A serious and seriously mad episode.
Despite still having its playful and utterly bizarre moments, this episode of Utopia was the most serious one of the series run so far. As Arby says mid-way through, ‘This is all about family’, yet we see characters turn their back on morality, and others, questioning what family means in a world that’s falling apart.
This show keeps hurtling along, adding more and more layers to the story while stripping others away. Opening with a sequence of events that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of 24, an American husband and father-of-two receives a phone call in the middle of the night. He leaves his home, travels to the woods and digs a hole. In this hole is a cylinder that the man uses a keypad to unlock, removing another cylindrical contraption. This he then drives to a small airport base and surreptitiously fixes into the headlight of a car, before heading back home, shooting his sleeping children, murdering his wife and turning the gun on himself. Cue theme tune.
Having never met this character before and being in the dark about who was on the other end of the phone, the entire conspiracy at the heart of this show all of a sudden becomes even weirder and far more dangerous.
Another thing now creepier and more dangerous? Wilson. Undergoing the most extreme character development this week, he finally cracks under the pressure of being Milner’s new follower, switching off his emotions and murdering three people ‘for the cause’ (one of whom is Ian’s own brother). He is fully convinced of Janus’s practical necessity now, and its purpose as a weapon to save the world – to create Utopia. With that viewpoint, he can see himself as a hero, perhaps blinding himself completely to the evil of his actions. For a man with one eye, he’s a hell of a shot. Tech-savvy, brainwashed, and Bullseye-type skills? That’s a comic-book supervillain in the making.
Someone who is still behaving oddly – and who can blame her – is Jessica, still laying low at Dugdale’s house, cooking eggs and pining after Ian. When Ian makes a sneak visit to Dugdale’s, his run in with the newly free Jessica isn’t so much sexy as awkward. After they have sex, knowing Ian will make a run for it, she slips a phone into his coat pocket, glancing amusedly as he attempts to escape over the garden wall. I’m guessing the phone will be used as a tracking device at some point, and that point may come sooner than expected. Milner arrives unexpectedly and soon notices the tell-tale signs that Dugdale is not alone. Jessica is about to shoot Milner (and knowing the unpredictability of this show you assume Jessica IS going to pull the trigger), but before she does Milner reveals the miraculous news that Carvel, her father, is still alive.
Now that they know Anton is Philip Carvel, Becky and Grant try and communicate with the mad old man. When they realize the line of numbers tattooed on his arm mean he was in a concentration camp, their attempts to speak with him in various languages pays off (thanks to google translate). They pay a Romanian translator to help further, who discovers Anton/Carvel was a Romani gypsy from Romania, who was sent to a concentration camp when he was five years old where his entire family was killed. It turns out Carvel does have a history of witnessing genocide, as asked by Milner in the prequel episode, and he reveals that the adjustment he made to the Janus virus does indeed target a specific race of people – or rather, it will target all but one race. Only he won’t, or can’t, say which group of people is to be spared. Having pledged as a young idealist to use his genius to end human disaster once and for all, his transformation into a eugenics-focused ‘villain’ certainly has a few comic-book similarities to Magneto.
Arby is with Lee and a kidnapped Donaldson, the latter quickly meeting a grisly end with a bullet to the head. The two have relocated the woman and daughter Arby loves, leaving them with instructions to head to a safe house, although one Arby will never be able to go with them to. When Arby returns to the comic-book gang and finds out from Grant who Anton really is, the hitman in him goes mental, killing the translator in cold blood before stalking the others. Only when Grant stands in front of Ian does Arby stop, taking Grant and Carvel away with him and leaving the audience unsure what happened to Becky in all this. Hopefully not dead!
Things revealed this week: the plot to release Janus has stages, the first having already been set in motion. The American man from the beginning was one of five chosen people in the world whose task was to start the 90-day preparation process for the virus. Once those 90 days are up, a second wave of believers are called up to take those canisters of the virus, fly them over crops near to international airports, and let it loose: a 30-year-in-the-making plan to wipe out all but 6.5 billion people on the planet.
For a show so ridiculous and bonkers, it hits some extremely tough and morally contentious subject matter. At this point in the series it feels that Janus is inevitable, but we are repeatedly told that earth’s resources running out are inevitable too. Either way, the world’s f***ed, and maybe we are too. At least the great acting, cinematography and script can distract us all for a while.