Severance ending explained: what just happened – and the mysteries that still need solving

In hindsight, we should’ve known that the Severance ending wasn’t going to explain away all of its mysteries. The brilliant, bleak Apple Plus TV show has kept us in the dark for weeks now, forcing viewers to come up with all sorts of wild fan theories. With another season on its way, it had to leave something to explore in a new chapter. 

Created by Dan Erickson, and directed in part by Ben Stiller, the mystery thriller follows colleagues Mark (Adam Scott), Helly (Britt Lower), Dylan (Zach Cherry), and Irving (John Turturro), who all work at a sinister biotech company called Lumon Industries. Before being employed there, each of them agreed to undergo ‘severance’, a surgical procedure that splits one’s consciousness between work and, well, not work.

When they’re in the office, their ‘innie’ can’t remember anything about their personal lives. Unable to even recall what they had for dinner the previous night, or whether they’ve had a decent night’s sleep, they’re essentially trapped at work – forced to live out their days in windowless rooms wearing uncomfortable business attire. Once they clock out, they can’t remember what they’ve been doing all day. 

Most of season 1 has revolved around the innies, whose data refinement jobs are odd, to say the least, as they try to work out who they are and what it is Lumon actually does. Instead of wrapping things up neatly for us viewers, episode 9 – titled ‘The We We Are’ – sees the show’s characters catch up to a lot of what we already know, and races towards a cliffhanger ending that leaves us with more questions than it does answers. (That’s not to say, though, that the finale doesn’t boast a couple of genuinely gasp-worthy reveals).

Below, we unpack what went down in that thrilling cliffhanger finale. We also breakdown what didn’t happen, or what wasn’t revealed to us anyway, and the biggest mysteries still to be resolved. So if you’re not up to date yet, we advise that you catch up and then return. Major spoilers ahead! 

Severance season 1 ending recap

Having figured out how to use the ‘Overtime’ contingency to awaken their consciousnesses outside of Lumon, innies Mark, Helly, and Irving find themselves trying to acclimatize to their real lives at the start of episode 9, ‘The We We Are’. 

At a swanky event, Helly is whisked away by the same woman who fired Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette) in the previous episode, and introduced to another woman – Gabby, the severed senator’s wife – as Helena Eagan, a descendant of Lumon’s (supposedly dead) founder Kier Eagan. Elsewhere, Mark comes clean about who he actually is to his sister Devon (Jen Tullock) and realises that the author of ‘The You You Are’, the life-changing book he’s been reading at work is Devon’s partner Ricken (Michael Chernus), while Irving searches his home for clues about his identity. 

Irving stumbles across a medal and a trunk containing an old sailor’s uniform belonging to his father, before finding a map that appears to mark out the homes of several Lumon workers, including Burt (Christopher Walken), the Optics and Design employee he’s struck up a bit of a romance with in recent weeks. Desperate to reunite with Burt, Irving grabs his keys and races to where he suspects Burt is living. Well, you know, once he’s figured out how to drive a car, anyway…

Back at the party, Helly learns that her outie willingly underwent the severance procedure as a way to prove its effectiveness to those who doubt Lumon’s morality. “My dad would love for me to sit here and say that I’m taking this job out of loyalty and that it was the spirit of Kier Eagan that called me to service,” she watches herself say in a promotional video playing on loop at the presentation. “But I took a severed job because it sounds freaking awesome. So no, I don’t think severance divides us, I think it brings us together.” 

Then, Senator Angelo Arteta (Ethan Flower) and Helena’s father, who both support legalizing the severance procedure, thank her for what she’s doing. They also assure that her vouching for severance first-hand will likely lead to more and more backing Kier’s vision, and signing up to have it done.

At the reading of Ricken’s book, Mark tells his brother-in-law how important his words have been to him, which prompts Ricken to apologise to Mark for giving him a hard time about having the procedure done. “You had to deal with Gemma’s passing in a way that was best for you,” Ricken replies, letting innie Mark in on something we already know: that he lost his wife, and he chose to be severed to spare him the pain for eight hours a day. Later, Devon tells Mark that his outie was a teacher and that he has been trying to work out what he does at Lumon, to which Mark innocently suggests that they get “inspectors” to go and investigate the place. They decide to contact some journalist friends of Ricken, before Mark asks why Mrs. Selvig (aka Cobel) is at the party. It is then that Devon realizes that she handed her newborn baby to Mrs. Selvig so that she could have a private conversation with Mark, and that she’s now taken off. 

Panicking that she took the infant with her, Devon, and Mark search the place. Their hunt results in the latter finding baby Eleanor, but also a photograph of Gemma, and he realizes that she is Ms. Casey (Dichen Lachman), the eerily serene wellness counselor that used to work with him at Lumon. 

