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Two words – Alex Garland. Demigod. Unfamiliar with Alex Garland? Um. Ex Machina? Or maybe his adaptation of VanderMeer’s novel Annihilation? Garland has single-handedly made his name the go-to writer/director envisioning the coming tech apocalypse. He’s basically a one man walking Black Mirror generator. And now, Garland has brought us a new vision of chaos in Silicon Valley. Something about a team called Devs – and some new air-bending solution that will revolutionize the world as we know it. So yeah, let me ask the question again. Is anyone out there watching Hulu’s miniseries Devs?
So, I plan to stay with the show from episode one, all the way to episode eight. And I will keep all my thoughts right here on this page over the next six weeks. If you’d like to join in with me, feel free, drop your comments at the bottom of this page. Just please know, that if you head further down this page, or into the comments section without having watched the show through to the current episode, it will be spoiled. Here’s a trailer to convince you it’s all that and a bag of chips. Still unsure?
Alright – let’s dive in shall we? SPOILERS ABOUND!!!
Devs – Episode 1
Amaya, (which is a startlingly similar name to the telecom company Avaya, but OK) is a wicked (see what I did there) cool, cutting edge Silicon Valley firm. Basically an Apple/Google/Uber equivalent. Well, as episode 1 kicks off, Sergei, a developer for the company, does a demo showing that his AI solution is able to predict a simple organism’s movements 10 seconds into the future. And with that, Forest (played by Nick Offerman from Parks and Rec, etc.), the CEO of the company, invites Sergei to join Amaya’s black ops team, Devs. Sergei is taken to the team’s ultra undercover Dev location, which is mag-lev vacuum air gapped facility. (The vacuum bit is extreme Hollywood silliness. The important thing is that the facility is air gapped, and you do that just by not allowing any network connectivity into or out of the facility.) The Dev team headquarters also happens to be located within a Faraday cage. (A Faraday cage is just a defensive system that blocks out all incoming and outgoing signals.)
Well, upon arriving at this whiz-bang Dev control center, Forest informs Sergei that it will all become clear to him what he should do. For now, he should just read the code and learn as he goes. But without even paging down, the code breaks his brain. So using his watch, Sergei records what he can see on the screen. And upon leaving the facility, Forest meets Sergei and tells him that he was bound to do this, it wasn’t his fault necessarily. The universe is deterministic. Sergei tries to run, and at this point, Forest has Kenton suffocate Sergei.
Lily (played by the brilliant Sonoya Mizuno – and we know her from Garland’s Ex Machina, Maniac, and Annihilation – come on, if those aren’t three of the greatest geek credentials out there, I don’t know what is.), Sergei’s girlfriend, who also happens to work in the cryptography department at Amaya, begins to worry that Sergei isn’t returning. So she contacts Kenton (the head of security), and Forest, to let them know he’s gone AWOL. Helpfully, Forest shows Lily CCTV footage of Sergei walking off the campus. Lily, being completely unconvinced, begins digging deeper and gets a copy of Sergei’s phone, and finds a Sudoku game that is weirdly locked. Lily reaches out to her ex-boyfriend, Jamie, to get help. But Jamie is fairly pissed off, and refuses. Lily’s close friend Jen calls Lily to come to the Amaya campus, where she learns that Sergei committed suicide by turning himself into a pyre in front of the child statue towering over the campus.
Episode 1 Thoughts – I was enthralled by the gorgeousness of the set design and layout of the Amaya campus. The redwood trees? The tree halos? So cool! The bigger deal though was my curiosity as to what the Devs team is doing. What does their code do? What was Sergei so surprised by, and why did he steal it? And obviously Kenton and Forest staged his suicide, but why? More importantly, the question that rules them all, is why is Forest a determinist? Why does he think that all humans are ruled by their inherent tram-lines of their biology? What has made him think this? (And where is their time machine?? Hahaha.)
