Work is Hell for the severed workers in the MDR division of Lumon in Severance Episode 4. Despite contraband for days and unexpected field trips, the monotony is killing them.
Another day another dollar, and the rich keep getting richer off the backs of workers in Severance Episode 4. Helly is stuck in a never-ending loop of apologies and admonishments. Finally, after nearly two days of torture in the Break Room, she is contrite enough to be let out. It took her 1072 tries, though. That took its toll on both her and curiously Milcheck, who looked just as exhausted as she does. Helly can’t control her inquisitive mind and her rebellious streak, though. Milcheck better book another trip to the BreaK Room because two savage encounters prove Helly is far from broken.
After Helly rebukes Mark for not caring more about Petey and his map, she stages a mini coup by marching into Mrs. Cobel’s office with a paper cutter and a lot of sass. She threatens to cut her fingers off if they don’t let her make a video recording for her outie. In it, she pleads with her outie to accept her resignation. The ploy is successful, but the response is swift and unexpectedly brutal. Helly’s innie tells her outie she has no agency and isn’t a person. Helly’s innie is driving the bus and has no intention of ever accepting her resignation. Further, she threatens her innie that if she tries to harm herself, the outie will make sure she lives long enough to regret it.
The second event in Severance Episode 4 that has the potential to ripple well past this episode is Helly’s attempted suicide. She hung herself in the elevator on the way down, ensuring that her outie woke up just as she was dying. It’s a massive middle finger to her innie and a declaration that she will not go quietly. Assuming her outie saves herself or the elevator opens in time for the guard to cut her down, Helly will undoubtedly be headed back to the Break Room.
Mark is fairing better than Helly, but he finds it harder and harder to push down his concern for Petey. He studies the map in the restroom stall and hides the map away in his desk. At home, he hasn’t thrown away Pete’s phone. He hasn’t answered it yet and has hidden it away in a box marked camping, but he hasn’t gotten rid of it. It is only a matter of time before curiosity gets the better of him.
He’s trying hard to compartmentalize his feelings for Helly and Petey with his loyalty to the company in Severance Episode 4. He counsels Helly that the Break Room sucks, but the protocols are in place to avoid having to go there. It’s a true statement but an odd one. It’s similar to Mrs. Cobel throwing her mug at Mark in the previous episode. She says it hurts her more than him and was necessary. Mark’s view of the company policies is in line with this thinking. Torture is okay when you screw up, so don’t screw up. But, of course, no one ever questions that torture isn’t okay, to begin with.
Mark shreds the map after everyone sees it, but from the intense way he has been staring at it, I wonder if he has a majority of it memorized. The group is intrigued by the map despite it violating the Egan policy against miniature replication. This doublespeak policy seems designed more to keep others from sharing too much information than anything else.
That’s not the only contraband to fall from the sky in Severance Episode 4, either. Richen’s book The You You Are is found by Irv, where Milcheck left it. Dylan and Mark both pour over it in secret. For some reason, this book that is ridiculous on the outside is tailor-made for them inside. Richen’s words ring very accurately. Work needs you, not the other way around.
Mark knows Petey on the outside now, and after hearing about his death on the Lumon sponsored news, he goes to the funeral where he sees Mrs. Selvig, who is surprised to see him. He says he was compelled to come because he saw the news report and thought he might have worked with him on the inside. It’s a plausible excuse, but I doubt she is buying it. She has her own agenda, though, that requires a little lite head screwing while everyone is busy watching a video of Pete singing Metallica’s Enter Sandman with his daughter. Selvig/Cobel needs to retrieve Pete’s chip before he is cremated. Considering everyone knew he was severed, I wonder why the chip is so important?
After the funeral, Mark heads home, but before going inside, he changes course and goes to the bend in the road where his wife died. In a devastating scene, Mark cries for his wife next to an unusual tree that makes an appearance in the Wellness Room when Ms. Casey has him mold whatever comes to mind. Clearly, Pete was right when he said the feelings don’t disappear. Instead, they are repressed on the inside. The funeral stirred up feelings Mark is having trouble hiding in any case. His guilt over Petey’s death and the cold disapproving demeanor of Pete’s wife and daughter is hard for Mark to deal with. Mark is struggling to keep his two lives separate.
In the sweetest and most unexpected love story this spring, Burt and Irv have a darling play date in the halls of Lumon. Burt used the totes as an excuse to visit Irv, which is exciting for Irv but a bother for Dylan. Irv uses the map Burt gave him to visit him in O and D, but the others stay behind because Dylan is concerned about the disembowelment of his bowels(Dylan has some of the best lines). As the two men stroll the halls looking at the art Burt cycles through monthly, they link hands, and the build-up is too much for Irv, who runs off in a panic. Are the two men involved on the outside, and their repressed memories are leaking into their work life, or is Burt using Irv’s love?
Unfortunately, with the final reveal in Severance Episode 4 of a large, bustling O and D department, it appears Burt can’t be trusted. What they really do in O and D, we don’t know, but it has little to do with art. I am curious if Irv will tell the others about what he found?
Another thrilling episode into Severance, and we are all in the dark as much as ever. Who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s got a terrible case of the Mondays we don’t know yet. However, I do know if you had told me I would be emotionally invested in a relationship between John Turturro and Christopher Walken, I wouldn’t believe you. Find all our Severance coverage here.
