Lily Chen (Sonoya Mizuno) works with her boyfriend Sergei Pavlov (Karl Glusman) at the Amaya Corporation, which is engaged in technological computer development. Sergey has an important day: he presents to the head of Amaya Forest (Nick Offerman) and his closest assistant Katie (Alison Pill) the development of his department – a program that can accurately predict all movements of the simplest organism – a nematode, a worm within thirty seconds.
This demonstration makes a big impression on Forest, and he invites Sergey to join the secret and legendary department of the corporation, which is called “Developments”.
Sergey is delighted with this offer, and Lily is very happy for him, however, after Sergey’s first working day at Razrabakh, he did not return home, and when Lily tried to find out what happened to him, the company’s management showed her a video in which Sergey on the territory of the company went to the square, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire.
Lily does not believe that Sergey could do this, so she tries to get to the bottom of the truth. In the process of figuring this out, she’ll run into Amaya’s sinister head of security Kenton (Zach Grenier), enlist her hacker ex-boyfriend Jamie (Chin Ha) on her side, and find out what developers are generally up to.
When I found out that Alex Garland had directed a mini-series (this is a mini-series, it has one season and eight episodes of 54 minutes each), I realized that I would definitely watch it.
Alex Garland is a very extraordinary person. He actually started as a travel blogger: Garland traveled with a backpack around the countries of Southeast Asia, wrote down his impressions, and then made the story “The Beach” out of all this – about the same vagabonds like him. Criticism destroyed this story to dust – in fact, they were just road records, united by a simple plot outline, but it turned out that Garland, despite a complete misunderstanding of how a literary work should be built, spoke with a certain audience in a language understandable to this audience, so through for a short time the story became a cult and the publishing house made as many as twenty-five reprints of the circulation.
After that, the publishing house signed a contract with Alex for his next work and even paid a seven-figure fee, but Garland’s next story did not work at all, so he returned the fee and stopped writing.
But he became a screenwriter. After Danny Boyle made a film with Leonardo DiCaprio based on his “The Beach”, Garland was terribly fascinated by the atmosphere of shooting the picture. He also wrote the screenplay for the utterly failed film The Tesseract, and he also wrote the screenplay for another Danny Boyle film, Inferno, which flopped at the box office. (I note that the script for “Inferno” was, frankly, not a fountain at all, but I judge by the film, and who knows what was in the original script …)
After that, Alex decided to start directing films on his own scripts. And his first film was Ex Machina, which our idiot distributors, who didn’t bother to google the more than common Latin term Deus ex machina (God from the Machine, meaning “miraculous rescue”), called “From the Machine”. The film turned out to be technically simple, but very smart and exciting, besides, there were excellent acting work by Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander and Donal Gleason. I really liked this picture.
After that, Garland made Annihilation, a very intelligent and literally mesmerizing fantasy with more than interesting visual staging solutions that evoked both the Tarkovsky zone and the hostile ocean from Lem’s Solaris.
I read a lot about how Alex Garland made these films and how he fought with producers demanding that the pictures be recut to suit the tastes of the popcorn-chewing public – they say that you are doing it too hard, the audience will not go for popcorn chewing. But Garland did not cave in, for which we respect him, did not remount anything, and the box office results showed that the audience is not as stupid as it seems to Hollywood producers.
And now – a whole mini-series, or rather, an eight-episode film, because it’s somehow difficult to call it a series.
The original name Devs is short for Developers, developers. So “Developed” would be the most accurate translation into Russian. However, on “Kinopoisk” the series was called “Programmers” for some reason, and I have to publish a review under this name so that people do not get confused.
“Developed” is a multi-layered, multi-faceted and multi-genre series. It begins as an action-packed detective – Lily Chen is trying to find out what happened to her boyfriend Sergei, and who Sergei was at all, because it turned out that she knew far from everything about him. Some Russians are involved in all this (well, how, in fact, without Russians) and the head of the security department, Kenton, a former special services officer. In the course of the investigation, the detective gradually turns into a drama.
The second part of the series is directly the development department and the people who work there. Forest’s right-hand man, Katie, is in charge of the work of the department; only the elderly Stuart (Stephen Henderson) and the teenager Lyndon (Caylee Spaeny) stand out among the entire development group. The audience is very gradually told what they are doing there and what kind of system they are creating.
Well, towards the end, two different lines meet: Lily, having more or less understood what is happening in the “Development” department, comes there and there will be a kind of catharsis that will lead to something. Or it won’t.
Visually, this is all extremely impressive. Garland is an excellent visualizer: in Ex Machina, this manifested itself in the views from the millionaire’s mansion, standing in a dense forest, in the interiors of the mansion, and in this robot Ava, who looked like a robot, but behaved like a person.
