Digging Into ‘Devs’: A Fixer’s Gonna Fix, And There’s A Time And Place To Put Down The Cell Phone

Alex Garland‘s ‘Devs,’ starring Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno, has launched as FX on Hulu’s first original series. The sci-fi show oozes futuristic paranoia and pairs a beautifully frightening aesthetic with charismatic performances, all of which bring a disturbing parable to life. Here, we’ll break down the show’s many mysteries as the season unfolds around the works of a tech CEO with a possible messianic complex.

The fifth episode of Devs is full of unease, and looming above all is Kenton, the fixer, wondering how his murderous ways will affect him. We’ll get to Kenton soon, but first, it’s worth discussing how this week takes another blast into the anxiety of Nick Offerman’s mixed-greens chomping tech CEO, Forest. The episode is sort-of nebulous overall, and it’s hard to really categorize (or rank) it all, other than to just toss it all out there and trust that Alex Garland will tie up his characters’ various arcs by season’s end.

So, let’s talk about Forest. The series is now digging deep into the roots of his trauma, although that doesn’t arrive until after some strange experiment with the Devs machinery and a mouse. A lot of terminology gets thrown around that’s confusing as heck if you’re not staring at the screen and reading captions and rewinding, and yes, it’s a little tiring. After all that work is done, we’re rewarded with the root of Forest’s agony. Look at Offerman’s face, man. Dude is killing this performance.

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Unfortunately for Forest (although I’m not sure how much he realizes), this reliving of the past also seems to support the multiverse theory that he so despises. Although he sees Amaya die in a car accident, another Forest is seen pulling the kid out of the car unharmed with no trace of a visible accident. His subsequent guilt for the accident that transpired, though, seems justified: Forest and his wife were talking via cell phones — already a distraction and totally unnecessary when you’re gonna see each other in 30 seconds — when she ran a stop sign, leading to the fatal accident. Back in the present, his right-hand woman, Katie, drops her theory on Forest for why he can’t stop reliving this trauma: Forest is punishing himself for not being able to save his family.

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Katie’s hunch is that Forest hates the thought of free will because it means that Amaya didn’t have to die. It further follows that he’s blaming himself for the chain of events — because he and his wife were chatting about pasta as the crash happened? There’s a lesson from Devs right there: put down the damn phones, y’all.

Forest is willing to listen, at least to Katie, but we’re getting more insight into exactly why Forest was so bloody angry last week, which led to him firing Lyndon the kid genius after his breakthrough. Forest was angry about any research supporting the multiverse theory, mainly because he — maybe? — thinks that splitting hairs will alter reality and destroy the version of Amaya that’s rendered inside the Devs machine. Hearing Offerman rant about “nerd hard-ons” might make it worth listening to all this tech talk, but it’s still a lot to wade through. And there should be more to come in further episodes, since we really haven’t seen why Forest considers Lily to be such a threat.

Meanwhile, we also hear more about Katie, who’s one strange cat that’s almost devoid of emotion. Granted, we don’t exactly learn why her demeanor is so cool. However, we do get a good idea of how she and Forest came to work together. It all began, at least for Katie (though I’m not sure how long Forest had his eye on her, really), in an auditorium that’s reminding me an awful lot of real life circumstances right now. You know, empty movie theaters and such. Somehow, Devs is hitting a little too close to home right now, and not simply because Alex Garland wrote 28 Days Later, which revolved around an apocalyptic virus that turned folks into zombies.

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Annnd that’s what Katie reminds me of sometimes: a very stoic zombie. The almost empty auditorium in which she sits (and where she is social distancing by nature) is hosting a lecture on quantum particles hanging out in two places at once. Forest’s sitting behind Katie and appears to be very impressed by how she pops off on the professor, who suggested free will causes the universe to constantly split into different possibilities. That simply won’t stand for the fiercely deterministic Katie, and this seems like a match made in heaven for Forest, who follows her out. We see a bunch of Katies, which appear to support exactly what this professor was saying. Intrigue!

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Now, it’s time to check in on Kenton the Fixer. How’s he doing?

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Yeah, so Kenton’s threatening to turn on Forest because he’s worried that murdering a guy, putting his girlfriend away, and terrorizing her ex is gonna blowback on him? He should fret, and the show doesn’t waste much time in following up on last week’s events, which are still unfolding in Jamie’s apartment. Things did not look good for Jamie at all, and that hunch is correct. He has to listen to Kenton rattle on about Tiananmen Square. He’s rambling about rage and revolutions, and then his long-winded speech turns racist, which makes it pretty clear why he’s cool with taking out Lily.

This bigoted approach differs from why Nick Offerman’s Forest might have Lily in his sights. Obviously, he’s been watching Lily in the Devs machinery. Since he’s all deterministic and believes that free will doesn’t truly exist, he wouldn’t dwell upon her if he didn’t think that she was a threat. Could Lily actually be part of a tech apocalypse? That remains unclear. It feels like Alex Garland’s making vague suggestions in that direction, but Forest makes things so personal, that it’s hard to fathom that he’s thinking too far beyond saving the system that (apparently) preserves his dead daughter. That’s definitely an issue that will continue, but for now, Kenton’s thrilled to contain an ancillary threat to Forest’s work: Jamie.

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Kenton’s busting up bones again, which really makes me wonder: how is this guy so strong? He already suffocated the heck out of Sergei and broke Anton’s neck like it was a twig in a match where Kenton didn’t look like he could physically prevail. As I’ve said before, he’s like the skeeviest Terminator pulling off feats that only really jacked guys can manage. Lots of mysteries going on in Devs, and honestly, that’s a bothersome one.

FX on Hulu’s ‘Devs’ airs new episodes on Thursdays.