Tech giants have a vision for the world, but absolute power still corrupts in Alex Garland's new drama.
Devs is the first television series from sci-fi writer and filmmaker Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later, Annihilation) and there’s a lot to like about it.
From its minimalist opening montage, which appears to toy with religion and New Age themes, to its thriller storyline -this has a strong showrunner stamp all over it.
The story centres around Amaya, a big tech company in San Francisco run by eccentric hipster CEO Forest (Nick Offerman). He’s built up a giant of a firm on an Apple-like scale which includes two employees AI coder Sergei (Karl Glusman) and girlfriend Encryptor Lily (Sonoya Mizuno). Their powerful and privileged careers contrasts with their apartment life where homelessness is literally at their door.
Sergei is so brilliant at his role he is offered a promotion to the elite Devs team, a specialist group so secretive in their assignment that nobody outside of Devs knows quite what they do. I guess it’s the Fight Club of the IT world.
“You tell me nothing, I never ask,” Lily tells him. “Otherwise it could be a thing between us.”
Even as Forest escorts Sergei to the Devs site the security level -and the trippy concepts- become front of mind. It’s set in the middle of a secluded forest of trees with halos, not far from a gigantic child statue which looks over the horizon. The gold bunker, with access like something from a James Bond movie, is a wet dream for production designers.
FX wants reviews to avoid too many spoilers, so I’ll draw a line at what goes on inside Devs, other than to say Sergei has to work it all out for himself.
But when Lily discovers he hasn’t come home by morning she begins to worry. Is he doing an all-nighter or is there something more conspiratorial? She confronts the gruff head of security Kenton (Zach Grenier) who finds CCTV footage of Sergei…. with this Lily moves to the protagonist, fearing the worst for her missing boyfriend.
Devs certainly feels like feature film territory so I’m keen to see how this develops across 8 episodes. Garland (who both writes and directs) has created a world unto itself where power and philanthropy fused with technology are but one step away from megalomania. Fans of Mr. Robot, Black Mirror and Legion should feel right at home.
Sonoya Mizuno, who has worked with Garland on Ex Machina & Annihilation, makes for a determined, sympathetic lead as she seeks to uncover the truth about her missing boyfriend. Nick Offerman is suitably omnipotent and humourless as the wealthy CEO whose blind folly appears driven by personal tragedy. Alison Pill (The Newsroom, Star Trek: Picard) also has a supporting role.
Devs may be about far more than hacking and data breaches as Garland explores young geniuses following God-like destinies. For Lily it’s far more personal.
Devs airs 8:30pm Sunday on FOX Showcase.