The Devs team makes a breakthrough but mires itself in philosophical arguments.
This recap of Devs Season 1, Episode 4 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The boundary between science and magic (or between sci-fi and fantasy) is often blurred. Magic can be rationalized; science can be unexplainable. Science can produce results that look like magic has been done. For Forest, CEO of Amaya, the fear of pursuing science so far that it becomes magical hangs over his head. As he tells Katie, “Everything we do is predicated on the idea that we live in a physical universe, not a magical universe. The physical universe is not in doubt. I’m scared we might be magicians.”
The technology they have been developing rests on the principle of cause and effect. Everything is caused by previous effects; a chain stretching back to the beginning of time. But if you look into the future, more questions have arrived. Can it be changed? Recreating the past is a science; predicting the future is the realm of fortune-tellers.
It’s not just a war of ideas; for the vision that prompts Forest to question their project is one that, if accurate, would have some serious ramifications for our show. Through the time-screen (as I have decided to refer to it this episode), Forest watches as a form that appears to be Lily seems to be dying. I sure hope that Forest’s doubts are correct. But Katie believes otherwise: “In 48 hours, Lily will die. There’s no magic. It’s already happened.”
Garland cuts from Katie’s pronouncement to Lily saying “they’ll kill me,” as if she is aware of her predicted fate. For Lily, the inevitability is due to her attempts to uncover the truth of Sergei’s death. Meddling with a company like Amaya has grave consequences.
She stayed the night in Jamie’s apartment, noticeably shook after watching the video of Sergei’s death. Both Jamie and Lily seem to be rekindling their feelings, but not without downsides: it’s clear that they broke up for a reason.
Back at her apartment, she finds Kenton waiting for her (after Kenton had a discussion with the homeless man who seems to protect Lily’s apartment). Kenton takes Lily to a psychiatrist, who pries into her use of drugs and relationship with her mother. He finds no traces of schizophrenia, but that will not stop Kenton who locks her in the car on the way back. Lily, always a fighter, grabs the wheel and crashes the car into the side of the highway, where she manages to escape back to Jamie’s. She decides to finally call the police, but when they arrive, they are not alone. Lily is dragged away to a psychiatric unit, while Kenton has a more than stern talking to with Jamie. Things aren’t looking good for these two.
This episode finally gives more story to Stewart and Lyndon (who in past recaps I referred to as “the boy”), now shown to be more than just testers, but high-up Devs coders.
We first see them at work, worrying about the fact the building is right over a fault-line (I’m guessing there’s a reason for this). Katie is unafraid, reassuring them by explaining the myriad ways the building is protected.
Later, Lyndon has a breakthrough. Working on sound-waves, he claims that the audio was always garbled by “a blizzard of variances.” The problem of their deterministic viewpoint is that it rests on a huge amount of tiny details at the quantum level, which must be calculated for an accurate prediction.
Lyndon decides to re-orient his work towards the “many-worlds” theory of determinism. Rather than one set path predicted by a chain of cause and effect, every decision creates a parallel world where the other eventuality occurred. A single line of tram-tracks is constantly diverging, creating a multiplicity of parallel timelines.
From Lyndon’s perspective, this is to be easier to calculate, as rather than working through numerous possible outcomes though only one is possible, we can pick any random outcome, assuming it will be similar to our own. (I recommend a perusal of the Wikipedia page and several of the sources referenced https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation.)
By doing this, Lyndon is able to display crystal clear audio from two-thousand years ago. The Devs lab gathers around in amazement; they are hearing Jesus speak!
Not everyone is impressed. Forest is dismissive, calling it a “cute party trick” before becoming even more hostile. Lyndon’s work is dangerous, he says, because “It’s not actually Jesus talking,” rather, it is a Jesus.
Forest fires Lyndon, claiming he has been undermining their project. It’s not entirely clear why Forest hates Lyndon’s attempt, but clearly he believes the many-worlds theory to be abominable (something he brought up in the first episode).
Lyndon is sad to leave, but Stewart convinces him that Forest will not spare him if he hangs around. His error was much more serious than initially appeared; on a level with Sergei’s stealing the code.
Forest strongly believes that accuracy matters; having an alternate timeline is cheating, it is not predicting if it is not the correct causal chain. But Katie sees Lyndon’s work for what it was and uses his algorithm to show Forest something. As he watches, the gargled static fades to a crystal clear image of Forest’s daughter.
He breaks down in tears. Maybe it’s not as clear-cut as he thought; maybe he was worried about being a magician he blinded himself to the science, maybe it was a little of both??
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Cole Sansom is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based out of Philadelphia