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Series / Devs

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Devs is a 2020 FXNetworks / Hulu science fiction thriller Mini Series written and directed by Alex Garland. It features Sonoya Mizuno, Nick Offerman, Jin Ha, Alison Pill, Zach Grenier, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Cailee Spaeny in its central cast.

Lily Chang (Mizuno) and her boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman) are a happy couple living in Silicon Valley and working at tech giant Amaya, run by genius CEO Forest (Offerman). After Sergei is promoted to Amaya's secretive "Devs" division, a chain of events unfurls that leaves Lily questioning the nature of her relationship, the true mission of Amaya, and the very concept of free will.

Typical to a Garland project, Devs explores themes of Existential Horror through the use of Science Fiction tropes.


This series provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series appears to be set in an indeterminate time in the future. Most of the technology shown is very similar to that of the present day with some fairly realistic advances.
  • Adult Fear: Forest saw his family get into a fatal car accident just a few meters away from him. At the same time he was on the phone with his wife who was driving, which leads to the guilt of thinking he caused a fatal distraction.
  • A God Am I: Jamie reflects that tech magnates who end up with too much power believe themselves to be messiahs. When confronted with this, Forest makes no effort to deny it. In fact, he reveals that the V in "Devs" is actually the Roman counterpart for U, revealing the program's actual name to be "Deus."
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • Kenton kills Jamie this way.
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    • Lily kills Forest this way in the simulation.
  • The Chew Toy: Jamie. He's abruptly dumped by the woman he loves, roped into helping her avenge the guy she left him for (just as he's getting over her), is tortured by a racist psychopath for his trouble, then just as he thinks he's about to begin a new life with her again, he is unceremoniously murdered.
  • Creepy Child: Not the child herself, exactly, but the gargantuan statue of Forest's daughter, Amaya, on the campus named after her is rather unsettling to look at for too long (as highlighted by the many lingering camera shots of its face).
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Kenton employs this on Jamie in order to intimidate him into silence. It doesn't work.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Lyndon is played by the female Cailee Spaeny, but referred to as a male, as confirmed in her interview with Collider.
  • Death Faked for You: Sergei's death is faked for Lily after she becomes suspicious of his disappearance.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Sergei is set up to be the protagonist and is the focus of the first episode, but after his demise, the focus changes to his girlfriend, Lily.
  • Existential Horror: The Devs system is able to not only project the past by extrapolating quantum particles, but project the future as well, casting serious doubt on the notion of free will. When Stewart pulls up a projection of the Devs viewing room one second into the future, his fellow programmers are terribly shaken. Earlier, Sergei has a panic attack and vomits from realizing the implications of Devs. By the end, Stewart doubts if his own reality is even "real."
  • Faux Affably Evil: Kenton.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first projection the Devs system sees is the crucifixion of Jesus. Later, the Devs team surmises that Forest's latent hope for the system is that it will allow him to resurrect his daughter.
    • Pete, a run-of-the-mill homeless man, is the only person on the show who is unafraid of Kenton. The latter wonders why. It turns out that Pete is an undercover agent who is as skilled in combat as Kenton is.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: When Sergei realizes what the Devs project is doing, his first reaction is to run to the bathroom and vomit. Later, Stewart is so shaken by the implications of Devs that he ends up murdering Forest and Lily in an effort to stop it.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Lyndon falls to his death, the actual impact is not shown, just a wide shot of his body lying still, with a streak of blood nearby.
  • The Heavy: Kenton, Amaya's head of security, is responsible for for eliminating any threats to Amaya.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Averted. Hacking is shown to be studying the code of the program and looking for vulnerabilities. Hacking a phone's password is shown to be a fairly tedious process.
  • Karma Houdini: Zigzagged. Forest gets everything he wants in the end...but only in some versions of the simulation.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Around a Class 3. Most of the technology shown is either similar to that of the real world, or is at least plausible. Except for the whole project of the Devs team: a projection that allows someone to see and hear anything that occurred in the past and up to a fixed point in the future.
