Sci-fi is a tricky genre to get right. Try to be too fun and it comes off as fake and campy. Try to be too real and it comes off as dark and depressing. Finding the right balance of the two is a difficult thing to do but FX is certainly trying to do it with their new series, Devs.
The new miniseries, exclusively found on FX on Hulu, centers around a mysterious company run by a tech genius, and the even more mysterious development group, known as devs, within that company. No one knows what goes on at devs, but after a newly promoted member of the group apparently commits suicide, his girlfriend suspects foul play and begins to investigate.
Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) is that aforementioned girlfriend and the main character of the story. The first episode sees her and her boyfriend Sergei briefly celebrate his promotion into Devs. The celebration is short lived though when he doesn’t come home after his first day. After several heartbreaking scenes with Lily trying to track him down, she eventually learns of his death.
The description of Devs as a whole implies a level of mystery. A true mystery however, requires a lack of knowledge from the viewer in order to truly pay off in the end. So when the questions of whether or not there was foul play and who exactly was to blame are answered in the first episode, unfortunately the mystery is extinguished. There is still a great deal of drama for sure, but an edge has been taken out of it.
There is obviously a very dark story at work here in the early going of Devs. But really, this new series focuses on a much bigger, even darker, picture: the existence or nonexistence of free will. Thinking back to that “too fun or too real” dilemma posed in the beginning, Devs definitely leans heavily to the latter. Whether or not it’s all the way on that side though, remains to be seen.
The overarching premise of Devs, aside from the lacking murder mystery, is laid out nicely by Forest (Nick Offerman) in one scene. To paraphrase the mysterious tech genius, we lead a life that follows tram lines, undeviated and deterministic. We have the illusion of free will because those tram lines are invisible. We don’t get many answers in the first episode regarding exactly what he is talking about, but it’s apparent his tech and this way of thinking will play a big role moving forward.
As far as what we do see in this episode, Devs toes that line of being too dark and depressing. As I mentioned, a good portion of the episode is seeing Lily panic over the disappearance of her boyfriend. Watching her anxiously look for answers is more than enough to make the viewer feel uncomfortable, but seeing her actually process the loss is even tougher. Add to that the major existential question Forest just threw out there and you may just want to draw the blinds, lie down on your couch and call it a day.
Still, there is certainly a very interesting premise being laid out in Devs. Judging from clips of upcoming episodes, it seems as though there is enough fun to bring the series back a bit before it spirals too far down a dark path. It will be interesting to see if this new show can find that balance.
The first two episodes of Devs are streaming now on FX on Hulu with new episodes premiering every Thursday.
Mike is a writer that has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed “nerd.”