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Apple TV+’s Severance Episode 1 And 2 Recap-Have The Backrooms Come To Life?

Severance is the horror of The Backrooms realized as a megacorporporation in the USA. Everything comes at a price.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

If you are a frequent visitor of weird places, you’ve heard of The Backrooms. Strangely ominous yellowed carpets and seemingly endless hallways are the hallmarks of the mysterious Backrooms. They can be anything and anywhere. Those same terrifying spaces have been repurposed into Apple TV+s newest mindwarper Severance. What began as a meme quickly grew beyond the boundaries of the pictures and posts it inhabited. Suddenly it has become a living entity that is endless, amorphous, prospectless, and very dangerous. It looked innocuous enough with photos of dingy, damp, and empty office spaces, and serpentine hallways until details started emerging about people becoming “noclipped” and finding themselves in The Backrooms, sometimes permanently.

There are strange and creepy characters there as well. Most should be avoided. The Backrooms represent an analogy for the modern workplace, especially for Zoomers and younger Millenials who want no part of the corporate grind. It represents everything good people are fighting against; monotony, disillusionment, greed, and loss of soul. It’s in this foreboding new landscape that Apple TV+’s Severance enters as what feels as if it could be a companion piece to the ongoing story of The Backrooms.

Written and directed by Dan Erickson, Severance tells the story of Adam Scott’s Mark, who was just promoted to Lead Macrodata Refiner at the elusive and shifty biotech company Lumon. Lumon’s headquarters are a labyrinthian, sterile behemoth of stark, endless white walls, stonework, disturbing artwork, and woefully outdated technology. To work in the lower levels on Lumon as Mark does, one must sever the personal life from the professional one.

The “innie” Mark takes over when he begins descending to the office he shares with three other refiners. Once there, he has no memory of who he is outside of work. Once he leaves work, his “outie” takes over, and he has zero recollection of his time at work. He only knows he works there every day. The procedure called Severance requires a “minor” brain implantation that quadrants off the two sides of the workers’ life.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Mark is a depressed widower with a fairly serious drinking problem on the outside. Before working at Lumon, he was a college professor. He has a sister who loves him but little else to occupy his evening and weekend hours. He lives in Lumon sanctioned homes alone. By contrast, he is happy, engaged with his coworkers, and satisfied at work. All of that changes when both sides of his personality begin questioning the company he works for and what they are doing.

The cast is stellar, with Patricia Arquette bringing her signature enigmatic creepiness to the CEO of Lumon, Mrs. Cobel who is also keeping tabs on Mark in his outside life by posing as a neighbor. Adam Scott, who always brings a relatable everyman quality to his characters, is sympathetic and vulnerable. John Turturro is a fellow refiner, Dichen Lachman(Dollhouse) is placidly unsettling as wellness provider Ms. Casey, and even Christopher Walken appears in the second episode. Ben Stiller executive produced and directed some of the episodes, which gives everything a surreal sort of absurdity as if you are living in this bizarre reality.

The halls may not be yellow, exchanging an oddly chipper green, but the feeling is the same. If Amazon Studios’s Homeland and The Backrooms had a baby, it would be Severance. In the first two episodes, we are introduced to Mark(Scott) and his three coworkers, as well as a handful of other important people at Lumon. The pilot opens with new coworker Helly, a fantastically dry Britt Lower, finding herself sorting out the details of what her “outie” has done to her. Although ominous, that isn’t the creepiest thing to happen in the first two episodes, which aired on February 18th.

The two episodes titled Good News About Hell and Half Loop set up what could be one of prestige television’s newest series. Here are all the details you need to know and some you might have missed in this intriguing mindbender.


Helly is the newest member of the macrodata refiners. Helly is replacing Petey, who left the company under mysterious circumstances. Removing the implant and leaving the company was previously considered highly irregular, if not impossible. Severance Episode 1 opens with her locked in a padded conference room. Mark’s voice from a speaker reads a series of meaningless and odd questions that serves no discernible purpose. She tried to leave and quit, but she repeatedly walked into the same hallway and stairwell. There is no escape. Helly’s “innie” thinks there was a huge mistake, and she wants out of the program, but her “outie” won’t let her leave. Her job is to quarantine off random numbers that look scary. She doesn’t see anything in the numbers until the end of Episode 2.


He has been newly promoted to Lead Microdata Refiner. Mark has elected to join Lumon because he is so heartbroken over the loss of his wife. He is a loyal Lumon worker, but he inherently feels as if something is wrong, and when Petey reaches out to him he begins down a dangerous path that could put everything at risk. His sister is pregnant and very concerned for him. She lives in town but not in the Lumon housing.


