Devs Season 1 Finale: Simulation, Reality, and the Second Coming

A silhouetted Lily looks at a large projected image of Amaya

The eight-part miniseries Devs ended in a way I found very appropriate. The Devs Season 1 finale continued many of the themes we’ve seen throughout the series, it presented some head-scratching questions and gave us things to think about, and as usual provided some beautiful shots. I stated after Episode 7 that Devs was one of the best shows I have seen in a long time. And the finale did not dissuade me from that position.

The episode opens with Stewart reciting portions of another poem. Once again, it’s not Shakespeare. This time, it’s “The Second Coming,” by W.B. Yeats. Yeats wrote the poem in 1919, on the heels of World War I. It hints at the prospect of something terrible happening in the world:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Obviously, Yeats was onto something, as the second World War would break out 20 years later. The predictive qualities of the poem make it a good fit for Devs, but it also has religious elements—something we’ve seen a ton of throughout the series. The Second Coming is a Christian belief that Jesus will return after his ascension into heaven. It can also be linked to resurrection—a topic we experience first-hand in the Devs Season 1 finale.

While Stewart recites the abbreviated poem, we see a number of brief shots, in typical Devs-opening fashion. The first is the crashed Devs transport cube, with what looks like two motionless bodies in it. We can assume this is Forest and Lily based on what we see later, but why isn’t Lily crawling away? Perhaps it’s a world in which Lily immediately dies when the cube crashes to the ground. Lily and Jamie are shown among the pulsing gold light of Devs. And then we see Forest in the same area of white light we are shown later on, when he is resurrected.

With the use of “The Second Coming,” I do wonder what the approaching “rough beast” is in relation to Devs. Technology in general? Greedy tech companies? Governments taking the reins of a super computer that can replicate the past and tell the future?

After this short prelude, we get to the moment we’ve been waiting for: Lily’s predetermined arrival at Devs.

The Simulation and the Choice

Despite saying she would contradict Katie’s prediction, Lily enters Devs, looking to avenge Jamie’s death. Meeting with Forest in the projection room, she knows that he knows what will unfold. So she asks him not to tell her, but show her.

We watch as they watch a projection on the screen: Lily, with Kenton’s gun drawn, marches Forest out of the room and makes Katie open the transport pod. Once inside, Lily shoots Forest through the right eye (yet another eye reference in this show) and the two crash to the ground, glass shattering everywhere. Lily crawls out and eventually dies, as we have seen in other projections earlier in the season.

Forest looks on within Devs

This is the moment in time in which Devs cannot make further predictions. We were told in Episode 4 that Lily would die (but interestingly not that Forest would). I wondered after watching that episode whether Lily would “magically” defy the Devs prediction and live on. Well, I was half-right.

After the projection fades, Lily says that she pulls the trigger for Jamie—with no mention of Sergei. They then walk out of the room, just as we watched previously. The dialogue is all the same (albeit the pacing is a bit abbreviated—I assume this was done for time editing purposes as opposed to having a specific reason, but who knows) up until they step into the pod. Just before the sliding doors shut, Lily makes a choice. She tosses the gun away, effectively breaking the determined path of Devs (or, as Forest has revealed, it is actually called Deus).

She has left the system, and Forest is now freaking out. This was the fear he expressed in Episode 4, in which he wondered about a one-minute projection where Katie folds her arms, but instead Katie decides she will use magic to keep her hands in her pockets. Lily has done that, shattering everything Forest believes in.

With Lily and Forest’s trams about to fly of the track, Stewart steps up and makes things right again. He causes the pod to fall, killing them both and essentially providing the same outcome as if Lily had fired the gun.

His reasoning is somewhat puzzling for me. “I realized what we have done. Someone has to stop this. Don’t blame me, Katie. It was predetermined.” Did he think causing the pod to fall would destroy Devs/Deus? I suppose he wanted to stop Forest, more than Devs itself. I’m still not sure though.

OK, I have a couple other questions related to this event that Lily caused. In the projection, she tells Forest she plans to take him to the Amaya statue. But wouldn’t that version of Lily already have seen the projection as well and known she would kill Forest and then die herself? Why would she say they were going to the statue?

Could it be possible that Forest showed Lily a false projection (or one from one of the many worlds, but not their world) so that she would think she was making a choice by tossing the gun away? Based on Forest’s reaction to Lily tossing the gun, and his conversation with Katie later, I don’t think this is the case, but it’s something I wondered.

In addition, what was it about this event that caused all future predictions to fail? My guess is that it has to do with Lily’s choice. She has introduced free will into the machine, and now Deus cannot predict what will happen. But if Forest and Katie were living out this fateful day through projections for years and never were able to see past this point because of Lily’s choice, doesn’t that make Lily’s choice predetermined too?

The Resurrection

After his death, Forest is resurrected within Devs. He materializes three times (a nod to the Holy Trinity perhaps) before communicating with Katie through the visualization chamber.

They determine that Lily committed the original sin, disobedience, when she made her choice. And that means the super computer really is Deus. It’s God.

“That means it’s time. Within itself the system is all-knowing and all powerful. But only on Lyndon’s principal. I need to know you understand precisely what that means,” Katie says. He responds that he “wants them back so much.”

This was Forest’s plan all along. Create a world in which his daughter and wife were never killed in a car crash and live there as a form of afterlife. Even though this version of Amaya and Forest’s wife are technically different versions from the ones he knew, it will have to do. Forest wanted to avoid the many worlds principle, but there was no avoiding it.

