I did not expect this show to have such a visceral effect on me. From the very first episode, I understood that the slow pace of the narrative was in part to instill a sense of dread, I also felt the pull of another force: an undertow of awe. That was the promise at least. Devs for the most part just left me feeling desperate, confused, and eight hours farther behind on my work.
I’m not disappointed, but I am befuddled. Set in a Silicon Valley mega-corporation named Amaya, Devs entangles the world of tech entrepreneurship, industrial espionage, global politics, and, well, the true nature of love. This is not a standard review. I won’t be writing any episode summaries or talk about the performances in detail, but the setting of the show is arguably its main character. Amaya’s campus is situated inside a redwood forest and my brain mistakenly headed east, thinking of the Pando tree colony in Colorado from which Sarah Lacy, formerly of TechCrunch named her tech-focused spin-off blog. In 2012 that was an important fact that I knew and one that directly impacted my daily life. As a web developer in Seattle I felt the need to be jacked in to the tech world and the writers in Silicon Valley were my dealers. In other words I watched Devs, got my forests mixed up, and overdosed on nostalgia.
I never fell so deeply into tech that I could relate to the work environment. I’m not a natural coder, more of a tinkerer, and my skills, while good enough for newspapers and marketing firms, lacked the disruptive excitement that drove the industry before the gig economy started sapping all the drive from every one, every where.
I wanted to love Devs but had to settle for thinking about it, a lot. The violence bothered me. This means it’s successful and that bothers me. I was surprised by the amount of death within eight episodes, but later seasons of Breaking Bad would laugh in my face. Each one (nearly) felt terrible, awful, uncomfortable, brilliantly sound-edited (snap, still gives me chills) and sometimes even justified. I’ll never forgive the one. Never!
And ultimately, since this isn’t a regular review and I don’t have to worry about spoilers, I’m still not going to spoil anything and tell you to watch it for yourself. See if you’re still trying to parse out some things days down the road — not the large themes, they occasionally come down on the top of your head like a large hand descending from the sky to stop a nuclear war. I see you Captain Trips — but the flow of the narrative. The intersection of stories. The visual color palette. the magic of technology. The royal treatment and screwing we give to talented people. The giant statue of a child looming among the trees. The Everett Interpretation.
Sometimes, in the outer reaches of my vision, I catch a small glowing light above my head. I can’t tell the shape. Does it follow me? Do I follow it?
Devs is from FX and can be streamed on Hulu.