Reviews

Review: Devs Episode 1

March 5, 2020
6 min read
Devs Season 1

Devs‘ is a thriller television series that many might shelf under the genre of science fiction. However, the Hulu mini-series has been promoted as a “science-based thriller.” After watching the first episode, it is somewhat evident why the show is described in such a manner.

To begin with, the show is quite firmly set in San Francisco as we know it. It is set in the present day and age and not in the future or some form of an alternate reality. However, the show does a tease a major scientific breakthrough that is depicted as being something revolutionary. The show follows Lily, an employee of the tech firm, Amaya whose boyfriend dies after being offered to work in a secret division.

The building of Amaya is what makes the show feel more like a “science-based thriller.” There are several futuristic-looking buildings and things shown inside the building, without much explanation. Plus, there is a giant, mysterious statue of a girl at the Amaya building.

‘Devs’ is directed, written and created by Alex Garland. He is best known for helming ‘Ex Machina’ and penning the novel, ‘The Beach,’ which was adapted into a movie of the same name by Danny Boyle with Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead actor. Moreover, the television series stars Sonoya Mizuno and Nick Offerman.

 Devs Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

‘Devs’ kicks off with the CEO of Amaya corporation, Forest standing in a forest surrounded by trees which have holographic rings around them. An eerie track plays in the background. The track reminds one of meditation and Asian monasteries and is played in different versions throughout the episode.

A Chinese-American, Lily and her Russian boyfriend, Sergei leave for work. They are both Amaya employees with the latter working in the encryption department. Sergei makes a presentation to Forest and another Amaya executive, Katie. He showcases them an algorithm that can predict the movement of a unicellular organism for ten seconds. Impressed, Forest promotes Sergei to the “devs” department.

 

“Devs” is supposed to be a highly secretive unit. Hence, Sergei is screened by the head of security first who asks him about Lily. “‘You Russian. Her Chinese. Me. Nervous,” he says. Then, Sergei is screened physically before being escorted to the Devs department by Forest himself.

Forest takes Sergei through the forest (with the illuminated trees) to a cubical building that looks futuristic and medieval at the same time. He tells him that the computer inside it is protected by multiple shields including a vacuum shield.

Then, the two go inside. The interiors look even more futuristic with shimmering walls and luminiscent murals. The place where the employees work is inside the computer machine beyond the vacuum shield. It can only be accessed by traveling in a horizontally moving lift that is suspended in the vacuum shield by electromagnetic rays.

Forest tells Sergei that there are no work hours. When asked what he is supposed to do, Forest tells Sergei that he will figure it out. Then, Sergei looks at the code and rushes into the washroom. He is nervous and vomits. He tinkers with his watch. The time shown is close to 9: 40.

 

 

 

When he returns to his desk, Katie comes to talk to him. Sergei asks her if the code is theoretical. Katie says no. Shocked, Sergei tells her that this can change everything. Katie tells him that it will change nothing and that’s the point. Then, a shot of his watch shows the time as 3: 05!

Sergei leaves the Devs building hurriedly. He is stopped by Forest who had been standing in the forest. He starts to tell him about the illusion of free will. He accuses Sergei of stealing the code in his “James Bond watch.” He tells him, “you made no decision to betray me. You could only have done what you did.” Then, Sergei runs away.

However, he is stopped by the head of security who kills Sergei through asphyxia using a plastic bag and forcefully trapping his face in it. Lily gets worried when Sergei doesn’t return home. When she goes to meet the head of security regarding that matter, he shows her CCTV footage of Sergei walking out of the Amaya campus at night. Forest comes into the cabin and promises Lily that he would do everything he can to help out. He registers a police complaint.

Lily thinks there is something amiss. So she resets her phone and installs Sergei’s data on it using his cloud account. She finds a password-protected Sudoku app on it. She finds it strange since Sergei hated Sudoku and asks her ex-boyfriend to help her crack the password. However, her former partner refuses to help her.

Later, Lily is rushed into Amaya to see some CCTV footage. The video shows Sergei burning himself near the giant statue of the little girl. Lily runs to the site and finds a charred body there.

Devs Season 1 Episode 1 Review

After ‘The Beach,’ Alex Garland was hailed by critics as being a voice for Gen X. With the first episode of ‘Devs,’ Garland lives up to his name. Masterfully directed, it presents the central premise in an extremely engaging manner despite the fact that most viewers would have known the details of the plot (since it covers almost everything that the show’s plot teased in promotional material before its release).

The episode feels like a slow-burn science fiction thriller as the scientific element is very evidently an integral component. There is no dystopia but a suspenseful sense of something f***ed up going on is highlighted meditatively. Speaking of meditative, the background score is superb. One track is repeated in multiple renditions throughout the episode, but it has a harrowing effect that is befitting to the story.

Nick Offerman’s acting performance is measured and highly effective. He pulls off the character of a calculating CEO aptly. Apart from that, the dialogues are also well-penned. For instance, when Forest talks about the illusion of free will, his speech feels very unnerving despite the topic being broached in science fiction for almost as long as the existence of the genre (it has almost become a cliche).

Another aspect that makes the first episode enjoyable is the pacing. The story breathes forward extremely naturally, posing questions in the viewers’ minds and advancing the plot simultaneously with the perfect balance. Overall, it turns out to be a well-executed prologue to what looks like an extremely promising tale of science-fiction and murder mystery.

Read More: Where Was ‘Devs’ Filmed?

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