This is the company our core group works for, and they subsidize the neighborhood Mark lives as well as it appears they control parts of town like Pips. When workers join the lower levels of Lumon, they must agree to the severance procedure. Each day workers arrive at staggered start and stop times to ensure coworkers never mingle, and they change clothes and are carefully surveilled to protect the company’s secrecy.

Lumon rewards good work with ridiculous prizes like Chinese finger traps and waffle parties. The entire space is industrial and barren. There is an unsettling painting of Karl Marx smiting people, and the Break Room is actually a room that breaks people. For some reason, the macrodata refiners search through numbers and dump portions in a digital trash can. Ms. Casey, Mrs. Cobel, and Mr. Millcheck are key players in the company.


He is Mark’s former boss and a man who has left the company without warning. Petey is also Mark’s friend. When Petey reaches out to Mark in his outside world, he tells him there are things he doesn’t know about Lumon and severance. Petey secretly meets Mark and tells him that severance and Lumon aren’t what he thinks. He frequently has debilitating headaches that seem to be directly caused by phone calls or signals that someone is sending him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lumon is still trying to control him through those signals, and whatever bypass he uses to circumvent severance isn’t foolproof.

Corporate Culture- All the details that don’t fit anywhere else

  • Carol is the name of the refiner that Dylan took the place of.
  • There is a scary painting of Karl Marx on the wall. Karl Marx’s theory of class warfare posited that the class struggle between the exploited working class and the elite will always end in a communist revolution. But, more interestingly, he believed a person’s thoughts were dictated by their experiences filtered through the lens of direct sensory or shared societal experience.
  • The large stone carving on the wall is of Sigmund Freud, not the company’s founder. Freud believed in the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. Each of these three parts makes up the whole person.
  • There are several references to the number 3. One of three lightbulbs is burned out, and there are three paintings in Mrs. Cobel’s office. Two of the three are peaceful, but the third is violent and stormy. The workers live their lives, with one-third being cut off from the other two-thirds of their persona. There are also three eggs in Mr. Egan’s favorite breakfast, and Helly has to ask three times before she can leave. Weirdly, Mark’s sister asks him if 3,000 dollars would be enough to leave.
  • Irving and Helly’s fingernails at different points are dirty. Irving’s nails are filthy. What has he been doing in his outside hours, and does it relate to what is going on at Lumon? Is he homeless? Why is he so tired? Is Mark not the first person Petey has contacted in the greenhouse?
  • The computers and equipment look from the ’80s, but the outside world uses modern tech like phones.
  • Notes to yourself and others are strictly prohibited between your inner and outer self. There is supposedly a system that can detect writing anywhere on your body.
  • Pips in large workgroups are performance improvement plans.

Employee Handbook- The crazy theorycast

For obvious reasons we all know Lumon doesn’t require workers to refine macrodata. Instead, everything in the severed level of Lumon is a mind-control experiment meant to see how far you can push people before their work suffers and they snap. This is why the technology isn’t modern and why all the severed workers remove all their possessions, including modern watches and phones, before going to work. There can be no hint about what year it is and what tech is available, or the illusion would be destroyed. The food might be another source of information about the actual year. The Lumon labeled food might also be part of the experiment. The experiment could be a form of sensory deprivation. Nothing but Lumon on the inside without exception.

A secondary theory is that numbers are part of a more extensive code to their individual brains. They are eliminating the parts of their psyche Lumon wants to be removed. This would undoubtedly result in an identity crisis and significant anxiety, thus the need for wellness visits.

There is an overpopulation theory that states the refiners are culling the world herd. They are translating how many people must be eliminated in order for the world to continue. In this theory it’s possible they aren’t even seeing numbers, they just think they are. This is why they feel such dread over specific numbers and why Irving sees black goo pouring down his computer. The existential dread of the end of the world and having to choose who lives and dies is getting to him. The scene where Mark goes to dinner with a midwife is another scene that could indicate there is an overpopulation problem. Mark could either just be a very awkward conversationalist, or he could be genuinely shocked by the number of births.

The workers are probably given medications through the food and drinks to control their boredom and discontentment with work.

Wellness checks supposedly give you information about your “outie,” but they just as easily could be conditioning you to facts they want you to believe. They’re designing a worker who is unemotional and unattached to memories of their personal lives. Ms. Casey is conducting the ultimate societal mind control system.

Is it possible the person they are on the inside is not even their authentic self? Could they have been implanted with a whole different person? Is it possible it is an experiment to see if criminals and mentally ill people could be overwritten with more stable and socially acceptable personalities?