It’s been a while since I’ve seen a show that really grabs you and pulls you in like Devs does. From the beginning, you know you’re in for something different, and creator Alex Garland makes sure to take you on a wild philosophical cluster f*ck that is interesting to watch, and also amazing to look at.
Fair warning: Spoilers abound in this review.
What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, lets get the obvious out of the way first. This show is just plain gorgeous. Every single shot feels like it was painstakingly planned and thought through for maximum effect. I could switch the audio off and just watch this show, for the imagery alone…
…but the plot, zomgwtf, mind blown, man. What starts off as a case of corporate espionage quickly takes a turn for the surreal, and takes us down avenues exploring all manner of existential topics. Causality, time travel, multiverses, free will, predestination, simulations, omg I can’t even describe how much this show will take what you think you know about it and then dump you on your ear, leaving you to go “WHOA I did not see that coming.”
To summarize, the story starts with Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) and Sergei (Karl Glusman) who both work for Amaya, a “big tech” avatar company run by a quirky and eccentric billionaire, Forest (Nick Offerman.) Your first look at Amaya headquarters should be a clue as to how this show will go, with the eternally creepy massive statue of Forest’s now-deceased young daughter, who the company is named after.
Sergei gets promoted to “devs.” The top secret division of the company where nobody else really knows what they do. The devs division exists in a separate building from the rest of the campus, protected by a forest of trees with strange halos (literally) and these gold pillars… Inside, the core of devs is separated from the rest of the world by a vacuum space. Nothing goes in, nothing goes out, except the people inside. Sergei, though, is actually a Russian spy, and attempts to steal some code from devs, and is predictably caught. And executed, which is covered up by Amaya’s head of security, Kenton (Zach Grenier.)
Lily realizes that something’s not adding up, and she along with ex-boyfriend Jamie (Jin Ha) unravel this mystery around who killed Sergei and why. This leads them into side trips involving Russian agents, further espionage and murder, and so forth.
Meanwhile, inside devs, we learn more about what it is they exactly do there. Turns out it is a computational powerhouse that exists to predict the future, and to reconstruct the past given the current state of things. By that I mean literally the current state of every particle in the universe it turns out can be retraced back to any point in the past. They view with their special viewport (more on this in a second) everything from dinosaurs to the crucifixion of Christ.
The real purpose of this project starts to become clear, though, as Forest uses it to “view” his family’s past. He wants to resurrect his daughter, or rather reconstruct her given the “last known good” state of her that is present in the system.
One of their developers puts the final piece of the puzzle together, but in a way that is ultimately unpredictable, using any number of infinite alternate universes to fill in the blanks as it were. Turns out Forest knows this is a bad thing, and will not result in the outcome he’s looking for, and banishes Lyndon (Cailee Spaeny) from devs.
However, Forest’s second in command (and love interest), Katie (Alison Pill) has already concluded this is the only way forward, and with this breakthrough the devs team has seen the future.
And the future is indeed bleak. They’ve seen Lily (remember her) do… something to devs in an event that they cannot see past. Eventually Lily learns of this, and after much conflict about free will vs. predestination, and in spite of every attempt to *not* be at devs for this event… finds herself in exactly the situation that they’ve forseen.
Except Lily tries to take things in a different direction. The final ending I’m not going to spoil for you, but it gels with the rest of the narrative in a way that is very satisfying, yet infuriating at the same time.
Like I said above, every frame of Alex Garland’s creation is simply amazing to look at. The entire thing is also incredibly serious and somber. There is a thread of dark (very dark) humor that runs throughout, but it always returns to the bleak, dark, hopelessness that actually works quite well for the show. Between Forest’s anguish about his daughter and trying to recreate her, to Lily’s story of loss and betrayal and more loss…. to get everyone to the end. Honestly its one of the best and most carefully crafted stories I’ve seen in a long while.
Now, on the surface it does seem a bit pretentious. Garland is the creator, writer, producer AND director. Make no mistake, this is his from start to finish. But it works. I love stuff like this. I can’t get enough, and I want more. There’s one scene where they specifically call out that the “v” in Devs is actually a “u”…. so “Devs” is actually “Deus” … or “God.” MindBlown.jpg. In another, they talk about the fact that since we can model our entire existence like this, in the form of code and data, that there’s nothing to say that we aren’t just living in a simulation like they’re doing with the Devs computers. AlsoMindBlown.jpg.
Will there be a second season of devs? Not sure. As of this writing I can’t see where its been renewed, there are no placeholders on IMdB to go off of, and a lot of speculation but no real facts. Honestly they kind of left the door open for a post-“event” series.
They are sitting on a machine that lets them reconstruct the past and view the future, after all.
I’m going to go out on a limb and give Devs a (probably unpopular) 4.1 out of 5. If for no other reason than I wanted more, more depth, more story, more episodes, just more of it.