While most of this season of Devs has been fast-paced and action-packed, Devs S1E5 stepped back and took a breath. The episode was used to fill in the backgrounds of many of the major players—Lily, Katie, Forest, and Sergei—while only slightly moving the plot forward.
And that worked for me. I welcomed this change of pace. Although with only three episodes remaining in the season, I expect things to pick back up soon.
Devs S1E5 unfolds as a number of short scenes that act like puzzle pieces, creating a larger universe for our characters. The scenes we see are in fact moments that Katie is watching in the Devs static machine. It’s unclear when exactly Katie is doing this.
The memories range in time, from when Lily was a 10-year-old to events immediately following what happened in Episode 4. Katie is able to see (and hear) the moments with perfect clarity, which means she is presumably using Lyndon’s code. So it’s sometime after Lyndon was fired. And I assume the scenes with Jamie, which are the only moments that advance the plot, are technically “flashbacks” to Katie. Unless she is able to project things in real time?
We also once again see the image of Lily dying, this time against the background of the walls of Devs. So this is either after Lily’s death or Katie is breaking the rule of only looking backward.
This also makes me wonder what is Katie’s main purpose for having this retrospective viewing party. Is she simply giving this new code a spin, randomly thinking of memories she would like to learn more about (or revisit)? Or is there a more specific reason for choosing these moments?
Let’s go over these different snippets we’re shown.
One common theme in a few different scenes/memories is the notion of many worlds. Devs S1E5 opens with “Oh I Wept” by Free playing, and showing us Lily in a psych ward after the events of Episode 4. (It focuses on one of her open eyes, which might be becoming a Lost-like pattern/shoutout, as this eye-shot was similarly used in Episode 4.) It quickly transitions to what appears to be a flashback, in which we see Sergei sitting on the couch in Lily’s apartment. Lily kisses him goodbye and heads out the door.
In a moment, she returns to the apartment—wearing different clothes—and Jamie is sitting at the table. As is another version of Sergei, all while the original Sergei is still on the couch. At first, I thought these were just overlapping memories, showing that Lily lived in this apartment with these two men at different times. But it quickly became apparent that what we are seeing isn’t different moments in time. We’re seeing different versions of Lily’s world all occurring in that moment. In some worlds, she’s still with Jamie and times are tough for both of them. In others, Sergei is reading a magazine or in her bed.
Every week now, I’m looking forward to see what the opening scene in Devs will be. And as has been the case in previous weeks, the opening scene in Devs S1E5 did not disappoint. It should be noted this is the only scene that doesn’t fade into the Devs static—so it’s not for certain this is something Katie was watching, although I assume it is.
The many-worlds theory has been brought up many times throughout Devs, although this is the first time we’ve seen it in effect. It makes sense it would show up in these projections Katie is watching, as she’s using Lyndon’s code, which swapped out the pilot wave theory of quantum mechanics for the many-worlds interpretation.
A second instance of many worlds in action occurs during a memory of Katie meeting Forest for the first time. After Katie storms out of a physics lecture we see multiple versions of her leaving the building. One version drops her bag. Another checks her phone. Yet another slams her bag down and yells with frustration. Forest catches up with “our” Katie and offers to pay for the remainder of her tuition, as well as a job with Devs once she graduates. Given Katie’s positive views on many-worlds theory (as we see during her outburst with the physics professor), I’m surprised Forest was so eager to bring her on board with Devs.
The third depiction of many-worlds is heartbreaking—and answers a question I’ve had since the first episode of Devs: what happened to Forest’s daughter. In this memory, we see Forest call his wife for an everyday request of needing some groceries. Down the block and still on the phone, Forest sees his wife’s car get T-boned by someone blowing through a stop sign. One moment he is talking to his wife on the phone. The next, she and their daughter, Amaya, are dead.
We are shown other versions of the cars—some crashing, some avoiding the collision—and other Forests. But Forest lives in the world in which his wife and daughter had the unfortunate timing of being killed by a careless driver. This scene was tough to watch. Perhaps this is why Forest rejects the many-worlds theory—because he realizes he’s stuck in the world where his daughter is dead, and that’s simply unfathomably unfair if there are others out there in which they live.
Two different memory lines give a look into Lily’s past. We see her initial meeting with Sergei. It’s shortly after she left Jamie (so she didn’t break up with Jamie because of Sergei), and the two seem to hit it off immediately. Fast forward some time, and they are sitting in bed together watching a movie on a laptop. Sergei pauses the movie to tell Lily he loves her and she returns the favor. They smile and restart the movie.
This was probably my favorite flashback scene from this episode. Many shows and movies over the years have this type of scene—the first “I love you” in a relationship—but I really enjoyed how Devs handled it in this case. Given that we know Sergei was actually a Russian spy, I still believe he loved Lily. It’s difficult to know for sure, of course, but that’s where I’m leaning.
A second set of Lily flashbacks includes a couple of scenes with her father. The two play Go while discussing strategy in Mandarin. Later in the episode she is keeping him company in the hospital—in Episode 3 Lily tells the therapist that her father died of heart complications when she was 10 years old. So this scene would seem to confirm Lily was telling the truth about that. Her father was clearly an important influence. He shares the famous Greek saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice. Because it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
He is telling Lily that everyone and everything are constantly changing. That is certainly the case for current-day Lily, who has been epically deceived by her employer and seen the love of her life murdered. I believe her father’s words are at odds with Forest’s deterministic beliefs that everything is set in stone. So, what will we see at the conclusion of Devs? Will Lily die as has been determined, or will things change?
The Dead Mouse
In another flashback, Katie watches her Devs team analyzing a number of items on a white table—a clock, a sugar cube, a flower, a shell, a dead mouse. The flower and shell provide another call-out to the Fibonacci sequence mentioned in Episode 3, and we also see more use of the colors red, blue and green.
I’m not exactly sure what the Devs team was doing in these scenes, but they seemed to be creating projections of these items. And then when the dead mouse is brought to the white table, Forest orders the team to continue “extrapolating” outward. Eventually we see a projection of Forest’s face, and we also see movement in the mouse’s projection.
I’m still thinking things are pointing toward the Devs team striving to bring back Forest’s daughter Amaya in some form. As he tells Katie, “If it doesn’t work, I’m damned.” Devs continues to be pretty vague in this matter, however.
Jamie and Kenton
Well, I was wrong in my predication that Jamie would be killed at the end of Episode 4. Instead, Kenton decides to threaten Jamie into stop scheming with Lily. He dunks Jamie in his own bathtub and breaks one of his fingers to bring home the severity of the situation.
But whereas Kenton was willing to kill Sergei, he did not find it necessary to eliminate Jamie. Even though he knows about the cover-up. I guess I’m surprised he and Forest are willing to take that risk. Then again, if they know ultimately what Jamie will do…
During Kenton’s conversation with Jamie, we learn he was in the CIA (not the military as I had previously guessed) at the time when Chinese pro-democracy activists filled Tiananmen Square. Alive but shaken, Jamie calls his father, pleading with him to take his family to somewhere safe. And that’s because he doesn’t heed Kenton’s warning. Instead, he decides to break Lily out of the hospital at the conclusion of the episode. We see Katie smile at this, which I find interesting. Perhaps this move is the beginning action that will ultimately change Lily’s fate of dying. Or perhaps she’s smiling because Jamie is acting so foolishly. (Seriously, Jamie, what are you doing?)
Three episodes remaining, and I’m expecting the action to pick back up. I’m thoroughly enjoying Devs, and I really could see the show going in many different directions. I can’t wait to see how things play out.