As Irving pulls up to Burt’s, only to be heartbroken when he sees that Burt is living with another man, Helly gets ushered onstage to do a speech. Before she can go out, though, she’s grabbed by Cobel, who warns her that if she’s honest about her experiences as a severed employee, her friends – Mark, in particular – will suffer and that they will “keep them alive, in pain” as punishment.

While all this is going on, Dylan has been at Lumon, holding the switches that are keeping his innie pals “in” their outside bodies. Unfortunately for him, Cobel – having realized that Mark was his innie – called Mr. Milchick (Tramell Tillman), the severed floor supervisor, when she left Ricken’s reading. Milchick runs down to the security office and starts cutting the power cords that Dylan used to fasten the door. Despite Milchick promising him office perks like coffee cozies and paintball trips, and the chance to learn more about his three kids, Dylan stays put. 

As Mark runs to Devon and shouts “She’s alive!”, Irving strides up to Burt’s door and starts banging on it, while Helly announces to all the event’s attendees that she’s an innie, that she and her “tortured” colleagues feel like prisoners, and that they are miserable. It is then that Milchick finally makes his way into the security office and tackles Dylan to the ground, switching off the ‘Overtime’ contingency. We see Mark revert back to his outie, and the screen cuts to black.

Is Helly R an Eagan?

Britt Lower as Helly as Helena Eagan in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV Plus )

She is, yes, Helly R is a descendant of Kier Eagan, the founder of Lumon Industries. When the gang used the ‘Overtime’ contingency to awaken their innie consciousnesses outside of work hours, Helly found herself at a high-profile event and was immediately introduced as ‘Helena Eagan’. It then became clear that she agreed to be severed so that she was able to champion the process from the outside, and campaign for it to be made accessible to the masses. 

Fans have been theorising about Helly being an Eagan since Severance’s very first episode, when Milchick took her aside on her first day and said: “When we heard you were coming here…? It was like a miracle. It’s amazing, what you’re doing.” And it turns out that they were right all along.

While we’ve not officially met Helly’s outie, like we have Mark’s, it’s clear that she and Helena are very different, which is sure to make for an interesting second season. When Helly tried to escape Lumon, and even threatened to harm herself if she wasn’t allowed to quit, she received a video tape from Helena that cruelly dismissed her concerns and ordered her to behave. In it, Helena claimed that Helly was “not a person” and that she wasn’t allowed to make any of the decisions, which is a far cry from the “I see my innie as my sister” line that Helly-as-Helena is told to use during the presentation in the finale.

Is Severance being used outside of work environments? 

Jen Tullock as Devon and Michael Chernus as Ricken in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

It’s clear that there are many characters in Severance that want the titular procedure to be legalized and go mainstream. Most of them are Lumon employees but there are exceptions, like Senator Angelo Arteta and his wife Gabby, who admits she willingly severed herself so that she’d never have to remember giving birth to her children in the season 1 finale. It’s a bleak revelation and one that begs the question; if every “negative” aspect of your life can be severed, where does it end? There’s also the fact that while, yes, childbirth can prove a very traumatic experience for many parents-to-be, it can also be a wonderful, life-changing one. If you were severed, you would never know either way.

If ‘severance’ is yet to be legalized outside of a work environment, which it presumably is given Helly’s extreme means of endorsing it, does that mean that the senator and his partner used illegal methods to have it done, too? Now, we know a lot of people in this show are shady, but that’s next level when you consider that Arteta is a politician. 

What is Harmony Cobel’s deal, and why did Lumon let her go? 

Patricia Arquette as Harmony in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

Early on in the season, Cobel chose not to tell the board about Helly’s suicide attempt. When they learned of it, they instantly dismissed her. Now that we know Helly is an Eagan, it’s understandable why they wouldn’t want someone so important to the company to come to such harm – albeit bleak when you realize they probably wouldn’t be fussed if it had been Mark, Dylan, or Irving. 

We know Cobel isn’t severed, though, so it’s interesting that Lumon, aware of her willingness to disobey them, would just… let her leave the company knowing all its secrets. That is, however, if she knows anything of importance. Cobel was Mark and co.’s superior, but she’s clearly not a big fish when it comes to Lumon, so perhaps she knows far less than we can imagine.

Sometimes it’s unclear whose side Cobel is on. One minute, she’s telling Outie Mark to get away from Lumon and the next she’s threatening Helly-as-Helena when the latter admitted that she was going to “kill your company.” We know she worships Kier Eagan, so much so that she has a shrine to him in her home. In an earlier episode, close-ups of said shrine offer up glimpses of a breathing tube and a hospital identity bracelet that reads ‘Charlotte Cobel’. Lumon is a biotech company, and is no stranger to the world of fringe science, so it doesn’t seem too far-fetched that Cobel could have lost a daughter and that, perhaps, the organization has promised to bring her back somehow? It would certainly explain why she was so upset at being fired.

