SPOLER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “The We We Are,” the April 8 Season 1 finale episode of “Severance.”
The Apple TV Plus drama “Severance” ended its first season with a truly big finale payoff for those who’ve patiently awaited answers to the workplace’s thriller many mysteries.
Helly R’s (Britt Lower) Outie is actually Lumon CEO Jame Eagan’s newly severed daughter, Helena Eagan, and she’s just revealed to a party full of Lumon shareholders the company is torturing its severed employees — despite Ms. Cobel’s (Patricia Arquette) desperate attempt to stop her.
Mark Scout’s (Adam Scott) Innie has discovered Outie Mark has a supposedly deceased wife named Gemma (Dichen Lachman) — who is really the very much alive Miss Casey — and shouted the news to a roomful of people at Devon (Jen Tullock) and Ricken’s (Michael Chernus) book party.
Outie Irving has put a lot of time and effort into researching Lumon employees for some unknown reason, and leads Innie Irving to the home of his romantic interest, now-retired severed Lumon employee Burt (Christopher Walken), who has a partner in his Outie life.
And Dylan’s (Zach Cherry) valiant hour-long attempt to hold the switches keeping the mental gate open for his coworkers’ Innies so they can find help on the outside has been cut off by Milchick (Tramell Tillman) tackling him to the ground in the control room.
Variety spoke with “Severance” series creator Dan Erickson, director and executive producer Ben Stiller, and stars Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette and Tramell Tillman about all of this and more — including where the show is headed in its recently picked up Season 2.
(By the way, Erickson says he has planned a 10-episode second season to follow this nine-episode freshman run, meaning you’ll have at least one additional episode of Lumon fun next time around.)
Now that we know Helly R. is actually Helena Eagan, what’s the significance of the fake “R” last initial?
Yeah, Lumon gave her a totally fictional last initial to throw her off the scent.
Helena has a conversation with her father Jame that hints at the idea she has severed herself for a larger reason than just good PR for Lumon using the severance procedure on its employees. What’s going on there?
The purpose of what she’s doing is to sort of show that severance is good enough for an Eagan. This isn’t something that we would just do to the unwashed masses. This is something that the CEO’s daughter is willing to do and is excited to do, because it’s a total benefit to her life. That’s the message they’re trying to get across. That’s the primary thing. But the more we get into the Eagans, there’s so many weird cult-like dynamics. And it becomes sort of about Helena having to prove her loyalty and prove her worth and prove her commitment to her ancestor’s vision. So on a practical level, it’s basically a big PR move, but it is also Jame testing his daughter in a weird, manipulative way.
Innie Mark has pieced together that Gemma is actually Miss Casey and is still alive, but he knows she has been fired from Lumon and sent down to wherever that elevator takes her. What can you say about why Mark and Gemma are involved in this situation to begin with, as it’s clear Lumon faked her death and that ultimately worked out in a way that prompted Mark, not knowing any of this, to join Lumon. But it’s unclear why Lumon wants them?
Yeah, I just worry that Ben Stiller is going to leap out and kill me if I say anything. There’s a question of sort of who was targeted first: Was Mark targeted because of his relationship to Gemma, or was it the other way around? And that’s something that we we don’t see this season, but we will see in subsequent seasons. That’s the big question, what is special about Mark? And is it actually that there’s something special about him or is it more about Gemma, and he was sort of pulled in? Those are all left unanswered this season, but we will get into it.
It’s confusing why a company like Lumon would be that interested in a history professor and his Russian literature professor wife to fake her death.
Maybe they just really like “Uncle Vanya.”
What’s Irving up to with all that Lumon research on the outside?
That is the big surprise for Irving in the finale, that his Outie is there for a reason, he’s doing something maybe a bit more subversive than what we would expect from Irving. And that he may be actually working against the company or trying to garner information. That was the fun surprise. We don’t fully explain what it’s about, but the most pro-Lumon company man on the inside may actually have ulterior motives on the outside. And that’s where it comes in with the hallway paintings and his trove of Lumon files that he seems to have collected. So we’re wondering at the same time that Irving is, “What the hell is going on? What is my Outie up to?”
