Let me tell you: I would be high-key pissed if I severed myself, the irreversible process on AppleTV+'s Severance wherein employees of the Lumon Corporation can split their consciousness, resulting in a self that is only aware at work (known as an Innie) and a self that is free to live their life with no awareness of what happens at work (an Outie). If I was the Innie Me, aware that there was a version of me out there going to state fairs and Katy Perry concerts and pilates classes and all I had was constant work and the vaguely sinister bonhomie of office chitchat, I would be mad as hell. That's basically the top character note for Helly (Britt Lower), a new Innie who goes to extreme lengths trying to quit Lumon only to be rebuffed by her Outie self on video. Outie Helly says the Innie isn't even a person! When I heard that I screamed at my TV like I was Tyra Banks giving constructive feedback to Tiffany. Not a person! This show is wild and if Outie Me ever fixed his lips to speak to me the way that Outie Helly talks to Innie Helly, I would have no choice but to dedicate my life to wrath and revenge. I'd microwave salmon in the employee lunch room. That's how serious.
This is essentially the path that Innie Helly takes, one that her other Innie coworkers Mark (Adam Scott), Irving (John Turturro), and Dylan (Zach Cherry) are initially put off by then later drawn into. The tiny dramas of office life take on existential depths as the Innies grapple with perpetual servitude and the nature of the self. And you thought your office had it rough because the one person with a Girls Scout cookie connection transferred to another branch. Perspective!
Watching the phenomenal very black comedy from creator Dan Erickson and director Ben Stiller, I quickly decided that I would never sever myself. But I became preoccupied with the question of whether I'd want to be work friends with these coworkers, human or not. The office is a purgatory on Severance and the jury is still out on whether the workers therein are trapped souls or devils. Beyond the bland corporate niceties and the sudden reveals of personality, the world of Lumon is pathologically creepy. So you see why the question of work friends in this world vexed me. If there's anything that puts a damper on making adult buddies it's ick factor and overhead fluorescent lighting and this show has both in spades.
So, in order to sort out my allegiances in the Severence-verse, I put together a definitive ranking of every character I could think of based on how much I'd want to be their friend, from worstie to bestie. Feel free to use the comments section to tell me how right I am.
Okay, real talk, Helena can go to hell. I would never be her friend, even if she begged and promised to pay for an all-expenses vacation for us. Never! Never!
The people that Outie Mark's sister and brother-in-law hang out with are the most hilariously vapid, self-absorbed monsters on television. Lock me in an office to get away from them, please.
Atrocious vibes. I am sorry, I cannot. I will not. I refuse.
I just don't see how we could maintain a friendship when she's always on a conference call in her earpiece.
True, this isn't really a character but rather a fake name and demeanor put on by Harmony Cobel, but I needed to make special mention of her because Mrs. Selvig is that kind of neighbor who is so kooky and abrasive that I would actually rather be friends with the real Mrs. Cobel, who went to the Russell Crowe school of phone-throwing, than hang out with Mrs. Selvig. Fair? Perhaps not. Correct? Yes.
Patricia Arquette is sinister, weird, obsessive, and perfect in this role. As a result, I would cross the street if I ever saw her coming.
I have so much sympathy for Ms. Casey and I can't wait to see how her character grows now that we know that she's actually Gemma, Mark's supposedly deceased wife. But I don't think Ms. Casey and I would have much to talk about and I'd always be afraid she was taking me to the sunken place in those little sessions.
He is sexy as all get out but he is evil. This is a very hard choice for me. Please respect my privacy at this time.
I know, I know: Burt is too low on this list. Look, Burt is a delight. I love Burt. I am really rooting for Irving and Burt to work out somehow. I love late-in-life queer romance with all my heart. But I, like my boy Dylan, still hold some small latent distrust of Burt's department, Optics & Design.
Atrocious taste in friends but possibly hilarious to be around. Would I go to his book-reading? Absolutely; the stories I'd get from the experience would fuel me for years. Plus, I bet the food spread is amazing.
Outie Mark's sister a real one--funny, empathetic, smart. I literally do not understand why she is in the marriage she's in but whatever. That's her issue.
Devon's doula goes on two bad dates with Outie Mark, including one to an insane punk show that had me shouting "Molly, you in danger, girl!" at the TV screen. I'm not really here for her taste in men, but I guess the pickings are slim in the town of Kier. Anyway, every doula I've ever met has been amazing, so she's high on my list.
Okay, so Outie Mark is going through a tough time in his life, which I don't hold against him and Innie Mark is... a little annoying in a Truman Show kind of way. I think he'd make a great work friend, but I'm not seeing any brunches in our future.
Dylan is fun because he's hard to get a bead on. Is the the office jerk or a hopeful sweetheart who has built his life around small prizes? Or is he a hero with incredible flexibility? Or is he all of the above?!
Actual Helly is a badass and I hope she personally drives Helena to hell.
I love everything about Irving! His natty style of dress, his accent that seems to have come straight from a Katharine Hepburn movie in 1945, his Outie life as a frenetic painter, his dog, his romance with Burt, his weird catchphrases. Love it all! Would die for Irving.
Obsessed! Obsessed! Obsessed with her little bird-like movements, obsessed with the fact that every time we see her she's carrying something strange, obsessed with how she's clearly not down for making friends at work. BE MY FRIEND FELICIA, I PROMISE TO LEAVE YOU ALONE!
Cover image: AppleTV+
Editorial assistant: Sean Simon