In “Annihilation” visual images played a noticeably more significant role, and the director there came up with some very interesting and at the same time frightening visual solutions for this alien Zone.
Here in Develop, from a visual point of view, Alex Garland has moved to a completely new level. Because in addition to a rather exciting story, there is a very interesting and incredibly beautiful work with a picture. The mesmerizing structure of the Developers, the constant play of light on the faces of the developers themselves and Katie and Forest, the endless cityscapes of Californian cities, the shocking giant statue of Forest’s tragically deceased daughter, towering over the forests surrounding the company’s territory – well, just a solid feast for the eyes. Add to this a very skillfully and unusually chosen musical accompaniment, which greatly enhances the impression … All in all, in terms of visual impact, this is one of the most impressive series for me!
But here, of course, not only the picture itself plays. The story of Lily’s investigation is both exciting and action-packed. Chinese Lily is played by Japanese Sonoya Mizuno – Americans have never been worried about such subtleties. And there, in one of the episodes, they show Lily in her youth, and there a Chinese woman plays her.
Some viewers criticized the performance of Sonoi Mizuno: they wrote that she was a weak actress, completely unemotional, and that it was not at all clear why she was taken to one of the main roles. I completely disagree with this! I really liked the way the actress played this role. Lily is a graceful and fragile woman, but she has a strong character and is not afraid to stand up to very strong and dangerous people like Kenton. She also confronts Forest, although she knows how powerful he is. Yes, she is not very emotional, but she has to go through some very serious emotional and physical upheavals, and Sonoya Mizuno, in my opinion, showed all this very authentically and realistically.
By the way, interestingly, Amaya, the deceased daughter of Forest, was played by Sonoi Mizuno’s niece, whose name is Amaya Mizuno-Andre. It seems that the parents of the young actress are completely non-superstitious, well, it is correct.
Forest was played by Nick Offerman. Before that, I had only seen him in small cameo roles, I also remember him well as the funny boss Ron Swanson in the TV series Parks and Recreation. Even then, while watching the series, I thought that this heavy and slightly crazy look of Offerman could be used much more interesting than for a role in a sitcom.
Apparently, Alex Garland also understood this well, because Nick’s invitation to the role of Forest was a 100% hit! The character turned out to be powerful, original and somewhat frightening. In the series, Forest experienced a terrible tragedy – the loss of his beloved wife and little daughter, they talk about this almost from the very beginning. He is slightly insane, he controls the development with an iron fist and leads it to a goal that is understandable only to him and his closest assistant. The figure is tragic, frightening and at the same time evoking sympathy – he is not a villain at all.
Katie’s assistant, played by Alison Pill, is a match for her boss: unflappable, mysterious, with a somewhat repulsive appearance (the make-up artists did their best). The character is also very interesting.
Well, among the developers, besides Katie, we were really shown only two bright figures – Stuart and Lyndon. Stuart is elderly, overweight, who has understood a lot in this life, here he often acts as a critic – as far as it is possible to act in this role under the oppressive gaze of Forest. Stephen Henderson played Stuart very well, I really liked it.
The young boy Lyndon – a kind of computer genius – for some reason was played by a girl, actress Caylee Spaeny. And while watching, I kept thinking why some girlish notes periodically come out in Lindon, but it turns out that there it is! Why this was done, I don’t know. Kaylee played the part well and sweared like a boy, absolutely rapturously, but the plot itself played more with this character.
Here’s what she really looks like.
Well, from the roles, Kenton, who was portrayed by Zach Grenier, is still very interesting. Kenton outwardly does not seem to have any outstanding physical data, but Grenier perfectly showed how dangerous Kenton really is. The scene in which Kenton talks to the hacker Jamie is very well done.
So, and what, you may ask, is everything very good in the series like this, and you liked everything downright unconditionally? No, not everything is so straight forward – from the point of view of the logic of the development of the plot. But Garland is like that. He does not like to chew everything for the audience, he always leaves some space for the audience’s interpretations. However, from my point of view, from the moment they started explaining what the developers are doing in general, and before what it all ended in the end, everything somehow slightly rolled downhill towards complete nonsense. Yes, it is clear that in such films many words have to be taken for granted, but here, even in the paradigm of the world constructed by them, some things did not roll at all.
Of course, I won’t say anything more about this here, so as not to spoil the impression for those who haven’t watched the series yet, so, as usual, we’ll talk about what I didn’t like about the plot under the review with the “spoiler” tag.
However, it is understandable that in any case, some viewers may have all sorts of complaints about the plot of a fantasy series, especially two picky scoundrels like me and the cat Bagel.