Devs – Episode 2
As episode 2 opens, Forest and Lily are talking, and Forest tells her about the death of his daughter, Amaya. (There’s a shocker.) One of my favorite moments in the first two episodes (besides the human pyre strategically located beneath the Amaya statue) definitely has to be this brilliant soliloquy about how he held two states of ideas in his mind simultaneously after Amaya died. On the one hand, Forest says he knew that Amaya had passed away, that it was heartbreaking, but comprehensible. And at the same time, there was this other reality where it was completely incomprehensible that she was gone, completely dissonant with the rest of the world. These two truths survived in a state of duality, both equally opposite, yet equally real, and equally true. And this tells us something powerful about Forest – that he is capable of holding truth at a distance. He can shield himself from pain, and moral dilemmas with the best of them. I mean, he is sitting there, talking with Lily about the pain of loss, after having murdered her boyfriend after all. Possibly one of the scariest depictions of a sociopath I’ve ever seen.
Lily, vaults the outside of Jamie’s apartment complex, and convinces Jamie to crack Sergei’s phone. And they learn that it’s a Russian messaging app solution. And just like that they realize that Sergei was probably a Russian spy. We also learn that Forest really is fixated on the past. Specifically, his daughter’s death.
Jump to the Devs’ lab wherein the developers managed to pull up a projection of Christ’s crucifixion. (I could spend 3,000 words talking about this one bit. The way his arms were tied and not nailed – “See here my hands, my side”, and how exactly did they nail down the specific date to even look? Did they go to Easter 33AD? hahahahah. If they literally had the ability to etch-a-sketch a time in history, it would have been months of hunting, especially seeing as though the Gregorian calendar didn’t even nail down (unexpected pun) Christ’s birth correctly. But whatever…we are taking a deep breath, and moving on.) The more important detail is that Forest clears everyone out in order to watch a projection of his dead daughter play with bubbles.
Now, in a bit of a dead end, Lily goes to meet with Sergei’s handler in order to find out, definitively, what Sergei was up to, and if he was murdered. Anton makes it clear that Sergei was murdered, and offers to have Lily step into Sergei’s place. But Lily, at the end of the show makes it clear she’s not interested in any of that. But, it really doesn’t matter, because Kenton had been watching the entire exchange between Anton and Lily, and ends up murdering Anton.
Episode 2 Thoughts – Apparently the Devs team is able to utilize the molecular structure of things in order to run the cosmic superhighway, and watch events in the past. Which probably means they are also likely able to watch events in the future as well. But it is the philosophical questions of Devs that have me more interested. Devs posits that the universe is a deterministic lost cause. We are locked on our railway – forced to head the direction we are made to go. Hrmmm. I predict, that before this show is over, someone will be shown in a future event, and then will break out of it somehow, thus proving that we aren’t determined at all. But we will see.
Devs – Episode 3
The episode opens with the Devs quantum machine playing scenes throughout all of history. Joan of Arc? Christ again. Marching Crusaders. And then view of Lily putting the sign up in her window at the end of the last episode. Then, cut to, Marilyn Monroe having sex with Arthur Miller. Katie interrupts them, and tells reminds them that they only have two rules: 1) We don’t look forwards, we only look back. 2) We don’t invade privacy. (Oh, come on. If this isn’t the world’s biggest cooked grenade, I literally don’t know what is.)
Lily comes back to work – but completely flips out. Asks to talk to Kenton, the head of security. And when they talk, her friend (name?) joins the two of them. But when Lily comes unglued, and walks out onto the side of the building, Kenton joins her, in an attempt to calm her down. During which, Lily mentions that Sergei was connected with KGB somehow. But it was all a ploy, because Lily’s friend rubber duckied Kenton’s computer in order to grab the CCTV footage of Sergei killing himself.
The other important thread of the show was that the head of the tech oversight committee comes to visit Forest at the Devs Headquarters. She informed Forest he was going to need to testify before Congress. And after Kenton pulls Lily down from the ledge, Forest says to Kenton, and I quote:
Forest, “That was close, Kenton. It nearly fucked the universe.”
Kenton, “It’s Okay sir, we are still on your tram lines.”
