First look UK TV review: Devils Season 1
Ivan Radford | On 17, Feb 2021
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” If that opening line of Sky Atlantic series Devils sounds familiar, it’s not the first time you get the feeling of deja vu while watching.
The series, based on the 2014 novel of the same title by Guido Maria Brera, is a financial thriller set in the London office of NYL, a major investment bank. Massimo Ruggeri (Alessandro Borghi) is the Head of Trading at the bank. Trained up by CEO Dominic Morgan (Patrick Dempsey), he’s all ready to make the jump to vice-CEO. When those plans go awry, and a scandal erupts involving a dead body, Massimo finds himself having to work out what wider political game is unfolding – and why Dominic seems to have turned against him.
All of this sounds juicy enough, but Devils’ opening episodes can’t shake the sense that you’ve downed that drink before. Framing the series as a two-man showdown – between the young fish Massimo, swimming upstream, and the old veteran Dominic, riding the current – Devils can’t help but recall Billions, but with less of that show’s depth or character. The series isn’t lacking in slick presentation, with the first episode spliced with a slow-motion shot of someone falling from a high-rise window to the ground, but it places more emphasis on style than substance; Massimo’s voiceovers are accompanied by cutaways to an empty trading room with only him and Dominic in spotlights. Subtle, Devils isn’t.
If you can accept the surface-level entertainment, there’s some appeal to the glossy drama on display. Alessandro Borghi swaggers through events with the charisma of an over-confident protege, while Patrick Dempsey sports a suit with magnetic authority, clearly enjoying playing the ambiguous powerful type. But neither man gives us a reason to root for them, which leaves us with little reason to care about the nine-figure sums being thrown around the screen in a surprisingly dull manner, given the recent GameStop drama that has dominated news headlines.
It’s telling that the most intriguing elements are the bits around the main two males, from a brief interlude involving the actor Kevin Eldon as the head of a company being lined up for investment to Mangrove’s Malachi Kirby, a forensics student prepared to take some off-the-record work from Ken Stott’s Professor Wade. Lars Mikkelsen also brings some kudos to the supporting line-up, alongside Laia Costa as young investigator Sofia Flores, who takes an interest in Massimo.
The result is a familiar jumble of characters and conspiracies that more than look the part, but as the overwritten monologues continue to pile up, Devils struggles to convince that it’s worth investing in the whole season.
Devils Season 1 is available on Sky Atlantic. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW TV, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.