But in general, the series is excellent, I watched it with great pleasure: fascinating, exciting, visually – just a masterpiece, well played and wonderfully staged. Alex Garland, as usual, does not disappoint!
PS Well, now let’s talk about some plot moves of the series for those who have already watched it.
In terms of this whole story about Lily investigating the case, I didn’t have any questions. The questions were about what the developers are doing. More precisely, to how it was explained what the developers were doing, and how it all ended up, and somewhat unexpectedly for me, ended.
So. The developers modeled a certain system on quantum computers. The Russian spy Sergey, on his very first day at Razrabakh, peered at the code on the screen for several minutes, after which he said that “This changes everything”, ran to the toilet to puke, then returned and began to photograph the code on his wristwatch to transmit it Russian.
Further, we were shown that with the help of the system being created, it is possible to obtain a video image from the past. Without sound and extremely poor quality, in fact, these are vague silhouettes, but the developers still sat down to watch Marilyn Monroe make love to her next husband, playwright Arthur Miller. It was a good moment, very vital, and I say this without a shadow of irony: if I had such a system, then the first thing I would do was watch Marilyn Monroe make love, and only after that I would go to watch dinosaurs fuck, that too should be very exciting.
Everything began to deteriorate after the episode when Lily and Jamie came to Forest’s house, where Katie was also present – she is Forest’s mistress. Jamie and Forest went outside, and Katie began to explain to Lily how the system works on … the example of an ordinary pen lying on the table. (It had been shown several times before, like a Chekhov gun.) Now, said Katy, if we know what material this pen is made of, and we know how much force is applied to it – here Katy pushed the pen on the table – then we we can calculate exactly where this pen will end up after it has been pushed.
Well, we said with impatience here with the cat Bagel, so what?
So, continued Katie. In exactly the same way, we have learned to calculate what happened on our Earth in the past, and we can even calculate what will happen in the future.
Here Bagel and I hiccupped. First one time. Then many, many times. That is, on these quantum computers they simply calculated the entire history of the development of the Earth, including the smallest microorganisms, and can also extrapolate to the future?
But this is, excuse me, ABSURD, as Papa Fi used to say!
The series clearly shows that Sergei, working in one of the divisions of Amaya, learned to predict the movements of the simplest organism for a maximum of thirty seconds in advance. And from this Forest was delighted and took Sergei in development. And here, it turns out, the developers have already been programmed right up to Jesus Christ, whom they saw on the cross, forever and ever, amen! True, with the sound everything was bad there, and with the video, to be honest, everything was also very not a fountain. But some kind of Christ was there after all.
After that, at some point, they began to explain the approach of the developers. And here the main term was – determinism, that is, predestination. At the same time, by the way, Garland used all sorts of real and rather interesting models, extrapolating them from conceptual to downright all-planetary.
Forest’s main goal is to somehow resurrect his daughter and wife. It is clear that it is impossible to physically resurrect them, but Forest hopes to resurrect them in some kind of digital form and reunite with them in some digital form, and the goal is announced long before the end of the series, but how this will be implemented at all is completely incomprehensible.
Forest is an adherent of the deterministic Broglie-Bohm theory (I note that this pilot wave theory was developed as one of the interpretations of Young’s theory), which in the series takes on a global scale from a highly specialized quantum theory: developed, at Forest’s insistence, use a prediction system based on on ultra-massive data reaching the subatomic level, while being based on a completely deterministic interpretation of the Broglie-Bohm theory, according to which, according to the series, our whole life is predetermined and follows unshakable rails, where steps to the left and steps to the right are impossible.
Moreover, following this theory, everything is predetermined not only in the past millions of years ago, because it has already taken place and we can already see how the dinosaurs fucked (you’re sorry that I dump so much scientific data on you, but I spent two nights to find out what it all means, generally speaking), but we can also calculate the future, because it is already predetermined and, consider, has already taken place, since the rails have already been laid! And indeed: the train going through Zhmerinka to Berdichev, where will it stop in the future? Of course, in Vinnitsa. Can he even stay in Ternopil in the future? But to hell with it, he’s on the rails, he has a schedule!
We all have a schedule, too, says Forest. (I note that the Broglie-Bohm theory does not state this at all: I repeat, this is a highly specialized quantum theory.) We are all on rails. Therefore, the developers calculated the past and even the future, but if they calculated the past millions of years ago, so that they even show us a family of cavemen, then here is the future – hell, only forty-eight hours ahead. How so? Why forty-eight hours? If your computers use a prediction system based on ultra-massive data down to the subatomic level, what the hell is forty-eight hours? Why not at least ten thousand years?!
