If you had the choice of altering your brain so that your work life and personal life were two, disparate realities, would you do it? In the Apple TV+ show Severance, it is possible to do just that, and surprisingly there are people that say yes to that question. The procedure leaves one stream of consciousness to enjoy life outside of work, never to be bogged down by stress, while the other only exists to grind the 9-5.
Sounds thrilling for one half of your brain, right?
An eagle-eyed viewer of the show, Krystina Nellis, noticed a small detail of the show that I missed; one of the many little details that make this show as engrossing as it is. In the office space shared by some of these 'severed' employees, the custom keyboard they use for their work (sorting numbers into folders based on feeling—it's a whole thing) is missing any visible Escape key.
nerdy, extremely appropriate thing I just noticed about set design on #Severance : the keyboards have no (visible) escape key 👀 pic.twitter.com/2QcOdNNYFSApril 12, 2022
That feels a little too on the nose to be an accidental omission, and there's something quite eerie about it.
Though the keyboard itself is all sorts of weird, mostly in that it doesn't offer the usual keys you'd expect for regular office life. It does look old-school mechanical, however, and I dare say I'm actually sort of a fan of its twisted IBM aesthetic even if it is a little creepy.
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The entire office that the main severed employees exist in is awfully creepy, too. It's a maze of long, bright hallways that seemingly lead nowhere, with references to mundane office life that's entirely devoid of idiosyncrasies and means of escape. The best way I can describe it in gaming terms, which I am wont to do, is perhaps a likeness to areas of The Oldest House from Remedy's Control or the office from The Stanley Parable. Though it must be said that neither game is much of a match for the story of Severance—more so just the creepy corporate vibes.
This does remind me of when Netflix's similarly psychotropic show, Maniac, used air coolers glued onto a headset to create a sort of dream/subconscious invading brain interface, the kind of thing that Steam's billionaire CEO Gabe Newell would be keen to try (opens in new tab). Another reminder that it's good to keep an eye out to see how your favourite PC tech may find an alternate use in the hands of a set or prop designer.