???? This one line of dialog tells me that actually, Forest doesn’t believe that the world is guided by biological quantum determinism, but rather that there has to be some free will of some sort happening. Why? Well, he wouldn’t be worried about history coming off of his tram lines if it wasn’t possible. So something else is happening here.
As the episode ends, Lily visits Jamie gain, and asks for his help again. Jaime says to Lily, “You want to watch the man you left me for burn himself to death together? That is transcendentally weird.” But when the two of them watch the video closely, Jamie realizes that the flames were computer generated. The suicide was fake. And that is when Lily realizes that someone at Amaya murdered her boyfriend.
Devs – Episode 4
I’m gonna be honest, I have absolutely no idea what happened over the course of the last several weeks on this show. Covid-19 has literally exploded absolutely everything that was once normal. Man. Ok. Stopping for a moment to read what I wrote above… Right, right rIght. Got it. Ok. Watching.
There is a tremor, an earthquake, and the entire Shibboleth (what is that faraday cage, quantum computer place called? That’s it, from now on I’m calling it the Shibboleth.) shakes and Katie didn’t flinch. Why? Because she’s seen the future, that’s why. And Forest asks an interesting question. What if we look 1 minute into the future, and we see you fold your arms. But instead of folding your arms, you say screw the future, and you put your hands in your pockets instead. Katie says, “Cause precedes effect. Effect precedes cause. The future is fixed in the same way that the past is fixed. In 48 hours, Lily will die.”
Lyndon drops out de Broglie-Bohm and switches it with Everett interpretation. Many worlds interpretation. But Forest thinks its just a cute party trick. He obviously doesn’t like it because if every variant happens in the Everett interpretation, then they can’t know which one happens in this world. And for Forest, that makes this utterly useless. And not only does Forest undermine Lyndon’s new theory, in spite of her producing audio of Jesus speaking in Aramaic, he even fires her.
“If it’s not our Jesus, it’s not my Amaya.”
Worse, Katie applies the same logic Lyndon had applied to sound waves, and applied it to visuals. And that shows Forest his daughter’s past in perfect technicolor. When Kenton takes Lily to go see a psychiatrist, things go very poorly… because afterwards, he refuses to take her home. Instead, Lily crashes Kenton’s car, and flees back to her ex-boyfriend’s apartment. That is where she calls the police and reports Sergei’s murder. But instead of filing a report, she is taken in for crashing Kenton’s BMW.
De Broglie-Bohm Theory Explanation
I am not even going to act like I know myself. This is what Wikipedia has to say about it: “The theory is deterministic and explicitly nonlocal: the velocity of any one particle depends on the value of the guiding equation, which depends on the configuration of the system given by its wave function; the latter depends on the boundary conditions of the system, which, in principle, may be the entire universe.” Determinism. And it’s replace with a many world algorithm. If you know anything about string theory, you get this general idea. All variations and possibilities are accounted for in a near infinite number of strings. Forest needs his daughter back. Not an approximation there of. And in order to get her back, Forest sees one pathway, and that is through Lily’s death.
Devs – Episode 5
This episode seems like a bit of an interlude episode – a rising storm episode. A, watch Katie and Forest become gods sort of an episode.
So yeah, the framing structure of the episode seems to be Katie watching projections of various sorts. There is Kenton torturing Lily’s ex-boyfriend, Jamie. And Lily playing Go with her father while he is terminally ill. We watch as Lily and Sergei meet for the first time. And then as Forest manipulates Katie’s lecturer into setting Katie off… and then his offering her a job. We watch as Forest is talking with his wife on the phone, and then see him watch as a car T-bones his wife and daughter into oblivion. (We also watch as many other versions of reality happen, and in one of those, Forest’s wife and daughter returns home safely. This is a theme throughout the entire episode – the multiverse of infinite possibilities.)