No, just forty-eight hours. Do you know why forty-eight hours? Because Lily, what an infection, suddenly used the factor of free will, which Forest’s theory completely rejected. She took it and threw the gun away, violating a coherent theory. No wonder she is Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who committed Disobedience! She showed the factor of free will – and that’s it, kabzda to a harmonious system! It worked millions of years ago, two days ahead – to hell with it! Some bloody Lily ruined millions of years of well-ordered theory!
Here, in fact, there are several biblical associations. Sergei is Judas, who came to “Amaya” to betray… no, not Christ, but God, who, of course, is Deus, not Devs (that is why such a name was given, and only in the last episode Forest explains that these are not Developed, but God). Lilith disobeyed God’s will and, roughly speaking, seemed to be trying to break the whole toy, but it’s good that the old warrior Stuart (he’s like the archangel Gabriel) was on duty and the toy was still broken the way it should be.
With Lyndon, a young developer genius, there was also an interesting story here. Lindon was engaged in the calculation of sound waves. With them, according to the Broglie-Bohm theory, there was a complete ass: not a damn thing was calculated, one color noise, distorted by other color noise. Then Lyndon, who was told to strictly follow in the wake of the Broglie-Bohm theory, fell into heresy and used the Everett theory – another interpretation of quantum mechanics, which assumes the existence of such parallel universes, in each of which the same laws of nature seem to operate, but these the universes are in different states. That is, it seems like the same principle of determination, but multiplied by various parallel universes.
And this, I must say, had a life-giving effect on the results! Lindon took yes and got the authentic speech of Jesus Christ on the cross in Aramaic. (Before that, only Mel Gibson did this.) But alas, Forest did not appreciate this! Yes, the devil knows what universe this Jesus Christ is from, Forest said, and is he even Jesus Christ?! Maybe he is not Jesus at all, but some kind of Moishe Miskovitz? How can you, Forest asks sternly, doubt the holy theory of Broglie-Bohm and start developing at the behest of the malicious theories of Everett?!
Lindon is immediately fired – however, nobly, paying him ten million dollars, but warning that if he talks, he will be killed, like Judas Sergei.
Lyndon first tries to persuade Stewart to start a rebellion against Forest, who is clearly insane, and even in the blinders of the one-verse theory, then he comes to Katie with a request to return him to development, well, how it ended – you know: a spectacular picture that Alex Garland misses could not pass.
At the same time, everything ends with the fact that, under the influence of Lyndon’s results, the developers use Everett’s theory, after which, on the basis of multiple universes, they build the system that Forest wanted to get from them. The question is – what did Forest fight for?
My wife and I, after watching the series, discussed for some time why Lyndon suddenly decided to return, and after such a humiliating resignation that followed his brilliant breakthrough. I assumed that just for Lyndon, being in “Development” was the most important thing that happened to him, which is why he wanted to return it all. And Katie, still Jesuitically, suggested to Lyndon to prove his faith in the multidimensionality of the universe. And it was clear how it would all end, and it didn’t matter at all: Lindon himself fell or Katie pushed him – he was doomed anyway, a violinist, as you know, is not needed, even if he played the main part.
Well, the final. Forest and Lily are dead. And they were reborn inside the system in one of the universes where everything is fine, where Sergey is alive (however, he hasn’t given up to her now, the damned spy), where Forest’s wife and daughter are alive, and the main thing here is that the cleaning lady does not accidentally turn off the computer, because then they’ll all get World Tip-Top.
And I’m embarrassed to ask, what does it mean – they moved inside the system? No, okay – their quantum computers calculate the entire million-year history of the Earth, although this would require a computer the size of approximately the entire Universe, and it is not clear where they will take all the parameters for calculations. Let us suppose. And what does it mean – they moved inside the system? Were they injected with some kind of solution or “loaded the projection of their brain”? Not explained at all. Because even in the built-up model, this is complete nonsense.
It remains just to take this majestic ending for granted and come to terms with the fact that Forest, during a conversation with Lilith, spiritually alien to him, who committed original sin, disobeyed the Deity and generally tried to kill Forest, exactly seven times paternally and affectionately took Lilith by the shoulders, instructing her on the true path. It was very touching.
How can you explain all this? Just a request – in the comments, close the explicit spoilers with the tags “spoiler”, there is a special button in the comments form.
Programmers / Devs series meaning
Producer: Alex Garland
Sonoya Mizuno, Nick Offerman, Chin Ha, Kaylee Spaeny, Stephen Henderson, Alison Pill, Amaya Mizuno-André, Zach Grenier, Jefferson Hall, Karl Glusman
Series, USA, 2020, 54 min. 1 season, 8 episodes