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On Devs

Just watched the last episode of Devs. Several friends recommended it after I said “What shall we watch next?” a few weeks ago. The question was intended rhetorically, but they gave answers anyway, which was nice.

In terms of its pacing, Devs was likened to Kubrick. Fair enough. I saw some Lynchian overtones in it. Or sub-Lynchian, anyway. I enjoyed the journey, but was slightly disappointed with the destination.

Not, however, as disappointed as I feared I was going to be halfway through the last episode. I practically cheered when Lily threw the gun away. But then poetry-quoting Stewart fucked everything up.

Of course, as soon as you (the programme maker) introduce simulations, you (the viewer) can no longer trust that anything is “real,” so everything gets slippery and to some extent, what’s the point?

Where it disappoints, I think, is that Forest’s incorrect determinism-based view was not actually overturned by the ending. We don’t see him and Lily living in an alternative branch of the multiverse, but in a simulation that could be entirely consistent with his belief that reality proceeds on tram tracks — thereby obviating the guilt he feels for contributing to his wife and child’s death, and also gettig him off the hook in his mind for his complicity with his murderous ex-CIA security chief.

I found the first episode quite disturbing: the music was screechingly discordant and set my teeth on edge, and that creepy statue towered over everything. And the fact that the statue was still there, still creepy, at the end was confusing. Surely he’d only had it built because his daughter died? But in the sim where his daughter survived, it was still there and the company was still named after her. Only Devs (or Deus) the project was missing. Which suggests that he had named the company and had the statue built, not as a commemoration of his daughter, but because — I don’t know, really.

The other weird thing about the first episode was that, not having seen the cast, I spent the first ten minutes saying, “Is that Ron Swanson?” The fact that one of the first things he says was a complaint about government regulation feels like a clue. Nick Offerman does an impressive job of disappearing into the part, but he couldn’t hide his voice.

Still, I’ll never be able to watch Parks & Rec in the same way.

Also Katie, when explaining Devs to Lily, uses “reason” when she means “cause.” Her pushing the pen is the cause of it rolling across the table. The reason it happened is because she chose to push it. Reason (to me, at least) implies intelligence or at least sentience behind the action. Cause is the correct word to use when discussing cause and effect.

And when she asked Lily to name a truly random event, Lily should have said, “Nuclear decay.”

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