The Giant Girl
Alex Garland is one of the more prolific names in the world of science fiction. From the excellent 28 Days Later to the psychedelically trippy Annihilation, Garland has a knack for writing a tight-knit story with compelling characters and abstract ideas. Turning his attention to the small screen, Devs is a thought provoking, engrossing series that gets off to a pretty good start, although some clunky exposition and some questionable acting hold this back from being a better title.
Episode 1 of Devs begins at Park Vista Apartments, as Lilly and Sergei head out their apartment and travel across the city to work. Once there, Sergei pitches an idea to the head developers, Forest and Katie, who both look impressed with his work. At the end of the presentation, they invite him to join the secretive branch of the company called Devs.
The next day he’s brought into a meeting with a man named Kenton, who tells him he can’t disclose anything about the company before asking him questions about beliefs and religion. Eventually this cold welcome paves way for Forest to arrive, who officially invites him into the project. They walk together through the woods and discuss Devs, while Lilly watches from afar as they walk away from the main complex. Isolated and far away from other people, the duo make it to the Devs building, complete with strange gold bars outside.
Inside, the place is a work of art. Pulsating gold walls, glass doors and an open-plan set-up hide something oddly off-kilter about the place. Sergei admires the main processor showcased in the middle of the room before eventually being shown to his computer and work station. Unfortunately things start to go awry when Sergei feels sick and finds himself in the bathroom throwing up.
Eventually he returns to his desk where Katie approaches him. He asks her about the code infront of him and, wide-eyed, he tells her if the code is true it changes everything. She disagrees though, going on to nonchalantly tell him it changes nothing – which is the point of their experiment.
Outside, he runs into Forest who accuses him of stealing his code. After offering his hand for forgiveness, Sergei makes his choice and runs… right into Kenton who tackles him to the ground and chokes him out with a carrier bag.
Meanwhile, Lilly awakens to find Sergei missing and immediately suspects something awry. At the company, she speaks to Kenton about Sergei’s disappearance but he shows her footage of him walking away from the complex that night. Forest arrives not long after and feigns surprise, telling her they’ll go by the book and phone the police to report him missing.
Not content with this, Lilly does her own investigating back home, partly thanks to obtaining Sergei’s phone. She finds a suspicious app for Sudoku, commenting that Sergei hated the game out loud. When she tries to open it however, the password protected app leads her out to find someone to help. This someone is Jamie, who she tells about Sergei’s disappearance. Spelling it out, she wants his help cracking Sergei’s phone as it may hold some clues. Instead, he tells her to go away given their history, and leaves her sitting alone in contemplation.
In the middle of the night, Lilly is called in to the company where footage of Sergei covering himself in petrol and igniting himself is shown to her. It’s all too much and she charges through the complex to the site the burning occurred, subsequently finding his charred remains on the ground.
Devs is an interesting series of two halves. On the one hand, there’s enough here to suspect there’s a multifaceted story that could prove to be one of those shows that benefits from repeat viewings. I’m sure there’s a lot of easter eggs dotted right the way through this that will hold up to the keen-eyed viewers but some of the exposition really counteracts these ideas. Hearing Jamie and Lilly unnaturally talk about what her plan is or seeing Forest talk to Sergei in a really cryptic way feel a little unnatural.
Having said that though, if you’re hooked on the first episode then chances are you’ll be hooked for the remainder of the series. The sound design is suitably odd, the characters are layered and the mystery woven through the middle of this is interesting enough to keep you coming back. It’s not perfect, but it’s also early days so this show could easily pull it out the bag and deliver a fantastic season of sci-fi – only time will tell whether that comes to fruition or not!