devs new york comic-con 2019

Like much of its lauded creator’s filmmography, Devs is cloaked in mystery. The eight-episode sci-fi series created, written, and directed by Alex Garland is still a big question mark, and it remains much of the same even after the FX show’s New York Comic-Con panel this Saturday. But a very exciting question mark.

Garland writes and directs every episode of Devs, which bears the Ex Machina and Annihilation‘s surreal fingerprints all over it. And like his past two feature films, Garland’s TV series debut will explore puzzling questions about big concepts: in this case, determinism and the question of free will.

“It’s a simple idea that nothing ever happens that is random or spontaneous,” Garland said at the Devs New York Comic-Con 2019 panel before launching into a not-so-simple explanation about the concept of determinism and quantum computers. “Similar to Ex Machina having to do with breakthroughs in AI, this has to do with breakthroughs in processing power [of quantum computers],” Garland said passionately to a confused audience at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

But luckily, we’ve all come to accept that watching a Garland title is not about finding easy answers, but establishing an uneasy mood that challenges us and makes ask for more. And while we won’t be getting more than the confirmed eight-part single season, the details that Garland and executive producer Alan Reich teased alongside stars Sonoyo Mizuno, Karl Gusman, Jin Han, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and  Zach Grenier were so captivating as to make us demand more immediately. And perhaps Garland would be open to that.

Devs Will Be Only One Season — For Now

Devs follows couple Sergei (Gusman) and Lily (Mizuno), two programmers working for a Silicon Valley company run by Nick Offerman‘s enigmatic CEO. When Sergei is recruited into the mysterious Devs program after his AI simulation impresses his boss, Lily is happy for him — until his apparent suicide compels her to embark on a dangerous investigation that unfolds over the course of eight episodes. “Devs is eight episodes, the story’s done,” Garland confirmed.

Devs is the filmmaker’s first time working in TV, but the medium had always been a source of fascination for him. “I was really interested to know what it would be like to have 8 hours to tell a story rather than two. The scale and the scope is very attractive,” Garland said. FX gave him “absolute, complete freedom” to develop the series, which he created over the course of two years — with a seemingly unlimited budget, based on the glimpses we got of a stunning, suspended cube-like office created entirely out of gold-leaf walls and reflective glass. “On a personal level, I thought, ‘maybe television is a better home for me.'” Garland said, recounting painful experiences with distributors for both his critically acclaimed, but commercial disappointing films Ex Machina and Annihilation. “I was sick of it. There’s something about the concept of cinema and box office weekends and I thought, maybe this isn’t for me.”

So could Garland make a return to TV after this audacious, high-concept series? “I am amazed by people who do long-running TV series. But it’s not something I want to do. I like stories that end,” Garland says. Ah well. But wait — even if this story ends, Garland hints that he could still make a return to the medium.

Devs is a one-off. What I really want to do is try this again with the same cast and an entirely different story.”

A new story with the same cast? Could Garland turn Devs into an anthology series. Considering FX’s success with series like American Horror Story and Fargo, where creators Ryan Murphy and Noah Hawley have immense freedom, perhaps Devs could be Garland’s chance for this. Mizuno and the rest of the cast murmured that Garland had talked to them about reuniting. Perhaps this isn’t the last we’ll see of Devs.

Determinism is in the Details in New Devs Clips and Teaser

But before we think about the end of Devs, we got our first look at the sci-fi series Saturday. An incredibly vague teaser was released online simply showing stars Mizuno and Offerman (looking very much like a Garland eccentric genius with his scraggly hair and beard) in profile with a neon-lit halo around their heads. But the audience at the Hammerstein Ballroom got a look at the full teaser and two new clips from Devs.

The first clip shows Gusman’s Sergei getting a tour of the Devs office, which is in a suspended gold leaf-played cube illuminated by thousands of glowing lights (practical lights built into the set, Garland confirmed). Inside, is mysterious machine that is the source of the company’s quantum processing, and several glowing computer screens set up in a minimalist open office. It, and the brief teaser, is in line with the stark, beautiful imagery typical of Garland’s sci-fi films, coupled with eerily disturbing elements. In the teaser, we see a man on fire and various people going through breakdowns, interspersed with placid images of mysterious isolated buildings. It’s thrilling and intriguing, though little more is revealed of the plot, which Mizuno’s Lily slowly uncovers.

“It’s kind of set up that we don’t expect her to be the protagonist,” Mizuno said. “We always talked about her being an unusual protagonist and doing things for her own reason and reacting to events in unusual ways and it’s the unusual ways that kind of compel the narrative forward.”

The second clip ramps up the action however, as Lily is being driven by Grenier’s intimidating security officer Kenton, who informs her that she’s considered a psychological liability by the company, causing her to panic and grab the steering wheel. They crash off the motorway and she crawls out of the car and is nearly run over by a speeding truck, fleeing the scene. But in typical Garland fashion, it seems like these thrills and action sequences will only beget more questions.

“The series doesn’t get more clear, it only gets more mysterious,” Garland says. “I knew that it was going to be about determinism. But it’s also about how strange it is to be us in the world.”

Devs premieres on FX in spring 2020.

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