Good News About Hell is the first episode of the first season of Severance.
Every time you find yourself here, it's because you chose to come back.
— Mark, (32:39)
A red haired woman is passed out on top of a large conference table in an otherwise empty room. She is awakened by a voice coming through a small speaker that asks her, “Who are you?”
The voice on the speaker offers, or demands, that she respond to a five-question survey. The woman, although clearly confused, consents to the unseen questioner's prodding. She takes the survey and receives a perfect score.
Elsewhere, a man is sobbing in a parked car. After pulling himself together, he exits the car and begins to walk toward an expansive, low-slung, modern office building. He is revealed to be Mr. Scout. After entering a badged area of the building, he changes at a locker, passes through further security, and descends in an elevator to the Severed floor of Lumon Industries.
Exiting the elevator, Mark S. walks the long, brightly-lit and maze-like corridors to his office in Macrodata Refinement. There, Mark banters with his colleagues Irving and Dylan while beginning work on his file.
Mark is pulled away by Mr. Milchick to see their boss, Ms. Cobel. In Ms. Cobel's office, Mark is informed that his colleague and supervisor, Petey, is no longer with Lumon, and that he, Mark, is being promoted to Petey's role as Macrodata Refinement Chief. Ms. Cobel immediately gives Mark S. the task of running a training alongside Irving. This “training” is revealed to be the interaction with the red haired woman from the first scene.
The red haired woman is Helly R. At the conclusion of the survey, Mark S. tries to put Helly at ease, but she is agitated and demands to leave. Mark walks Helly to the exit; after several attempts at going through the door to the outside world, Helly finds she can't leave the area. Reassuring Helly that she is neither dead nor in Hell, Mark brings Helly to Ms. Cobel's office where she is given a video on a small disk to watch.
Helly R. plays the video on a TV back in the MDR area. Onscreen, she sees the image of herself, introducing herself to herself. A version of Helly from about two hours prior reads a statement into a camera, explaining her decision to voluntarily undergo the process colloquially known as “Severance.” The effect of this procedure is that her work life memories and personal life memories are split - a change that is irreversible. Helly R. watches in disbelief.
Mark attempts to comfort Helly later by telling her, “Every time you find yourself here, it's because you chose to come back.”
At the end of his work day, Mark returns home where he watches television and begins drinking. The next morning he has a confrontation over the telephone with his neighbor, Mrs. Selvig, about the placement of her recycling bin. Later that day, Mark is picked up by his sister Devon to go to a non-dinner dinner party at her home, which he has completely forgotten about committing to. Devon confides that she assumed that since Mark was nearing “the anniversary,” he would want to be around people. They don't discuss what the anniversary marks.
The guests at the party discuss Mark's prior career as a professor of History. Ricken, Devon's husband, reveals that Mark's late wife was a professor of Russian Literature - the first time we learn that Mark has some tragedy in his past. The talk at the table turns to Mark's current employment at Lumon. Ricken tells the group that Mark has had the Severance Procedure, which causes an awkward moment. After the foodless dinner, Devon and Mark have a moment alone in which she confides her belief that Mark “forgetting” about his late wife for eight hours a day is not the same as healing from her death.
The Hales invite Mark to spend the night. Unable to sleep, Mark sees a “businessman” standing outside the house while he is getting a glass of water. The next morning, the mysterious man is gone. Mark tells Devon about the strange scene, but she assumes the man was a drunk from a nearby bar.
Later that day, at Pip's Bar and Grille where he is waiting alone for his meal to be served, Mark is interrupted by Mrs. Selvig with a phone call about the trash and recycling bins. In the middle of having yet another frustrating conversation with his neighbor, a man he does not recognize comes to his table and tells him to end his phone call.
The man explains to a very confused Mark that he is Petey from work, who is now un-severed and on the run from Lumon security. Mark realizes that he is the man who was standing outside of his sister's house the night before. Petey tells Mark that nothing “down there” - presumably referring to the Severed floor at Lumon - is what they say it is. Mark learns that Petey was his best friend at work. Petey gives Mark a greeting card in an envelope and leaves. Mark reads the card from Petey in his car. It has an address on the back of it and Petey's instruction that he should go there alone if he wants to know more. Mark drives home.
Upon arriving, he runs into Mrs. Selvig outside who apologizes profusely for the mixup with the bins. After a short chat, the camera reveals Mrs. Selvig to be the same person as his boss at Lumon, Ms. Cobel. Mrs. Selvig tells Mark, “You're good people.”
Hi, kids. What's for dinner?
— Irving, (11:50)
I can sense the questions made you feel afraid or disoriented. Well, the good news is, you're at an orientation.
— Mark, (21:10)
Mark. […] I would like to leave the building now!
— Helly, (24:16)
Weaponizing office equipment on your first day. You are going to be fun.
— Cobel, (27:42)
I've wanted to pummel Mark myself, but I am his employer.
— Cobel, (27:51)
You know, my mother was an atheist. She used to say that there was good news and bad news about hell. The good news is, hell is just the product of a morbid human imagination. The bad news is, whatever humans can imagine, they can usually create.
— Cobel, (29:22)
What a lot of people overlook, I think, is that life is not food. You've got life, this complex quality of sentience and activity. And then you've got food, which is what? Fuel.
— Patton, (38:56)
Well, we're at the point where, traditionally, I would say something like, ‘Dig in.’ But I must say, I do think that the lack of food has allowed us to already do so on a much deeper level.
— Ricken, (43:07)
Your house smells like pregnancy.
— Mark, (44:41)
Nothing down there is what they say.
— Petey, (52:06)