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After the Finale: Devs creator Alex Garland and cast unpack that mind-boggling ending
After eight hours, Devs' deep existential ruminations about free will, determinism, technology's place in human existence, and love, Lily Chan's (Sonoya Mizuno) journey comes to one conclusion in the FX limited series finale, "Episode 8." The whole series was written and directed by Alex Garland, so everything in the show was about as pure of a conduit from his brain to ours as we can expect.
The way Garland chooses to express his narrative and visuals is always challenging, moving, and subjective. As one of the rare contemporary filmmakers who prefers that viewers come to their own conclusions, Devs also fits into his style of storytelling. But SYFY WIRE was able to close out our exclusive, post-episode conversations by getting Garland and his cast — including Nick Offerman (Forest), Mizuno, and Alison Pill (Katie) — to give some surprising details about how they shot the finale, and ultimately how they each walked away from the experience.
**SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers below for "Episode 8" of Devs!**
Alex Garland, Executive Producer/Writer/Director: "Episodes 7 and 8 are, for me, the most achieved things I've ever been part of. There’s the start of Episode 7, which is cross-cutting these very interesting Inuit singers and Steve Reich’s avant-garde composing. And then Episode 8, which was composed with this beautiful bit of poetry being read by Stephen (McKinley Henderson) over it. I was so happy. It's just so beautiful."
On the confrontational climax inside the cube:
Alison Pill (Katie): "We shot everything that happened in the cube at the very end. And we did shoot [the series] sequentially. Over time, that room had its own special, trippy magic. Shooting in there, it's so cozy and odd; trying to find the different ways to use the very minimal furniture. And by the end, you're left with two, three people in a room having their minds boggled. That was just a very special experience to be a part of.
"And it was really funny because Sonoya was barely there the last month of shooting. I had in my script binder all my scenes. I'm like, 'Oh, I have 70 percent of my scenes in the last month of shooting.' So, it was like, 'We're in Katie time now. This is my world!' [Laughs.] But we definitely felt that [emotional] build as we were shooting it."
On the end, when Lily finds Forest with his daughter:
Sonoya Mizuno (Lily Chan): "Well, I'll tell you, I struggled with that at first. And funny enough, that was one of the things we shot near the beginning, because we shot that in Santa Cruz. I think we'd worked like a week and a half before we shot that. So, it was really trusting in Alex basically. Throwing caution into the wind.
"But I remember, we went through the scripts. We went through everything. And I remember I kept feeling, 'But wouldn't she be more angry? He's taken everything from her. Why isn't she angry?' And then [Alex] explained to me that this is bigger than that. Maybe she will be angry, but at this point, there is just wonder that she is who she is. She's inside a simulation. She can't even compute it. But then what she decides to do is go and see Jamie (Jin Ha), which is so, so beautiful.
"It makes me feel so sad. I find the ending so sad. But so touching. Such a simple thing, but it's so rare. "
Is the ending a tragedy or is it optimistic?
Nick Offerman (Forest): "Right. It's a great mind-bending question. [Forest] stopped at a certain point in one timeline. He sacrificed that timeline for a roll of the dice that he would regain what he had lost in another timeline, which ostensibly we believe he did.
"I think for Forest, if you had asked him that sitting out on the porch, I think he would say, 'No.' I'm thinking of him sitting out on the porch with Kenton (Zach Grenier) where he's saying, 'It may be a roll of the dice, but I'm betting the farm on this roll of the dice that I'm right. That this is going to work and then I will be infinitely happy and infinitely sad. But if this works, the one we'll see on television is the happy one and we'll all feel good at the end of the story.'"
Pill: "Well, it's a good reminder that the Slow Food movement needs to be shifted over into Slow Thought. There are things that we cannot make quickly. Big thoughts we can't make quickly. And I think that that is a real inspiration. What Alex was saying about reduction, making things false is a really good thing to remember. It's about people, and they're operating within this world. It's a great book and you should spend the thousand pages to read it, because it is a f***ing genius masterpiece. So just read it. It's very good."
Garland: "I think there's optimism. It's blasé, but it's also true that we live in this incredible dissonant state between science, the philosophical implications of the science, our lives, our intuitions about our lives, and our intuitions about the world. The dissonance often is that the way the world actually works, either on a scientific or philosophical level or just on a day-to-day level, doesn't actually work with our perceptions and intuitions. And we're surprised and bruised, consciously or unconsciously, the whole time by that dissonance.
"But there is something that supersedes it all, or is the constant within it, and it's love. And so ultimately, what's really happening in this narrative is that these characters are in a landscape, which is actually the same landscape that we're in. It doesn't need this big computer. It's exactly the same landscape, but it's really about the relationships they have. There's the relationship between this young boy, Lyndon (Cailee Spaeny), a prodigiously talented young boy. And this older software engineer, Stewart, who knows how talented the boy is, and feels protective of him. So, there's the love of friendship and colleagues. There are partners. There are lovers and there are ex-partners. And the homeless guy, who's not homeless, is motivated out of his love for Lily. It's not romantic love.
"And the love that, in the end, has been motivating all of it, has been Forest's love for his daughter, and Lily's love for Jamie. And Jamie's love for Lily. We talked a lot about it. Often the conversations with the cast were about relationships. It was about platonic love and non-platonic love and the different states they take.
"One of the important things with Jamie was, for example, that none of his actions to Lily were transactional. Along the lines of, 'If I do this good thing for you, then you will fall back in love with me, where you'll sleep with me,' or whatever. He is the sort of young man who is selfless, and they exist. And Lily is not going to instantly fall back in love with this guy. But actually discovers there was something special [there], which is, 'He was non-transactional, and he knew me.' And that matters.
"And so, at the end, it's optimistic for me, because it acknowledges that this is what is important about us. The world may be counterintuitive and dissonant, difficult and upsetting and actually filled with tragedy quite often. But this thing is good."