My favorite scene is when Kenton comes to Forest and Katie, informing them that he is not going to go to jail. He’ll be forced to kill Lily and Jamie instead of going to prison. Katie informs Kenton that its not in his power to kill Lily. Kenton take umbrage at this assumption and so Katie clarifies, ‘I didn’t say you weren’t capable, I said it wasn’t in your power.’ And with that, the episode ends as Katie watches Jamie steal Lily out of the psychiatric facility.
Katie, “I think you don’t understand what you are doing here – if its determinism, then determinism precludes free will, and you’re absolved… you did no wrong. But if determinism doesn’t work, then, you had choices, and you are guilty.
Forest, “And if it doesn’t work, I’m damned.”
A Few Thoughts on Episode Five – There were a few strange scenes when the Devs were investigating the atomic structure of items from the past? And the deeper they dive into the structures, the more they realize that there are place holders missing. Then, Katie attempts to bring the mouse back from the dead. And in a single flickering moment, it seems to show that she has figured out how to do it? I mean, we all knew all of this quantum theory was irrelevant unless Amaya is brought back from the dead and restored to her right place in this current timeline. But that assumes a determinism that will probably fail Forest. Do you think you have choices? Or do you presume everything is determined?
Devs – Episode 6
Lily wakes in a motel in Napa with Jamie. Jamie suggest that they should go to the media – but Lily realizes how little they will be believed after her being broken out of a mental institution. The two realize that without cash, they won’t be able to hide from Amaya and the security team. And so Lily and Jamie drive down to Forest’s house – and they sit down and chat. Forest and Jamie. Katie and Lily.
Katie comes completely clean with Lily, because, why not? She admits that Kenton killed Sergei. Specifically, Katie let’s Lily know that when they look forward in time, after a certain inflection point, everything goes grey with static. Something happens, an event, that causes a total breakdown in cause and effect. A breakdown in determinism. A literal breakdown in the laws of the universe. And now is when the theoretical details of determinism and freewill because relevant. Lily is predicted to go to Devs, tomorrow night. So, everything is setup and ready to fall.
Thoughts on Episode 6 – Obviously Lily will be forced to going in to Amaya, and the Devs lab in a few hours. And it will probably be predicated by Kenton who thinks that Forest, Katie, Lily, and Jamie are now friends. Which, is actually not too far from the truth, actually, now that I think about it. But the entire question that the whole series is asking is simple enough – are we determined, or are we free? Are we guilty for our crimes, mistakes, and missed obligations? Or were we forced by the cosmic forces at play in the universe.
Devs – Episode 7
Man. This is an amazing show. It’s brilliantly atmospheric, philosophical, and at the same time the single most mindjobby thing I’ve watched in a couple years. There is literally no more complicated problem in the field of philosophy than the question of Free Will. Are our actions predetermined? Or do our choices ebb and flow like a river changing with the seasons? And this show has done a fantastic job of running us at a cliff only to see if we can stop in time… or do we topple to our death… like Lyndon did at the dam?
So yeah, the show kicks off with Forest and Katie living out the day that they have watched and rewatched over and over again. Katie goes to her car, and knows she’ll find Lyndon in the back. They’ll go out to a nearby dam, intending to talk about getting her job back. But instead they will talk about the inevitability of it all. And Katie basically convinces Lyndon to stand at the edge of the dam to prove whether or not they have faith in the inevitability of it all. It’s a confusing decision. It actually doesn’t make sense at all, if you think about it.
Let’s stop a second – and think here – Lyndon basically got gamed by Katie. Katie tells Lyndon, if you believe in the many worlds theory, then you can go out on the ledge of the dam, and the Lyndon that doesn’t fall, can head back into Devs. But she already knows the outcome.. IN THIS MULTIVERSE. We can assume that Lyndon is right. Fine. Infinite options. She doesn’t fall. She falls. She stumbles, saves herself. She doesn’t even go out on the ledge! Fine. But in this universe, Katie has already seen what will happen to Lyndon. Here. And now. Lyndon just got worked.
