Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Devs is a perfect example of a show that should have been a five-part mini-series or a feature film. On paper, Devs has all the ingredients to succeed and with a story tackling big ideas around determinism, fate and the afterlife, there’s certainly scope for a fascinating sci-fi series. Alex Garland (best known for his work with 28 Days Later, Ex-Machina and Annihilation) takes on Directorial and writing duties too but after a good start the series sags in the middle, bogged down by unnecessary filler and some questionable casting choices that hold this back from being a better title.
The story itself revolves around our main protagonist Lily. Working at the tech company Amaya, her boyfriend Sergei is invited to join the top secret branch of Amaya known as Devs. Led by the shadowy Forest, the team uncover something that could change the world as we very know it, but unfortunately Sergei stumbles onto something he shouldn’t.
When he goes missing, Lily frantically searches for her boyfriend, desperate to uncover the truth, which inevitably brings her up to Devs. Without spoiling too much, it’s revealed around the midway point just what this machine does but the foreshadowed glimpses before this and the weekly gaps between episodes are enough to guess what this may be pretty early on.
As a binge-watch rather than a 2 month viewing Devs does improve somewhat but it also highlights some of the story’s biggest problems. The glacial pacing is one of the biggest hindrances here, while several subplots are introduced that don’t really add much substance to the show as a whole. On top of that, episode 6 is one of the bigger wastes of a 48 minute episode, essentially revolving around 2 separate conversations through the entirety of the drama. This is particularly frustrating because it spills exposition about concepts and ideas we’ve been told about earlier in the series.
The production design, audio and cinematography are top notch. There’s some wonderfully eerie vibes running through this one, especially early on, and the discordant horns that blast out are incredibly unsettling. The various different camera movements are good and there’s a couple of slick, stylish sequences dotted throughout the series that really help this one stand out.
For all of its positives, Devs also slips up with its casting. Nick Offerman is great in his role as the torn and tormented Forest but everyone else falls flat. Sonoya Mizuno lacks the range to pull off Lily’s complex character effectively, oftentimes coming across as stoic and monotone. The rest of the cast are average at best and incredibly bland and forgettable at worst. It’s such a shame too because when you give this sort of material to someone like Oscar Isaacs (who had similar long-winded conversations about AI in Ex-Machina) it’s interesting and his voice inflections help to keep things intriguing. Here though, none of the cast do this and the result is something that feels a lot more dragged out than it should be.
Overall though Devs is a show that should be great. It has all the ingredients to be a massive success and one of the best shows of 2020. The concepts are smart and thought provoking but the execution squanders any potential. In a different reality perhaps Devs has successfully managed to tweak its formula to become one for the ages but in this timeline, in the here and now, Devs has too many issues to look past. A shame for sure but Devs is a series of what ifs and buts, failing to capitalize on its potential and squandering it by the end with a decent enough but ultimately inconsequential finale.