Full of tension, anxiety, and cliffhangers galore, the fantastic Severance season 1 finale is sure to go down in the history books as one of the best season finales of 2022. The twisty mysteries of the series kept viewers on their toes for the entirety of the first season, and things just kept getting crazier and more intense.
An unflinching look at society’s insistence on maintaining a “work/life balance,” Severance introduced us to the idea of the “severance” process, or the process of implanting a chip into one’s brain in order to surgically separate work and life memories. Colloquially, the worker portion is called an “innie” and the life portion is called an “outie.” The first season of the show follows four innies in the Macrodata Refinement department of a shady corporation called Lumon as they begin to question their existence and then rebel outright against it.
But if you watched the season, you knew all of that already.
In the finale, the innies stage a daring attempt to find out more about their lives in the real world. The episode is a taut 41 minutes, and while it doesn’t answer many of the questions that viewers have been pondering over the past nine episodes, it does provide many astounding moments of great catharsis and suspense.
So what really happened during the Severance finale? You don’t need to reintegrate to find out. We’re here to help.
Who is Helly’s Outie?
Severance wasn’t going to leave us hanging without first serving up some jaw-dropping reveals, and they disclose the true identity of Helly’s outie in the first few moments of the episode. Helly (Britt Lower), the woman who has been hell bent on trying to escape Lumon — so much so that she was willing to die by suicide rather than spend one more minute in that corporate hellscape — is none other than Helena Eagan, the heir to the Lumon throne.
By dissecting context clues, camera cuts, and suggestive dialogue, some shrewd Redditors had figured this particular twist before it was revealed. However, this moment packs a massive punch because we witness innie Helly process it as well. She’s absolutely floored. She’s smart to blame her momentary lapse of social grace on the glass of champagne she’s holding, but as she navigates the Eagan Family Gala, things just keep getting weirder.
First, she sees giant illuminated cubes that depict a completely false narrative of her experience at Lumon. The exhibit is titled “Helly R: A Severed Story.” Turns out that Helena Eagan elected to be severed in order to prove how “freaking amazing” it was to the rest of the world so that severance might become legalized in a broader sense.
Who is Irv’s Outie?
We don’t learn quite as much about Irv’s outie as we do about Helly’s, but there’s still a lot to unpack here. Innie Irv wakes up and starts to go about the business of snooping through his outie’s belongings.
Given that Irv (John Turturro) has many medals hanging proudly in his bedroom, it appears that he is a decorated military man. And his father was also a Navy hero as well. He locates a secret compartment in the trunk that holds his father’s uniform, and it’s filled with research on Lumon’s shady business practices. There are lists of former and current severed employees and a corresponding map.
It’s unclear whether or not Irv is working for or against Lumon, but seeing as this information was hidden instead of out in the open it feels like he is collecting information in secret. But where did he get this sensitive information? And how does he have time to go through it all when he’s compulsively painting pictures of that damn hallway over and over again every night?
Do the Innies Complete Their Mission Successfully?
Kind of. The initial mission that the innies agreed to was to find someone they could trust and tell them everything. Mark (Adam Scott) is the only one who fully accomplishes this task. Unfortunately, Irv finds out that he doesn’t seem to have a family or friends or any sort of social support network on the outside. And Helly, ah, poor Helly, no one in her outie’s world is trustworthy, least of all her outie self.
Will Cobel Be Rehired at Lumon?
Probably. Harmony Cobel is the one who tried to stop these shenanigans, after all. Maybe Lumon will reassess her value to the company and consider what she has to say about reintegration. Also, there’s absolutely no way a second season is happening without the great Patricia Arquette. But it’s kind of a bummer that we might be losing the daffy Mrs. Selvig because she’s been caught out by innie Mark. I, for one, will miss her funny little sayings.
How Did Dylan Hold Open Those Switches for So Long?!
The only possible answer is that his outie actually does do muscle shows in the real world, amirite?
What Exactly Happens at the End of the Episode?
Ok, all joking aside, the last 10 minutes of this episode are “I-forgot-to-breathe” good. Seriously, if you forgot to breathe, involuntarily jumped out of your chair, or if you were emitting a slow, high-pitched squeak throughout the entirety of the last act, just know that you are not alone.
The last ten minutes set up four separate cliffhangers for our four beloved innies. First up, Helly.
Innie Helly makes the biggest impact on the world at large as she gets up the gumption to speak truth to power to the group of Lumon management and esteemed guests at the gala. At first, they think she’s making a joke, but then she doubles down, saying, “No. No. Listen. We’re not happy. We’re miserable. They torture us down there. We’re prisoners!”
The big question here is whether or not this information will be allowed to reach the world beyond the walls of Lumon. Most of the people attending the gala were great supporters of Kier, Lumon, and severance, and they might not let the information escape. But at least Helly gets a chance to say her piece before she gets taken down.
Innie Mark also gets to reveal a crucial bit of information to the outside world before he’s switched off. As Ricken, Devon, and their guests calm down after baby Eleanor has been found, Mark spies a photo. It’s of him and his wife on their wedding day. And, lo and behold, his wife? It’s Ms. Casey! Mark makes a beeline to his sister, brandishing the photo and screaming “SHE’S ALIVE!” just in the nick of time.
Innie Irv isn’t so lucky. In his chest of loot, he finds Burt’s information. Since Burt is the only person he feels he can trust, he heads over to the address that his outie has marked on the map. Through the window, he sees that Burt has a life full of love with another man, but innie Irv feels compelled to connect with him anyway. He races up to the door and pounds on it, shouting “BURT! BURT!” Unfortunately, Burt doesn’t answer in time to get to chat with Irv’s innie. But what would innie Irv have said to Burt, anyway?
While all of these emotionally loaded things are happening at the same exact time, strongman Dylan gets intercepted by Milchick, and the entire experiment gets terminated. The screen flips over to Mark, and he switches back to outie mode, breaking the innie spell that the episode has cast.
All nine episodes of Severance season 1 are available to stream on Apple TV+ now.