Is Alex Garland’s high concept sci-fi thriller Devs worth watching?

Devs is the sort of television mini-series that demands your full attention. This is for a couple of reasons. The first being that the subject matter of deterministic universes and philosophical questions of free will are topics that will leave you in deep thought long after the show ends.

The second being that this show is actually so visually pleasing to watch that even if some of the content goes over your head, you can at least look at all the pretty settings on screen.

Young couple Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) and Sergei (Karl Glusman) work together at tech corporation Amaya, named after the enigmatic entrepreneur owner Forest’s (Nick Offerman) late daughter. When Sergei’s exceptional work sees him get promoted to the mysterious and highly-regarded ‘Devs’ division of the company, he is wary of the change whilst Lily is excited for the potential opportunities it brings. However when Sergei doesn’t return home after his first day, Lily must investigate why and try to unlock the secret of ‘Devs’ and what they really do.

While it’s easy to categorise the series as a science-fiction show, the near-future timeframe and Silicon Valley and San Francisco backdrop make this feel all too realistic. Creator, director and writer Alex Garland has his signature tone and style all over this. Fans of his filmography will thoroughly enjoy getting to spend time in this universe, even if it’s not as colourful and warped as Annihilation, or as filled with sentient robots as Ex Machina. But there is an extremely creepy building size statue of Amaya looming over the campus so there’s that. The series is also a stand-alone mini series of 10 episodes, so it’s very much a one-and-done situation.

Offerman is wonderful in this, as the grief-stricken but wholly fixated Forest. Switching up the dry stoicism and his more preened appearance from Parks and Rec for a much shaggier and unkempt hairdo and beard. Here he comes across as wholly calculating because he lives in a reality of determinist truth. Supporting cast mates of Alison Pill as Katie, Forest’s second in command, and Zach Grenier as Kenton, the deadly chief of security for Amaya are both excellently cast too.

Grenier, in particular, is this nonchalant looking type who you definitely should not underestimate. Frustratingly though, Mizuno is a little less strong in the lead. Garland’s script wants us to believe that there is something special and unique about Lily, but we’re never really shown what or why that is. And much of what happens to her, just happens to her because it’s her and we’re left to accept it.

If a show about quantum physics, existential dilemmas and philosophical deep thinking sounds like your kind of jam, then Devs will really scratch that itch, where Westworld may have left you lacking. But be warned, this show may also leave you with far more questions than it does answers once you finish watching.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Australians can watch Devs on FOXTEL OnDemand

Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.

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