Something sinister is afoot as a young computer engineer investigates a mysterious disappearance at a Silicon Valley quantum computing company in Devs, a forthcoming sci-fi miniseries created by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation). The first teaser for the FX/Hulu miniseries just dropped, in conjunction with Garland’s appearance at the Television Critics Association (TCA) meeting.
In Devs, young engineer Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno of Crazy Rich Asians) is convinced her recently deceased boyfriend was murdered, rather than committing suicide. She suspects it has something to do with the highly secretive development division (the titular DEVS) of the quantum computing company she works for: Amaya.
Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation, Fargo) co-stars as Amaya’s obsessively sinister CEO, Forest, with Alison Pill (American Horror Story: Cult) playing his second in command, a quantum physicist named Katie. Rounding out the main cast are Zach Grenier (The Good Wife) as Amaya’s head of security, Kenton; Jin Ha (Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert) as Lily’s former boyfriend, Jamie, a cyber security specialist; Stephen McKinley Henderson (Lady Bird) as Stewart, one of the researchers in DEVS; and Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale) as Lyndon, yet another DEVS employee.
Garland expounded further on the miniseries’ themes at New York Comic Con last fall, while giving the assembled audience a sneak peek at first footage for Devs:
I read more about science than anything else, and it started with two things. One was getting my head around this principle of determinism, which basically says that everything that happens in the world is based on cause and effect… That has all sorts of implications for us. One is that it takes away free will, but the other is that if you are at a computer powerful enough, you could use determinism to predict the future and understand the past. If you unravel everything about you, about the specifics of why you prefer a cup of coffee to tea… then five seconds before you said you’d like to have a cup of coffee one would be able to predict you’d ask for it.
The trailer opens with Forest showing Jamie his new work station in DEVS. “What am I actually doing here?” Jamie asks. Forest refuses to tell him: “Don’t worry, you’re going to figure it out.” Cut to Lily confiding that the last time she saw Jamie, he was heading toward DEVS. And then he disappeared. Lily fears something bad happened to him. “You know what happened to him,” we see Katie respond. “If you want answers, ask me what you don’t know.” So Lily asks, “What is DEVS?” Katie responds by telling her about cause and effect. “This is the only principle you need to understand. Nothing ever happens without a reason. Everything was determined by something prior.”
Lily’s investigation convinces her that Amaya’s execs are fanatics, but would calling the police do any good, given how powerful the company is? There are glimpses of strange technology and a few violent encounters, plus an intriguing shot of Katie seeming to split into three. “The sense that you were participating in life was only ever an illusion,” says Forest. “Life is just something we watch unfold.”
Overall, the miniseries has a similar darkly cerebral tone to Garland’s Oscar-winning Ex Machina. “I’m worried about the future. I’m not a pessimist, but an optimist. I do think it’s very clearly the case that technology and technological advances are happening at a rate that we are not able to keep up with,” Garland said during the TCA panel. “Technology doesn’t have checks and balances; it’s not a good thing,”
Devs will debut March 5, 2020 on FX and Hulu, followed by a new episode each subsequent week. Garland already has another series in the works as part of his overall deal with FX, but this one won’t be science fiction. “It’s about civil obedience, and it’s in the here and now,” he said.
Listing image by FX/Hulu