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‘Devs’ is Still Buzz-worthy and Binge-worthy Despite Getting Lost in a Pandemic
April 23, 2020  | By Eric Gould  | 35 comments

Despite a high-wire concept and good critical buzz at TVWW and elsewhere, FX’s Devs probably went by unnoticed with a 100-year pandemic raging at the doors of viewers.

From what we can tell (and what we’re doing ourselves), binge-watching is still a good prescription for watching the news in shock or preparing for a hair-raising trip down a grocery aisle.

There isn’t much to say about Devs that isn’t a spoiler, so let’s go by FX’s description which summarizes the limited series (which premiered in March and is now available for streaming on FX on Hulu) as focusing “on a young software engineer named Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) who works for Amaya, a cutting-edge tech company based in Silicon Valley. After her boyfriend Sergei's (Karl Glusman) apparent suicide, Lily suspects foul play and begins to investigate.”

With that in mind, Devs is a well-crafted crime story even though that genre is subverted in the first 30 minutes by writer-director Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Ex Machina).

Mizuno, a former model and dancer, is, in some respects, a perfect antihero with short, cropped hair and uniformed in Silicon Valley Old Navy casual wear. She is unwilling to buy explanations for Sergei’s death given by Amaya’s visionary CEO Forest (Nick Offerman, left) and his high right-hand Ice Priestess and coding genius, Katie (Alison Pill).

Katie is the chief architect of the Devs system, which is shorthand for a development group housed in a separate building on the Amaya property, a cast-concrete box in a meadow resembling a marriage between an Assyrian temple and an Amazon warehouse.

Oh, and the grounds are also marked by a giant statue of Forest’s daughter Amaya (top, for whom the company is named), as a monument to her, and presumably his profound inability to move past her loss, although what that was isn’t entirely clear from the start.

If Garland’s conceits here sound somewhat contrived, they perhaps would be in another writer’s hands – someone incapable of unraveling a very provocative storyline coupled with Garland’s deep research into the unusual world of quantum computing. 

As oddly as his Devs plot unspools, it is as equally strange a dive into technology that, by the way, is actually under development right now by IBM that uses quantum-mechanical phenomena such as superimposition and entanglement to perform calculations. (Yeah, I just copied that).

Alongside the world of the Devs team of high-tech secrets and its corporate security team, we follow Lily and ex-boyfriend Jamie (Jin Ha), who still carries a torch, into unfolding audacious reveals into and around the conspiracy surrounding the technology.

Without giving much away, the star of the series is the Devs building itself, a truly imaginative vision by Garland that makes the environment of his story as peculiar as the technology itself. 

Add in computations that predict what you will say next, and others that will forecast your arriving at places you swear you will avoid, and well, you get the general idea.

Devs is another sci-fi thriller like the current Tales From the Loop that goes deep into character studies and flies high and well enough without aliens in rubber suits. 

And Lily is just the type of leading character that might be worthwhile following during our current times – fierce, determined, and unwilling to fail.

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