'Devs' Ending Explained: "It's Actually About Love"

Alex Garland's miniseries Devs follows in the footsteps of Garland's films Ex Machina and Annihilation, in that its a weighty, mysterious, and often bleak sci-fi story with layers upon layers. And now that the series has come to an end, you might be wondering: what did it all mean? Don't worry: there actually are answers. Garland isn't just setting things up and walking away, leaving us to fend for ourselves. The keys to unlocking the mysteries of Devs are already in our hands.

In Devs, Lily Chan (Garland regular Sonoya Mizuno), a computer engineer at quantum computing company Amaya, suddenly finds her entire life upended when her boyfriend and co-worker Sergi (Karl Glusman) turns up dead. The cause of death is listed as suicide, but Lily begins to suspect he was murdered, and that Amaya's CEO, Forest (Nick Offerman), had something to do with it.

And she's right. As it turns out, Sergi was spying on Amaya – specifically, the mysterious Devs branch of the company. His espionage was discovered, and Forest had him killed by Kenton (Zach Grenier), the murderous head of security. And what is Devs? It's a god-like machine that can see into the past and predict the future (as Forest explains, the name isn't even Devs, but rather Deus, Latin for god).

At least, that's what everyone working on the machine seems to think. But there's more than meets the eye. As it turns out, the machine is actually able to see into multiple universes, subscribing to the Everett Many-Worlds interpretation. Here's where things start to get a little weird. The Many-Worlds theory is all about parallel universes. As How Stuff Works explains:

When a physicist measures the object, the universe splits into two distinct universes to accommodate each of the possible outcomes. So a scientist in one universe finds that the object has been measured in wave form. The same scientist in the other universe measures the object as a particle. This also explains how one particle can be measured in more than one state.

To simplify things a bit more, this theory suggests that "if an action has more than one possible outcome, then...the universe splits when that action is taken." In other words, if something happened to you in this universe, there might be a parallel universe where the complete opposite happens. Let's say you were in a car accident, but you walked away from the experience without a scratch on you. If the Many-Worlds theory is correct, there could be a universe out there where the same car accident killed you.

But Forest doesn't want to believe this theory applies to Devs. He's a firm believer of determinism, and his main goal with the machine is to find a way to connect to his wife and daughter, who died in a car accident. Forest rejects the Many-Worlds interpretation because he's not too keen on the idea of his family being alive in some other reality rather than the reality he's stuck in.

As Devs ticks towards its conclusion, we learn that the machine has told Forest that both he and Lily are doomed to die. And sure enough, the final episode starts to play out this way. Lily shows up at Devs with a gun, and according to the Devs model of the situation, she's supposed to shoot Forest while inside a fancy magnetic elevator. The bullet kills Forest, but also breaks the elevator glass, causing it to collapse – which would kill Lily in the process. Forest shows Lily all of this, and adds that there's no escaping it – it's predetermined.

But Lily defies that. She tosses the gun away, proving that the Many-Worlds theory actually is accurate, and that Devs can't predict everything. Unfortunately, Forest and Lily still die anyway, when a Devs employee deliberately sabotages the elevator. But Forest and Lily aren't gone. Instead, they wake up – inside Devs. They're now in an alternate timeline, one where Sergi is still alive – along with Forest's wife and daughter. And the Devs building doesn't even exist here.

Forest is proven wrong, but he's also given his family back. And it's all because Lily defied her predetermined fate.

"[Lily] has the ultimate agency," Mizuno told Esquire.  "She always was different. She's a person who doesn't participate in group think and isn't following the same path. When she does take the action we have to believe that she would do it and it would always be a decision she makes. But the paradox of the story is that was her doing the action predetermined as well?"

Still confused? Here's what Alex Garland has to say about the whole matter:

"It's to do with a paradox in literal Christian thinking, to do with Adam and Eve, specifically Eve. You have a sense of God who's fundamentally presented as omniscient, all-knowing, all-powerful. And then you have Eve, who is punished for an act of free will. And the problem is: If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, he knew at the moment he created her that this is what he would do. Or Eve has free will, and is being punished for making a bad decision, in which case God is not all knowing and all powerful."

Garland continued:

"I say this as an atheist, but I've always found it problematic that dissonance is never properly addressed. But you don't need to know the mind of God for this to be a paradox...I would love it if people thought about, 'Why is this imagery here? What is it about Lily's actions?' And then to have a dawning sense of an argument being made. The problem with overtly making arguments is that people usually know what they feel about the argument before it's presented. They're agreeing with it or they're disagreeing with it, but there's no internal sense of being open."

But what are we to ultimately make of this ending, and of the new – and simulated – world that Forest and Lily find themselves in? According to Garland (this time speaking with TV Guide), in the end, this is a happy ending. "It's actually about love," the writer-director said. "In this very, very strange world, the underlying physics give rise to complicated philosophical problems...And we bump up against these things a lot, and it's difficult, and it's disturbing, and it unsettles people, [but] through it all, what we end up with is love."

In the end, even in the simulated world, Lily ends up rejecting her relationship with Sergi and going back to Jamie (Jin Ha), her ex-boyfriend. And that, too, is part of the happy ending. "It's a happy ending because she ends up with Jamie," Mizuno said in the same TV Guide interview. "People always talk about becoming an adult when you're 18, but you actually really become an adult in your late 20s and your early 30s. Your idea of life changes, and what you want from a relationship changes. So, that's the journey I feel Lily is going on. She realizes that who she really truly loves on a deep level is Jamie. And she ends up with Jamie."