Alex Garland’s work has often been preoccupied with the question: What happens when the old rules, and the old morality, no longer apply? From the anarchic backpacker camp of The Beach to the lawless authoritarianism of the zombie apocalypse in 28 Days Later, Garland has frequently chronicled the rise of amorality in the absence of social order.
His latest is Devs, an eight-episode streaming series he wrote and directed for FX on Hulu. The show is set at Amaya, a Bay Area tech company that has secretly developed a system to mathematically model all of time, projecting the past—and possibly the future.
Its founder, Forest (a scraggly, harrowed Nick Offerman), believes in a completely deterministic world in which cause and effect effectively erase free will. The tram lines of time run but can never be altered. That nihilistic view ends up excusing all sorts of moral travesty: After all, if the past and future are already set, no one has any blame. It’s a dark vision of a world beyond moral culpability and a reminder of the importance to healthy human cultures of the belief in individual choice and responsibility.