Secrets are revealed in Devs Episode 2, a slower, but still engaging, second episode of FX’s sci-fi show.
This recap of Devs Season 1, Episode 2 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Grief can be unbearable. It can eat away at your basic functions, rendering you a shell of a person. It can also be the force that drives you to do something you would otherwise never do.
Alex Garland’s Devs Episode 2 reveals itself to be very much concerned with this dilemma. As hinted last episode, Forest has lost a child. He opens up to Lily, also in a state of intense grief. Forest explains how he was simultaneously certain of her death and unable to process it. Forest’s emotional state is a parallel of the quantum state.
Science metaphors are tricky; too much explanation of theory can lead to emotional disengagement; too little and it seems hokey. Luckily, Garland plays it subtle, in a way that suggests more examples of quantum states to come.
The pain that Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) feels is intense. Devs Episode 2 opens with the charred corpse of her former partner and her screams. Mizuno does not overplay it; her grief is raw and visceral. She calls her mom and lies about being surrounded by friends.
Rather than wallow in misery, Lily tries to open up that Sudoku app. Jamie, her ex, confirms that it is a messaging app. Sergei was a spy for the Russian government! Lily decides to meet Sergei’s handler, Anton. Anton reassures her that Sergei really did love her; he has a family he keeps secrets from, and it doesn’t stop him from loving them. Sergei tells her that the security footage is fake; Sergei did not burn to death. He was killed.
As she leaves, Anton tells Lily “nobody has a private life anymore.” Yes, big tech has destroyed our privacy, but there is also someone watching Anton. Its Kenton (Zach Grenier), the security manager who killed Sergei.
Later that night, Anton is ambushed by Kenton, who pretends to only care about Lily. Anton calls him out for his doublespeak, and stabs him, but ends up getting taken out himself. Meanwhile, Lily makes the decision to stop corresponding with the Russian government, writing “F**K YOU” on a sign by the window. She does not want to be used.
Elsewhere in Devs Episode 2, we see glimpses of what Devs might be in scenes featuring Katie with two new characters, a teenager Stewart (Lady Bird’s Stephen McKinley Henderson). The former two are upset that the latter calls something “baby,” and we watch as a fuzzy screen/wall forms crucifixion images.
Stewart believes it to be a miracle, but Forest denies its success: “It’s not a miracle, and it needs to be.” When everyone leaves, Forest sits down and the wall forms images of his daughter. Is the purpose of Devs a way of seeing one’s desire, of fixing things that went wrong in the past? Devs Episode 2 hammers on Forest’s grief as his motivation, but, knowing Garland, I’m sure the show has something more complex up its sleeve (and something more distinct than another recent tv show).
Devs seems to be concerned with the way we use technology to respond to the cravings created by grief. The visual language of the show draws attention to the built environment. Montages show the curves of bike racks and metal chairs. Wide shots make humans look tiny in comparison to the largess of the natural and built environment.
I appreciate how the show isn’t trying to be a “mystery box”. Reveals other shows would have teased for several episodes are made clear early on. Rather than maintaining mystery for mystery’s sake, Garland wants to tease out the ideas contained within those secrets. And I’m delighted to be along for the ride.
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Cole Sansom is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based out of Philadelphia