The following contains spoilers for Severance S1E8, “What’s for Dinner?” (written by Chris Black and directed by Ben Stiller)
As we may have guessed from its title, “What’s for Dinner?” opens with the outie version of Irv (John Turturro). He sits on a bench reading, looks at a bird, pets a dog that we can presume is his own, and then proceeds to go home to smear black paint violently to make art on bare wood while listening to “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead…OK, I did not see that last part coming.
The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say
I don’t share your greed, the only card I need is the Ace of Spades
The Ace of Spades
Along the way, there is a shot in Severance S1E8 that lingers for quite a long time on where Irv lives, which features a sign that says Leonora Lake. Leonora Lake would appear to be in British Columbia, but I don’t know if this is quite sufficient for us to conclude that Severance has been taking place in Canada all along. One can name a housing complex whatever one pleases, after all. We may as well go down the rabbit hole thinking about how Leonora was the original name of Beethoven’s Fidelio or any of its other reference points.
Most worth noting, in the context of Severance, may be that the name Leonora is a variation of the name Eleanor, which is the name Devon (Jen Tullock) and Ricken (Michael Chernus) gave to their daughter. But I have no idea where to take that thought.
I said that Irv was making art by painting wood black, but while I think that’s true, I’m not sure if it is entirely accurate. That is, I would gladly hang one of these paintings on my wall to enjoy aesthetically, but I don’t think that’s why Irv is making them. He seems to make virtually the same thing over and over again, which if we look closely strongly resembles the dark hallway we see Ms. Casey (Dichen Lachman) exit through in S1E8, as a small red arrow pointing downward is there towards the horizon.
As far as Ms. Casey goes, we learned in S1E7 that she is physically speaking to Mark’s “dead” wife Gemma, and this is confirmed in “What’s for Dinner?” as Milchick (Tramell Tillman) points out to Cobel (Patricia Arquette) that the fact that Mark (Adam Scott) and Ms. Casey don’t remember each other points to the severance procedure’s success.
But then, why is Casey being fired, if that’s what’s happening, or better: where does she go as she exits through that dark hallway? Cobel says to take her back to testing, so all of this strongly indicates that there are indeed severed persons who never leave Lumon as Petey said there were. And Gemma’s car accident/putative death could offer an explanation of the kind of thing the company is up to along these lines.
If everyone on the outside thinks she’s dead, but Lumon has managed to save her physically, she makes a perfect test subject to bypass any worries and regulations about experimenting on human subjects. Severance as performed on Mark gives them a virtual slave; severance as performed on Gemma gives them a guinea pig.
It’s hard for me to imagine anything I find more evil than this, structurally speaking, so I do wonder what the aim is that Lumon has in view, and how it is that Helly’s outie (Britt Lower), for example, is fully on board with it.
S1E8 seems to show her at the Eagan gala in its closing moments, and indeed many have speculated that Helly is an Eagan (a theory I find eminently plausible, but not terribly enlightening with regard to the central questions of the show). Whether she is or not, it no longer feels like speculation to me to think that she has more of an understanding of Lumon’s overall operations than we’ve been privy to as viewers of the show so far. It will be really interesting to see her innie wake up in that place next week.
It looks like Mark’s innie might wake up while hugging Mrs. Selvig, who he knows as Ms. Cobel, which I’m sure will be terrifying for him. Of course, Harmony was fired earlier in the episode, had a breakdown, smashed her altar to Kier, and I think means it when she tells Mark to get away from Lumon. There are complexities to her character that remain mysterious, along with the question of how the name Charlotte Cobel fits into things.
Irv is busy painting and is bound to be in for quite a shock. But why is the outie version of Irv painting this black hallway, and how does that relate to his innie (who has had various daymares of black goo over the course of Season 1)?
We should note that the perspective of the paintings would be that of Milchick, if he stuck around until Casey had fully entered the elevator. Is it possible that at some previous time, Irv was in Milchick’s position?
I’ve speculated that there may have been any number of innie versions of our friends over the course of time, and while I continue to worry that I’m putting too much weight on the visuals of Severance‘s opening credits in formulating this theory, I now wonder if we may be on the cusp of Lumon wiping everyone’s memory and shuffling people around. It is the end of the quarter, after all.
What’s for Dinner?
It would seem that the answer to our titular question is…waffles?
The waffle party that Dylan receives as a reward for the MDR team meeting quota is incredibly bizarre and I loved every single second of it. He’s led to the Eagan house in the Perpetuity Wing (which you’ll recall he thinks is stupid), and served a plate of waffles, which he proceeds to eat alone.
So far, so weird, but then the note on the bottom of the plate spurs him on to the bedroom, where there are some erotic (?) dancers who wear strange masks. I don’t even know what to say about any of this other than that it is awesome and I totally want to win a waffle party now. Please let me know if you have thoughts about the symbolism.
Regardless, this all allows Dylan to sneak into the security room, and it would seem he has managed to activate the overtime protocol at the end of S1E8.
Note that he had other options, including Beehive, Lullaby, and Open House. I wonder what these do. We could speculate a bit based on the names.
With the season finale next week, Severance has a lot of open questions to address, but given that the show has been renewed for a second season, that’s a good thing. I expect we’ll get some answers, but not closure, and probably new mysteries will present themselves.
But mostly I’m just looking forward to (innie) Mark being starstruck at meeting Ricken, because I think that will be hilarious.
See you next week.