Half Loop is the second episode of the first season of Severance.
My job is to scroll through this spreadsheet and look for numbers that are scary?
— Helly, (12:13)
Mr. Milchick films Helly reading a written statement to her Innie, Helly, regarding her free choice to undergo the Severance process. He then leads her past a large stone bas-relief of Kier Eagan in profile to the room where Helly is to be implanted with a severance chip. A surgeon drills a hole into the back of Helly’s skull while Mr. Milchick observes. He takes a photo of Helly awake in the surgeon’s chair during the procedure and tells her, “I’m very excited to meet you.” The surgeon inserts the chip deep into Helly’s brain using a long needle. Helly’s eyes close.
Helly is now standing in an open stairwell outside the door to the Severed Floor. Milchick is waiting for her. Confused, she asks what is happening and where she is. Milchick explains that severance can be disorienting at first. He invites her to try to walk back into the restricted space of the Severed floor through the door. In a reverse of her attempts to leave the floor in the first episode, she now cannot enter through the doorway, always ending up back in the stairwell.
Now Helly is in the elevator. It dings. The door opens to Mr. Milchick standing there with a small bouquet of white flowers for her. He congratulates Helly on completing her first day.
It’s two days later, Monday. Mark S. is the first to enter the MDR office. As the new Chief of the Macrodata Refinement Department, a list of morning duties is waiting for him in a wall bin. Before the start of the workday he has to complete tasks like filling the soap in the restroom, wiping down the cubicles, dusting the compliance books, and, not least of all, acknowledging the portrait of Kier Eagan (verbally or silently).
While cleaning the cubicles, he notices that the small framed group pictures of the four Refiners—Dylan, Irving, Mark, and Petey—are still on everybody’s desks. He takes them to the storage closet where he hides them.
Helly arrives and expresses surprise to Mark that the day is Monday, even though to her it feels like she never left or had a weekend.
Dylan begins to train Helly on Macrodata Refinement, and shows her the incentives he has earned from making progress on many files. He expresses his hope that he will be the winner of that quarter’s Waffle Party. Mark takes over and assigns Helly the The Siena File file. He begins to explain the process of sorting the numbers as Irving interrupts him a few times demanding to know what happened to the group pictures. Mark continues with Helly, explaining how some of the numbers could feel scary.
Helly inquires whether she has the option of quitting the job if it turns out she hates it.
Mr. Milchick enters the office, pushing a cart laden with a Melon Bar. It is a welcome celebration for Helly. The festivities begin with a getting-to-know-you exercise. Helly has trouble saying anything substantial about herself and asks for a way to get a message to her Outie, which Milchick denies, mentioning the existence of the Code Detectors in the elevator to prevent that from happening surreptitiously. On his turn, Mark admits to hiding the group pictures. The sudden departure of Petey is unnerving to him. Melchick tries to lighten the mood by suggesting they start the Melon Party, which includes honeydew and cantaloupe. Then Melchick gets everyone together and takes the new group photo.
Helly walks off, announcing that she has quit, and runs to the elevator with her resignation written on a post-it note. She gets in the elevator, and immediately loud alarms and red flashing lights go off. Graner runs over from Security and begins to lead Helly off, but Mark intervenes and takes responsibility for the misunderstanding about data smuggling. Graner takes Mark to the Break Room. Mark walks slowly down the narrow dark hall toward a door that opens, revealing Ms. Cobel.
Outside, apparently later that night, Mark is on a first date with Alexa. She tells him about her job as a midwife, and asks about Mark’s job at Lumon. She wonders whether it messes with his head. A little drunk, Mark insists he likes it better this way. Walking back to their cars after dinner, Mark and Alexa come upon a group of Whole Mind Collective protestors. They are passing out flyers demanding an end to Severance, which they believe is on the verge of being a forced procedure. Mark argues with the protesters but takes a flyer with him.
At home later, Mark receives a visit from Mrs. Selvig. She has brought some home made chamomile cookies as a peace offering for the recycling bin contretemps. Mark invites her in. She observes that Mark smells nice, asking if he’s just been on a date. He admits he has. She tells Mark a story about her late husband and his promise to build her a house in the afterlife, with a small guest apartment in the back in case she found a new man before she got there, looking at Mark coyly while she says this.
After Mrs. Selvig leaves, Mark goes down to his basement. He locates a plastic bin labeled “Gemma’s Crafts” and examines a red and green pillar candle that he takes from it. He puts the candle back and closes the lid of the bin. Upstairs, he passes out on the couch again.
The next morning Mark calls in sick to work from his car, saying he has a minor stomach bug. Milchick, who takes the call, wishes him to get well soon and says that Mark’s Innie will be sad to have missed the day.
Back at Lumon, Irving and Dylan wonder where Mark is, hoping he hasn’t been fired. Helly comes in and expresses worry that her “note thing” might have caused Mark to lose his job.
In Ms. Cobel’s office, Melchick, Graner and Cobel discuss the timing of Mark’s absence.
