Severance: Why Mrs. Cobell Is Lying (The Real Reason Is Scary)

Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Severance.

Mrs. Cobell appears to be only one of the two personas held by the sinister yet multifaceted Severance character played by Patricia Arquette, whose habit of lying may hint that she is hiding more from the rest of the employees at Lumen than they realize. Apple+'s Severance is a nightmarish take on corporate culture that follows the story of a biotech company's employees,  who have volunteered to have their work lives and personal lives permanently separated into two different psyches. The show explores the effects faced by each of these employees as a result of the severance program that gives the series its name.

Overseeing the employees of Lumen's corporate archives division is their employer, Mrs. Harmony Cobell. She's one of the first characters introduced and her ruthlessness as an employer is evident in the Severance premiere. In response to Mark's fumbling of Helly's orientation program, she says, "You know, my mother was an atheist. She used to say there was good news and bad news about hell. The good news is it's just the product of a morbid human imagination. The bad news is whatever humans can imagine, they can usually create." This terrifying quote on the nature of severance makes it clear that she's one of the floor's unsevered members, as she openly speaks of her parents in the outside world. However, the detail also leads her to contradict herself.

Related: Severance Cast and Character Guide: Where You Know The Actors From

In a contrasting scene in the outside world, Mrs. Cobell tells Mark that her mother was a Catholic. It's a contradiction, considering what she told Mark on the basement floor of Lumen, and immediately raises questions as to why she would lie about such a thing. In the third episode of Severance, it's revealed that Mrs. Selvig/Mrs. Cobell has been watching Mark, most likely as she hunts for Petey, while she also maintains contact with Milchick from the severed floor of the dystopian company. While this confirms that she is the same person, both inside and outside of work, several hints have also been dropped that she may be formerly severed, which may be the real reason for her confusion. The process of reintegration had severe consequences on Petey's mental health, meaning that Mrs. Selvig may be a mirror as to what a reintegrated person acts like after they get over their sickness. It's clear that if Mrs. Selvig did go through reintegration, it has seemingly also had consequences, potentially manifesting as a sort of psychological illness. This would explain her confusion surrounding the trash and recycling in the first episode, alongside why she has contrasting beliefs about her mother, and would make a lot more sense in the context of the series as opposed to her merely lying.

This matter does raise several larger questions, also. Firstly, there's the question of Mrs. Cobell and her relationship with both the Board and Milchick. Severance's third episode confirms that Mrs. Cobell is unsevered, but what's important is that there has still been no acknowledgment of whether the higher-ups think she's severed or not. Her conversation during the time she snoops around Mark's house takes place solely with Milchick. The two unsevered workers clearly have a deeper connection and, as Mrs. Selvig, she seems to care for Mark's wellbeing. It may be possible that they're the only formerly severed individuals on the floor. This is reinforced by the fact that the Board seems to believe that reintegration isn't possible at all, as opposed to it being a threat that needs to be snuffed out.

This also suggests that Mrs. Cobell may have a personal motive in her hunt for Petey. It's important to note that when Petey saw Mrs. Cobell, he had been hallucinating vividly and clearly picturing her as her persona at work, which might explain his panic at seeing her. As a result, it's possible that Mrs. Cobell may have actually been trying to find Petey before Lumen and, if she was hypothetically a formerly severed individual, her motive might have even been to help him find out the truth about Lumon and its mysterious creator.

If reintegration has permanent effects on the individual's psyche, it may spell out a lot of trouble for Mark and the other employees who have already been severed. Additionally, if Mrs. Cobell had previously been a part of the severed workers and found a way to reintegrate, then this opens up a lot more questions regarding Lumon's practice surrounding the severance program and the reality of what the corporate archives division's really doing. Some of these answers may soon be provided on the next episode of Severance - though they may also be revealed later, as many of the show's biggest reveals are linked to these particular questions.

Next: Why Lumon's Severance Departments Are So Small

Severance releases new episodes every Friday on Apple TV+.

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