FX's new original series Devs tackles big questions about grief, tech, and ethics, but two episodes in, the answers remain as hazy as a certain 2000-year old projection. At the core of all these quandaries is something we've been asking since AI scientist Sergei Pavlov sat at his Devs desk for the first time: what exactly is the code the Devs keep working on? The solution may be hiding in plain sight.
Warning! Spoilers for FX's Devs Episodes 1 and 2 below
Reddit user fightswithbears suggests the title "Devs" is not what we think. While characters have assumed it's the common tech parlance for "development," perhaps that's just a cover story. Maybe the title's actual meaning is "deus," the Latin word for God. This would make sense in the broader scheme of Alex Garland's work — he's already made a movie called Ex Machina, which would naturally complement something called Deus.
If Devs is really just an alternate spelling of Deus, what does this mean about the mysterious code? Well, more or less literally, it means they're playing God. In the second, we see the Devs view a projection of Christ's crucifixion. That's surely not an arbitrary event, since the Devs are explicitly interested in the way we think about religion. Sergei is even asked if he's religious in the screening for the job.
This leads into the second possible reading of the title. Devs could still be short for something, but not Development: instead it's "devotionals." If this is true, then the purpose of devs is not to play God, but to serve a God, possibly even Amaya CEO Forest, in their journey. The devs don't observe weekends and work through the night, so there's a certain labor-of-love aspect to the things they do.
If the key word is indeed "devotional," there may be a penance aspect to Forest's work in Devs. At the end of the first episode, Forest monologues about how the universe is deterministic, how everyone's on tramlines. He speaks with confidence, but it remains unclear as to whether the tramlines theory is something the code has proven or a personal belief stemming from the tragic loss of his daughter.
Dev Katie zeroes in on this dichotomy when she asserts that humans are hard-wired magical thinkers. No matter how logical someone is, Katie explains, they start praying when their kid gets sick. Forest knows this all too well. He may be an iron-clad determinist, but Forest may have still started Devs to please some sort of deity. The mystery of Devs' enigmatic code has yet to be unfurled, in an Alex Garland show that's a guarantee, but the nature of those secrets will likely always be up for interpretation.
Devs releases new episodes Thursdays through FX on Hulu.