I feel bad for Katie, who has to watch a man she loves choose to live this alternate reality and show little-to-no sadness for leaving Katie behind.

Lily’s Loop

Devs has featured a number of circular imagery and themes, so I wasn’t surprised to see Lily return to where we first saw her in Episode 1. She opens her eyes as she stares out her apartment window, with Sergei in bed checking his phone. However, things are slightly different. For one, Lily has all of her memories of what happened to her. Sergei asks if she had a bad dream, and she isn’t sure.

Another apparent difference is that Sergei seems slightly off from the version we got to see in the first episode. He speaks to Pete differently on the front stoop. He’s more agitated.

In this world, Lily and Sergei still work at Amaya. There’s still a statue of Amaya on the campus. But there are other small differences like Sergei’s new personality. This world is filled with other versions of the characters we have met. Anya has real legs instead of prosthetics. Stewart and Lyndon are sitting down chatting while Lily and Sergei walk past on the way to Sergei’s presentation. In Episode 1, they would have been inside of Devs.

Lily leaves Sergei to his presentation and walks through the lighted forest to meet with Forest. When she reaches the field in which Devs should be, all she finds is Forest playing with his family. No building. He lets her know that they are now living in a simulation; they’ve been resurrected.

“See it as an afterlife, paradise. In this variation anyway. You have your life back, Lily. Reinserted into existence, a couple of days before Sergei was killed.” I found this line a bit odd—wasn’t Sergei technically killed on this same day?

Throughout the simulation, because they are using Lyndon’s principles, there are many versions, many worlds. “Our” Lily and Forest are in this world, and it’s one of the good ones apparently. I loved how the scene flashed to other versions of Lily and Forest having this same conversation. “We are now living in many worlds. In this world, the two of us get to live in paradise with the ones we love. In other worlds, it will be closer to hell,” Forest says.

Forest and Lily talk in the field where the Devs building used to be

In this paradise, Lily ultimately chooses Jamie over Sergei. Jamie hasn’t been resurrected, so he has no memory of what we’ve seen occur over the next few days. It also means it’s a different version of Jamie. So I hope, for Lily’s sake, that he is still close enough to the version she knew and loved.

Reality or Simulation?

I touched on this a bit after Episode 7, but have we been watching a simulation this entire time? Lily begins her loop in the exact same way we see her portrayed in Episode 1.

At the conclusion of Lily’s conversation with Forest, we see that Katie is watching this simulation with Senator Laine. She tells the senator that the people within the simulation would find existing within the simulation indistinguishable from reality. “Effectively, the simulation and reality are identical.”

If that’s the case, maybe what we saw throughout the season was just a simulation, and Lily and Co. had no idea. There were also other examples throughout the series that we could have been watching a simulation.

Earlier in the episode, when Forest and Lily were in the visualization chamber, he says, “Life is just something we watch unfold. Participation in life is an illusion. Like pictures on a screen…It’s not a film of Amaya. It is Amaya. She’s alive.”

Lily counters that Amaya is not really alive, but merely a computer simulation going through fixed motions. “As are you. As am I. As is everything else,” Forest says.

In Episode 3 when Lily walks back into Amaya after Sergei’s death, the distorted voice of Joan of Arc plays. This suggested, to me, that the scene we were watching was possibly not reality, but a simulation.

And then of course there’s Episode 5, in which the entire episode involves Katie watching moments on screen in the visualization chamber. A majority of those scenes are flashbacks, but the scenes with Jamie seem to be moving the “current” timeline forward. Those moments were a simulation, so what’s to say all of the “current” scenes weren’t merely a simulation?

If the characters were in fact living within a simulation this entire time, perhaps that’s why everything was so absolutely predetermined, and choices were impossible. It was all controlled by Deus. I’m not ruling that out.

Throughout my write-ups for this season of Devs, I have noted the many scenes that focus on eyes. Most, if not all, or these scenes only show one of a character’s eyes. Eye symbolism in literature (and Devs is a very literature-feeling show to me) can mean truth, honesty, and omniscience, among other things. The repeated focus on one eye tells me we’re not getting the full truth or that we’re not seeing the complete picture. So everything being a simulation would fit into that line of thinking as well.

What did everyone think about the ending? I would consider it a happy ending for the most part. Lily has decided she should have never left Jamie, and now she is able to live a life with him. Forest is reunited with his family. But something about that use of “The Second Coming” at the beginning of the episode leaves me feeling uneasy. As if something bad is coming for our characters.

A second season of Devs isn’t completely out of the question, but I think this would be an excellent ending spot. It doesn’t need to go on further. However, if it was picked up for another season (perhaps with a new set of characters?), I’d welcome it with open arms. Thank you, Alex Garland, for this brilliant and beautiful work of television.

Written by Bryan O'Donnell

Bryan O'Donnell is a Writer and TV Editor for 25YL. In addition to TV and Twin Peaks, he loves music, baseball, reading, and playing video games. He lives in Chicago.

One Comment

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  1. Nice analysis. Thanks. I was puzzled about Lily’s magical free will as well. Garland spoke about it as an analogy to a Christian paradox which the show critiques. Deus = Christian view of God. All-knowing. Lily = Eve. Disobedient to her creator. The point is that Christian view of free will is illogical when coupled with a view of an all powerful god. I infer this to be an attempt at exposing this false narrative but when I first watched the show I was very disappointed with what I perceived to be an unexplained abandonment of determinism.

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