An Ode to the Delicious, Evil Food in 'Severance'
The coveted egg bar, melon bar, and waffle party look delicious AND sinister.
One of the most chilling details in Severance—the Apple TV+ thriller series about office employees who undergo a procedure that separates their work life memories from their home life memories—is how it satirizes the systems of rewards and benefits employers dole out to their worker drones to add some excitement and motivation to their dull existences. The Lumon overlords treat their employees like children, offering little prizes, deemed "perks," to the innies working in the Macrodata Refinement department to keep their attentions occupied and away from such frivolous questions as, "What the hell do we even do in here?"
One of the best perks the office employees can get is food—whole tables full of it that the workers of MDR receive whenever they've done something praiseworthy, like welcoming a new member of their team or completing their mysterious monthly quota. In the second episode, the team gets a "melon bar" made up of small cantaloupe and honeydew balls served inside carved-out melon bowls. In the eighth episode "What's for Dinner?" they're rewarded with an "egg bar" of hard-boiled and deviled eggs—"The egg bar is coveted as fuck," Zach Cherry's Dylan excitedly explains—after which they choose which member of their team will experience the honor of a "waffle party" inside the hallowed halls of Perpetuity.
Their banquets are tasty and soft, nonthreatening yet infantilizing, the type of foods that would excite a 6 year old more than a working adult. That's what they are, after all: The innies of Lumon are as children, innocent and new, their knowledge untainted by the experiences of the outside world. The foodstuffs of Severance—and the group photographs and the rituals dedicated to the founder Kier and the laser-etched desk tchotchkes and the Music Dance Experiences—are strategic distractions to keep the employees motivated and away from pondering questions of their own existence, like giving a child a snack to keep it occupied on a long car trip.
But, like children, the innies of MDR figure out a way to use the adult-engineered distractions to their own advantage. Like a child secretly defying authority, Irving (John Turturro) smushes one of the deviled eggs inside the office's book of Keir scripture, an enormous bit of onscreen character development to show how far he's strayed from his fundamentalist fanaticism about the vital importance of work and rules as mandated by Lumon. Irving, Dylan, Helly (Britt Lower), and Mark (Adam Scott) conspire together to send one of their team members to the waffle party to keep him in the office after hours and available to activate the "overtime contingency" that Dylan had briefly experienced, remotely freeing the innies temporarily into their lives in the outside world.
The food of the show looks tasty on purpose, just like the inner offices of Lumon, with their grass-green carpeting and friendly-looking analog tech, are meant to look like an inviting place to work. Like the innocents in the Garden, the employees of Lumon are tested daily with temptations large and small while their workplace strains to keep them trapped inside, watching the shadows of the flames on the cave wall rather than turning around and seeing the fire for themselves. By the final episodes, though, instead of defying their temptation, the characters of Severance use the egg bars and waffle parties to suit their own ends.