The Many Philosophies Of ‘Severance’

by Frank Martin

The strongest stories are ones that have a firm foundational theme. That’s not to say that every story has to have a good theme. Sometimes comedies or romances can serve their purpose by just being what they are, but stories that really mean something will need a theme to root that idea in. And themes are often found through philosophy. They ask big questions about life and the universe and then try to communicate those ideas through a story. What becomes especially difficult is not just when stories tackle one big idea but multiple. They pull things from different levels of the philosophical spectrum, throw them in a blender, and come up with a tale that neatly touches upon all those areas. AppleTV+’s recent series, Severance, does just that.

The program poses the basic question, “what if we could separate our memories from our work life with our personal life?” It’s a very simple idea with drastic ramifications and consequences. In actual practice, the idea isn’t simple at all. You would effectively be creating an entire new identity within yourself. A person that is essentially trapped at their job and whose only existence knows work and nothing else. The series also ponders what kind of person would do something like this and why. It explores the legality of this issue and how it would be received socially.

Because the show tries to address all of these aspects of that one question it dabbles in many different philosophies. There is political philosophy, legal philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, and the question of what it means to be human. Rather than try to use that question to build some other kind of thrilling plot, the series builds the plot around the question itself and tries to fully imagine a society where this science fiction technology is a reality. Because the show is so deep (and quirky) it might not be for everyone, but for those who like addressing big questions that make them think, then Severance is definitely something to watch.

The first season of Severance is now streaming on AppleTV+

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