"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Severance 1.3: The History and the Neighbor

It's hard to watch and review a profoundly dystopian science fiction series when a profoundly dystopian reality -- the horrendous, Nazi-like invasion of Ukraine by Russia -- is going on and available to see on a myriad of television screens.   I'll be interviewing the Polish holocaust poet Grzegorz Kwiatowski about this on Monday (I'll be posting links to the video and audio recordings to that interview here), but for now, I wanted to take an hour to keep up with and review episode 1.3 of Severance on Apple TV+.

Severance is indeed a starkly powerful story about a uniquely totalitarian society.   [Spoilers ahead ... ]

We saw some of the history of Lumon in this vivid episode.  Apparently the corporation goes back to the middle of the 19th century.  What's not clear is exactly when the severance process was introduced.  This means, however, that Severance is not just a near-futuristic science fiction narrative.  It's also a secret, steampunk history -- that is, a history that occurred in our reality without our knowledge -- and/or perhaps an alternate history as well.  And, if you think about it, it's not even clear that what we're seeing is taking place in the future.  If not, we're watching an alternate reality.

Moving on from the classification, there were lots of important ingredients in this episode.   I think my favorite is Harmony, well played by Patricia Arquette.  She's Mark's next door neighbor, as well as a high-level supervisor at Lumon (but not the highest -- she's called on the board by the board of directors, whoever they are).  It seems that unlike Mark et al, Harmony is is not severed -- at very least, she has continuity between inside and outside, though this is not completely clear, either.  But what does it mean that she's Mark's neighbor on the outside?  That Mark has some sort of special role in this story that we haven't yet seen?

On the inside, Dylan, Helly, and Irving all had important roles in this episode.  Dylan gets off one of the best lines, remarking that the museum reconstruction of the founder's home smells like "19th century ass".  Helly's heroic but foiled attempt to escape was instructive.  And the sheer demeanor of Irving is chilling.

See you back here next week with my review of the next episode of this unique narrative.

See also Severance 1.1-1.2:  Erving Goffman Meets The Prisoner

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