Achieving a healthy work-life balance probably has never been more challenging, with smartphones and other avenues of communication making it easier than ever for a family member to contact you during work hours or for you to get sucked into work emails at night while you’re trying to enjoy some couch time. What if you could separate work hours from personal time? Truly, truly separate them? That’s the question posed by Severance , an intriguing, high-concept mystery-drama series now streaming on Apple TV+. The brainchild of newcomer Dan Erickson, the series involves a group of people who undergo a controversial surgical operation – the titular Severance procedure – that, via an implanted microchip, splits each character’s home self from a work counterpart. The “innie” will have no recollection or understanding of his or her counterpart’s home life, and the “outie” similarly will be unaware of anything that happens at the office. “It’s been a bizarre journey ’cause for me, in writing a script about how much I hate work, I ended up getting a job I loved,” says Erickson. Severance largely focuses on Mark Scout (Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation and Big Little Lies ), who decides to undergo Severance after the unexpected death of his wife, which had left him unable to focus on his teaching job. While his sad outie sulks at home, often drinking to excess, his apparently content innie is none the wiser, even if he arrives beyond his workplace’s hi-tech barrier possibly hung over. The Tinder Swindler: dating and fraud in fascinating Netflix movie We meet “Mark S” – as he’s known at Lumon Industries – who is tasked to orient a new hire following the mysteriously sudden departure of his former supervisor and best work friend, Petey (Yul Vazquez). The new hire is Helly R (Britt Lower, Man Seeking Woman and Unforgettable ), who in the first episode awakens face down on a conference table to Mark’s voice coming through a nearby intercom. Christopher Walken ( The Deer Hunter , Pulp Fiction ) has a key supporting role as Burt G, head of Lumon’s optics and design arm. Soon, the workers – among them Irving B (John Turturro) and Dylan G (Zach Cherry) – begin to question what it is they actually are doing for Lumon. Actor-director Ben Stiller, who directs the first three and final three hour-long episodes of Severance , says Erickson has ideas for future seasons which would answer some mysteries not solved in these nine episodes while also posing new questions. “We’re just now starting to see the cracks in the Lumon world and see what might be beyond in the greater world,” he says. Severance is set in what Erickson calls “a vaguely now-ish timeline” in a fictional US city and is, fundamentally, a satire of the corporate American workplace. He may genuinely enjoy his job, but Erickson, like so many folks working from during the pandemic, isn’t free of the work/life struggle. “You’re doing your job 10 feet from where you sleep,” he says. “So for me, it’s been a challenge to teach myself to be like, ‘OK, it’s 5pm. I’m done.’” Song Ji-Ah’s fake luxury faux pas shows reality TV risk for non-celebrities “For me,” says Lower, “ Severance is about this very human desire to want to compartmentalise parts of our lives, whether that’s work or grief or a part of yourself that you’re at odds with.” Scott has a different take. “One of the many things I learned was never let a stranger put a microchip into your brain,” he says. “It’s just not a good idea, no matter how terrific the promises sound. Just stop. Or just really think about it before you let it happen.” “And we try,” adds Erickson.