Devs Was an Utterly Bizarre Head Trip With a Surprisingly Beautiful Twist

Illustration for article titled iDevs/i Was an Utterly Bizarre Head Trip With a Surprisingly Beautiful Twist
Image: Devs (FX)

Devs, the eight-part sci-fi miniseries from visionary director Alex Garland, has aired its final, head-spinning episode. With it, the mysterious final event surrounding a powerful prediction machine is finally revealed. But don’t expect Devs to serve up a tidy resolution to its spectacular exploration of what it means to exist—you’ll have to arrive there all on your own.

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Illustration for article titled iDevs/i Was an Utterly Bizarre Head Trip With a Surprisingly Beautiful Twist

The final episode of Devs begins by confirming the premonition revealed to Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) by Katie (Alison Pill) in episode six. Provoked to leave her apartment by Jamie’s (Jin Ha) murder at the hands of Amaya’s security head Kenton (Zach Grenier)—and, in a thrilling episode seven twist, Kenton’s murder by Pete (Jefferson Hall), the undercover spy who’s been posing as a homeless man who lives outside of Lily’s building—Lily makes her way to the remote campus of her former tech employer, where she plans to confront Katie and Forest (Nick Offerman) with Kenton’s gun concealed in her sweatshirt pocket.

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It should be noted, the campus is also home to the decidedly chilling mega-statue of the real Amaya, Forest’s deceased daughter—one of the more bizarre manifestations of Forest’s neuroses. While it makes for good horror—she feels like a gigantic baby just waiting to crush everything below her—the statue doesn’t do much aside from establishing that the tech company has an almost cult-like element to it. But even in an alternate timeline in which the real Amaya is still alive—which we’ll get to in a bit—she’s everywhere on the quantum AI campus. Beyond being an odd and even uncomfortable presence at the company, the large toddler does not actually go anywhere, which felt like a strange decision given the statue’s outsized presence in the series.

Entering Devs, home to the quantum computer the team built to reveal the past and future using a complex prediction algorithm, Lily finds Forest awaiting her arrival—having, of course, already seen the events play out with the Devs machine. In the viewing chamber, Lily tells Forest that he has taken everything from her, and Forest—with the same passive resolve he used when confronting Sergei (Karl Glusman) before his death—replies that he’s taken nothing. Life, he argues, offers merely an illusion of choice where in fact there is none. Conveniently, this also absolves him of any wrongdoing—including, presumably, the death of his daughter—as it was always destined to unfold in a predetermined way, “like pictures on a screen.” When Lily remarks this all seems, well, impossible, Forest explains that by understanding the cause and effect data of one thing, you can effectively understand the data of everything. “Big data,” as he describes it.

And this is where Devs goes full tech-bro (and where it’s likely to lose a few viewers who’ve otherwise loved the series so far). Forest argues that by capturing the infinite data of everything, he can create a world in which Amaya still exists—her memories, her experiences, her entire world—within Devs. He can effectively become the god—a “messiah,” as both he and Lily put it—of his own world, one where Amaya lives. And when Lily observes that Devs is merely a simulation of a physical, real-world, Forest argues that there is no discernible difference between a simulated existence and one beholden to determinism.

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Evidently having had enough of this—and who could blame her—Lily asks Forest to show her why she’s arrived at Devs, and more specifically the event that Katie and Forest previously said breaks the machine and prevents it from showing further into the future than their present day. Using the machine, Forest shows her that they both die at Lily’s hand after she shoots him in the ferrying capsule in the electromagnetic chamber, breaking the glass barrier and sending them crashing to their deaths.

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But this is not how they die—not exactly.

In the final moments before the chamber departs Devs, Lily chucks her gun out of the closing doors—shattering both the machine’s prediction and Forest’s perception of reality in the final moments of his life. Stewart (Stephen McKinley Henderson), who’s been standing idly by, ultimately cuts the electromagnetic suspension, sending them falling to their deaths. When Katie, looking on in horror, asks Stewart why he did it, he tells her he’s realized what they’ve done, that someone had to stop it, and that he shouldn’t be blamed because it was already determined to happen.

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This was another odd thread in the series. Stewart’s decision to ultimately pull the cord on something he’d been so eager to help build felt rushed and a little more like an afterthought. As a plot device, Stewart’s decision sets the following scenes up nicely, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for his character and it doesn’t really ever get explored or explained by the series. He’s merely there, after having had some private realization about the nature of the machine that we as viewers are never privy to, and suddenly becomes one of the most important figures in the show before vanishing again. Unlike a character like, say, Pete, we weren’t given a lot of contextual clues about Stewart’s character prior to this pivotal moment. Stewart also didn’t feel like a moral compass during literally any other part of the series. Instead, he used the machine to watch porn and terrorize his colleagues by showing them the future.

