blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Devs (2020) s01e04

I believe the technical term for what writer, director, and show creator Alex Garland does with the “cold open.” Artsy-fartsy. I mean, it’s not bad or anything, it’s just blandly stylized. Though in a somewhat different way than usual. It doesn’t have that “compare it to Kubrick” desperation Garland fills the rest of the series with.


The show’s shaken out to have two storylines—the tramlines of determinism with Nick Offerman and Alison Pill and Sonoya Mizuno trying to escape Zach Grenier, who presents some kind of danger to her. Offerman and Pill have a big disagreement about what the Devs project should be used for, with Pill taking a pragmatic approach Offerman doesn’t endorse. But it turns out Pill knows Offerman better than he knows himself. Because she’s a de facto oracle… maybe. Fellow Devs dev Stephen McKinley Henderson is convinced Pill breaks the rules for “The Machine”—basically no porn and no prediction (the latter not the former)—and it’s a nice bit of character development and levity. Though Cailee Spaeny’s subplot about sound waves, which includes the closest the show’s come to explaining the “science” of the Devs project, albeit without any details to ground it in any reality, ours or the show’s, is disappointing.

And when’s the last time you wrote a four comma sentence.

The Spaeny subplot, which involves Offerman and Pill’s disagreement about the project goals, is kind of a narrative waste given Offerman immediately capitulates to Pill. So it wastes Spaeny, making her—okay, so we also find out Spaeny’s character’s pronouns are he/him, which means Garland had a trans character and didn’t cast a trans person but it’s also not a surprise because a lot of “Devs” feels like Garland low-key responding to complaints about inclusion and his last movie (though Janet Mock apparently wasn’t playing a trans character, which is great but also doesn’t seem like it makes up for casting a woman as a man). Not my lane but also not Garland’s so….

Meanwhile, Mizuno gets a full action sequence—and a surprisingly not good one, given how much effort Garland puts into the composition he apparently doesn’t have any thoughts on action—and gets to hang out with Jin Ha a bit, which is great because Ha’s in it and Ha’s amazing. He’s with Mizuno for the morning and then she comes back that night after her adventures. There’s also this weird thing where Mizuno and Ha argue about why they broke up years before and then the episode ends with Mizuno telling Ha he was right and she was wrong, even though she rightly pointed out neither of them actually knew how to navigate international industrial espionage drama.

But then when the cliffhanger hits, it’s so over-the-top—Garland bellowing, “Call me Kubrick”—I guess it doesn’t really matter because the characters are finally in real danger. High tension!

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