On Apr. 21, Erickson held a Reddit AMA to chat with fans of Apple TV+’s new mysterious workplace thriller. Under the username DanEricksonMDR, the Los Angeles-based film and television writer talked about working with Severance director Ben Stiller and the talented cast, (vaguely) answered burning fan questions, and offered some insight on what’s to come for the show.
Sadly, Erickson didn’t get to every question, because (in his own words) his Outie has “slow, stubby fingers,” but he did weigh in on some crucial topics of discussion and left us with a lot to ponder. As a Severance superfan, I did my best to enjoy each response equally, but as a writer, I pulled out 15 of the best AMA revelations. You’re welcome.
1. Ricken’s book, The You You Are, is likely coming
Page 197 slaps. (And the rest probably do too!)
Credit: APPLE TV+
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The world needs Ricken’s wisdom, and his book would be a surefire hit in The Great Resignation era.
After a Reddit user begged to buy a copy of the fake self-help book by Dr. Ricken Lazlo Hale, PhD. one day, Erickson said there’s hope. Though the show creator was initially worried that fans would only want Ricken’s knowledge dropped in small doses, he said all The You You Are praise has him genuinely considering a real book.
“I would love a copy on my mantle too! I think the chances are pretty good it will happen…” Erickson said. He’s also the genius who wrote all the brilliant book text fans heard read aloud in Season 1, including the bullies/bull/lies line and page 197, which slaps. So we have complete faith in his vision.
2. The Lexington Letter is cannon!
On March 18, Apple Books released Severance:The Lexington Letter, a “tell-all” companion book about Lumon that features a revealing letter sent to a Topeka newspaper by former Lumon employee Peggy Kincaid. While Peggy successfully underwent the severance procedure, at some point during her time at the company her Innie found a way to bypass the elevator’s code readers. Her Innie started communicating with her Outie, and she was able to properly stress Lumon’s sinister operations and escape. While the book doesn’t answer our questions about Mark and the current Lumon crew, it does give valuable insight into the company. And Erickson confirmed The Lexington Letter is a solid read for Severance fans.
“Lexington Letter is canon! Same universe!” he said. Though he did note it “may be set some years before” the Season 1 timeline. Hmm…
3. Some Innies might actually be…true Outies?
At one point during the AMA a user asked: “Are there any characters who are severed on the outside? Like their Innie is their original self and their Outie is the one that is severed?” Erickson’s answer was interesting to say the least.
“I started to type a response to this but Ben Stiller’s spirit flew out of his body and into my house and slammed my laptop shut,” he wrote. “So, no comment on this.” No comment because the answer is yes, or? Definitely something to think about.
4. Erickson is no stranger to office perks
Waffle party or weird little toy viking boat?
Credit: SCREENSHOT: APPLE TV+
To reward them for having literal brain surgery for their jobs, Lumon offers severed employees a number of truly pathetic work perks. The rewards for Outies are gift cards to a local restaurant, and Innies are offered everything from finger traps and caricature drawings to melon and egg bars and deeply confusing “waffle parties.” When asked if Erickson had ever received a work perk himself, he shared that he was once given “a weird little toy viking boat.” He forgets why. Suddenly melon isn’t sounding so bad.
5. There’s more Severance to come. Praise Kier.
In an interview with Deadline, Erickson joked that he could keep Severance going for 14 seasons. And you know what? I, for one, would love that. During the AMA, however, he clarified that while he does have a significant number of stories left to tell, the full scope of the show will likely stretch anywhere from three to six seasons.
“It’s so humbling and overwhelming that people love the show and are engaging with the world as much as they are, and I really want the coming seasons to reward that enthusiasm and live up to the love people are giving the show,” he explained. “It’s a little scary, but I’m confident we have something that expands what we did in Season 1 and stays true to what people have responded to.”
Erickson also revealed he already has “a last scene in mind, and a lot of the story that will get us there.” We simply love to hear it.
6. Why do newly severed employees wake up on a conference room table?
“Who are you?”
Credit: APPLE TV+
Severance opens with Helly lying on her stomach sprawled out on a conference room table. It’s a confusing shot, especially after she wakes up so disoriented. But Erickson explained that was very intentional.
