A tense conclusion to Channel 4’s zany cult-hit.
Utopia only has six episodes per series, and that’s fantastic. Each episode is punchy; they’re all jam-packed with plot, characters, visual craziness and creativity. You just want to stuff your face with popcorn and strap in. This isn’t purely escapist entertainment, its dark and unsettling premise is thought-provoking and at times difficult to watch.
This series has excelled at opening each episode with a bang. The opening sequences in this final episode did not disappoint. We find the former fast-food employee/chosen Network agent (named Terrence), who last week received the call to release the virus, at a coach station, where he meets a mother and her young son. At first he seems perfectly pleasant, but when the woman starts discussing her eco-conscience and environmentally-friendly travel arrangements, something in him snaps, as he menacingly argues that having children is the worst crime someone can commit – their carbon footprint surpassing countless other polluting activities. As he offers to murder the woman’s son by slitting his throat, he believes wholeheartedly that he would be doing the ‘right’ thing: saving the world.
This appropriately sums up the battle between our gang of heroes and the bad guys: the moral yet naïve ‘ordinary’ people vs. idealistic murderers. Ian, Becky, Jessica and now Wilson are allied in the race against time to stop Terrence releasing Janus and condemning millions to death. They have 90 days to capture and stop him without him realising they’re seeking him out (in case he then initiates the second protocol – releasing Janus early). Jessica is sticking close to Arby in the hospital, who is in a coma following being shot in the chest by his father last week. It seems like Jessica still struggles to play nice with others though: “call me dear again and I’ll cut your face off”.
But who can blame her, or Ian, when their enemy – who has hurt their loved ones and ruined their lives – now wants to work with them. Wilson still has those endearing qualities, which made him such a good character to have around in the first series, but he has fundamentally changed. He’s a killer, a liar and a manipulator.
A little bit Bond, Bourne and Splinter Cell, the silencer-toting Terrence (played with fantastically sinister spirit by Steven Robertson, who needs to be in more projects!), after going on a bit of a spree to tie up loose ends, makes his way to the car park at Denham airport to remove a virus canister stored in a car.
Only Ian and Jessica are able to make it to the car park in time to stop him, and the ensuing chase is tense and exhilarating to watch. Jessica is such a badass. As her trap in the car park leaves Terrence unable to leave, she shoots dozens of bullets into his car without breaking a stride. Unfortunately, like any good villain, he escapes and Jessica isn’t the one to finally put him down. It’s Ian, who has spent the entire episode forcing Wilson NOT to be a killer, who stabs Terrence in the gut. When that doesn’t stop the almost inhuman Terrence, Ian, apologetically and pleadingly, shoots him in the head. Does this make Ian the hero? Is the threat stopped for good now?
No. And NO. With the danger of a global pandemic prevented, the opportunity for a new, less overt attack on earth’s human population presents itself. With Wilson taking the lead, having transformed himself into Mr. Rabbit – by painfully carving the legendary symbol into his abdomen (oh, and shooting Lee in cold blood, finally) – Janus is still a-go.
The main plot is gripping, yet despite so much violence and drama, Utopia still manages to focus on the personal and tragic circumstances of the characters. Fiona O’Shaughnessy in particular is notable this episode for her softer portrayal of the wacky, somewhat robotic Jessica, as she cares for her father and pines after Ian. Becky however, has the direst problem, as her Deel’s hallucinations worsen. She makes a pact with Ian that she wants to kill herself before her illness becomes too severe, but she wants Ian beside her as a comforting presence. When Jessica points out that watching a loved one die is excruciating, it prompts Becky to ingest the killing drug sooner.
And then – like all classic Greek or Shakespearean tragedies – Carvel informs Ian that the Thoraxin medicine is actually just a placebo, itself causing the hallucinations. Becky wasn’t dying, she was just suffering from very serious withdrawal. And now before Ian can help Becky, he and Jessica are escorted away at gunpoint by police as Arby, finally, opens his eyes.
In series one, the first episode began with Arby and Lee remorselessly murdering three people in a comic-book shop, bludgeoning one and using poison gas on the others, all for seemingly no reason at all except to locate a missing graphic novel. It is amazing now that a show with such an opening has become far darker, more ambitious and even more visually appealing. When did British TV dramas begin looking this good?
Bring on series three. Please. Soon.