Relatable commentary and impressive visuals are overshadowed by big problems
By Jonathan Pabico, Contributor
He amazed us with his captivating sci–fi films Ex Machina and Annihilation. However, Alex Garland’s new TV series Devs begins with an episode that, despite a promising start and other positives, suffers from slow pacing and struggles to set up characters. The premiere follows the story of Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) as she investigates the sudden disappearance of her boyfriend and co-worker Sergei (Karl Glusman) at their tech company Amaya.
Nick Offerman plays Forest—the down-to-earth head of Amaya—and provides surprisingly complex depth to his character. He plays his role as a laidback hipster passionate about technology, but also portrays him with disarming duplicity. Offerman also has decent chemistry with Alison Pill as Katie during their limited scenes together, and that creates a believable friendship.
Garland employs wide takes, rich lighting, and visual effects for the story’s environments that perfectly lend a sophisticated realism to their futuristic looks. Furthermore, the episode represents Amaya as a spiritual sanctuary through choir hymns and a tranquil atmosphere. This symbolism offers an undertone on technology’s strange social role of enlightening us about our place in the world.
Moreover, Garland uses his settings to tightly enclose his characters—making commentary on how we can easily be consumed by our relationship with technology. He explores isolation through murky colours layered on an experimental musical score, which creates an unsettling tone for the premiere’s visual storytelling. The episode further uses this imagery to ask questions about the power held by corporations and the moral ambiguities that come with that responsibility.
However, the premiere suffers from slow pacing due to the editing that prolongs some camera shots unnecessarily. Narrative flow further stalls because it focuses too much time unpacking Lily and Sergei’s work lives. The premiere is an original thriller, but there is weak tension–building that only raises the stakes during the climax.
Also, the opening scene sets a gripping tone—yet the plot has trouble setting up its characters properly. Forest and Katie could have had more scenes to better establish their bond as colleagues. Lily and Sergei have a realistic relationship, except their backgrounds are poorly executed since they are only provided through exposition from supporting characters. These two leads could have been more relatable if we learned about them from their own perspectives instead.
Overall, Devs sets up an interesting mystery with its first episode but is impeded by its pitfalls. It is certainly not as memorable as Garland’s films. Assuming the rest of the series is structured like this premiere, it may be difficult for sci–fi fans to remain invested in the story. Still, if you can stay with the plot long enough and if a slowly paced thriller intrigues you, then this new show could offer a rewarding experience.