Severance season 1, episode 5 recap – “The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design”

March 11, 2022
Cole Sansom 1
Apple TV+, Streaming Service, Weekly TV


Mark visits his pregnant sister, while inside, he deals with the outfall from Helly’s hanging.

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Mark visits his pregnant sister, while inside, he deals with the outfall from Helly’s hanging.

This recap of Apple TV+ series Severance season 1, episode 5, “The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design,” contains spoilers.

Access the archive of recaps, reviews, and features for Severance.

One of the (albeit lesser) considerations with a concept of Severance is what happens if there’s an outside emergency. Would they tell the innies to leave with no explanation? As it’s shown in “The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design”, Mark only finds out of his sister’s pregnancy nearing its endpoint.

Severance season 1, episode 5 recap

Driving to the cabin, he listens to Rickon’s anxious voicemails that were unanswerable in his severed state. By the bedside, Rickon is no less annoying, asking Mark to help him hang Kelp around the cabin, and to share secrets to create a “soul void.”

This then leads to the duel revelation both that the book has been stolen (Rickon believes that any thief who read it would naturally turn themselves in), and later, Mark confesses to Devon that he suspects something is fishy at Lumen. His mind can’t escape the image of Petey; if he’s right, half of Mark’s life is a lie.

Interestingly, that other half gets a lot more mileage out of Rickon’s foofy self-help platitudes. Inner Mark devours the stolen (then somewhat returned?) book with all its florid prose, dull metaphors, and standard-issue life advice (Rickon poses the question of what separates man and machine before answering that one thinks, and one is metal).

Helly’s near-fatal suicide attempt (did we even think for a moment she would die?) has him rattled — he was the one to find her in the elevator. While Irv suggests hiding “inspirational quotes around the office,” Cobel has her own plan which apparently deviates from protocol.

Miss Casey returns to observe Helly, invading her personal space and jotting down notes on every movement until Mark makes a move to get her to leave, taking Helly off to a private room where they can talk. He shows her a map he’s been making, attempting to recreate Petey’s, and asks her to help. “I’m not your new Petey,” she says, running off.

The ending

As Mark chases her down the endless corridors the light follows her steps, leaving the rest of the hallway in darkness, until she can’t bear his pestering anymore. After the previous week’s humiliating video response, the hanging worked as an attempt to push back against her outie: “I wanted her to wake up with the life draining out of her, and know it was me that did it.”  Judging by the horrifying expression on outie Helly we see at the start, it must’ve worked.

They’re interrupted by a strange noise, and follow it to find… a goat room? A man is looking after kids (the goat kind) and yells at them “it isn’t time.” When could it be goat time? Realizing her coworker is also lost, adrift down here, Helly agrees to help with the map. I’m so happy to see these two finally be on the same side, it just took Mark to cool down a little.

And they’re not the only ones who’ve been exploring. Irving meets up with Burt again, but this time Dylan is in tow, reading to “save” his coworker from the bloodthirsty Optics man. Telling Burt about the coup, the stranger reveals that his department has its own superstitions about the MCR team (involving larvae and pouches). That combined with the discovery of a doubled painting depicting a violent uprising, each showing a different team perpetrating it, makes them realize that someone is trying to prevent the departments from interacting. When Burt finally introduces his team to Dylan and Irving, they look like they’re face to face with monsters.

What did you think of the Apple TV+ series Severance season 1, episode 5? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Apple TV+.

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1 thought on “Severance season 1, episode 5 recap – “The Grim Barbarity of Optics and Design”

  • March 13, 2022 at 1:10 am

    Great synopsis. Severance is the best show, it’s a real mind game. Can’t wait for each new episode.

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