Nick Offerman and Alex Garland break down that big Devs revelation
Episode 5 reveals a lot about the main characters' motivations. Here's what the show's star and writer-director have to say about it.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Devs episode 5.
Devs has been careful about unveiling its mysteries. The mind-bending new TV show from writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) has taken its time to clue viewers in to the backstory of the titular Devs division at fictional tech company Amaya and the mysterious project being working on there. But on this week’s episode, viewers finally learn why Amaya CEO Forest (Nick Offerman) is so intent on believing in a deterministic universe rather than a multiverse of variance and choice.
Devs viewers have come to know Forest as a stern overseer with a single-minded focus on his project. He’s not forthcoming with praise, and if you break his rules (as poor Sergei did back in the premiere), he will not hesitate to have you killed. But he wasn’t always that way! Episode 5 takes us into the backstories of multiple characters, showing us that not too long ago, Forest was a happily married father who couldn’t resist talking to his loved ones as often as possible. That all changed one day when his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash right in front of his eyes.
“That is the formative event. The show doesn’t exist without it, that’s the impetus for the entire narrative arc,” Offerman tells EW. “It’s the sort of Alex Garland question that’s at the heart of his last few projects, where he posits: ‘Okay, we are still ostensibly monkeys sitting at typewriters, but what if suddenly the typewriter is a beautiful and terrifyingly human robot, or what if we suddenly have the ability to step into one of these quantum theories and have it revolutionize the world we live in?’ That’s the question that starts it all off for Forest. He’s like, ‘I’ve suffered this extreme loss, but can I actually do something about it? Am I actually the only human being throughout history in this particular reality who can actually do something about it? Well I just might be, so I have to try.’”
One of the most interesting elements of the episode is how it's filmed in such a way that seems to disprove Forest's determinism. While Forest believes things could only have ever happened the way they did, in this flashback sequence we simultaneously see all the ways things could have gone differently. Maybe the other car stopped in time before hitting his family; maybe they weren't distracted by his phone call and could've seen the other car coming; maybe, maybe, maybe.
There's an interesting juxtaposition about Forest's tragedy that gets at the heart of what Devs is exploring about humanity. A lot of people die in car accidents all the time; the U.S. Department of Transportation calculates that more than 36,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 alone. That frequency makes it almost banal, but of course nothing about a vehicular death is banal to their loved ones like Forest. Amaya's death may be just one more data point in a horribly long list, but to Forest it represents a world-breaking event. Because of it, he has constructed this massive golden pyramid to explore the nature of time and space. Some would say his tragedy was small in the grand scheme of things, but he's made it as big as the universe.
"This is the point of our people, isn’t it?" Garland says. "We oscillate between the domestic-level truths, no matter how hard that might be, and these grand flights of the imagination. We’re constantly an elastic band being flipped between the two."
There are still three more episodes of Devs left, each debuting on subsequent Thursdays. Stay tuned for more coverage at EW.