like it would have gotten a two-part season instead of ending its first like this. Despite the fact that we’ve been waiting this entire time to find out more about Lumon and what it does, there are so many things that happen in this finale that it doesn’t ultimately give any true closure. For a show with a nine episode season, we could have done with at least one more episode that showed us the consequences of Dylan temporarily freeing his co-workers.
Even so, Severance is a show that wants you to wonder what everything means. We’re left to ponder a laundry list of questions; What is it like on the research floor where Ms. Casey was sent? Will Devon understand what Innie-Mark screaming “she’s alive” means? Will we get to see the perspectives of the other outies now that we’ve finally been introduced to them? How far does Lumon’s influence truly reach? What the hell are the goats for? While there wasn’t a lot explored in the outside world this season, the passive worldbuilding inside the severed floor was incredibly rich, and that shows a lot of potential for how that can be expanded in coming episodes.
Overall, Severance was a really interesting mystery to watch unravel even if the finale came off as too much of a cliffhanger. As annoying as it might be to have so many things thrown out without answers coming anytime soon, said answers are likely to be interesting enough to be worth the wait. Nevertheless, if Severance Season 2 is going to live up to the expectations of the first, it’s going to need to pick up the pace and raise the stakes even more.
Kathryn Porter is the TV Intern for Paste Magazine. You can find her @kaechops on Twitter
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