Midway through its first episode, Alex Garland’s Devs launched a mystery that was so intense, it made coder Sergei literally lose his lunch.
Welcomed into the Devs division’s super-secret, super-secure Cube, Sergei was invited by Amaya founder Forest (played by Nick Offerman) to simply claim a desk and read the computer code scrolling before him. As Sergei did that, his face slowly transitioned from mildly curious to surprised… to then downright alarmed. Sickened, in fact. He then sprinted to the employee washroom to vomit, so affected was he by what he saw.
If said code is not theoretical and has produced results, “This changes everything,” he later asserted to colleague Katie (played by Alison Pill). “If true, it literally changed every single thing.”
Katie, though, calmly countered: “No — if it’s true, it changes absolutely nothing. In a way, that’s the point.”
In the second episode of the series’ premiere, we saw one apparent product of the code — a 2,000-year backward projection, albeit blurry, to no less than the crucifixion of Christ. Shortly after that, Forest used the same projection room to regard his dearly departed daughter, seen at a young age blowing bubbles.
So, what exactly does the Devs code do? And why did the realization of that purpose make Sergei physically ill? TVLine asked Karl Glusman, who plays Lily Chan’s ill-fated boyfriend/coworker, to chime in.
“It was, like, pure madness,” he said of the direction given to him for the scene where Sergei is processing the code before him. “I guess the best analogy would be it was like the rug had been ripped out from under you. If everything you believed, everything you understood everything to be one way — reality, or your sense of free will — was just flipped upside down, how would that affect you?
“Terror, pure terror,” is how he also summed up Sergei’s response. “So much that you go into the bathroom and vomit.”
Perhaps shedding further light on what is at stake here, Pill at the Winter TCA was invited to compare Devs to her other current sci-fi project, Star Trek: Picard.
“[Devs] is science fiction that is barely fiction. I mean, it is so based in science,” she observed. “[Devs] is an exploration of quantum mechanics, quantum computing of determinism, of real questions about the nature of reality in the universe. And those are all very real scientific questions…. And the more you watch it, the more you’ll see.”
As Devs mines real science, that is real code sprawling on the screens. “You don’t have to pretend that you’re seeing code up on a screen, because someone has put it there,” said Glusman. “The quantum computer is hanging behind some glass just a few feet from you, and it is marvelous looking. So you just have to show up and really react to what’s actually there.”
As series creator Garland himself shared, “In the production, we go to a lot of pains to try and make things as located in reality as possible. We contacted some people who write quantum computer code and said, ‘Will you write us some code so we can put it on the screen?'” Similarly, the code used to hack a phone in Episode 2 was furnished by Google.
“I don’t want it to be that if somebody watches it who knows about suddenly feels bumped out of the narrative," Garland explained.
What is your theory on what the Devs division is up to? (New episodes of Devs release every Thursday on FX on Hulu.)