"Devs is only the latest in a series of puzzle-box shows more preoccupied with their own cleverness and their labyrinthine twists than with the burden of watchability," says Sophie Gilbert of Alex Garland's new FX on Hulu series. "The past two seasons of Westworld have prized complexity over coherence; the work of Sam Esmail, specifically USA’s Mr. Robot and Amazon’s Homecoming, has set a tone for jarring, dour auteur-driven drama. Garland’s own style is distinct (think the chilling, philosophical agitations of Ex Machina or the vivid eco-horror of Annihilation), and yet the director seems to have come to television, like so many of his film peers, with little sense of what the medium offers other than extra time. The mysteries of Devs don’t unspool so much as eke out in a torturously slow drip. And the show’s aesthetic details—the score by Ben Salisbury and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, the Kubrickian jumps and color-blocked portrait shots—feel so detached from the story that they’re often insufferable. The overarching theme within Devs is the relationship between data and determinism. The more data tell us about ourselves, the more we can predict human behavior and the more free will is eroded, Garland suggests." Gilbert adds: "Garland was an art-history major, and Devs leans heavily on the idea that art in particular is what separates humans from advanced artificial intelligence. A pivotal character quotes Larkin and Yeats and cites Bach and Coltrane as the pinnacle of human significance. So it’s ironic that Devs is so robotic. Interactions between characters are as languid and ambiguous as a Harold Pinter play, without the accompanying tension. If Garland is trying to make the point that working in tech has robbed these people of their soul, he’s succeeded. But he has also left his show devoid of animation, of passion, of any emotion that might pull the story out of the automated culture he’s trying to indict."
TOPICS: Devs, FX on Hulu, HBO, Westworld, Alex Garland