Illustration for article titled iDevs/i Was an Utterly Bizarre Head Trip With a Surprisingly Beautiful Twist
Image: Devs (FX)
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In death, Forest’s consciousness is uploaded to Devs, where he and Katie discuss Lily’s choice—an act that Katie characterizes as “the original sin, disobedience.” As observed by Lyndon (Cailee Spaeny) in episode four, Forest acknowledges that the Devs system contains many worlds—meaning that if he enters the simulation, this particular Forest may not meet the desired reality he yearns for. Still, Forests agrees to be uploaded with the knowledge that in at least one of these worlds, he will be reunited with his family.

Lily awakens in her apartment days prior to her death—on the day of Sergei’s presentation before Katie and Forest at Amaya—but possessing all of her memories of everything that’s transpired at Devs. Lily finds Pete is still undercover as the homeless man who lives on her stoop, and, after arriving at Amaya with Sergei, sees Forest pulling into the campus’ parking lot. One of her first decisive acts within this new world is demanding to see Sergei’s phone, where she attempts to open what she learned was a Russian communication tool disguised as a Sudoku app. As Sergei rips the phone away from her and storms off to his presentation, Lily allows him to leave—though whether Sergei is granted access to and later murdered by Devs in this reality is unclear.

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Making her way to the Devs location, Lily sees it’s no longer there. Instead, she finds Forrest playing in a field with his daughter and wife—who, in this reality, are still alive. Forest explains to Lily that they are now “living” inside the Devs system and are the only two people within the simulation who know they’re in one. But this simulation, again, is one of many possible existences within the machine. Forest explains that while this one they’re in is a “paradise,” others will be “closer to hell.” He confides this in Lily as a comfort for those other, more distinctly unpleasant or presumably traumatic simulations they exist in simultaneously. In the simulated world, presumably the same “paradise” timeline—but who’s to say?—Lily finds Jamie, who is still alive. She hugs him tightly, and he returns the embrace.

Illustration for article titled iDevs/i Was an Utterly Bizarre Head Trip With a Surprisingly Beautiful Twist
Image: Devs (FX)
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Back in the real world, Katie tells Senator Laine (Janet Mock) these simulations are indistinguishable from real life. This was another moment that felt unnecessarily rushed. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen more about the government’s interest in Amaya’s research, and Laine’s character felt like one that should have been explored in greater detail. But the exchange between Laine and Katie does lead one to wonder if it’s possible the “real world” is a simulation of a world in which a simulation was masterminded—and so forth and so on, for eternity, until this entire plot begins to break your brain.

The show’s exploration of many timelines is visually present throughout the series: in episode five, during the earliest interaction between Katie and Forest following a lecture in which Katie was provoked into an outburst about the Many-Worlds Interpretation; in the moments before and after Forest watches his family die; and in episode seven, during Lyndon’s fall to his death and in Katie’s departure from the dam where he dies, seemingly resolute in her belief that she is simply passively observing a series of terrible events already determined to occur—that is, until the event at the Devs center unfolds and Lily makes her own choice.

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But every time Devs appears ready to answer its own philosophical questions about what it means to exist, we’re swiftly catapulted back to where we started. Even peripheral actors like Lyndon and Stewart undermine their own belief systems by the end of Devs—a name we learn is actually code for “deus,” or the Latin “god,” and the name by which Forest refers to the machine after he’s been uploaded.

The final two episodes give each of the primary characters their own turn at playing god, and the implication by Forest in his conversation with Lily within the simulation in the finale is that she will still have agency over her existence there—as she did in her actual life. But as with many an Alex Garland joint, a la Ex Machina or Annihilation, you shouldn’t expect a neatly packaged resolution to some of the show’s bigger questions, namely, whether we’re all passive participants in a predetermined timeline, or whether we possess agency. Rather, Garland lets us take the reins on our own interpretation of the series’ meaning—a choice, you might say, of our own.

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DISCUSSION

My first thought after we find out they are in a simulation and are the only ones who know it - Can they break the rules of the simulation like Neo can in the Matrix? It’s not the ending I was expecting, but I loved the show and will probably watch it again.