Devs took its time reaching a definite conclusion. A series that always moved at its own pace, Alex Garland’s first dive into creating a television show feels incomplete in a correct way. The loops are not closed, the ideas not fully fleshed out, and the questions not necessarily answered. Devs is a show more about big questions, not about big answers.
It’s about possibilities, not definitive truths. While watching Garland’s sci-fi drama, you find yourself thinking about your own reality, about the ideas of determinism and the absence of free will. Though not perfect quarantine viewing, Devs worked as a weekly, episodic limited series, acting as a slow burn that led to a fire that was already ablaze.
Following a tech corporation called Amaya, led by CEO and founder Forest (Nick Offerman), the eight-episode series focuses on one of Amaya’s employees, Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno). Within the first episode, Lily’s boyfriend, Sergei (Karl Glusman), is recruited into a secretive wing of Amaya called Devs. Sergei’s time within this facility is short-lived, though, as he attempts to steal the Devs code and dies in the process. The rest of the series zeroes in on Lily as she grapples with his death, their shared company, and the specifics of the Devs system, along with its programmers and its creators.
Though Sonoya Mizuno’s performance doesn’t always land, as it remains intentionally flat and emotionless, it does grow with time. By the end of the series, her scenes become more interesting and her character more engrossing. Her decisions, not her personality or even her acting, take center stage.
The majority of the best acting in the series comes through Offerman and his right-hand co-worker, Katie (Alison Pill). Offerman portrays a tech giant, an initially cookie-cutter form of someone with too much power and a severe lack of checks and balances. His character’s desire to replicate his past by moving technology into the future consumes him, and his softness peeks through more often than not. Give Offerman more dramatic roles and he sure will deliver. Pill’s unwavering commitment to her boss and to the quantum physics surrounding Devs makes her a formidable and understanding opponent to Lily. She hits every note and gives good reason to cast her in future projects, especially those in the sci-fi realm.
Garland explores the idea of determinism versus free will, using grand and gorgeous detail. He made me think about my life as a railway, with each “choice” further moving me on imaginary lines. Every choice in the show has specific causes and effects, all contributing to the concept of our lives having predetermined paths. As the series wore on, it became more difficult to fight this deterministic way of looking at the world, more difficult to see your decisions as your own. Though the big bang finale gives you a reason to believe otherwise, the large-scale questions explored in Garland’s show stick into corners of your mind, even if they don’t always work out or explain themselves in full.
Devs is a story about redemption, about our past and present, and about the directionless, or directioned, nature of our existence. Garland makes a worthy series, one that forces you to think about your own life outside of the contents of the futuristic universe he’s constructed. Solid acting and dazzling visuals give you reason to keep watching, if you haven’t already bought into, or still are confused by, the quantum technology Garland is hell-bent on explaining. Devs will continue to make me think and ponder my own reality, chiefly during this time of quarantine, when some days all I feel like doing is thinking.