“It’s meant to be jarring and disorienting for the worker, and to give them a sense that they’ve been ‘born’ into this world,” he explained. “When Mark’s voice comes in, it’s meant to feel like the company itself is talking to Helly.” When asked about what scenes had been changed from the original script, Erickson also revealed Mark was originally going to be the one waking up on the table, not Helly. Chaos!
7. Plato stans, this one’s for you
Philosophers would have a field day discussing Severance for many reasons, but if at any point during your watch you thought, “Huh. This reminds me of Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave,” you’re not wrong. During the AMA, one Reddit user said, “When I watch I sometimes feel like I’m witnessing a modern reframing of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave — instead of cave dwellers asking, ‘What is the world like outside of my perception?’ Innies seem to question, ‘What is my perception like outside of this world?'”
When asked if the text served as inspiration for Severance or came up when writing scripts, Erickson said yes and pointed to the break room specifically.
8. Yes, Erickson’s a subreddit lurker. He’s seen your theories.
The limit on Severance questions and fan theories doesn’t exist. And Erickson knows that because he’s a shameless subreddit lurker. We simply have to respect it.
When asked if any of the cast or crew lurk on the Severance subreddit to read fan theories, Erickson came clean in one of the most amusing ways possible. He said yes and then expanded. Apparently he was advised to stay away, and he tried to, but now he reads fan theories religiously.
“I was alone in my bathroom at night when I saw that post that was like, ‘WE KNOW YOU READ THIS, DAN ERICKSON, PUT A BOUNCY BALL ON THE SHOW,'” he said. “So that was hilariously eerie in the moment. But we’ll see about that bouncy ball…”
In an interview with Thrillist, Erickson shared more about all the fun he’s having as a Reddit lurker. “I know these things can grow toxic over time, which I really hope it doesn’t. Because right now it’s just beautiful. People are creating all new art and having different ideas that had never occurred to me,” he told the publication. When asked about the craziest theory he’s seen so far, Erickson said, “I think the theory that Ms. Casey is a goat that’s been transformed into a woman.” While that is a bit farfetched, nothing really seems out of the realm of possibility with this show right now. I mean…let’s not forget the waffle party.
9. No one’s cracked “the revolving” mystery yet
While Erickson understandably won’t reveal which fan theories are correct, he did note that he hasn’t seen anyone crack “the revolving” mystery yet.
As a refresher, in the Season 1 finale, we met Helena’s father, current Lumon CEO James Eagan and presumed son of Lumon founder Kier. He seemed…unstable at the gala and when he confronted Helena in the bathroom to address her Innie’s attempted suicide, he mentioned something called a “revolving.”
“Are you still in pain? I cried in my bed when they told me what she tried to do to you,” he said before thanking Helena for agreeing to speak at the gala. “Your grandfather would cherish what you’ve done. One day you will sit with me at my revolving.”
So what the Helly is a revolving? Apparently none of us know.
20 burning ‘Severance’ questions we have after that finale
10. Severance Easter eggs? Not yet. But…
As we’ve learned from covering other beloved shows like The Office and Ted Lasso, fans love Easter eggs. There are a lot of EGGS in Severance, but when asked if any Easter eggs have gone unnoticed by fans, Erickson essentially said no, but did share one pop culture reference that he hasn’t seen anyone talking about.
“There’s a line in Episode 5 that’s a reference to my favorite line from Jaws. Not really an Easter egg, just a fun little shoutout. I don’t think anyone’s commented on it yet, at least that I’ve seen.”
Here’s hoping we one day see a bouncy ball Easter egg, though.
11. What’s the deal with the cars?
The You You Car
Credit: APPLE TV+
Like Erickson, I too am a Severance subreddit lurker, and during my lurking sessions I’ve seen a lot of interest in the cars used in the series. Some people wonder why the cars are so old while Lumon’s technology seems so advanced. (The severance procedure, not the old Macro Data Refinement computers.) Others are just curious if the vehicles were intentionally selected. Turns out they were!
