Apple TV+s sci-fi hit starring Adam Scott, Zach Cherry, Britt Lower, Patricia Arquette, and John Turturro is a wild one. The trippy first season recently ended, and fans are already begging for more. Stylish and bizarre, Jeremy Hindle’s gorgeous production design acts as the backbone and backdrop for the countless twisting plot beats.
Severance is set in an adjacent reality from ours, where a new procedure compartmentalizes our work and personal selves from each other. While at Lumon Industries, your work persona has no idea what your private self is up to and vice versa. Essentially you become two separate people with no knowledge of the other’s life. It’s touted as a way to make workers more productive, having avoided the pitfalls of emotions and daily stressors.
When all of that doesn’t work out precisely as Lumon wants, workers are sent to Wellness checks and Break Rooms to be retooled or punished into submission. The world of the outies or the outside of work half takes place primarily in Kier, a fictional town founded by the Lumon Industries leader Kier Eagan. It is disjointed, cold, and grey. The innies or inside work personas complete their mind-numbing and ridiculous tasks in a concrete fortress adorned with endless white walls, marble statues, green carpet, and strange paintings.
It’s a very specific aesthetic, and Production Designer Jeremy Hindle along with Director Ben Stiller, curated a space unlike anything ever seen. The brilliant look of the set pieces is a secondary character all of its own that informs both the plot and the emotionality of the series. I got a chance to ask Mr. Hindle about that incredible set and what secrets it might hold for Lumon, Kier, and Severance Season 2.
When Hindle first began envisioning the Lumon’s headquarters, he thought of Finnish architect Eero Saarinen’s John Deere World Headquarters, located in Illinois. Later, they pivoted to another Saarinen building, the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in New Jersey, for logistical reasons. It perfectly captured the proportional and starkness of the Lumon attitude. There is beauty in severity, and the simplicity and size of the structure lent itself well to the cavernous inside spaces.
Macrodata Refinement is where most of the action takes place. It is where our core group works and begins to question everything about their employer and their lives. The room is very minimalistic, with only four cubicles pushed together, leaving the massive room defined mainly by negative space. Hindle needed that room to reflect the vision Lumon wanted to present, which was uncluttered professionalism. That is why that exact soothing shade of green was selected for the carpet. It represents “grass and is soothing.”
Additionally, Hindle said that everything we see in MDR was manufactured at Lumon. Nothing could be purchased on Amazon. It was all wholly encapsulated to protect Lumon’s secrets. That’s why everything has that creepy, claustrophobic feeling. Labels and stickers are slapped on products designed and fabricated at Lumon. Everything from the food in the vending machines to the computers on their desk is meticulously chosen. Hindle said, “the computers were built from scratch for this show.” Workers are intended to have zero contact with the outside world, even peripherally, although the many severance modes indicate there is much more to Lumon’s universal plan.
Hindle stressed it was essential that despite the starkness of MDR, it had to be “interesting because we are there for three hours of the show.” He was most excited about the dance party and how that completely changed the MDR space. It was completely transformed with just a few colored lights and a flip of a switch. It was also a way to demonstrate that Mark and the others are “lab rats.” They are being “observed and experimented on” constantly, and even rewards are tests. That reveal means what most fans have suspected. Lumon has a plan, and worker bees segregating numbers isn’t it.
He explained the workers are like “children born in a womb.” MDR needed to be a mostly empty space for them to play. Hindle further hints that there was a reason we first meet Helly lying on a conference table. He said, “it is the birthplace of the office, and Helly was just born at Lumen. In a very real sense, considering the finale twist, Helly didn’t exist before severance. Helena Eagan chose to undergo the procedure, and she appears nothing like her innie’s personality, although looks can be deceiving.
The Perpetuity Wing, which our group ventures to in Severance Episode 3, was a museum in the Bronx that Hindle said he and Stiller saw and immediately knew “could be underground.” The “brutalist building attached to a pristine house” provided incredible scale that jars the eye and keeps the viewer unsettled. Our mind knows there are massive unseen spaces even as we feel the walls closing in on us. Hindle also hinted that the underground space below the city “goes on for miles.” This nugget he dropped when asking where the series could go in Season 2. There are miles and miles that have been imagined just waiting to be revealed. Sadly he wouldn’t commit to what spaces or when we would see them though.
In any case, there is a lot left to explore, and it has already been imagined. Like most things Severance, there is more than meets the eye in this strange world. Apple TV + has picked up the series for a second season, and while we don’t know when we can expect to get answers for that thrilling season finale, we know we will get a full ten-episode run, and we will dive deeper into Lumon and their true intentions. Find all our Severance coverage here.
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.