Severance Found Its Incredibly Uncomfortable Tone Via Editing [Comic-Con]

If you've watched even a couple of minutes of any episode of "Severance," you will know that there is a very uncomfortable atmosphere to all of its scenes. Whether its glances that linger just a bit too long or elongated hallways that look longer than they actually are, it is a very eerie show without being particularly scary. (At least, it's not scary in the traditional sense; we all know how horrifying the real-world office grind can be.)

Of course, this tone didn't just emerge out of thin air. During the Inside Severance panel at San Diego Comic-Con, details about the show's production were revealed, including what made that omnipresent terror so palpable. According to director Ben Stiller, it wasn't carefully constructed from the get-go but rather was the result of on-set experimentation pieced together by the editing team, led by Geoffrey Richman. Like all experiments, some acting and on-set tonal changes were successful, while others weren't. However, that didn't deter the team from crafting something truly memorable.

"It felt right sometimes, but then other times it would be like, 'okay, let's try something else,'" continued Stiller, "and that was sort of the process of making the show. That went on for the course of the shoot, and then sort of started to take shape as we were editing it together."

We're gonna kind of play around here

If it wasn't for the editing team that took all of these experimental takes and pieced them together, "Severance" would be a very different show. Can you imagine a version of the show where Milchick (Tramell Tillman) and Harmony (Patricia Arquette) don't have that one extremely strange and offputting scene where they laugh together for just a couple of beats too long? Adam Scott, who was recently nominated for an Emmy for his starring role in the show, seemingly can't.

"There are like uncomfortable spaces or long pauses [throughout the show]," he said on the panel, "and sometimes the writing is so specific that ... so like Patricia was trying to get those words right when it's sometimes hard to get it just right, and then you want to kind of let it be uncomfortable."

What also played a key role in crafting the uncomfortable nature of the show was the fact that it took quite a long time to film. According to Stiller, the nine-episode season of "Severance" was shot over the course of around ten months. While an explanation wasn't given, it is likely that COVID-19 restrictions played a significant role in extending the filming period. If you are interested in finding out more about what was unveiled at the Inside Severance Comic-Con panel, check out our roundup here.