REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: BBC iPLAYER
Alex Garland is best known for his work on movies such as Dredd, Ex_Machina, and Annihilation. Devs sees the director return to the realms of sci-fi with this visually stunning mini-series about the nature of reality. This is the sort of sci-fi tale where technology is used to shine a light on the human experience, though there is also a fair amount of action, subterfuge and drama along the way. Be warned that Devs goes for the visually striking imagery from the very start. This is a series that expects to be re-watched multiple times as the on-screen language is so dense that it is impossible to understand it all on the first pass. It’s also a multi-layered story with metaphor and meaning piled on at every possible stage. At points, the ‘art’ of the storytelling almost overtakes the story itself, but Garland keeps it just on the right side of entertaining throughout.
Devs is a perfect example of the golden age of television. Such a high-budget, lush, and incredibly indulgent show would not have been made a decade ago, or if it had the whole thing would have been an episode of some sort of anthology. Instead we get eight long episodes that allow the director to tell a meandering tale of man’s desire to control the uncontrollable. On the face of it, it’s a simple tale of corporate espionage and mad-science. We follow employees of Silicon Valley tech-firm Amaya, a company that has conquered the market for computer processing power. Nick Offerman plays Forest, the CEO of the firm, which he has named after his dead daughter. Forest’s big project is kept in isolation and is only know as ‘DEVS’, which employs only the best software developers you can find. Forest’s project has attracted great interest, and he’ll do anything to keep it away from those who would interfere.
This is an espionage and secrets thriller, superficially wrapped in a shell of super-tech and weirdness. It’s also a story of redemption and ascension, and one that almost ascends up itself at times. Alison Pill is perfect as the steely-eyed executive, keeping the CEO on track throughout. Sonoya Mizuno is outstanding as Lily Chan, our main protagonist and ‘person who is trying to figure out what’s going on’.
This is not a show you should binge. This is a show that you should digest in chapters and ponder appropriately. Devs is a near-perfect companion piece to Ex_Machina, being a parable about the power of reason and imagination, and how the line into madness is easily crossed. Essential, if not easy, viewing.