  • Murder by Inaction: The less generous interpretation of Forest and Katie's actions throughout the series, given that they've seen projections of everything that happens. They believe that it's literally impossible to prevent any of it, but Lily's later defiance of the machine's projection calls that into question.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Lily tries this to throw off Kenton. While it initially works, an evaluating psychiatrist later sees right through it. It also backfires on her as it provides an opening to get rid of her by having her committed against her will.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Lily finds a password-protected program in Sergei's phone disguised as a Sudoku app, a game which Sergei hates.
  • Overzealous Underling: Kenton decides to tie up all loose ends to save his own skin - in other words, he becomes an Overzealous Underling so Amaya won't have to blame their actions on an Overzealous Underling. This gets him killed.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Kenton is not a big fan of the Chinese, and he's not afraid to let multiple Chinese people know (on multiple occasions).
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: Stewart repeatedly criticizes the devs team for creating the future while having little care for the past in terms of culture. Episode 7 has him reciting Philip Larkin's "Aubade"; Forest and Katie just assume it's Shakespeare.
  • Precision F-Strike: Kenton, upon seeing the "Fuck you" sign on Lily's window while trying to murder her, mutters, "Bitch." It happens to be the last thing he ever says.
  • The Reveal:
    • The secret project that the Devs team is working on is a machine that can allow its user to view any moment from the past and up to a certain point in the future.
    • The Devs project works by creating a simulation of the world inside it. This means that somewhere inside the simulation, a Devs team is also making their own Devs project with their own simulation, ad infinitum. Stewart takes this to mean that his own reality is a simulation, and it breaks him.
    • The Devs project is actually called "Deus". In addition to giving perfect simulations of the real world, it also allows brain uploading, effectively allowing resurrection.
  • Secret Identity: Pete, the homeless guy who sleeps on Lily's stoop, is actually working with Sergei and Anton for the Russian government.
  • Take a Third Option: In episode 7, Pete saves Lily's life, he gives Lily two options: go to the CIA with the information she has on Devs, or go back to Hong Kong and never return to the USA. She decides to go to Devs instead.
  • Wham Episode: Episode 7. After six episodes of slow-burn narrative, gradual revelations, and monologuing, this episode features the deaths of three main characters, Lily giving into the idea that the future can't be changed, and the revelation that Pete actually works for the Russian secret service.
  • Wham Shot: Episode 2 reveals what the Devs team is working on it's a projection that allows anyone to see any point in the past. They show the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
  • Working with the Ex: Lily asks for Jamie's help in investigating Sergei's death. He rebuffs her initially before agreeing.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Jen tells Kenton that Lily has schizophrenia and was hospitalized after the death of her dad. Lily fakes a mental breakdown to lure Kenton out of his office so Jen can copy security cam footage of Sergei's faked suicide to a thumb drive.
    • This bites her in the ass when it provides Amaya a plausible cover to kill her off.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The various characters soon begin to believe this after they realize the full extent of the Devs project:
    • In episode 6, Lily is told by Katie that she will visit Amaya within 48 hours. While Lily initially resolves to disprove the prediction of the Devs machine, she ultimately decides to visit Amaya after Jamie is killed by Kenton.
    • Lyndon is easily convinced by Katie to climb over the railing of a dam to prove his belief in the Everett interpretation/many worlds theory that in some universes he lives and goes back to work in Amaya, and in others he dies, because Katie told him that he was going to do exactly that.
    • Zigzagged in the finale. Lily is shown the simulation of her final moments: she shoots Forest in the head, but this causes the electromagnetic lift to fail, killing her as well. In the real world, she tosses the gun as the lift's door closes, ensuring that she can't shoot Forest. However, Stewart disables the electromagnetic field, killing both Lily and Forest.
      • In a Freeze-Frame Bonus, Stewart disables the electomagnetic lift in the simulation anyway, so Lily would have died anyway.

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