A Tunnel in the Sky

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Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted November 13, 2023

An exclusive to AppleTV+ for now.

There has been only one short season so far, nine episodes, the premiere being a year and a nine months ago now. A second season was ordered, but it has been delayed from the previously announced date, so no telling when to expect it. The quality of the show might induce me to keep my subscription in anticipation of it, but other factors might change my mind.

The word "severance" that would be familiar to most people is for a final payment when leaving a job, whether that be due to retirement or dismissal. But the root word, sever, means to cut or separate something into parts. In the case of this mysterious show, what is severed is a person's consciousness, or at least their memories. The Lumon Corporation has devised a way to make an employee's work time consciousness (their "innie" self) unique to the work environment. Once they leave Lumon they revert to their "outie" persona, with no memory of what they do while at work. Conversely, while at work they have no idea what their outie does in the world outside. The process is enabled by a neural implant, as well as something that happens to them while in the elevator going down into the bowels of the corporate space, and a reverse of that at day's end.

Adam Scott portrays Mark Scout while out in the world. Within Lumon he is known simply as Mark S. His outie self knows why he agreed to the procedure, or at least he thinks he does. His wife had died, which caused him grief, trauma, and severe depression. His therapist, and possibly family members, convinced him to be severed for work at Lumon would help him process his grief. After all, he would have no memory of even having a wife, alive or dead, while at work. How that was supposed to help his outie self is puzzling. He lives in a condo by himself, in a housing addition supposedly exclusive to Lumon employees, yet his next door neighbor, Mrs. Selvig (Patricia Arquette), is a midwife, or so she claims. Mark's work at Lumon is in the Macrodata Refinement department, and he is the new head of that department, but if you were to ask him what his work actually entails he wouldn't be able to explain it. He has trouble explaining it to new employee Helly R. (Britt Lower), and she doesn't get any more meaningful information from Dylan (Zach Cherry) or Irving (John Turturro). Nothing they say made any sense to me either. So, what is actually happening at Lumon? Are they designing some new device, or just analyzing data, and for what purpose?

We learn early that some of Lumon's staff have not been severed, they do not have a split consciousness for inside and outside the work environment. It is also possible that at least one person at Lumon has no outie, they are inside Lumon all the time. Are the severed employess just lab rats, giving the designers insight into how best to perfect their severance techniques, but again, to what purpose? The lab rat idea is reinforced by the maze-like corridors within Lumon, long stretches of nothing but walls and an occasional door, without seeing anyone from other departments, and in fact all departments are supposed to avoid contact with others. Revelations toward the end of the short season tells us they are able to do more than just sever work/world consciousness. Might their goal be to control as many people as possible, whether they are Lumon employees or not? Even though the neural implant is a futuristic device, there are quite a few other things that indicate this is taking place in an alternate world. The computers look right out of the 1990s, cassette tapes are used instead of CDs, and automobiles and other things look of that vintage too. Not sure where the name Lumon comes from or what it means, since the company was started by a man named Kier Eagon, many decades prior to the main action. He seems to have been a very eccentric mystic/philospher/con man, reminding me of L. Ron Hubbard, whose Dyanetics formed the basis of Scientology. A lot of his philosophical quotes are repeated throughout the series, and like some philosophies, sound profound while the point is completely murky. It's an intriguing mystery, which I can recommend at this time. And yet…

My frustrations and disappointments have nothing to do with the story, but rather the production itself. In today's media environment it doesn't make a lot of sense to anticipate renewal when so many completed, or almost completed, projects are being shelved as tax write-offs. Not sure it has happened with Apple yet, but other studios have announced renewals only to reverse that decision later. I don't think this show's delay has anything to do with Covid protocols, since there are very few scenes with a lot of the cast together, and even when they were, some of that could have been done with split screen effects, the actors working alone, or separated more than it appears on screen. If it is a financial matter, or a conflict over the direction of the story, disputes between the creators and the money people, even more reason for them to have completed the story in a slightly longer season, with slightly longer episodes, perhaps a total of twelve. Stringing the viewer along in the streaming environment, with any physical media release either never happening, or delayed for several years, is frustrating. It is the reason I've dropped several accounts recently, with others, including Apple, being considered for cancellation too. At least they haven't gone up in price since my trial period ended, as almost all other streamers have been doing. If they do go up, it all depends on what other shows they come up with that might get me to stay.


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Dan Erickson

Premiere Date
February 18, 2022

Adam Scott
Britt Lower
John Turturro
Zach Cherry
Patricia Arquette
Tramel Tillman
Dichen Lachman
Christopher Walken
Jen Tullock
Michael Chernus
Nikki M. James

Full Credits at IMDb

Exclusive to AppleTV+