Alex Garland is one of the most underrated creators working in Hollywood. From films like “Ex Machina” to “Annihilation,” Garland is a director who dives head-first into the world of technology and how its influence shapes life around us.
In his new TV miniseries “Devs,” Garland explores a similar concept. Streaming on Hulu in collaboration with FX, “Devs” follows a computer engineer named Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) who works for a quantum computing company named Amaya. When Lily’s boyfriend Sergie (Karl Glusman) goes missing after a shift at work, Lily attempts to find out what happened to him while also discovering more about her company.
Right from the start, “Devs” is interesting. The cinematography is breathtaking and captures the scope of both San Francisco and the campus of Amaya. While parts of the campus look like they were made through computers, everything else looks realistic. The score of the show is eerie, with the music creepily working its way into each episode. There is tension every time the music is played, adding to the haunting nature of the show.
“Episode 1” starts off promisingly, offering viewers a chance to observe the world of working for a powerful computing company. The best part of the episode is the mystery that surrounds Sergie. Garland cleverly lets the audience make their own conclusions without making the story feel alien.
“Episode 2,” however, is a different story. The acting is cold and lifeless for the majority of the episode. Garland tries to make the plot interesting, but he sacrifices writing interesting dialogue in the process. As much as I enjoy Garland’s work, he has a tendency in his works to create antagonists that are lifeless. That trait worked perfectly in “Ex Machina,” but not so well in “Devs.”
“Episode 3” is a step up from “Episode 2” and Garland tries to better flesh out Lily. The start of the episode is rough, especially scenes involving a U.S. senator and a simulation of Marilyn Monroe. It does get a little overdramatic toward the middle, but the ending is disturbing and answers some questions that left me uneasy in the previous episodes.
“Devs” is a show that has a lot of potential in its story but seems to lack a human touch. Garland is at his best when a technological theory drives the plot over character development. While his show attempts to work on character development, the lack of emotional range from the majority of the cast leaves a lot to be desired.
A better option for a tech-based TV show would be “Mr. Robot.” It has fleshed out characters while also exploring the power of big tech without feeling soulless. A major reason why “Mr. Robot” is easier to watch than “Devs” is not based solely on acting or the ability to write compelling dialogue. Instead, “Devs” is meant for avid fans of Garland while “Mr. Robot” is welcoming to those who know little about technology.
If you enjoy technology and the theories behind them, “Devs” might be your show. Despite inconsistent character development and a rigid plot, Garland offers viewers a look at modern technology that most writers wouldn’t explore.
Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.