The following contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of Apple TV+’s Severance.
Talk about a rude awakening.
As the Severance Season 1 finale got underway, as Dylan inside the Lumon control room triggered the Overtime Contingency protocol that “awakened” his coworkers whilst they were in their Outie worlds, Helly R. found herself glammed up at a company gala, where she was about to give an awaited testimonial. Because, we and she came to realize, Helly R. is in actuality Helena Eagan, the daughter of Lumon Industries CEO Jame Eagan and thus a descendant of company founder Kier Eagan! What’s more, her speech was intended to tone down the great “severance” debate by vouching for her own first-hand experience.
Now self-aware but concealing such, Helly did not back away from the spotlight but instead plotted to seize it by outing Lumon’s torturous, imprisoning practice. But she barely got a few angry words out before Dylan lost control of the OT protocol, and the Innies presumably went back to “sleep.”
TVLine spoke with Britt Lower (rhymes with flower) about Helly’s arc, playing Innie-as-Outie, what Season 2 might look like, and that very enjoyable “Defiant Jazz’ dance experience.
TVLINE | Viewers had to wait a long week to find out what happened once Dylan flipped the “Overtime Contingency” switches. How long did you have to wait, after reading Episode 8, to get your hands on that finale script?
We actually had all of the scripts at the beginning of filming, because we were supposed to begin filming in March of 2020, and of course the pandemic hit and we shut down for seven months. During that time, the writers were able to finish all nine scripts, so we had a really rare circumstance in television where we had it all laid out for us before even starting. It was a really nice way to feel super-prepared in terms of the basics but also to have a lot of time to do the internal work of sculpting the character’s inner life, and do a lot of nerdy, esoteric research as well. [Laughs] I did a lot of research into memory loss and how waking up and not knowing who you are affects the way you behave…. I watched a lot of documentaries.
TVLINE | Now, some actors will tell you, “If you give me all nine scripts, I won’t read them! I won’t let the ending affect my arc, I can’t know what my character doesn’t.” But you fell into the other camp?
Well, we had to, because we filmed out of order for the most part. It was almost like filming a nine-hour movie in that we filmed in somewhat of a progression, but in order to do the basics of knowing your lines, we had to have read all nine.
For me it was a real pleasure to envision Helly’s arc. I’m a visual artist, so I drew out all of the action sequences that Helly goes through and put them on my wall, and it almost looks like a graphic novel. I mean, Helly is so dynamic. She’s constantly moving, so being able to look at that wall and pinpoint where we were in the filming process was super helpful. I could look, “Oh, here’s where she’s thrown the speaker at Mark’s head” and “Here’s where she’s busting through a window.” I could see the progression of her escape attempts, and how they escalated visually and emotionally.
TVLINE | What ended up being the hardest part of playing Helly’s Innie as an Outie in the finale?
It’s so funny — Adam Scott had a lot more experience than Zach [Cherry] and John [Turturro] and I at playing the Innie in the outer world, so we had this running joke that he was our “acting teacher.” So as we were approaching filming [the finale], he would give us mock lessons on how to do it. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Helly impressively keeps her ish together once she “wakes up” at the Lumon gala. Some people might flail a bit, be like, “What’s going on, where am I?” But she was a cool cucumber and took in the situation.
Helly has a composure to her, but I can tell you that internally, there was a great deal more going on than she was letting on!
TVLINE | We saw that in your eyes, that wheels were spinning and there was a lot of processing going on.
Yeah, because she wakes up surrounded by people and it’s impossible to tell who she can trust or not. I think Helly does have a poker face throughout this season, but certainly she puts on a stronger one for this episode.
TVLINE | If we were to rewatch the previous eight episodes, would we find clues about Helly’s identity, her familial relations?
Hmmm…. There are a couple of Easter eggs in there. I would rather the fans find them than me point them out, though. There are definitely Easter eggs in the writing. I’d love to hear from anyone else but myself.
TVLINE | Were you surprised that at the end of the season, we still don’t quite know what the Macro Data Refinement department is doing by culling those screens of floating numbers?
You know, I’m purposely keeping myself in the dark about that. Of course [series creator] Dan Erickson, the writer, knows all the answers in his head, but I asked them not to tell me because it felt better for me, for Helly on the inside, to also be in the dark.
TVLINE | Were those working CRT monitors in front of you, or were the screens dropped in in post-production?
That was super cool — the tech team designed all of the computer animations. They were all practical. We learned how to “refine” these numbers, and it was really fun, like learning this cool little video game. Zach Cherry, who plays Dylan, I think he was actually the smartest of us at “refining.” He came up with all these cool ways to make the numbers move around that none of us could figure out. He’s amazing.
TVLINE | Given what happens in the finale — especially Helly’s outburst, and the fact that Cobell knows that Mark “woke up” — have we seen the last of the Macro Data Refinement room? Can these people ever possibly go back to the office?
That’s a great question… that I have absolutely no answer to. I’m really looking forward to Season 2 to find that out for myself! What do you think?
TVLINE | For a hot second I speculated that Lumon might have a separate “mind wipe” product to kind of “reset” everyone — but would they really send them back into the company, knowing them to be wild cards? So maybe Season 2 is a road trip movie and you’re all on the run!
You never know!
TVLINE | Give me a “Defiant Jazz” dance anecdote, because that sequence was hella fun.
Oh my gosh, it was super fun….
TVLINE | Tramell Tillman, who plays Milchick…. Wow, he went all in.
Tramell is the opposite of his character in real life, because he’s incredibly warm and lovely and not scary at all. I loved getting to see him step into this dancer mode, because he’s absolutely brilliant at dancing.
TVLINE | Did each of you have to decide, “How good of a dancer is my character?” Because we all saw what Adam Scott was, ahem, doing.
Adam and I in that scene are kind of having a “junior high dance” moment, kind of coyly looking at each other from across the room. We were doing a whole comedy bit on the side, like, “Oh right, Helly and Mark are essentially going through puberty right now.”
TVLINE | What did you think about the scene where Helly planted that kiss on him? “In case we dont come back… and in case we do?”
Helly is an impulsive person, and I love that she went for the kiss after having restrained herself for at least an episode, because you don’t see a lot of restraint from her otherwise. I think it was telling how much she has come to care about Mark, and also how much she has come to care about the others. You see that when she’s saying goodbye to Irving, and when she offers to stay behind for Dylan instead. What’s so poignant about that whole sequence is Helly up until that point has been singularly thinking about escape, getting herself out, but once she starts to think about the other refiners as family, it complicates her desire to escape.
TVLINE | I think I most want to rewatch the team’s visit to the Perpetuity Wing, because it was all about Helly cracking wise/snarking about the statues — and now we know they are her ancestors.
Mmm-hmmm. Which might make it even creepier.
TVLINE | She had some great lines there, at least two made it into our Quotes of the Week.
My gosh, the writing on this show is a true pleasure to speak. It’s very quotable!