Anybody who’s seen Ex Machina and Annihilation, the 2 characteristic movies from acclaimed English filmmaker Alex Garland, might be greater than acquainted with the hallmarks of the author/director’s distinctive fashion. Each initiatives characteristic piercingly gorgeous visuals, inventively futuristic set designs and unsettling, eerie scores – all in service of bold, cerebral sci-fi storytelling. In Devs – Garland’s first effort for the small-screen – all this and extra is on provide as soon as once more, in what is absolutely one of many 12 months’s boldest and most ingenious items of television to date.
On the centre of the series is Lily Chan (Garland common Sonoya Mizuno), a gifted worker at Silicon Valley-based tech agency Amaya, whose life is thrown into disarray when her boyfriend Sergei is mysteriously killed shortly after he’s requested to hitch the extremely secretive Devs programme by Amaya’s CEO, Forest (Nick Offerman). Though she is knowledgeable his demise was a suicide, Lily stays unconvinced – enlisting Jamie, a cybersecurity specialist who is considerably inconveniently her ex-boyfriend, to assist unravel the thriller of Sergei’s demise.
Within the investigation that follows, we delve deep into the mysterious goings-on contained in the Devs lab, discover the tragic pasts of the present’s fundamental characters, and ponder such weighty philosophical quandaries as the talk between free will and determinism. If that feels like loads, then be warned – Devs is not a programme which shys away from coping with complicated plot threads and severe concepts.
A present like this may be fairly onerous to pitch on the proper stage. The series must comprise a wholesome portion of intrigue whereas avoiding the kind of muddling incoherence that will flip viewers off, and wishes to make sure a compelling story is informed amid all of the metaphysical ruminations. But as together with his cinematic work, Garland largely straddles this line properly: the series is a meditation on free will, positive, however in the beginning it is an attractive piece of drama that is at all times entertaining and sometimes fascinating.
Probably the most well-known face within the forged, Nick Offerman, is finest identified for his comedic work – notably as the long-lasting Ron Swanson on hit sitcom Parks and Recreation – however there’s little room for laughs right here. As an alternative, Devs finds Offerman on extra sombre kind because the taciturn determine of Forest, a person who is haunted by his previous and has developed a type of Messiah Advanced (proper all the way down to the lengthy hair and beard) in his position as Amaya’s figurehead. That notion, of tech geniuses taking part in God, has cropped up in Garland’s work earlier than and it’s by no means removed from the floor right here, with spiritual imagery distinguished all through. Forest could be a shady and sinister determine, however for the series to work we now have to purchase into and empathise together with his motivations, and for essentially the most half this is achieved – in no small half resulting from an excellently judged scene within the fifth episode wherein we watch a tragic incident from Forest’s previous unfold concurrently with different, various futures.
Offerman is respectable sufficient within the position, though maybe it’d have been good to see him utilise his comedic chops for the odd second of levity. Another performances are additionally admirable, with spectacular turns from Alison Capsule and Stephen McKinley Henderson, although in reality different facets of the present standout quite greater than the performing. The cinematography, for instance, is splendid all through, whereas the design of Amaya’s headquarters, particularly the creepy statue of a younger woman that looms overhead and the golden majesty of the Devs lab itself, is remarkably arresting. As for the music – I’d be shocked if any rating this 12 months can prime the one on provide right here: haunting and ominous, it helps create an uneasy sense of foreboding that pervades all the series.
Devs is not fully with out faults. It’s straightforward, for instance, to think about some viewers taking towards the series on the idea of its admittedly quite po-faced, portentous nature, whereas others could complain in regards to the comparatively gradual tempo at which the motion unfolds. In equity, it’s potential to think about a model of this story that performs out as a two hour movie quite than an eight-episode series, so maybe accusations of indulgence aren’t fully misplaced. Nonetheless the intense, meditative strategy the present adopts is really largely a great match, permitting the series’ themes and concepts a bit extra room to breathe.
Not all of the plot developments work – the occasional moments when the present flirts with turning into a extra typical spy thriller, for instance – and it may additionally have benefited from having a extra charismatic actor than Mizuno within the lead position. Such is the dimensions of the series’ ambitions, nonetheless, that it’s straightforward to forgive it just a few missteps, particularly given how properly it manages to stay the touchdown. It’s refreshing to see a present that tries to do one thing as daring and idiosyncratic as this, and the truth that it by and huge succeeds in these goals is actually trigger for reward. Devs won’t be the perfect present we see this 12 months, it actually gained’t be essentially the most flawless, however it is distinctive, intelligent and putting – and a worthy comply with as much as Garland’s cinematic efforts.
Devs is out there to view in full on BBC iPlayer. When you’re searching for extra to look at, take a look at our TV Information.