Note Note: Some of you may have heard and yes, it's true. Utopia will not be renewed for a 3rd series, despite it being fucking awesome... So much cry... It's still worth watching though, so get on it!
|"They call me mellow yellow..."|
The words 'great', 'unmissable' and 'ground-breaking' are tossed around a lot when talking about TV nowadays. It seems like in the past 5 years we've been drowned in award-winning quality programming being thrown at us from all directions, each deemed great and ground-breaking and unmissable. Utopia, which has just recently finished it's second series, has received similar praise from many, although has yet to travel far from our warm British shores to join its American brethren. Is it because the US doesn't like us? Or is it because, as with some of these other shows, it receives a tad more praise than it deserves? Ooo, lookie, I'm not telling you what I think straight away; you're going to have to read on! *twiddles moustache*
Plot-wise, you're looking at pretty standard political conspiracy/thriller fare. Utopia centres on a mysterious graphic novel called The Utopia Project and a small band of message board members who go on the hunt for a secret manuscript of the supposed "second" issue of the book. The only problem is that there's a shady organisation called The Network on the hunt for the manuscript themselves under the orders of the mysterious Mr. Rabbit, leaving a sea of blood in their wake. Like, a literal fucking pool of blood big enough to separate land masses.
|There is an unhealthily high proportion of infanticide in this show...|
Sure, the visual effects are sometimes less than convincing, but on a whole the show strikes a very effective balance with long periods of tension and exposition interspersed with short, sharp shocks of visceral gore, usually in the form of that lovely pattern brain splatter makes on fancy modern open plan buildings and such. The unique use of hypersaturation, meticulous framing and stark colour contrasts is not only refreshing in comparison to the current trend in most media of "make everything browner, damnit!", but also gives everything a weirdly surreal and almost Kubrickian creepy tone which, when coupled with all of the glorious violence, can be pretty unpleasant.
|Get used to this sort of thing.|
Christ, turns out there's a lot about this show to talk about. OK, quickfire round. The aforementioned cinematography is superb; just spectacular. Every shot has been lovingly framed and crafted to make a perfect image, which has made picking screenshots for this post a nightmare; I've ended up with over two dozen to pick from. Every single shot is an immediate screen-grab, it's unbelievable. It's more photogenic than Emma Stone in an adorable shark costume.
|Take them! Take all the screenshots!|
One of the sub-plots revolves around Michael Dugdale, the spineless, bumbling secretary to the Health Minister, and his encounters with the ever-so-shady Corvadt Industries, who blackmail him into pushing through a number of dubious pharmaceutical deals with the government. Meanwhile, we're occasionally treated to seeing whatever gratuitous violence Arby, the terrifying hitman for The Network, is up to at the present moment. All of the stories intertwine, subtly at first, before crashing together in an explosion of plot twists and spectacular reveals and dramatic music; it's all very intense and very, very well written.
|Did I mention how creepy this guy is?|
|Best keep an eye on him. *giggle*|
Yellow is undoubtedly the most obvious use of this to us common folk, and is picked up pretty quickly as an established motif related to Arby's brutal executions and the presence of danger. Even if you don't realise why, the more yellow you see on screen, the tenser the moment and the more fucked you imagine a character is about to get.
|"Shiiiiiiit." - Me watching this scene.|
|Hell, they even dye Grant's hair blue.|
Jessica is led through an abandoned warehouse to the supposed location of the manuscript by a red stripe on the wall:
And at another point, Grant inadvertently wears a jacket with a hidden tracker in it, which leads others to him. Shock, horror, the jacket is red.
|What a perfect derp face.|
I'm so sorry at how long this post has got, but it turns out Utopia is absolutely brimming with fascinating characters, corkscrewing plot twists, beautiful design and deep themes and I'm having serious trouble stopping talking about it. So to go back to the beginning and wrap things up, do I think it is groundbreaking? No, the core idea is surprisingly standard, but the presentation is a breath of fresh air. Do I think it's great and unmissable? By god yes.
I think I'm in love.