Roush Review: The Elegantly Suspenseful ‘Devs’ Is Hypnotic

Nick Offerman as Forest in Devs
Miya Mizuno/FX

You won’t believe your eyes­ — and maybe you shouldn’t — when you discover the game-changing secrets of Devs. That’s the name given to a hush-hush development division of a truly creepy high-tech quantum computing company. I couldn’t spoil the surprise if I wanted to, because even after succumbing to eight hypnotic hours of this elegantly suspenseful limited series, I’m not entirely sure I understand it. This is science fiction for those who take their science very seriously.

Beyond all of the ensuing mumbo jumbo about determinism vs. free will, quantum mechanics, and the possibility of multiple realities, Devs operates like any gripping story about mad scientists with a God complex. The maddest, and saddest, of the lot is Forest (a shaggy Nick Offerman in a sinister change of pace), the brooding CEO of Amaya, a tech company named after the beloved daughter he mourns. An eerie giant statue of the girl looms over the wooded complex of labs (including the remote Devs), just one of many arresting visuals concocted by gifted writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation).

In Devs, Garland seems to be channeling Stanley Kubrick with a near-fetishistic and dreamlike fascination with cutting-edge technology in sterile environments. The Devs lab, which can only be reached through a floating electromagnetic transport chamber, resembles a pulsating Borg cube (Star Trek fans will love it), and is just about as inviting.

The plot kicks in when Sergei (Karl Glusman), a rising star in Amaya’s AI division, is promoted to Devs. What happens to him there inspires Lily (Sonoya Mizuno), his resourceful engineer girlfriend, to start dangerously snooping for the truth. She enlists chivalrous ex-boyfriend Jamie (an appealing Jin Ha) in her crusade, which is blocked at every step by Amaya’s malevolent head of security, Kenton (The Good Wife‘s Zach Grenier in his snarling element).

Sonoya Mizuno Devs Lily FX Hulu

(Raymond Liu/FX)

As Devs glides to its ominous and possibly predestined climax, Mizuno artfully underplays Lily’s quiet panic when she finds herself trapped in a scenario worthy of Black Mirror. Like that acclaimed anthology of cautionary tales, this series observes the collision of visionary science and tormented humanity with a jaundiced eye and, ultimately, a life-affirming heart.

Devs, Series Premiere, Thursday, March 5, FX on Hulu