A superbly twisted thriller with a somewhat unique outlook on our future selves, Utopia was heavily propagandised by Channel 4 during Christmas and New Year with our screens constantly awash with the garish yellow nightmare normally associated with **SPOILER ALERT** Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill. Has it lived up to the hype?
In the first 5 episodes – the final one to be screened tomorrow – it has grown from an out and out murder a minute see how many ways you can make me have nightmares you complete and utter bastards to a labyrinthine plot of devilishly complicated metaphysical concepts allied to a sinisterly simplistic solution to all our coming woes. If all this seems complicated, sorry, it is a bit. But please watch it because it all makes sense when you see this shit going down. Or just read the plot here.
The writing by Dennis Kelly is superb as he uses throw away popular cultural references with these entangled plotlines to keep the viewer engaged when it would be so easy to lose everyone amidst a sea of nonsense (Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and J. J. Abrams on Lost I’m looking at you! And by the way whatever happened to that Abrams guy…?) and in doing so the show hurtles along at such a pace that you barely notice that an hour has gone. Even the most simplistic of lines, ‘Where is Jessica Hyde?’ takes on a menace one cannot possibly have imagined when the chillingly brutal Neil Maskell utters it to his next victim.
Which brings me to the acting. Some superb performances, not least by Maskell as ‘Arby’, Alexandra Roach as the wonderfully foul-mouthed drug dependant ‘Becky’, Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s strange-accented antihero ‘Jessica Hyde’ and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as the morally conflicted heart of the story ‘Ian’. My favourite performance though must go to Adeel Akhtar for his wonderfully unhinged ‘Wilson Wilson’ so good they named him twice. A character who could so easily fall in to parody or seem like a comic book geek but has been given such a rounded performance that he is hilarious one minute, ominously vulnerable the next before becoming a terrifying presence soon after. Superb.
Utopia has certainly lived up to the hype in my opinion. Very rarely do you get such a complex drama that can also entertain the masses on British television as the budgets cannot always accomplish everything the writers set out to do.