Outside, Mark drives through the gloomy weather to the address Petey wrote on the back of the card, 499 Half Loop Road. It is an abandoned greenhouse.
At Lumon, Dylan explains to Helly that only one in five files are completed before they expire. As they chat, Irving works on his file. He begins to hallucinate thick black goo pouring out of the cubicle walls that surround him. He jolts and screams as the goo runs up his keyboard near his fingers. He apologizes for his outburst; Mr. Milchick is suddenly present in the room.
Mark, at the greenhouse, wanders through the wreckage and overgrowth. He comes upon a small kettle on a campfire, and Petey skulking not far away.
Melchick leads Irving through the white corridors at Lumon. He tells Irving that the consequence of falling asleep at work is loss of pay, but he won’t have to visit the Break Room. Instead, he is brought to Wellness Center for a check with Ms. Casey.
In MDR, Dylan shares his theory with Helly that their work is cleaning the sea on behalf of a desperate, ruined humanity.
At the greenhouse, Mark asks Petey what they worked on at Lumon. Petey says he doesn’t know. He reveals that he has been “reintegrated” for two weeks and during that time he mapped out the Severed floor. He shows Mark a re-creation of the map and says that he hid the original map for Mark when he left Lumon. Petey seems to suffer from some kind of attack which he attributes to re-integration sickness. Mark expresses disbelief; Petey explains he is the first person to be reintegrated.
Petey tries to tell Mark about the Break Room. He plays a cassette recording that sounds like an exhausted Mark repeatedly reading an apology to Milchick. The recording clearly fills Mark with confusion and horror.
On the Severed floor, Irving is sitting in a waiting room alone. He stands up to admire the oil painting hanging behind his bench. The painting depicts a white haired and bearded man, backlit with an otherworldly light, preparing to whip a group of four with a cat-o’-nine tails. The figures represented are a young bride, an old woman, a man dressed as a fool, and a horned goat.
While Irving regards the scene, a man emerges from one of the two doors in the room. He is about Irving’s age and is wearing a light blue lab coat and a green badge. He notices Irving’s appreciation for the painting. They discuss where it has been hung before, but the man thinks it is better in this location. He thinks the painting is “calming.” Irving introduces himself; he finds the man is the head of Optics and Design.
Their friendly conversation is interrupted when Irving is called into the other room by Ms. Casey. They sit across from one another in a darkened room. Ms. Casey puts on some soothing sounds and music. She calls Irving’s Outie “an exemplary person” and reads from a list of facts about this aspect of him in a steady, gentle voice, instructing him to enjoy each fact equally. They include “Your Outie is generous,” “Your Outie is strong and helped someone lifting a heavy object,” “Your Outie likes the sound of radar,” and “Your Outie is skilled at kissing and lovemaking.” By inadvertently reacting to one of the facts, Irving loses 10 points and has 90 points remaining.
Dylan buys some raisins from the vending machine in the Kitchenette. Helly interrogates him about the Code Detectors. Irving returns from Wellness, announcing that he has met the head of O&D. Dylan reacts negatively, stating that Burt “is a fuck” and he hopes Irving did not tell him where their office is located. While Dylan and Irving argue about Lumon myths, Helly excitedly completes her first data refinement. She acknowledges that the numbers were scary.
That night, outside, Mark sets Petey up on a couch in his basement and offers his shower. Petey thanks him. He goes into the bathroom. A phone in his pocket buzzes but he doesn’t answer it. He bends over and gasps in pain. His nose begins to bleed. He washes his face and heaves. In the shower, he begins to have flashbacks of Lumon, and passes out.
It sounds dumb, and Mark said it dumb.
— Dylan, (12:16)
Hey, Mark. I just printed out the passage of the handbook on changing out group photos. Just might be good to peruse when you're between things.
— Irving, (12:24)
Helly, welcome. I'm agog at how well I can tell you're already fitting in. The office feels whole. Now, let's get this party started.
— Milchick, (13:24)
I like to think my outie lives on, like, a riverboat.
— Dylan, (14:57)
Okay, refiners! Let's get this new group photo before the melon bloat sets in.
— Milchick, (19:40)
I quit. I don't wanna do the file-sorting thing or the never-seeing-the-sun thing or the disappearing-friends thing. I just don't want any of it.
— Helly, (20:27)
I'm experimenting with chamomile, so no hard feelings if you gag.
— Cobel [as Mrs. Selvig], (28:26)
All right, Irving. What I'd like to do is share with you some facts about your outie. Because your outie is an exemplary person, these facts should be very pleasing. Just relax your body and be open to the facts. Try to enjoy each equally. These facts are not to be shared outside this room. But for now, they're yours to enjoy.
— Ms. Casey, (44:45)
Please try to enjoy each fact equally, and not show preference for any over the others.
— Ms. Casey, (46:12)
You gotta let the info-smuggling notion go.
— Dylan, (48:07)
And don't pretend you care about this department. You just want your waffle party.
— Irving, (48:32)
They were scary. The numbers were scary.
— Helly, (49:36)