Utopia – Finale
“But if they’re right…and we stop them; then what are we?”
Over its last few hours the ‘heroes’ of Utopia act as brutally as we can bear them too: they betray, they threaten, they torture, they endanger lives and by its end near each of them have taken one (or many, as the case may be). On the other hand the villains who illuminate their intentions as the best, ask them (and us) for trust, for mercy and for selfless thought; each request refused and answered by barely cathartic agony. Like the show itself the protagonists (a far more pertinent term to use) have been corrupted by the chaotic occurrences of the past season. The show started off pleasant and pleasantly simple (My review of the Pilot is HERE), got muddy and complicated for the middle before closing in the deepest and darkest manner imaginable.
Without saying too much the season (not series, as I had feared/expected) ended on an almost happy note, the surviving characters setting off into their respective futures. The thing is though, that future is surely bound to be a bad one and not just because series writer Dennis Kelly has a sadomasochistic streak in him that pumps out bloody torture scenes at the pace of an artery not a vein. Somehow, somewhere along the line Utopia stopped being about comic books and started being about overpopulation (perhaps the only network TV show to tackle the topic, even in this tangential manner), a villain that isn’t easily bested over the course of six hours, and the suggestion at this stage is that its one that will beat them sooner rather than later; even if they manage to survive, the world won’t.
Though it came as something of a surprise the groundwork was laid for this thematic territory very early on. It is quite clearly a story of fathers, sons, mothers, sisters, daughters and brothers; a story of lonely children, single parents, childless couples, siblings that slaughter all around them and above all the power of the families we create over those that create us. The message in the character design is something of a caustic one (perhaps too strongly slamming procreation) but the characters themselves and their emotional journeys through those twisted and dangerous dynamics were clever and compelling ones.
I never quite bought into the vast but vapid vaccine plot or the Downing Street office politics, I could never catch up with the constant convex turns during the covert scenes and it wasn’t catchphrase questions like “Where is Jessica Hyde?” or “Who is Mr.Rabbit?” that kept me coming back (though i did love the little touches of wordplay in them) it was these characters. The simple, quiet scenes like those set in the series base, an old abandoned mansion, where those characters would sit and speak (or be silent) were often the most involving for me and so thankfully the show never skimped on that front.
“The numbers are boring. I like the art!”
In fact the one thing that can be said about Utopia is that it seems to have never skimped on anything. Shows as strange and subversive as this are rarely supported as well as Channel Four have this one; not only keeping it on air despite some strong protests and complaints but keeping it looking amazing all the way through to the end. If you were to describe the visual palette of UK TV in one word it would likely be ‘grey’, ‘drab’ or something similar; Utopia though can in comparison only be called bright, lush or colorful; it is a visual bounty.
Not a single scene goes past without a shot catching your eye in one way or another and not an episode goes by without a scene that simply stuns you with its composition; cinema has offered little that can compete so far this year and I fear that it may not come December. The style and imagination shown by Marc Munden, Alex Garcia Lopez & Wayne Che Yip behind the camera all series is simply superb and the slow, sudden beats and screams of the energetic soundtrack even more so. Utopia’s story might have left you spinning but its the show’s assault on the senses that started you off.
So while it hasn’t exactly been what I initially wanted since midway through the second episode and didn’t capitalize on any of the currency that I saw gleaming in the pilot Utopia was, in its weird way, one of the most interesting show’s that I have seen in quite a while and that, that is worth so much more to me than simple quality or enjoyment, qualities that it still managed to provide in excess. I am sincerely excited for what the second – and presumably final – season of the show brings and just hope that overpopulation, Janus, Jessica or the Network doesn’t cause my death before it comes.