In Devs, a talented Russian coder Sergei (Karl Glusman) is transferred from his department at Amaya, the tech company run by the elusive Forest (Nick Offerman), onto a super secret project known as Devs, housed in a gleaming cube. Sergei absconds with the data and runs away, only to be caught and killed by Forest, Devs second banana Katie (Alison Pill) and Amaya security chief Kenton (Zach Grenier). Sergei's girlfriend, Lily (Garland's frequent collaborator Sonoya Mizuno), who also works for the company, is left blindsided by his disappearance and seeks answers.
Devs isn't really about the mystery of what the secret project is because halfway through the series we already know the gist of it. It's a prediction algorithm that can broadcast footage from the past -- for example, it can conjure grainy footage of Christ on the cross. Devs came out of Garland's preoccupations with determinism from both scientific and religious viewpoints. "Quite often with philosophical questions they can feel a lot like thought experiments. They aren't necessarily consequential, they're just interesting things to discuss," he says. "But in the case of determinism it felt slightly different, because it might actually be true. It might be the case that we don't have free will."
Garland exudes a cool-headed and at times elusive energy in person. He resists taking too much credit for any of his work, repeatedly emphasizing the collective braintrust that goes into making the art for which he is credited. Still, he's resistant to divulge which scientists he consulted in order to understand the quantum physics that end up playing a large role in Devs, saying he feels like he would need their permission before doing so. He does cite David Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality as one of his sources, but he adds: "I think that probably the most important thing I should say is that none of the ideas contained here are really my ideas, and it's not that I am presenting my own insightful take. It's more I'm saying some very interesting people have come up with some very interesting ideas. Here they are in the form of a story."
He earns effusive praise, however, from his actors. Offerman, speaking with me on the phone, described how impressed he was hearing how Garland refused to bow to studio pressure while making Annihilation, the strange dystopian saga with a gorgeous and confounding ending. Offerman also fawned over Garland in other ways. He looks like Colin Farrell's handsomer older brother," Offerman also said. "He's got a ridiculously seductive British accent."