A series titled Utopia (2013) is bound to attract some interest. A show about the Utopia? As in the perfect society? Now wouldn’t that be interesting?! Yes it would be, but we’re not quite there yet. In the first season, we were introduced to a group of people in possession of the sequel to the cult graphic novel The Utopia Experiments. As soon as they are made aware of the importance behind the manuscript, life as they knew it is over. Containing the formulas rumored to cause a global disaster, the manuscript also attracts the attention of The Network, an organization with seemingly more knowledge about Utopia’s incentives. We’d love to let you in on the secrets behind this mysterious, world-altering graphic novel, but before we can do that, there are two questions you need to bear in mind: Who is Mr. Rabbit, and Where is Jessica Hyde?
We can’t give too much away about the strange characters and their involvement in whatever this manuscript is hiding, but we can give you five reasons why you absolutely must watch Utopia!
1. Familiar Faces
For those of you who are already heavily into the Brit Invasion of television shows, you’ll be happy to note that a lot of the faces in Utopia look highly familiar. Alexandra Roach portrays Becky, the character who is convinced that the manuscript is somehow linked to the cure to her mysterious “Deels” syndrome. Alexandra is a welsh actress who starred in the 2012 series Hunderby, alongside writer and co-star Julia Davis, one of Britain’s best female writers and actresses. If you’re familiar with Davis’ style at all, you can already imagine Hunderby is extremely dark and uncomfortable, yet refreshingly hilarious. Another guy we recognize is Nathan Stewart-Jarret in the role of Ian, the IT consultant. You might know him as a delinquent with the ability to turn back time as Curtis Donovan in Misfits (2009). If you like Chavs with Croydon facelifts (Lauren Socha) and a healthy dose of Irish wit (Robert Sheehan) coming together in a different type of show about super heroes, this show is the dog’s bullocks.
One thing you will get hooked on in a short matter of time is the soundtrack for Utopia. Score composer Christobal Tapia de Veer seems to have literally tapped into the minds and emotions of the Utopia cast. As a result of this musical genius, we are able to as well. If you were to listen to the soundtrack disconnected from the actual series, you could almost say this is a new musical genre in the making. Remember all those raves you went to as a teen? Think back to the wee morning hours, when the sun comes peeking through boarded up window cracks, threatening to blind the ever-dancing night owls. Do you remember what kind of moves your raving comrades were busting? Yes, you remembered right, they were all hopping from one foot to another in slow motion, like zombified gorillas in the mist. This is the kind of dance floor behaviour at least half of the Utopia score will promote; the other half sounds like the musical score behind a field day in David Lynch’s head. Whatever you didn’t hear on Lynch’s 2011 album Crazy Clown Time, you’ll hear on the Utopia soundtrack.
So what exactly does this manuscript contain, you ask? Ah, well, here’s where it gets disgustingly Utopian. Designed by Philip Carvel, it contains the formula to a virus created to do the unimaginable. His daughter Jessica Hyde (Fiona O’Shaugnessy) has spent her entire life running from The Network, but is far from understanding just how much danger she is truly in. It is clear that The Network is not to be trusted with the manuscript, yet the allegiances between the “goodies” and “baddies” keep changing. Some crucial questions are answered in the first season, but nothing quite prepared us for the opening of Season Two, and the unravelling thereafter.
4. Bad Guys
Arby is hands-down the best character on Utopia. His lack of empathy is undoubtedly scary, but his childlike, awkward walk and his telling eyes prove he really does have a soul, despite popular belief of the contrary. Some might even say he is a bit reminiscent of a pudgy child wearing a tracksuit two sizes too small. But who is Arby? What’s his story? Ha, well, wouldn’t you like to know! Arby follows the instructions of Lee (Paul Ready), another one of the many men behind The Network, who suggests Arby may well be the result of one of Carvel’s genome experiments. His impaired breathing and seeming lack of emotion actually spurs a lot of compassion amongst the viewers, in spite of his violent tendencies. Arby’s mind seems incapable of focusing on anything other than one question: Where is Jessica Hyde? When he finally finds her, his reaction is confusing if not rather soul-stirring, for Arby’s primal purpose seems to have been diminished. Or so he thought.
Lee has other ideas for Arby and, thanks to his quirky, color-coded presence, we often tend to forget that he’s one of the bad guys until he calmly and without further ado slits an innocent bystander’s throat, like a comical Gustavo Fring. Having heard the name pop up numerous times now, you might also wonder about Jessica Hyde and her role in this story. Is she innocent, is she evil or simply undecided? We’ll leave you to figure that out!
Most series’ locations immediately set the tone for the overall feeling and atmosphere of the story. The incredibly Baltimorean backdrop of The Wire gave us that show’s impeccable feel of authenticity. The dessert landscapes of New Mexico allowed for Motorhome-Methlabs and violent shoot-outs in Breaking Bad. But what can you expect visually from tired, grey, old England? A lot of British shows like to hold on to the stereotypical, Victorian United Kingdom, complete with grey skies, ghoulish London streets and the English countryside in order to bring forth that royal, tea-sipping ambiance we are all so fond of. Utopia has managed to set itself apart from typical estate backgrounds by bursting through the screen with intriguing color schemes so intense, they are guaranteed to burn themselves into your retina for forever more. Vastly growing fields of flowers glowing blazing yellow, bright blue skies stretching over the Queen’s forgotten and prided landscapes and characters dressed in almost blindingly neon colours will pull you into their force faster than the MI5 can say, “Where is Jessica Hyde?”