Cut to Kenton… Kenton walks into Lily’s apartment, and kills Jamie. Lily almost gets the better of Kenton, but he starts strangling her to death. That is when Pete arrives and strangles Kenton. It’s then that Pete reveals that he was there originally to protect Sergei, then Lily. And that she needs to flee back to her mother’s place in Hong Kong. But with Jamie dead, and no real hope in anything else, she decides that she needs to head to Devs like it was foreseen that she would do.
Devs – Episode 8 – conclusion
Hahahaha. Man. That Alex Garland guy is something else. And from now on, for the rest of my life – every time he publishes something, a book, a TV show, a short, a movie, I’m in. 100%. So much brilliance in this series.
So what happened? Ok, let’s see. Lily encounters Forest at Devs, and he explains to her that DEVS is actually Roman, so the group is actually DEUS… not DEVS. Now, if you know Alex Garland at all, you know about his other movie, Ex Machina, and you know his fascination with Deus Ex Machina. Which, sort of makes DEVS & Ex Machina book ends of each other. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of deus ex machina, it used to be a device utilized in Roman plays where the Roman playwrights would introduce a god, literally via a crane, to resolve all the various plot discrepancies and loose ends. And, apparently since the 17th century “deus ex machina” has referred to unlikely saviors and unexpected events that force order out of the chaos of events, always in an unexpected way.
Anyway, Forest tells Lily that now is when she will pull out her gun. And that is also when Lily tells him to show her in the system what is about to happen next. And he does. And what she sees is that she and Forest walk out and into the Levatron (or whatever you want to call it) and she shoots him in the face, and the loss of vacuum causes the lev to fall, killing Lily as well. And from that moment on they can’t see what happens in the future anymore. But that isn’t why the system can’t see into the future anymore…
And then, Lily and Forest begin acting out these actions they saw in the system. We watch as Katie opens the Lev, and Lily and Forest head in. But just before the door closes, Lily – and this is the most important moment in the show – she tosses the gun back into Devs. She chooses.
Forest – “What did she do?”
Katie – “She made a choice. She made an actual choice. All her talk of God and messiahs, and look who she turned out to be… she committed the original sin. Disobedience.” And then a moment later she says, “The system is all powerful, and all knowing, but only on the Lyndon’s principle.”
Which, she reemphasizes – and than clarifies again that Forest really understands what that means. Why? Why was that so important? What even is this Lyndon principle? Well, earlier in the show, Lynden showed that the system worked perfectly when it assumed a many universe underpinning. A multiverse of options. Which, Forest was diametrically opposed to because it would then mean that the Amaya he was interacting with wasn’t his Amaya. But Lyndon was right, and Forest was wrong. And in this Lyndon Prinicipled world, it allows for Free Will. Which, is important, because we know that Lily chose, she wasn’t locked to a predetermined role.
As the series comes to an end, Lily wakes up, and she is sleeping next to Sergei. And Lily is having an out of body experience. And there is Lyndon. And the other developers from Devs. And there is Forest, with Amaya, and his wife. What is going on? But Forest explains it all to us – the two of them are living in this Devs simulation. A single universe experience, the most optimal experience, where Lily, Forest, Amaya, Jamie, Sergei, etc. etc. are all living, completely unaware that they are just in a simulation.
Thoughts on Devs
So, as I assumed up above somewhere in this long winded writeup, that Lily would win. And she would do that by just choosing. Now, the interesting part of this entire show is that it showed the difference between a perfect God, and His imperfect creation which is illustrated in the Bible’s Genesis 1. God crafted the perfect paradise for Him to walk with humans in the cool of the morning together. They talked. They lived. They shared life together with their creator. But, the problem in this setup (per Devs) was that God determined everything. He predetermined their actions, their likes, their dislikes, everything. He foreknew the beginning and their end, and so His creation had no choice. But when Adam (or Eve, whatever. I’m not getting into that theological discussion right now.) decided to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… he chose. He disobeyed God. He broke the simulation that had united him to God. And in so doing, he shattered the perfection of that experience with God.
But, he also made it possible to choose. To really live his life with Free Will.
I’m still writing… chill.
Edited by: CY