When the lead character in a financial thriller looks into the eyes of his main adversary and sees “the terrifying blackness of my own soul reflected in his,” well, who are you going to root for? “Devils,” a 10-part series adapted from the 2014 novel by Guido Maria Brera, has an international cast featuring Patrick Dempsey and a title that suggests forces of darkness arrayed against the forces of light. But there is nary a halo to be found.
Begins Wednesday, 8 p.m., The CW
Instead, this Sky Atlantic series, which is set in 2011—with the shock waves of the 2008 financial crisis still rippling across southern Europe—will have a viewer wondering where the next double cross is coming from. And from whom. Everyone’s a candidate. Our ostensible hero, mostly because he commands so much screen time, is Massimo Ruggero (the charismatic Alessandro Borghi), the head of trading at the fictional New York London Investment Bank. Massimo made NYL about $250 million by selling short on about-to-be-troubled Greece. The about-to-be-troubled-in-real-life Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, is poised to make an announcement of global importance; Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain are exercising negative influence on the health of the European Union—which partially explains the antipathy toward Massimo at the heavily Anglo-American NYL. “Devils,” full of interpersonal intrigues, betrayals and sexual sparking, weaves actual economic events into its plotline, and features a subplot about the shadowy Daniel Duval (Lars Mikkelsen) running the WikiLeaks-like Subterranea, which seems poised to blow the lid off NYL. All of which makes for a bracing story, even if it takes a few turns that leave a viewer struggling to keep up.
One is the inexplicable way in which Massimo’s promotion—a fait accompli, according to his boss, Dominic Morgan (Mr. Dempsey)—is derailed: During a conference at a hotel, Massimo gets a note telling him to report to a certain room, where a woman dressed half like a dominatrix, half like a chandelier is waiting. It turns out to be his ex-wife, Carrie (Sallie Harmsen), whom Massimo thought was in New York and who scampers out of the room as soon as Massimo walks in. It’s some kind of setup, but I still can’t figure out what was happening, since it’s presented partly as a coincidence and can’t possibly be.
“Devils” is not out to win love or affection from the international banking community, which per NYL is a snake pit; not to give too much away, but Massimo’s own skulduggery results in one high-ranking member of the bank throwing himself off a building before the end of episode 1. Viewers will react less dramatically to “Devils.” But the emphasis of style over logic might drive them out onto the intellectual ledge.
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Appeared in the October 6, 2020, print edition as ‘High Drama From High Finance.’