Devs, the science-fiction drama that is now streaming on Hulu, is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Written and directed by Alex Garland, the mastermind behind the sci-fi films Ex Machina and Annihilation, Devs follows computer programmer Lilly Chan — played by frequent Garland muse, Sonoya Mizuno — as she unravels the mysterious disappearance of her boyfriend. At the center of the mystery is the inscrutable tech genius, Forest (Nick Offerman), who employs them both at his sprawling Amaya corporate campus somewhere in Silicon Valley.
Like Garland’s previous projects, Devs is deeply skeptical of technology’s influence on the natural world. Questions of determinism are mashed up with quantum mechanics and capitalism in a plot that admittedly feels obtuse, but the slow burn is kind of the way Garland movies go. Despite whatever issues exist with the plot, the visual palette of this series is incredible. Gorgeous and surreal, every frame of the first two episodes belongs in a museum. When the camera pans over the lush landscape of the Amaya campus to reveal a terrifying statue in the distance, I gasped out loud.
Speaking of Garland’s filmography, Offerman’s Forest is very reminiscent of Oscar Isaac’s Ex Machina villain, but less “tech bro-y” in execution. Though Offerman is best known for his comedic roles, he’s utilizing his Ron Swanson deadpan to chilling effect as the mad genius behind whatever is going on in the series. Alison Pill as Forest’s loyal acolyte Katie is equally chilling, especially since she’s playing a similar-yet-different role simultaneously on Star Trek: Picard. At times, watching Devs made me wonder if this could be seen as a Daystrom Institute mini-series as well.
That said, Mizuno is clearly the breakout, which makes sense considering she is the lead of the series. After memorable turns as Kyoko in Ex Machina and Araminta in Crazy Rich Asians, she is finally given a complicated character to inhabit. When the story shifts to her perspective in the first episode, it makes you wonder why it’s taken so long for Mizuno to get a starring role.
Relatedly, Broadway star Jin Ha — best known for his roles in M. Butterfly, Hamilton, and Jesus Christ Superstar — is another standout in the cast. Playing Lilly’s ex-boyfriend Jamie, the chemistry the two actors share onscreen is palpable. Moreover, how amazing is it to see two Asian American characters being front and center in a high profile science-fiction program that is being used to launch the whole “FX on Hulu” initiative at the streaming giant? This is the kind of representation that really matters.
Devs is now streaming exclusively on Hulu. New episodes premiere every Thursday.