In an age where Westworld extends its sci-fi borders beyond the reaches of its park, it is the quiet and subdued sci-fi Devs that truly captured my imagination. Alex Garland, who by this point is no stranger to the genre, takes his third directorial effort to television, in the form of his eight-part miniseries.
I was lucky enough to go into Devs with little to no knowledge, outside the faded memory of a trailer released some months ago. Where I have struggled to work my way through the intertwining stories of Westworld, I blasted through Devs which sits at the same length, in a single week.
Where Westworld tries to lure you in with its many red-herrings and supposed questions, Devs feels stripped back. Simple. Elegant in a way Westworld could only dream of. This is a sci-fi show focused on the mental states of its characters as much as the ground-breaking science that is being researched in the forest-encapsulated Amaya compound. Yet despite its simplicity, it’s also impressively doused in bigger philosophical questions that are there from the start, even if they aren’t overtly apparent.
Cleverly, its world feels like our own, yet without the need for advanced smartphones and cars, still manages to have a futuristic and alien atmosphere; whether that be due to its halo ring lights, haunting Los Angeles vistas, or perhaps it’s the goliath figure of a small child which stands a head above the towering trees…
The characters that we follow feel immaculately cast, with the biggest name attached being Nick Offerman as the Tech guru Forest, and even he immediately rids any naysayers of their impressions of Ron Swanson. Yet Sonya Mizuno impresses the most as the reluctant protagonist of the show, Lily Chan. Without giving too much away, Mizuno embodies the grief, curiosity, and anger her character needs in a dialled back manner that feels entirely unique to her. There are no irritating characters in this show, and it even manages to make its villains awful in a way where you love to watch them do all manners of evil. Through the writing and performances each character feels individual, and not in the checkbox sort of way.
While I don’t want to elaborate on the brilliant story that is being told here, its structural approach gifts the viewer knowledge of its story, without giving them the tools to truly understand it, which often left me perched forward, begging to be told more. It was a unique form of storytelling which could have easily had the opposite effect, but somehow felt like the only way to truly tell this story.
From its opening scene with its enchanting score, Devs is a hypnotic ride that continues Garland’s trend of subdued sci-fi. It is a show with just the right amount of characters, just the right amount of story threads, and along with a fantastic cast and clean cut cinematography, Devs is the real sci-fi show everyone should be watching – and another win from a director who feels like he’s only just getting started.