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Severance Season 1 Ending Explained: Where That Big Cliffhanger Left Each Character

Mark, Irving, Dylan and Helly walk the halls of Lumon on Severance.
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Never has a series made us look so intensely at the work/life balance than Severance, the satirical sci-fi thriller about four employees of the mega-corporation, Lumon, who have had their brains physically altered to keep their professional and private lives separate. Season 1 introduced us to Mark (Adam Scott leading an impressive cast) and the rest of the Microdata Refinement department — Helly, Dylan, and Irving — who started to realize there was more going on than they had ever thought to question. The Severance ending left us with a huge cliffhanger that set the MDR workers and their Outies up for big changes in Season 2. Let’s break down what happened.

The MDR workers became increasingly suspicious about the mysterious Lumon company over Season 1’s nine episodes. It all came to a head when Dylan’s Innie was woken up in the outside world, which they hadn’t previously known was possible. It didn’t take the MDR employees long to figure out how to do it for themselves, and a plan was set in place to expose what Lumon was doing to them, and learn more about the other half of their lives in the process. So where did Severance Season 1 leave our friends in the MDR?

Zach Cherry as Dylan on Severance.

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Dylan Learns His Outie Has More Children

The event that set their whole plan in motion was Dylan (Zach Cherry) learning that he had a son on the outside. He became desperate to find out more about his family, but volunteered to stay behind and hold the two switches that keep his colleagues awake so they could learn about their Outies and send help. He was able to give Mark, Helly, and Irv about an hour in the outside world until their supervisor, Milchick (Tramell Tillman), caught wind of what was happening. 

In trying to get Dylan to let go of the switches, Milchick revealed that Dylan’s Outie had three children, and he said he’d tell him their names if Dylan opened the door. He didn’t take the bait, but Milchick eventually broke through, tackling the worker and thus putting the Innies back to sleep. What will Dylan do now that he knows he has three children? The microdata refiner had always been happy to collect finger traps and waffle parties — a perk so strange even Stephen King was talking about it — as rewards for his work, but in Season 2 he’s not going to be so easily satisfied.

Mark and Ms. Casey pass each other in the hall to the break room on Severance.

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Mark Discovers His Wife Is Still Alive, And His Innie Knows Her

Despite a number of frustrating interruptions, Mark (Adam Scott) was able to give his sister, Devon, a whole Lumon briefing, including revealing Mrs. Selvig’s (Patricia Arquette) true identity. She, in turn, was able to explain that Mark had chosen to take a severed job to escape the pain of losing his wife, Gemma (Dichen Lachman). At the very end of the episode, Mark found their wedding picture and recognized his wife as Ms. Casey, the wellness counselor from Lumon. He let out an absolutely primal scream of, “She’s alive!” just as his Outie was awoken. Scott spoke to Variety about what finding that photo meant for Mark:

Innie Mark’s disillusionment with Lumon steadily grew over the course of the season, and he assumed it had probably hit its ceiling. But when he sees the wedding photo of Outie Mark and Gemma, everything he thought he knew is redefined — the depravity and cruelty of Lumon comes into focus for him, and it’s just immediate raw terror and fury.

That’s going to be a game-changer for Mark in Season 2, as he’ll no longer be the obedient Lumon employee he was before and will certainly be on the hunt for answers — and his wife. Did Devon hear what Innie Mark said about Gemma, and what will her and Outie Mark’s next moves be?

Britt Lower as Helly on Severance.

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Helly Publicly Accuses Lumon Of Abuse

A double agent lurked amongst the MDR department — except Helly (Britt Lower) wasn’t aware of her Outie’s identity. Helly was actually Helena Eagan, daughter of the Lumon CEO, Jame, and granddaughter of cult-like leader, Kier, who severed herself to build public support for widespread legalization of the procedure. That explains why Helly’s Outie so quickly rejected her resignation request and why the board reacted so harshly to Cobel not disclosing Helly’s suicide attempt.

Rather than taking the stage to promote severance’s benefits, Helly exposed herself as an Innie to the crowd of potential investors, saying the employees were being tortured, and everything the Eagans had told them about severance was a lie. A Lumon employee tackled her to stop her from saying more, but it’s hard to believe that her actions won’t have some kind of ramifications for her family's already-controversial procedure.

Irving and Burt together at Lumon on Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Irving Tracks Down Burt Outside Of Lumon

Irving (The Batman’s John Turturro) woke up to find that his Outie obsessively paints the dark hallway to Lumon’s “training floor,” where Gemma/Ms. Casey has been. That possibly explained why Irv hallucinated black paint when he nodded off at work. (Was that intentional on his Outie’s part, given how much coffee Outie Irving drank?) Irving also learned that his Outie had been tracking down retired Lumon employees, including Innie Irv’s forbidden crush, Burt (Christopher Walken). 

Irving drove over to Burt’s house and after seeing him with another man, began to bang on the door, shouting Burt’s name. His Outie was awoken before Burt could open the door, but what will Season 2 reveal? Do Burt and Irving have a relationship on the outside? How does Irv (both his Innie and Outie) know about the training floor?

A second season of Severance has mercifully already been ordered for Apple TV+, and creator Dan Erickson discussed with Variety how they approached the Season 1 finale in hopes of setting up new stories for Season 2:

We tried to think of it from both the Innie and Outies perspectives and end the story on a point that would change the game for the characters on both sides and create a cool new playing field for Season 2.

I think they certainly succeeded in doing that, and they left us with a ton of questions about what will happen to our four heroes as the Innies face the consequences of their actions within Lumon, and with the people around the Outies being a little wiser to Lumon’s ways. While we wait on a release date for the second season, make sure your Apple TV+ subscription is up to date, and check out some of the other best shows on Apple TV+.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.