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With 'Devs,' Hulu Has a New Tech Thriller That Offers Some Traditional Tropes
March 5, 2020  | By David Hinckley

Making tech billionaires into villains for purposes of TV drama isn't a tough sell.

Devs, a new Hulu series whose first two episodes become available Thursday, doesn't waste time in letting us know that its Big Bad is Forest (Nick Offerman, top), the calculating bossman at a tech giant called Amaya.

We're not sure what his game is, and we're not entirely sure what Amaya is up to, except that from everything we learn in the first episode, it's probably something deeply harmful to humanity.

So Devs has a strong element of cyber-mystery, though it primarily offers us a more conventional detective thriller.

Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) works for Amaya as an encryption specialist. She is dating a fellow Amaya employee named Sergei (Karl Glusman), who has spent the last three years in the artificial intelligence (AI) division and has just gotten an offer from Forest to join the ultra-secret project called Devs.

Before Sergei can officially begin, he must clear an interview with Kenton (Zach Grenier), Amaya's chief of security. Kenton seems to have some reservations, but when Forest escorts Sergei to the secluded compound, it appears all is well.

Except it isn't, and when Sergei doesn't come home to Lily, she starts to worry. She gets the feeling maybe he's never coming home. She tells Forest, who tells Kenton, both of whom assure her they have surveillance evidence that will solve the mystery.

She sees it and does not consider the mystery solved. She sets out to learn what really has happened.

Lily knows that one suspicious employee goes into a battle with a powerful employer as a major underdog, though she does have a couple of potential weapons.

She knows how Amaya, or at least her small corner of Amaya, operates. She also knows a guy named Jamie (Jin Ha), one of the smartest computer security people in the world.

Unfortunately, Jamie is also Lily's ex-boyfriend, the "ex" resulting from the fact Lily dumped him for Sergei several years ago and hasn't been in touch since.


Devs isn't the first show to envision a tech operation that threatens innocent people and potentially the world. Forest isn't the first cold-blooded tech person to develop a God complex and, given real-world news in recent years, viewers may not find his character all that much of a stretch.

The heart of the story, however, feels much more traditional. Lily is the classic victim of a powerful, presumably untouchable organization, someone who knows there has been wrongdoing and evidently has no path by which to expose it or have anyone believe her if she could. Every deck seems stacked against her.

Forest even has an equally cold-blooded assistant, Katie (Alison Pill), as another outer line of defense.

Yet here Lily is, and at least one person apparently has faith in her: Alex Garland, who created, writes, and directs Devs.

Tech-based stories sometimes show off a little too much and end up in the weeds. Early on, at least, Garland keeps it clean. We see the good guys and the bad guys, and while there will doubtless be a curveball or two along the way, he's given us a focal character we can root for.

Mizuno does Lily justice, while Offerman, Grenier, and Pill could chill a room just by walking into it. Devs may have contemporary tech trappings, but it's also a good old-fashioned TV show.

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