Patricia Arquette and Tramell Tillman
What is Cobel’s state of mind after being fired from Lumon for her secret dealings related to her reintegration theory?
Patricia Arquette: She doesn’t have anything but this company. And I think she thinks she’s been a very loyal employee, even though she’s broken these rules. In her mind, she really did it to help the company, because they were making mistakes and it was going to end up being problematic for them. So I think she is angry and petulant and wants to punish them and is hurt and all of these things. Forget being severed, it’s like if someone said, “I’m taking your whole life away now. Everything that ever mattered in every area.” So she’s in a complete panic.
Why does she decide to go to the Lumon party and try to stop Helly from speaking out, after having been abandoned by Lumon?
Arquette: Well, I think part of it is, “I was right. I was right and you were wrong and you weren’t listening to me and I was doing this to protect this company and you punish me. But I should actually get promoted.” So I think part of that is also trying to get back in their good graces and make them understand, I’m not just a crazy person over here, I’m right.
Milchick offers Dylan both coffee cozies and paintball as secret Lumon perks in order to try to get him to open the control room door and stop holding the switch keeping the Innies awake on the outside. Are coffee cozies and paintball in fact Lumon perks we have not yet seen?
Tramell Tillman: Listen, these are high stakes, OK? He is willing to bet the house for this. So he’s going to give all the coffee cozies and paintball that he wants, just so that he could get in there.
Ben Stiller and Adam Scott
Does the finale happen in real-time? Because that’s a long time for Dylan to be stretching out both hands as far as they can go to keep two switches in position to make the Innie operation work.
Ben Stiller: In my mind, it’s sort of like a real-time episode. In the beginning, it’s a little homage to “24,” one of my favorite shows. It’s that idea that it’s happening over the course of an hour or so. It’s only a 40 minute episode, but that was the hope. And yeah, it’s a long time for him to be stretched out.
What is Innie Mark’s reaction to the outside world, and why does it take him awhile to just tell someone what is going on, given that all the Innies discussed they had to do it as quickly as possible because it was unknown how long Dylan could hold it all open?
Adam Scott: It’s a matter of taking stock of everything that’s going on, trying to orient who you are, who people are — while not exposing how freaked out you are. So part of it was trying to keep a lid on how excited-slash-freaked-out Mark was, because it could all end at any moment. And the first thing he sees when he comes to in the outside world is Cobel. But she looks different and he can’t quite put his finger on it and doesn’t really have time to. But it is a disconcerting sort of start to that journey. And yes, the rest of it is trying to quickly figure out who’s who and who I can trust. And then also running into Ricken, the person who I hold in the highest esteem of anyone. That’s a big distraction that sort of slows the whole thing down.
What about when he calls Ms. Cobel, who Outie Mark thinks is Ms. Selvig, Ms. Cobel?
Scott: Oh boy. Not a great move.
What does the future look like for Innie Mark and Helly R. and Outie Mark and Gemma in Season 2, given the real that Outie Helly R is Helena and that Gemma is still alive, and actually Ms. Casey?
Scott: It’s a confusing cocktail of feelings, because Mark is having these feelings for Helly, having never had feelings for a person before, and certainly didn’t even consider it for the first while they were together. First of all, it’s frowned upon down there, but also, it just didn’t occur to him. It’s not something that’s discussed — it’s just pure instinct how they end up coming together a bit. And so he has these feelings, and he does not really have those kinds of feelings for Miss Casey. So finding out that that is actually his wife is hugely confusing, and who knows where that will lead us.
Stiller: There is this growing connection between Mark and Helly happening during the season, and then on the outside, Mark is trying to get over his wife’s death — and then we’re going to find out that his wife is still alive. To put him in this position where the Innie Mark, we’re starting to root for him and Helly, but now we also want to root for Outie Mark to find his wife. That’s an interesting juxtaposition and conflict we’ll explore in the second season.
Scott: As far as Outie Mark goes, in that final episode, he is getting to a point where things have boiled over, as far as his self-destructiveness and his holding back moving on from Gemma, his wife who died. And when he arrives at that party, he is finally ready to move on from severance and from Lumon and also ready to move on from Gemma and heal a bit. I think he’s made some decisions in his life. And so this is all happening at an interesting time for Outie Mark, as well.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.