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Why ‘Severance’s “Defiant Jazz” Dance Is One of the Best TV Scenes This Year

Dan Erickson, Severance joins the ranks of the dystopian workplace series that have audiences pondering what it means to create work-life balance. The Emmy-nominated series stars Adam Scott as Mark Scout, an employee from Lumon Industries who agrees to sever his work memories from his nonwork memories. Over the course of the first season, he and his coworkers, played by Zach Cherry, John Turturro, and Britt Lower, discover things aren’t all that they appear with this decision they’ve made.

While the series stands out from its production design to its performances to its direction by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle, it’s rare to be able to sum up an entire premise and season of television in a single scene. Yet Severance does this by way of the Music Dance Experience scene in Episode 7’s “Defiant Jazz.” As a constructed scene, it builds tension through the music that leads to an explosive climax altering the course for the rest of the season; equally, it epitomizes the themes explored in the series.

The cracks in this deeply unsettling solution to the work-life balance have been slowly revealed over the course of six episodes– the ethics, the limitations, etc. Helly Riggs has made her disgust with her job the most known, attempting to hang herself in the elevator at the end of Episode 4’s “The You You Are.” Mark’s innie is inspired by the words of his brother-in-law, Ricken Hale (Michael Chernus). The macrodata refinement department is introduced to the optics and design department thanks to the budding relationship between Irving Bailiff and Burt Goodman (Christopher Walken); Mark attempts to work with O&D to figure out what exactly they’re doing with their work. The more MDR keeps exploring beyond their office space, the more complicated and confusing they find their work at Lumon to be.

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