Corporate Culture-All the details that don’t fit anywhere else
“Be content in my words and dally not in the pursuits of other men.” In other words, pay attention to only what I say and never question it.
“Rise up from your death bed more perfect for the struggle.” Immortality much?
Is the Damona Birthing Center relevant? We lingered on that pamphlet for a minute.
Dylan tells Helly how to trick the Break Room into thinking you are sincere. I wonder what other secrets he knows and what special skills he has hidden until now. Perhaps he isn’t the “happy to be at work guy” we thought he was.
Pete isn’t the only one making maps. Surely Burt knows about the miniature rule. Was the map and visit a fact-finding mission, or can Burt not help himself because he loves Irv? Why do the maps look so similar? Did Burt draw the start to the map that Petey continued?
What is the Coil Of Doom? Does this refer to the Mortal Coil or a master computer of some sort?
Pete’s daughter June was at the funeral, so when he told Mark he lost her some time ago, he either didn’t realize she was still alive, or he meant metaphorically lost her. Several of the severed workers chose to be severed because of trauma. Mark’s wife and Dylan’s child are two examples. If June wasn’t dead, why did Pete join? Was it the pain of his divorce?
June and Helly are not the same people, but she looked surprised when Mark called her June. Is she surprised someone who shouldn’t know her did, or is there another reason?
So Burt thinks his outie sleep 15 hours a day? So what is Irv’s outie doing?
Kier speaks through paintings and the handbook but also in other ways. Are all of these things more than just weird propaganda? Could they be subliminal messages similar to They Live?
Hell was specifically mentioned twice in Severance Episode 4.
The Employee Handbook-The Crazy Theorycast
Helly’s innie is significantly different than her outie, which is weird. Mark is not a completely different person. His outie is depressed and a barely functional alcoholic, but he is kind and compassionate, while his innie appears to be a similar version of this same personality. His grief is shoved down deep, so his depression doesn’t manifest during working hours, but Pete is right. It is still there. It’s just not registering. Mark’s Wellness visit to Ms. Casey proves he has the same emotions and memories. They are just quarantined from his work self. Why is Helly such a different person?
Many have posited Helly is an Egan or some other much higher-level manager who has joined MDR to spy on the inner workings of the proletariate. That is a possibility and would explain why she is so cruel to her innie, but it doesn’t explain why her innie is so curious and independent. It also would be surprising for an Egan to willingly tamper with their brains. So it’s more plausible she is upper-level management who is high enough to be a valuable spy but low enough to be unable or unwilling to refuse the assignment. I’ve been wrong before though.
Another option feeds into the chip theory. Helly’s outie is an implanted personality. She may have once been Helly, but now she is an Egan on the outside. On the inside, she continues to be her original self. In this theory, the chip is Phase One in a more extensive process and experiment. All people are severed, and then later, once their two personalities have entirely split, the outside one is overwritten with an Egan or some other influential person. This theory is similar to an Altered Carbon idea. A variation on this theory is Lumon is creating AI, and all good Artificial Intelligence begins with Intelligence. The severed workers are helping the chip and the AI embedded there to learn. If one dies, a new worker can take its place for eight hours a day.
A final possibility, and quite frankly the one I like the most, is Helly is a double agent working for the resistance and has infiltrated Lumon after years of work to gain access to the Severed floors. She is acting cold to her innie because she has to to maintain her cover. Helly thinks this harsh version of herself is more believable to Lumon, so she keeps up the act. This would also explain why her two sides are diametrically different.
I’m not sure what everyone is hearing in the Break Room, but Dylan hears a baby crying, and Helly hears an older man mumbling. Are these the voices of memories that are the most painful for them? Dylan lost his child and Helly, her father. Is that what the two different voices are. Would that mean Mark would hear his wife’s voice? With the way Burt and Irv look at each other, I wonder if Irv would hear some version of Burt’s voice?
Speaking of Burt and Irv…Is it possible these two worked in the same division years ago and were separated because of their love affair? They could be romantically linked on the outside as well, but there is such a desperate love lost quality about the two of them. It feels more like they are separated permanently against their will.
Petey’s chip had to be retrieved because it is some version of him. Mrs. Cobel and Milcheck both remark that the code from the chip is Pete, not that it was Pete’s. Perhaps Lumon’s board doesn’t think reintegration is possible because they don’t see the chip as failing in any way. The chip might be a computer chip that provides additional storage space and keeps the work memories suppressed when on the outside. Think of it as a wet flash drive that accesses only the necessary part of the mainframe(brain) to boot and provide basic functions. All data created on the inside would be stored here, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the brain.
Pete’s map includes a note which says, “We’re here cause we’re not all here.” This sounds a lot like he is intimating they all have some form of mental illness or at least anguish. It could also hint that they are only a portion of their original selves. Over time and through refining, they have removed pieces of themselves that are deemed undesirable.
Sleep plays a massive role in the title sequence, and it is a major no-no for the innies. Is it possible that when they sleep, they integrate, and without the appropriate triggers in place, they run the risk of reintegration? Metallica’s Enter Sandman is an interesting choice for the funeral. I understand that it was a treasured shared experience. Still, details matter, and in a series that is so heavily focused on sleeping without showing anyone doing it very much, I think it is a clue to what happens to the severed when they sleep.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.