With “Devs,” writer, director, and creator Alex Garland manages to be at least twenty-one years late to be original with what he’s going for. Though he’s also apparently in the zeitgeist because the big twist is also another show this year. Does he bring anything new to the table? Not really? It’s not the point. The big twist comes about halfway through the episode, which is only fifty minutes but feels three times as long, and it’s fairly predictable stuff.
Though, kind of not. It requires a technology reveal deus ex machina but whatever.
The beginning of the episode has Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno’s big showdown—though last time she had to talk to Alison Pill about all the hard stuff because Offerman wasn’t qualified but this time, this time, she’s going to talk to the man. “Devs” ends with its female characters being all about the boys. It’s a non-ha ha funny.
Before the episode changes trope lanes, there’s this possibly suspenseful suspense sequence with Offerman, Mizuno, and Pill where Garland gets to do more in the Devs laboratory—where the Kubrick-y production design allows for a lot of portentous shots, but to a point, all the action is fairly mundane. Garland’s amping them up for the viewer’s experience, totally detached from the characters. On the long list of “Devs”’s problems, I’m not even sure narrative distance makes the top ten. Garland’s able to get away with the problems with it through the sci-fi-ish gimmicks and the oddness of Offerman’s performance (more than the performance itself). Though the oddness of Offerman’s performance is another gimmick on its own.
In the end, Garland manages to have a last slip with how he tries to balance the big twist and but also the philosophical murmurings he pretends are important to the show.
“Devs” somehow manages not to come off pretentious—sometimes because of Garland’s abject ineptness, other times because he’s so desperately aping Kubrick it’s impossible to take seriously—but it’d probably be more interesting if it were….
“Devs” starts mediocre in one way and ends bad in another.
Though Jin Ha is absolutely fantastic. Nothing else about “Devs” is anywhere near as good.