Alex Garland’s Devs continued to chug into a higher and higher gear of intensity with episode four. A show that’s built on tension with a foundation of big ideas, Devs gave a glimpse into the Amaya Corporation’s power and influence. Garland’s sci-fi drama teeters on the edge of absurdity, mostly coming back down to Earth by drawing glaring comparisons to current tech giants and more closely with current tech pioneers.
Every episode starts off with an almost slow and innocent pace, only to hurdle towards wreckage by the end of each 45 minutes. This week’s installment didn’t change this format, as the writers focused on the Devs team and facility itself, looking at the technology these programmers and “visionaries” are shaping into existence. Being able to predict the future is looking easier and easier by the episode.
Code 1: A Programmer’s Dream
A supporting character within the Devs universe, Lyndon (Cailee Spaeny) has been a programmer we’ve seen since the first episode, seemingly one of the youngest at Amaya. Lyndon’s focus in Devs is the sound within the projections the audience has been seeing over the last couple episodes. She makes a discovery in episode four, using determinism and the multiple worlds theory, which is a bit confusing, but let’s roll with it. Lyndon isolates the sound of the Jesus Christ projection, so that they all can hear him talking in Aramaic. It actually feels like a massive discovery in the moment.
Forest (Nick Offerman) responds in an interesting way: he fires Lyndon. He says that Lyndon made a mockery of Devs, undermining his entire project, and giving the young coder a severance of $10 million. Katie (Alison Pill), Forest’s second-in-command, applies this theory to the light of these projections, both past and future. The result is a clearer picture than we’ve seen before, one which Forest watches with tears flowing down his face. It’s not the first time we’ve seen the video of Forest’s daughter, but a constant reminder that he isn’t over her death, and he struggles with the idea of death as a whole.
Code 2: Lily Goes To Therapy
Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) struggles with an immense amount of Kenton (Zach Grenier) anti-force in this week’s episode. Her biggest foe, Kenton shows up at Lily’s home the morning after her and her ex-boyfriend-turned-hacker-friend Jamie (Jin Ha) watched the doctored suicide video of her other ex-boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman). Kenton drives her to see a therapist and we learn a few quick facts. Lily is 27, her dad died when she was young, her mom moved to Hong Kong, and she’s not close to her.
Lily tells the therapist, a man who immediately looks like someone who will break confidentiality, that she doesn’t remember the incident on the ledge and that she’s had episodes like this in the past. The therapist sees through this, tells Kenton the gist of what Lily said, and his assumption that she’s not schizophrenic at all, but was merely faking her latest episode. Kenton, always one to respond with violent confrontation, decides he’s going to drive Lily to a mental institution. This back-and-forth leads to Lily grabbing the wheel of the car, and the two crashing headfirst into the barrier, allowing her to escape and run back to Jamie’s apartment.
Garland’s show works best when it’s keeping you guessing. Devs hardly gives the viewer the full truth about a given situation, organization, or moment. The show keeps you in the dark, as with the last with five minutes of the episode, in which Lily calls the police to report Sergei’s murder. The police show up to Jamie’s apartment, not to help, but to arrest her for reckless endangerment, with Kenton following suit to have a chat with Jamie. It’s a fiery ending to another episode that built to a radical climax. Oh, and one more thing. Forest and Katie discussed how Lily will die in 48 hours. It’s inevitable. As they say, “The future is fixed in exactly the same way as the past.” Unlike Lily’s, the future of Devs looks brighter by the episode, twisting into a killer commentary on our current technologically-focused society.
Michael Frank is a film critic and journalist based in Brooklyn. He thinks the Before trilogy should be in the Louvre and once bumped into John Oliver at brunch. He has bylines in RogerEbert, Film Inquiry, The Playlist, and AwardsWatch.