“We used cars from a lot of different time periods to give a slight sense of disorientation,” Erickson said. “At Lumon, the Innies are intentionally made to feel unmoored from time and space, and that bleeds into the town a bit too. We wanted the town to feel like an extension of Lumon in a way.”
12. Erickson’s favorite scene is the Music Dance Experience
Credit: APPLE TV+
There’s so much to love about Severance that it’s tough to enjoy each scene equally. Even Erickson has a favorite: The MDE. Before it was “officially canceled,” I presume. Though he adores the scene now, he revealed that he actually tried to cut it in the script stage. The audacity?!
“I wasn’t sure we needed it or that there was room for it or whatever, but Ben and producer Mark Friedman were adamant it could be something special,” he said. “The moment Tramell started dancing I was like, ‘Welp, I was as wrong as humanly possible on this one.’ Stay humble, is I guess the moral.”
Yeah, no offense to you sir, but I can’t imagine our Severance experience without some Defiant Jazz.
13. What’s up with the goats?
At long last, it’s time to talk about the baby goats. We’ve discussed them before on the site because though Mark and Helly found a department with hay, a small white fence, and 10 baby goats, along with a disoriented man in a suit and tie who was bottle feeding one of the animals, it’s not the first time the animals came up on the show.
Remember when Burt and Irv met outside of wellness and admired that painting of Kier taming the four tempers? As noted in our previous article, a robed goat, or a ram (as the thick horns might suggest), was in the painting on the ground before Kier. That’s also the painting that was reenacted by the waffle party dancers. Does the painting have something to do with the baby goat department? Possibly! The only other theory we have at the moment is from Helly, who, mid-egg bar experience, laughs and tells Mark, “I figured it out. The goats lay the eggs.” Normally we’d laugh along with her, but Severance is so out there that we can’t in good conscience discount that theory just yet.
As was to be expected, Erickson was pretty tight-lipped on the goats, but he did reveal “they were very sweet on set.” Sadly, the cast wasn’t allowed to pet them because of Covid protocols.
14. John Turturro suggested Christopher Walken for the role of Burt
Burving for life. Thank you, John Turturro.
Credit: SCREENSHOT: APPLE TV+
So much about Lumon, such as the random baby goats for instance, is terrifying. But at least we have Burt and Irving. Burving wouldn’t be such an iconic workplace romance without the brilliant talent and chemistry of John Turturro and Christopher Walken, and Erickson took the time to remind fans that Turturro is actually the one who suggested Walken for the role. BRB CRYING. I love them and their “middle school crush” vibes so much.
15. The actors didn’t know what MDR did when filming Season 1
One of the largest unanswered questions that remains post-Season 1 finale is what the Helly is MDR doing on their computers? What are the numbers? Why are they linked to emotions? To refresh, here’s what we noted in a previous article:
We know the leading theories: Dylan thinks MDR is blowing up eels with probes so “a desperate humanity” can populate the sea, and Irv thinks the group is cutting swear words out of movies. Both are solid guesses, but we still don’t know what MDR is actually doing on those computers every day.
As Mark told Helly, “Each category of numbers presents in such an order as to elicit an emotional response in the refiner.” Some numbers, for example, feel scary — though it inexplicably takes new hires a while to feel the numbers on sight. “We know you may be curious about what the numbers mean,” the handbook reads. “However, knowing the true meaning behind the numbers would inhibit your natural intuition.”
One leading theory is that MDR is teaching Lumon how to potentially manipulate emotions of severed people (!!!). Kier Eagan’s statue explained “the four tempers” that define human beings are woe, frolic, dread, and malice. An eagle-eyed Reddit user noticed that when refiners sort data into a bin, four progress bars pop out, labeled WO for woe, FC for frolic, DR for dread, and MA for malice.
Sadly, we still have no idea what MDR does. But if it makes you feel any better, none of the MDR actors knew when filming Season 1 either! Solidarity.
We still have an endless stream of Severance questions, but one thing’s crystal clear: Erickson crushed his first Reddit AMA. There’s a slew of thoughtful, intriguing, and just plain funny responses worth scrolling through, as well as some great unanswered questions to think about.
Just like the AMA, The Board has ended this article.
Severance is now streaming on Apple TV+.