Devs season 1 finale recap
In Devs‘ final episode, Lily makes a decision that changes everything.
In Devs‘ final episode, Lily makes a decision that changes everything.
This recap of the Devs Season 1 finale contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“You think you’re messiahs”
The present conditions of the Silicon Valley start-up scene result in a few people having an unprecedented amount of control. Not just wealth, but knowledge. CEOs of Google, Facebook, and others have an immense amount of knowledge about each person — knowledge they can use to predict and control behavior (for more information I highly recommend Shoshanna Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism).
What Lily gets at with her repeated barb is that Forest’s control of data makes him feel special, above everyone. And due to the advanced nature of Devs (revealed in the Devs finale to be Deus, meaning God, because of course it is), Forest believes that his refutation of free will makes him the messianic figure.
The theme is prefaced by Stewart’s recitation of Yeat’s “The Second Coming” at the beginning of the episode. The poem, written during a turbulent time in Europe, depicts the yearning for a savior figure during dark times. The message is clear; Stewart believes Forest to be a false prophet.
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
Of course, Forest still knows more about the future than anyone else does. When Lily arrives at Devs, he knows her every move. But he himself is not phased: “As the words come I don’t feel as if I’m constantly repeating lines, they’re just the things that at this moment I feel like I want to say.”
He deflects his responsibility in ruining her life, saying that her actions are an illusion; “like pictures on a screen.” She is hesitant to Forest’s claims about the data, but he uses the screen to explain that it’s not just a screen — it is a simulation, for every sense.
It’s here that Lily first accuses him of thinking he’s a messiah. She pulls out the gun and demands Forest show her what will happen in the future. She wants to see what she does that causes their prediction machine to fail.
On the screen, she watches her take Forest out of Devs by gunpoint. They enter the floating transport that traverses the lab to the exit. Forest, slyly, tells her “You know what happens to messiah’s don’t you? They get resurrected.” But Lily (a few minutes in the future Lily) shoots him in the eye.
In doing so, the vacuum seal on the transportation box falls and she dies too.
“Surely some revelation is at hand”
Back in the viewing booth, Forest seems to have accepted his death. Lily is disgusted, once again accusing him of thinking he’s a messiah. Lily is right, he seems all too confident, which I’m sure is a defense mechanism, a way of recusing himself after years of guilt over his daughter. But Lily is not so beaten down.
A few minutes later, it happens for real. They enter the transportation box, Stewart on one side, Katie the other. Katie, however, does not share Forest’s calm. Seeing it does not compare to living it. Forest tries to reassure her: “It’ll be ok,’ he says. But she has likewise had enough with his attitude. “I don’t know why you say that,” she yells back. The reality of the situation, now it occurs in the present, is so different than seeing it on the screen, and we get the sense that Katie is less of a believer than Forest.
“Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”
While Forest is content with his approaching death, Lily is not having it. She has been pushed around by Devs for too long. As the door closes, she throws the gun back into the lab. “We’ve left your system,” she tells a shocked Forest, before turning his own pre-written line back at him. “You know the thing about Messiah’s don’t you. They’re false prophets.”
Lily has gone against everything Devs has worked towards. She made a choice. It’s hard to ascertain Garland’s own viewpoint, but the text of the Devs Season 1 finale is basically saying that determinism and free will are not incompatible. There are rules and data that can predict many things, but we can still make genuine choices. Emotions and the like are not necessarily governed by the laws of determinism.
It’s a beautiful point and one that’s true to the emotional characterization of Lily, as well as the dramatic structure. She has lost so much to things that are outside of her control, so she decides to take her destiny back into her own hands.
For the first time in a while, Forest’s certainty has been shaken. All his power has vanquished. Everything he knows is a lie. His death isn’t inevitable.
Or is it?
“Things Fall Apart”
On the other side of the vacuum, Stewart activates an emergency protocol that causes the transport box to fall. Both Forest and Lily try to escape, but the vacuum overcomes them. It’s a cruel irony, that even though she made a choice, she dies anyway.
From the other side of the Lab, Stewart calls out, “Don’t blame me, Katie. It was predetermined.” His knowing smile shows that he believes himself to be doing the right thing — that telling everyone they don’t have free will can have disastrous, horrible consequences. And he leaves and watches the world at peace.
But then Forest wakes up. Well, he’s still dead in the chamber, but his consciousness appears on the screen. Katie is delighted to see him, and they discuss Lily: “All her talk of god and messiahs and look what she turned out to be. She committed the original sin. An act of disobedience.” Despite death, Forest’s tendency towards biblical grandiosity never disappears.
Yet, as Katie explains, “The system only works on Lyndon’s principles,” — the many-worlds interpretation.
“The center cannot hold”
In one of these worlds, Katie wakes up. Sergei is still alive; she’s where she was at the start of the show. Yet now she knows that he’s a spy. While Sergei goes to his lab, she journeys to Devs, where Forest is playing with his wife and child.
“We’re in Deus,” he tells her. Katie has reconstructed them from just before they died. (In another scene, Katie convinces Senator Laine (Jane Mock) to keep the system up and running.) Forest describes the world they live in now, as a “paradise,” before inviting her to get coffee outside.
For Forest, paradise is where the accident never happened. So what does paradise look like for Lily?
The question is answered when she sees Jamie. Lily, thankful that he is alive, embraces him.
It’s a beautiful ending for a show that has largely kept its heart up its sleeve. Lily is finally able to be happy, as is Forest. Lyndon is right — but dead. Stewart seems to feel at ease. Poor Katie, while knowing that Forest is still happy, is left alone.
Going into the Devs finale I was unsure of how well Garland would deliver a satisfying ending, and he sure did! While not as thought-provoking as Annihilation, it’s an intriguing conclusion to a show that, while I haven’t always loved, has kept me interested throughout its run — although often through strength of tone and look than story itself. I remain in awe of Garland’s ability to explore complete ideas through the screen, and I am excited to see what he has planned next!
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