The fiction about time travel was, from the beginning, wrong. Why send someone to some other temporary location when they could connect to that temporary location via quantum satellite? Something like this is what Devs (HBO) tells us, the brand-new, and very futuristic, series by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), creator given to imagine near futures in which computing works miracles.
In these days of coronaviral crisis, let’s imagine that we can travel to the moment so imagined in social networks in which the patient zero of the pandemic tasted the dish that started the matter. We would have a culprit, with all that that would entail. We would certify facts on which today we can only launch hypotheses. Everything that sounds like a confusing possible reality today – Jesus’ crucifixion included – would become radiant fact. And what would that do with us? Becoming a completely different collective entity.
Devs is a prodigy of the obsession for the control of contemporary global society, it is metaphysical and philosophical science fiction locked in a not always effective wrapper with thrillesque roots. Use televised time travel to explore the moral limits of the absence of privacy in a completely remote-controlled world. And it works, superbly, as a criticism of that system that today, for the reasons we all know, has become a lifeboat.
As in Psychosis, the protagonist, an advanced Russian investigator, dies in the first chapter. Apparently, he committed suicide, in a somewhat spectacular way, before a huge and terrifying sculpture of a horrified girl, in the middle of the forest where the company that Forest (Nick Offerman) runs, a sort of enigmatic guru devastated by the death of his daughter. They had just signed him to be part of a mysterious department of the innovative company in question.
It will be up to his androgynous and almost paper girlfriend – since she and the rest seem out of a pre-apocalyptic manga – Lily, a young Chinese computer engineer – insists on the Russian-Asian axis from the first moment – to discover what has happened. spent with him exactly, and find what devs (the department itself) hides. Since we are talking about Silicon Valley, and people who are almost children remote control trips to the past from their tablets, the enemy is, says Garland, technology.
But is it really? It is not clear from the series itself, which uses too archetypally for such an advanced and avant-garde form, the clichés of the spy subgenre. And that is what saves her, who is only asking one question, not establishing a judgment: what would the world be like if we had access to the facts and forgot the abundant and toxic baseless opinions? Perhaps not better, but less unstable.
The problem is that for that someone must first lie and then, inevitably, accumulate, without anyone knowing it yet, a power of unexpected and who knows if apocalyptic consequences. This is what happens with the eccentric team led by Forest (an especially terrifying Offerman, even though his apparent only reason for creating such an invention is to travel to the past in which his daughter was still alive and see her in that sort of grainy television which constitutes the quantum time machine).
Is humanity prepared to know? Will she not travel back in time to contemplate, as in the series, what Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller were doing in bed? For what can you use, a species that tends to self-destruction, an invention that could literally rewrite History, capitalized? In these times when literality prevails, wouldn’t such an earthquake end with the idea of humanity that was held until now? It is in this sense that the series seems to arrive at the perfect moment. After the coronavirus crisis, nothing, like in the Garland series, will be the same.
For the rest, just regret that, at times, Devs is excessively cryptic for the uninitiated in the quantum, and almost always with more sandbox video game aesthetics than anything else, and this is not necessarily negative, but a kind of step ahead in some (new and appetizing) direction.