Is Kier Eagan actually dead? 

Kier Eagan model in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

Kier Eagan is probably dead. For a second there, it seemed as if the finale was going to reveal that Helena’s father was actually Kier, but it was just a raspy-voiced, white-haired dude that kind of looked like him. When Helly-as-Helena listens to a promotional video Helena filmed before she was severed, she refers to her father and Kier Eagan as two separate people, so it seems safe to assume that they are. (Though this is Severance, and stranger things have happened, so we’re be prepared to delete this article and pretend we never said this if season 2 proves otherwise). 

Is Mark’s wife Gemma still alive? Are Milchick and Ms. Casey ‘permanent innies’? 

Dichen Lachman as Ms. Casey in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Mark’s wife Gemma is still alive, but for some reason, she’s now known as Ms. Casey, and works as a wellness counselor at Lumon. Mark isn’t the only one who has referred to Gemma’s passing, so it seems unlikely that they are all wrong, which presents the theory that Ms. Casey is either a machine, made deliberately to look like Gemma, or that Lumon reanimated her body and has fashioned her into what some theorists are calling “a permanent innie”. If everyone believes Gemma (aka Ms. Casey) to be dead on the outside then she’d technically never have to leave the offices, which is super dark even for Severance. What’s even darker, though, is that Ms. Casey was let go in episode 8; does that mean she now ceases to exist, as she didn’t technically have a life outside of Lumon?

In the finale, Cobel calls Milchick late in the evening and he picks up the phone while wandering the severed floor’s halls. Doesn’t he ever go home? If permanent innies are a thing, there’s certainly a chance that he’s one, too.

What were those baby goats all about?


(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

In episode 5, titled ‘The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design’, Helly and Mark stumble across a room in which a single Lumon worker is feeding a ton of baby goats. It’s not explained and we never saw goats again in season 1, but that hasn’t stopped us from wondering what they might mean. Some have even suggested that the animals could be trial clones implanted with human children’s minds. Hey, baby goats are called kids! We hope that season 2 will either confirm or disprove this bonkers theory. 

What do Lumon employees actually do? 

Zach Cherry, Adam Scott, Tramell Tillman, Patricia Arquette, and John Turturro in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

When Helly, Lumon’s newest recruit, finds herself working in the Macrodata Refinement division, she’s told to identify the “scary” numbers displayed on her retro computer and place them into digital bins. It’s bizarre, and leaves the characters – and us – desperate to know what the numbers correspond to and what is actually being refined. Dylan reckons that by filtering the dodgy digits, the gang are helping drones clear out eels and other icky creatures from the oceans, as humans prepare to set up habitable environments on the seabed. As weird as Severance can be, we don’t think he’s right on that one, and it would be cool to finally find out what they are doing when the show returns with a new batch of episodes. 

Who is The Board?

John Turturro, Britt Lower and Adam Scott in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

The only real-life connection to the mysterious Board, Harmony Cobel’s superiors, has been Natalie, the woman who fired Cobel and prepped Helena for her presentation at the aforementioned gala. Other than that, we’ve only heard their voices through an intercom in Cobel’s office.

They don’t seem to be Eagans, but they’re clearly quite close with them, given the way Natalie talks to Helena when they’re outside. In season 2, we’ll likely learn more about them – and perhaps even see a couple of their faces.

What’s next for Mark and the gang?

Adam Scott as Mark Scout, Zach Cherry as Dylan, John Turturro as Irving and Britt Lower as Helly in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

Apple TV Plus and Severance have yet to officially confirm which cast members will be returning for season 2, but given that season 1 ended mid-action, it seems likely that they will all be back.

Right before Milchick tackled Dylan, and shut down the ‘Overtime’ that was allowing the innies to occupy their outie bodies, Mark managed to tell his sister Devon that Gemma was alive. Knowing Devon, season 2 will probably see her work with Outie Mark to find Ms. Casey (if she’s still “alive”) and free her from Lumon’s clutches. 

Elsewhere, Irving’s outie is set to find himself on the doorstep of Burt, who will presumably have no idea who he is, with no recollection of how he himself got there, while Helly will have to deal with the repercussions of breaking company protocol and trying to sabotage the Lumon event. It’s all very dramatic, so, all in all, just another day at the office for Severance.

Severance season 1 is available to stream on Apple TV Plus now. If you’re all up to date and itching for your next genre fix, then why not check out our roundup of the best sci-fi movies, and draw up a new to-watch list. 

About Fox

Check Also

The Witcher season 3 casts six new characters

The Witcher is expanding in season 3 as a new report suggests six actors have …

Leave a Reply